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A POST ABOUT BULLYING: Will we speak up or will we be silent?

Most of us have a bullying story–our story, a friend’s story, a family member’s story…

I do.

I went to a Christian school that boasted a high school (7th through 12th grade) of 40 students. Some years it was close to 30. Other years it was 42 or 43 students. But it was small.

I was never one of the cool kids, even at a high school of uncool Christian kids. My uncoolest year was a toss-up between the tenth and the eleventh grade.

I was a young looking 16. (I looked about 11-years-old.)

I weighed roughly 109 pounds. (And that was while holding a large Bible with a concordance.)

I was hairless. (Almost. I could count the strands of hairs under my arms with one hand. And I did that often, hoping God would answer my prayers for more.)

I wore a brace around my back. (I have scoliosis. When I was 4, I started wearing a brace between 16 and 23 hours a day to control my spine’s curve.)

Oh, and on occasions when I answered the phone, there was a 66% chance that I would be incorrectly identified as one of my sisters or the wrong number of a female stranger.

So I was teased. A lot. I was shoved into lockers. My books got knocked out of my arms at least twice a week. Sometimes it was just one student. Sometimes others joined the teasing. On three occasions, a teacher joined the fun, too. Often those who called me “friend” avoided taking up for me because they feared the retaliation. And you know what? I didn’t blame them for doing that. In addition to getting put in lockers (and etc…), I was called names. Some of the names I was called included: Sissy. Fairy. Faggot. Queer. Penis lover. A couple of the names I got called I can’t reprint.

On many evenings I’d lie in my bed at night and cry myself to sleep. And then I’d get mad at myself for caring. I was too embarrassed to tell my parents what was happening. And feared that it would become worse if I had. I was insecure so I blamed their teasing on myself. On a few occasions, I was scared to go to school. And while I never attempted to hurt myself or even make plans to hurt myself, I did occasionally wish I was dead.

In no way am I trying to sensationalize my story. And I’m certainly not trying to suggest that my experiences are equal to those of others. Compared to many people I know my story is tame.

But I’m writing about my experience because bullying is in news.

Again.

As you know… this time bullying is back in the news because several recent students (high school and college) known to be gay, bisexual, lesbian, or transgender have committed suicide. It’s believed that teasing and bullying and other forms of mental and emotional abuse (and sometimes physical abuse) played a role of some kind in the students decisions to take their own lives. Because it got that bad. Because they felt that lost. Or ashamed. or hopeless.

They had nowhere else to turn. Nowhere.

And most of them probably wouldn’t have considered running to a church to find hope… or going to a Christian to find acceptance…

Celebrities, communicators, politicians, and other high profile names are on a campaign to let GLBT students know that they are not alone, that they don’t have to hide or feel shame or exist in fear. What a beautiful message. And I hope it’s not simply a gimmick. I hope it lasts; I hope the noise becomes loud enough that it’s difficult for people to forget, that it’s impossible for us to forget…

Are any Christians willing to stand up alongside these other voices and speak out against the bullying of gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender students? I know some Christians have spoken up. But not many. Not many at all. And very few big names. Why? (I know why. Or I think I know why.)

But why? Really. WHY?

And why should Christians be speaking up?

Because we love people. Because we stand up for the broken. Because that’s what we do, right? Or that’s what we’re supposed to do…

And let’s face it; we as a group or population or “American religion” need to own some of the hate that GLBT students experience. Yes. Own it.

All across this country, every single day, students who identify as GLBT are experiencing hate, being bullied, getting teased, or being treated unkindly… and some of those situations are our fault.

Because of our theologies.

Because of our sermons.

Because of what we say from our pulpits.

Because of what we don’t say from our pulpits.

Because of the way we have treated people who identify as GLBT. Because of the way we haven’t treated people who identify as GLBT.

It’s not all our fault. But some of it is.

Our history… Our track record… Our judgments….

So…

Are we going to remain silent like we don’t hear the media? Like we’re not paying attention? Like we can’t hear them? Are we really going to do that?

Really?

Because doesn’t the God we worship love all people? Isn’t it our Christian message–you know, the one that says “God loves you no matter what!”–the only way that a student can truly NEVER be alone? (Isn’t that what we believe?)

