Wednesday, May 26, 2010

On Bullying

Over the last couple of months I've seen and read a lot of articles about bullying, its affects on youth, and the many social and legal ramifications surrounding it. It's a heavy topic, frequently accompanied by the assertion that bullying has gotten somehow worse in recent years. From the suicide death of Phoebe Prince and its legal ramifications for the South Hadley school system to the young man who was recently tattooed against his will, the news media seems to be telling us that bullying is an escalating issue—in frequency and severity.

I, for one, am shocked.

Quite frankly, I'm shocked that we (that would be today's adults) have fooled ourselves into believing that bullying was ever anything less than the intentional mental, emotional, and physical abuse of a student by other students. I'm shocked by our apparent surprise that bullying might result in the suicide of a teenager—have we already forgotten the murder-suicides of April 20, 1999?

I find it interesting that in the case of the tattooing, the bullies weren't juveniles. And they've been charged with actual criminal offenses:
Charged in the incident are Blake VanNest, Donald "D.J." Wyman, Ryan Fisk and Travis Johnston. None of the suspects are juveniles. Police tell the Union Leader a 15-year-old juvenile -- who allegedly bought the tattoo gun for $30 as a souvenir -- also will be charged.

VanNest was charged with two counts of simple assault, endangering the welfare of a minor, tattooing without a license, indecent exposure, criminal threatening and breach of bail.

Fisk was charged with two counts of simple assault, endangering the welfare of a minor, tattooing without a license, sale of a controlled drug, criminal threatening and breach of bail.

Wyman was charged with conspiracy to commit criminal liability for the conduct of another and conspiracy to endanger the welfare of a minor.

Johnson was charged with conspiracy to endanger the welfare of a minor.

Fisk allegedly did the actual tattooing. When he was done, he and the others reportedly took the boy outside Johnston's home where a group of students waited to look and laugh while the victim was forced to drop his pants. Fisk allegedly gave the victim a bag of marijuana as payment for the humiliation.
And that's interesting to me because I have been saying for years, that if an adult had said and done to me the things that some of my peers did in high school, they would go to jail for abuse. Out in the "real world" the things that happen in our schools have names like "assault" and "battery" or at the very least "slander" and "libel."

I'm tired of hearing how surprised we are that bullying is as bad as it is. I'd rather see more articles on what to do about it. And I'd really love to see some theologians tackle the common moral issues around the whole thing. Common wisdom is to "stand up for yourself" by beating on the next bully that comes after you. Jesus tells us to turn the other cheek. I know that I found ways to survive bullying with my self-worth more or less intact—but I didn't do it by stopping the bullies.

Any constructive thoughts out there?

Be good to each other,
Rev. Josh

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Orangutan and the Hound

I ran across this video on Facebook today, and it completely made my day! When was the last time you greeted someone with the loving abandon that these two have? I wish I could embed the video in my blog, but you'll just have to click the link instead. You won't be sorry!!
Orangutan and the Hound

Posted using ShareThis

Be good to each other!
Rev. Josh

Monday, May 10, 2010

Mother's Day Complete with Children!

Sheldon asked me if I would do a Children's Sermon on Mother's Day, and of course I said "yes." Then I called my mother! I asked her if she was willing to send me some old pictures of herself with little me to use for the Children's Sermon—so she agreed not only to do some scanning for me but to have pictures of herself shown to my new congregation! I'm so thankful for her willing helpfulness!! The pictures below can be en-biggened by clicking on them, and what follows is the way the Children's Sermon ran—to the best of my memory.

I made a simple PowerPoint presentation with some of the many pictures my mom e-mailed to me. I carried my laptop from work into the sanctuary and sat down in one of the huge wooden chairs in the chancel. Emmi says that I was quite a sight, booting the thing up in my lap while sitting in that old chair, in that old space, fully robed for worship. We may reenact it so she can do some photography! In any case, the time came for the Children's Sermon and I sat on the front step with the laptop in my lap, facing the children. At this point, I can't see what's on the screen, and neither can most of the congregation.

"So you're going to have to help me." I tell the children before asking them, "What do you see in this first picture? Describe it for me."

"A girl with a baby!"
"Do they look happy? Sad?"
"They look sleepy!"
"They look sleepy?"
"Ok, what's happening in this picture?"

"Christmas is happening! Do they look happy?"
"Ok, what's in this picture?"

"The girl and the baby in a bean bag!"
"A bean bag chair? That dates it a bit!" says a woman sitting in a pew in the congregation.
"You know what? I put a bean bag on my list for my birthday!" says a little girl sitting on the floor in front of me.
"You want a bean bag for your birthday?" I ask, ignoring the horrified looks coming from the little girl's parents.
"Ok, what's in this picture?"

"A mom and her son sitting on a couch!"
"Do they look happy or sad?"
"How about this one?"

"The mom is kinda looking at the son!"
"They're on the same couch!!"
"Ok, what's in this one?"

"The same mom and son in another chair."
"Is that the one that looks like it might have a tent in the background? Do you think maybe they're camping?"
"I think that's the last picture! So let me ask you this: who do you think that baby is?"
"You!" this said with a definite undercurrent of "duh."
"So who do you think that lady is in the pictures with me?"
"Your mother!"
"Yup! That's my mother. And based on what you saw in those pictures, do you think she loves me?"
"Me too. I think she loves me very much. So one of the things I like to do on Mother's Day is thank God that I have a mother who was there for me, and is still there for me, and who loves me very much. But another thing I like to do on Mother's Day—and this is a little sad—but there are people who don't have their mothers anymore, and there are people who don't get along with their mothers very well. But God is there for them, and loves them very much, just like a mother. So on Mother's Day I like to pray that God will be a Mother for them. So please pray with me: Loving Mother God, we thank your for our mothers, who are always there for us and love us very much. And we pray for the people who don't get along with their mothers, or whose mothers aren't here on earth any more, that you would be their Mother. And we pray these things in the name of Your Son, Jesus Christ. Amen.
And I do have something for you to help you remember what we prayed about." I hand out bright yellow pencils with writing on them. "Can someone tell me what that says?"
"Smile. God loves you."

Smile, God loves you,
Rev. Josh