And rather than shouting that message at the top of our lungs during a time when it needs to be heard loudly by a group of people being bullied at high schools and colleges all across the country… most/some of us have chosen silence.

Silence. Why?

Because like my friends who wouldn’t stand up for me, many of us are fearful of the consequences that may occur if do stand up… we’re afraid of what people will say… we’re afraid that people will question our theologies… or question our beliefs…

And some of us just don’t really care…

Let’s not be silent. Let’s speak out against those who make fun of people for being gay or lesbian. Let’s teach our children to love people–ALL PEOPLE–no matter of their race, religion, or sexual orientation. As people of influence–any influence–let’s stand up against hate and for the oppressed!

Let’s speak up.

Let’s be the good voice of God in a culture who needs to hear that God is good, that God loves them, that we love them… and that we’re not going to be silent.

Not anymore.

Not today.

Let’s speak up.

(Stepping off my soapbox now.)



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Becca

posted October 7, 2010 at 8:24 pm


Thank you for this post. I could not agree more. God loves all and Christians especially need to remind people of that.



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Jason

posted October 7, 2010 at 8:26 pm


Teenagers have been killing themselves for many years because of bullying and teasing that has nothing to do with sexual orientation and we haven’t seen one bit the outcry we’re seeing right now. That leads a lot of people…not just Christians…to wonder if the motivation here is really an issue with bullying or just bullying of a selected minority of people.

Bullying of all kids is wrong. It’s just as wrong when a Christian kid is picked on because they believe homosexual behavior is wrong and sinful and is mocked as a bigot by LGBT students. Will you be as outspoken when that kid is bullied? Or will you be there taunting that student as a bigot?

I’m all for elimination of bullying in the schools…as long as we’re standing against all bullying and not just bullying against specific subsets of students.



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    Dallas

    posted October 7, 2010 at 8:32 pm


    You’re right that teens kill themselves for a number of reasons. Bullying because of sexuality is just one of many. That doesn’t make it any less of an issue. (Additionally, I know that I won’t taunt someone as a bigot, but I will calmly tell them that I believe they hold bigoted beliefs.)

    LGBTQ teens kill themselves (or attempt to) at a much, much, much higher rate than straight kids. I think I read a statistic that put the numbers at 2 to 1. Clearly, it’s an issue with that specific population. I don’t think the fact that other kids get bullied too lessens the impact of these kids and their tragedies.



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      Jason

      posted October 7, 2010 at 8:36 pm


      Dallas, I don’t see these kids as any more or less tragic than the other kids. I see everyone one of them as equally tragic. No kid should be harassed to the point they believe killing themselves is a good choice.



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        Dallas

        posted October 7, 2010 at 8:39 pm


        And gay kids are twice as likely to get to that point than straight kids.

        It’s a problem all the way around, but it’s twice as big of a problem for the gay kids.



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          Ben Simpson

          posted October 8, 2010 at 9:11 am


          Can you provide some data to support that claim?



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    Tiffany

    posted October 7, 2010 at 8:33 pm


    I agree with this! All bullying needs to be stopped. I think maybe MPT was making a point that there weren’t very many Christians commenting on the subject because of the homosexuality issue. But I’ll let him explain for sure. Ha!

    But yes…all bullying is sad and should be stopped.



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    Jason

    posted October 7, 2010 at 8:33 pm


    How is wanting to see bullying against all kids regardless of their views a part of the problem? I would say those that are trying to segregate the kids and calling for bullying to end against specific students rather than all students is the problem.



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      Brad S

      posted October 7, 2010 at 8:47 pm


      If you do not understand why kids are being bullied then you will never truly solve the problem. You have to understand the why. This argument sounds a lot like the AFA’s misguided ideas on bullying. By the way, I would really love to see a case of a LGBT kid bullying the Christian kid.



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        Jason

        posted October 7, 2010 at 8:53 pm


        I don’t understand why so many seem to have a problem with someone who wants to see bullying against all kids stopped rather than just one group of students.



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          Brad S

          posted October 7, 2010 at 8:54 pm


          What would be your solution to the problem?



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          Jason

          posted October 7, 2010 at 9:05 pm


          Let’s take steps against all bullying in schools. Let’s get programs in place that call for disciplinary actions for all forms of bullying…not just sexual orientation. I’m sure most schools have something in place if a kid is harassed for their skin color. Extend that to cover any situation where a kid is being intimidated because of something they can’t control.

          I have a son with autism who gets teased every day by other kids. Even adults refer to him as a “retard” and other derogatory terms. I’ve worked with autism groups where I’ve seen siblings of autistic kids harassed at school for being “retards like their brother/sister.” My oldest son has been taunted. Those kids deserve the same protection as a kid who’s wrestling with GLBT issues. Bullying is a huge issue. If this current flap raises awareness of bullying overall, that would be great. Let’s not just limit this to GLBT kids. Let’s include them, for sure. Let’s just not limit it. Let’s go after all of it.



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          Brad S

          posted October 7, 2010 at 9:24 pm


          Jason,

          I am going to make some assumptions about the other people engaging in this debate. I could be wrong, but I think these are some safe assumptions. I do not believe that anyone is arguing that one particular group, in this case LGBT kids, to be given preferential treatment. The reason that LGBT kids have come to the forefront in recent weeks is because 6 kids have taken their own lives in 3 weeks. This raises some serious issues. I disagree that a blanket policy treating the bullies and not the victims will solve the problem and neither will treating all bullying situations the same. We must get to the root of the problem in each case. We must understand why kids would bully a kid with autism like your son or why kids would bully another kid who identifies as gay or lesbian. If we simply punished blindly, the problem will only grow worse.



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          Jason

          posted October 7, 2010 at 10:24 pm


          I agree with you about getting to the root of the issue but that doesn’t mean we can’t have a blanket response to these situations. For example, in-school suspension plus mandatory counseling. We have to get a common ground for all bullying and show all of it to be unacceptable.



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          Saskia

          posted October 8, 2010 at 1:15 am


          I would think most school have these in place. They do where I live. If your schools don’t, there is something very wrong. (Of course, there is often the case of it not being enforced, but that’s a different issue).



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          Adam Shields

          posted October 8, 2010 at 8:14 am


          In general policy is not the issues. Most schools have the policies in place. But they are not enforced or they are enforced sporadically. The question would seem to be, why are these policies enforces so badly? And if the policies are enforced because of stereotypes (whether racial or gender or sexuality or disability) then there needs to be action. I have been around schools enough to know that the prejudices of adults in schools matter a lot in the discipline that actually occurs in the school.



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          ttm

          posted October 8, 2010 at 9:07 am


          While I do believe teachers and school staff have an obligation to address bullying, I think parents expect an awful lot of them.

          One reason bullying is difficult to enforce in schools is that there are just too many students and not enough teachers. Teachers who are dealing with massive groups of students cannot catch every action–especially the subtle ones. Administrations don’t want to act unless there is proof, and it is hard to come by sometimes. Even parents who have more than one child often cannot see bullying when it happens between their kids. How can teachers and administrators be expected to catch this every time it occurs when they are routinely dealing with groups of 25-50 students for hours at a time?

          When you do have proof, you can only do so much. You can separate the bully and victim–but in a small school, there may not be enough classes to avoid one another. Even in a big school, they will still see each other in the cafeteria, the library, the locker room (Oh I HATED that locker room and gym class.)

          You can transfer the bully to another school, but then he (or she) will simply find another victim. In addition, he will probably seek out the former victim in a different venue. Who patrols the neighborhood, the shopping malls, the Internet? (The Sunday School class for that matter… )

          You can suspend for a few days. Usually the bully returns with a vengance and a desire to punish the victim for reporting the abuse.

          You can expel. Then you get a pissed off, drop out looking for more victims to pick on and a deeper hatred of authority.

          You can’t blame it on the schools entirely… They try. But it’s a bigger problem. Somehow society needs to get a handle on this. I think Americans think being mean is funny. We want edgy humor, not cheesy old fashioned laughs from the 50s and 60s. So, in order to be edgy and hip and cool, we have made it okay to poke fun at anything that moves.



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          Laurie

          posted October 8, 2010 at 12:28 pm


          In order to stop bullying of all children regardless of the why, awareness needs to be raised in young children starting with daycare of how to accept all of their classmates. Preschool teachers need to be aware and be able to handle bullying situations at that early stage and teach that the bullying is not okay and how to stand up against it.

          Teach children to love all people and have good role models who show love to all, starting with their home life. This is the ideal…it is a very hard goal to reach.

          Unfortunately children are not taught how to stand up to bully’s. Adults are not taught to recognize the signs and how to help stop it. Although there are programs out there that can help.

          I know this doesn’t address the current issue but it would be a start to preventing bullying in the future.



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          Elizabeth Esther

          posted October 8, 2010 at 11:49 am


          Oh, my WORD, Jason! How can you not see this? This is a problem because RIGHT NOW GLBT kids are committing suicide at a rate 4x higher than straight kids. RIGHT NOW we’re talking about the GLBT community and how these kids are ostracized and subjected to particularly cruel bullying and harassment. Also, nobody preaches from a pulpit that being autistic is sinful, shameful and wrong. But this is what is often preached from the pulpit about GLBT folks. There IS a difference. Open your heart and have some compassion.



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          Alise

          posted October 8, 2010 at 4:29 am


          Who has a problem with that?

          The Safe-Schools Improvement Act that Focus on the Family so vehemently opposes includes in it’s language: race, color, national origin, sex, disability, sexual orientation, gender identity or religion or any other distinguishing characteristic or any association with a person or group with one or more of the actual or perceived characteristics.

          That sure sounds like all bullying to me.

          But instead, it’s couched in terms of some secret, scary homosexual agenda. And Christians lie AGAIN about the LGBT community.



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      Saskia

      posted October 8, 2010 at 1:14 am


      No one is calling for segregation. There’s quite a difference between paying special attention to a large group that is especially singled out and saying that only LGBTQ kids get bullied and therefore they are the only group that needs to be protected.

      And again, how are you calling for bullying to end against all students? How do you want to address the needs of so many different students in one go?



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    TrudyJ65

    posted October 8, 2010 at 6:28 am


    I’ve seen comments of this nature a lot on Facebook and while on one level it’s absolutely true — ALL bullying is harmful and should be addressed, and stopped — there’s another level that many Christians like to ignore. Bullying of gay and lesbian kids is pervasive BECAUSE it is backed up by societal support, particularly from churches. If our “Christian” message says it’s OK to identify a particular group of people as “other,” as bad, wrong and sinful, then how do you think that message is going to translate to junior high and high school kids? It’s hard enough for adults to get a message like “Hate the sin, but love the sinner” — it’s nearly impossible for your average 14 year old. They hear “hate the sinner” and they act accordingly.



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    Elizabeth Esther

    posted October 8, 2010 at 11:35 am


    If your theory is correct, then why do gay students commit suicide at a rate 4x higher than their straight peers? Yes, ALL bullying is despicable. But RIGHT NOW? Right now gay kids are committing suicide at a much higher rate than straight kids. That’s why we need to talk about this.



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      Elizabeth Esther

      posted October 8, 2010 at 11:36 am


      oops. this comment was supposed to be directed to Dallas. Somehow it ended up below it. Sorry!



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    Amy @ My Friend Amy

    posted October 8, 2010 at 11:57 am


    but this is not about those kids. Right now this is about GLBT kids.



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    Julie

    posted October 9, 2010 at 8:57 am


    Jason… I agree that bullying is an issue for ALL, not just GLBT kids. However, I think the point here is that bullying kids who are perceived as GLBT is often felt to be justified because it’s somehow okay to “hate the sinner”. I believe what the author is trying to communicate, and something to which I think you’ll agree, is that bullying is NEVER justified, regardless of what our personal beliefs are.



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Tiffany

posted October 7, 2010 at 8:29 pm


I have actually been thinking about this a lot. I have been wanting to blog about it for a few days now, but my words are not coming out right. I just need to say it.

I hate that these kids are being bullied. I don’t care that they are gay, lesbian, green blue or whatever else kids choose to pick on. This shouldn’t be happening. We are to love God, love people. All people. We don’t have to agree with them. Just help them. Care for them. Pray for them. I guarantee that they will see the truth that is Jesus Christ if we act in love first and build trusting relationships with them. I think the church like to make homosexuality out to be the worst sin ever and that they are a lost cause. That is so sad.

You are right when you say not a lot of people are talking about it. At least not the Christians. Sad. Let’s change that!

Thank you for your post.



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Tanya

posted October 7, 2010 at 8:29 pm


Agree..wholeheartedly.



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sharideth

posted October 7, 2010 at 8:38 pm


you’re right, matthew. we all have our bullying stories. i have mine. it was bad enough that the police got involved. the truth is, once i spoke up about what was happening, action was taken. unfortunately i think we’ve managed to raise a generation of kids that know no consequences and are governed by an impotent public school system. i don’t know how to fix that.

as christians, we should speak up. love god and love others. there is no qualification on those commandments. we need to speak out against cruelty and teach our children that anything short of kindness is not acceptable.

i tend to be not necessarily confrontational but someone who will confront a situation that warrants intervention. i saw a boy being bullied at the bus stop and stopped my car. i rolled down the window and made sure the bullies knew that i saw them and knew their faces. that was all it took. someone to say, “i see you. i know who you are what you do.”

too many look the other way. it’s time to let bullies know we see them.



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Claire

posted October 7, 2010 at 8:46 pm


MPT- Thank you. When I start hearing stories about kids who attempt to kill themselves because someone told them they had bigoted theology, then I’ll become equally concerned with that. Until then, the above argument seems like a thinly veiled reluctance to take the uniqueness of this problem seriously. How much more refreshing it would be if the church could see past insults, engage with kids on how to disagree respectfully, turn the other cheek, and stick up for LGBTQ kids, instead of turning a blind eye.



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anonymous

posted October 7, 2010 at 8:52 pm


I went through similar stuff in jr high (and to a lesser extent in elementary school), but I was never shoved into a locker. I was too fat. Whale, fatty, fagot, queer, etc. I didn’t even know what “fagot” and “queer” meant, only that it was bad by the tone.

Teachers allowed it; I had no defense mechanism or inner strength to ignore; and the same thing happened at church, too (a completely separate group of kids having nothing to do with the kids at school). Telling my parents wasn’t an option, as it was clear that being gay wasn’t acceptable, and I was sure this was somehow my fault.

Having no concept of myself, I could only accept what the kids said about me. To this day, I lust after guys and am obese. I hate myself for it, yet I have no way to combat these labels for myself. Numerous times I’ve contemplated suicide. All I can see in my life is failure.

I guess this isn’t standing up against bullies, but it irks me that schools reject that bullying goes on. They pay lip service to combating it, but when faced with an actual case, the victim is punished equally or more, or ignored. The bully gets a virtual slap on the wrist in comparison, and is free to continue the taunting very soon.

All my dreams undone: wife, kids, happy home. These are things I would have liked.

Bullies destroy lives, even if the bullied “survive”. And the bastards not only get away with it, but they are encouraged by those in authority to continue.



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    El Ben

    posted October 8, 2010 at 1:07 pm


    Dude, I don’t know me, and I don’t know you, but I empathize with you in many ways. I hope you don’t find it arrogant or patronizing when I say that I prayed for you when I heard this, not because I pity you or because I think that the way you feel or think is “wrong”, but because on some level, I feel your pain with you.

    Much love, buddy. Stay strong.



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Greg

posted October 7, 2010 at 8:55 pm


I posted much the same question on my facebook the other day. Standing up for the bullied is inherent in the religion of Christianity. It is not, however, always practiced effectively, at least, not from where I sit.
As a youth worker of more than 2 decades, I have tried to constantly challenges students to stand up, speak out and watch out. Easier said than done. But still, a must.
What I know is this, humanity will NEVER eradicate bullying. Ever. One person picking on another is part of the human story, post-fall. What I also believe to be true is this; Christians have been and will remain at the forefront of social issues. We’ve not always been seen in the best light, approached them correctly or even been quick enough to the “fight”; but, we’ve been there…and will remain.
My basic question the other day was this, “What will the response be from the Christian community to this (not-so-)new round of bullying?” I know there are those who will tend to shy away because this round has been couched within the GLBT context.
Yes, God’s love IS for everyone. God IS love. Therefore, we cannot separate the two. Our response, as Christ’s followers, should be from the starting point of love. It isn’t always. THIS must change. All of us MUST get over the individualistic notion of our society. If one of my “neighbors” is bullied (and that is everyone) then *I* have been bullied. I must choose to stand with the picked-on, put-down & cast-away.
I, too, was where you once were. I was bullied, harassed and picked-on. At some points, relentlessly. My difference? Jesus. Trite? Never. Because I had some knowledge of who he was and, MORE IMPORTANTLY, who I could become IN HIM, I had hope for a better future. I was able to see beyond the moment of my circumstance. I had hope.
Why are so many of the bullied “driven” to take their own lives? I believe it is from a lack of hope. No one has ever taken the time to help them see beyond this moment. If all we have to live for is now, we are ALL doomed. Period.
So, as a Christ follower, I MUST and WILL do everything I can, as often as I can, as long as I can to see to it that as many people (youth, in particular) as I can connect with KNOW that there is a hope for a future beyond the present circumstance.



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JB

posted October 7, 2010 at 9:06 pm


MPT you inspire me. Stand strong as you continue to speak out on behalf of those whose voices are silenced, diminished, or minimized.



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Emily M.

posted October 7, 2010 at 9:19 pm


I have a friend who was talking to us one day at lunch, and she described Christianity where “God loves everybody! Except gay people.”

It breaks my heart that this is the perception they get of us.



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Nate

posted October 7, 2010 at 9:25 pm


amen



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Rachel E.

posted October 7, 2010 at 9:27 pm


THANK YOU FOR WRITING THIS! I have rarely read anything so well-written about this topic.



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Doreen

posted October 7, 2010 at 9:28 pm


Jason,

You give yourself away when you write, “Those kids deserve the same protection as a kid who’s wrestling with GLBT issues.” This is what groups like Focus on the Family are saying; that the 5 teenagers who killed themselves in September did so because they were confused about their sexual orientation, not because of bullying!

It doesn’t take any courage for a Christian to stand up against all bullying. That’s so generic, and safe.

It does take courage for most Christians to stand up against bullying done to gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender students.



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    Jason

    posted October 7, 2010 at 10:18 pm


    Actually, Doreen, your post gives a good example of why more Christians aren’t standing up in this situation. I take a position that all bullying, GLBT included, should be stopped and I’m attacked for it by those who are upset more Christians aren’t speaking out about it. My position in every post has been all bullying is bad. You decide to try and twist it so you can take your shots.

    If you want people to start siding with you on issues, you should probably not go out of your way to demonize them.



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      Saskia

      posted October 8, 2010 at 1:10 am


      So what do you do against bullying? Since you’re so concerned about bullying in general. Unless you’re taking direct action, this kind of sounds like a cop out, I’m afraid.

      I think it’s different. I think we need to take this seriously and it deserves special attention. I was bullied as a kid because I was awkward and fat. What makes it different from LGBTQ bullying is that I had parents and siblings at home that told me I was okay. I had a support group, as small as it was. I wasn’t being told that I was perverted and would go to hell if I dared to be who I was. It was a very lonely time, but it left me with much less scars because I’ve become less awkward, I’ve lost the weight. I knew it was wrong that they were bullying me, but I also knew these were things I could change. You can’t change who you are or who you love, and it’s time we Christians started to speak out against those who want to.

      And also, you can’t change the world at once. You change the world a little at a time. And since LGBTQ youth are more at risk for suicide etc, we can start to change the world by helping them.



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      Leanne

      posted October 8, 2010 at 5:23 am


      Before I start, Jason, I am not attacking you. I am trying to help you see things from a different angle. Yes bullying over all is awful and wrong. There are steps being taken slowly to help victims and help stop bullying. The issue of homosexuals who are being bullied, since it is at a higher rate becomes an emergency within the larger issue.
      We focus on certain issues within larger issues all the time. In a way it is like triage in an emergency room. Everyone there needs to be treated. But those in more danger of dying are seen first.
      I don’t believe anyone is saying don’t speak out against bullying over all. I think the issue is homosexuals are at a higher risk. Part of this is the church’s fault because we have not created a safe environment for homosexuals. We offer a safe place for addicts to come and ask for help. We offer counseling to someone who is cheating on their spouse. But the homosexual is told they are going to hell. And we wonder why they commit suicide when there is no safe place to go.



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      Neil

      posted October 8, 2010 at 1:23 pm


      Please let Jason carry on hating queers and don’t make him feel weird about it.



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      Amy @ My Friend Amy

      posted October 8, 2010 at 2:48 pm


      The issue is that the bullying being talked about is against a marginalized group in society. Kids who are gay are not gay by choice, it’s who they are. Now if you feel they should refrain from an active sexual relationship based on your interpretation of the Bible–that’s a different conversation.

      The reason people get upset about this is that it feels like an attempt to further silence and marginalize people who already are in many ways neglected by society.

      It happens all the time. Bring up racism and people will start talking reverse racism. Bring up misogyny and reverse sexism talks take place Are those things wrong? Yes equally as but they aren’t the subject of conversation at the moment. It’s good to be against those things but in a conversation specifically about a certain group of people that has been historically silenced, forgotten, discarded, and marginalized I don’t think it’s okay. It just feels like another attempt to do the same. That’s why people are reacting this way.



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lofolulu

posted October 7, 2010 at 9:57 pm


Matthew, Your feelings are shared by many victims of bullying including nationally known Christian author, Frank Peretti. I highly recommend his non-fiction book, “The Wounded Spirit” about Frank’s experience as a bullying victim. Basically, he challenges people/students/teachers to stand up for all the victims. Make the bullies feel ostracized, not the bullied victims. Everyone (especially adults) should read this book because everyone can encourage the victims.

To other commentors here- just like every act of hate-crime and violence, you will never understand all the why’s of bullying. Your responsibility is to teach people to stand up to defend the victims. The bully craves attention to raise his own self-esteem. If the crowd makes the bully feel unaccepted, the bully has lost his goal.

I think back to how 30 years ago it was not uncommon to hear some people call African-Americans by the terrible slang N-word. Thankfully, the majority has shown disgust over such vile words. Why? Because the majority realized the person who said the N-word was full of hate.

Let’s rally together to teach the crowds to cry out in support of the victims.



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Terrin

posted October 7, 2010 at 10:13 pm


Thank you.

As a pastor, I have never been able to marry the idea of loving people as God loves them and then preaching a sermon of hate to an entire group of people. Love is the answer, and there is hope to all who struggle.



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Faith

posted October 7, 2010 at 10:33 pm


From a trans woman who was raised fundamentalist and went to a tiny Christian school like yours – THANK YOU!

The difference is that even though I was bullied, I was often guilty of bullying others as well. Thinking back on it now, I bullied other kids for two reasons. First, I did it to avoid being bullied myself. The “different” got bullied, and you damn well better bully the wierdo like everybody else or you are next. I also did it to deflect attention from the things I didn’t want people to notice about me. I had internalized all the negative stuff about queer people that had been preached at me. So I called people homos and fags, ’cause that made me seem like I wasn’t queer.

I was an asshole. But God is merciful, I have been forgiven. And I’ve been given a whole new life, in more ways than one. This time I will not be part of the problem.



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(the other) nate

posted October 7, 2010 at 10:59 pm


@jason

just to pull a few stats from the article/interview with charles robbins of the trevor project:

# Lesbian, gay, and bisexual youth are up to four times more likely to attempt suicide than their heterosexual peers (Massachusetts 2007 Youth Risk Survey).

# Of all American teens who die by their own hand, 30 percent are LGBTQ.

# Almost 85 percent of LGBTQ teenagers are harassed in high school because of their sexual orientation, with 61 percent of gay youth reporting that they felt unsafe in school and 30 percent staying home to avoid bullying (2009 Gay Lesbian Straight Education Network survey).

as a teacher, i do everything i can to ensure that my students treat each other with courtesy and respect–all of them. i think that most of the teachers i know, and most teachers in general, agree that one of our biggest concerns is to make sure our classrooms and schools are as safe as possible for each one of our students to learn and grow in.

but i do think it’s worth keeping in mind that the unusual severity of what many lgbtq students experience, in being bullied, makes this conversation necessary. it isn’t preferential treatment to stress the fact that some students are particularly singled out by their peers; and it doesn’t take anything away from other bullied students and their experiences.

besides, i haven’t seen anyone advocate for anti-bullying measures that only apply to lgbtq students.

i totally agree with you, and your sentiments against bullying in general, but i think it can be derailing to the conversation to claim that there’s been not “one bit the outcry we’re seeing right now”. because there has been, for years, and those of us who work with students every day never forget.



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MCM

posted October 8, 2010 at 1:01 am


I experienced a new school almost yearly for various reasons; a good mix of private and public.

The strange deal is that in school I always was the last person picked for anything, and the cool kids always laughed at me, especially when I was caught praying for a friend. (this was before the accolades of being in a band met me with fine greetings from strangers in the hall)

But I was actually a really good soccer player, so good that the entire population of “cool” kids on the other team could not keep me at bay.

…they often ridiculed and spat at my feet, “Kick Jesus in the balls,” they would whine in their defeat.

Kipling thought is scraps were necessary for his life and what would Jesus have been w/o them and if Israel would have seen the ‘wisdom’ of crowning him king, then.

…just take it all with salt, it might be all you have left in the end.



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MCM

posted October 8, 2010 at 1:15 am


I’m not sure you could ever reach anyone whom you’ve bullied. It seems short-sighted to try and ridicule people, especially those whom your trying to convert.

Maybe like the Sharia way, there is just no room for anyone who is different…

It all just seems counter productive: like Saul killing Christians. Does God himself have to stop the car, come down here and say “Kids! Cut it out! I’m not telling you again!”

Now certainly there is time for the facts and tough love, but does God have to strike us all blind before we realize that we are to LOVE one another?



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Dianna

posted October 8, 2010 at 4:26 am


I’m reminded of an article that came out this week from Dan Savage, a sex advice columnist (who is also gay) in response to an evangelical who wrote in to explain that “yes, the deaths are regrettable, but homosexuality is still a sin.” He basically rips her a new one, but has a good point in the midst of his response: When we pass on that narrative to our children (these people are bad, these people are destroying America, etc), and then get children who are bullies, who insult and fight and beat down those who are different…we really shouldn’t be surprised. It’s the “I learned it from watching you!” concept. We need to work on changing that narrative.

I believe it’s even more important now that Christians speak out and quit this stream of what you refer to as “bad theology.” We frankly do a crap job of making our stance on love clear, and so much of the time, all that gets heard in the din we make is “HOMOS BAD!”

However, I don’t think anger (or, at least as much as we have had lately in the media) at the bullies is a good response, either. If you’re angry at that, you need to be angry at the entire system that dropped the ball – the teachers who said nothing, the adults that thought a political stance wasn’t being heard by their children, the principals who did nothing, the political and cultural attitude in America that tells gay people that there is something wrong with them. If we have anger just toward the bullies, we’re missing something huge.

Anger tends to make us forget that the bullies are people too. And I knoooow this is going to be misinterpreted, so stick with me: These bullies, as asshole-y as they may be, are also just kids. Older kids, yes, but in most of these cases, they’re 13, 14, 15 year old kids who are hearing negative ideas thrown at them from the media, from their parents, from their Senators and Representatives. So we shouldn’t be surprised when that turns around into a fear of the Other (whether that be, for our parents’ genre, minority races, or for their parents’ generation, women, or for our generation, GLBTQ people).

When we respond to situations that anger us, that make our hearts ache, we need to be careful to remember the Other in the situation. Those bullies are now on the receiving end of a massive cultural upheaval of anger, directed at what they did. That can’t be easy; just as it wasn’t easy for the teens they bullied. And I know a lot of people who say to that, “Good, they’re getting a taste of their own medicine.” But as Christians, revenge and vindicativeness should not be our response. We need to take to remember that an eye for an eye is no longer a good idea, that hate returned in kind only generates more hate. It’s Jesus crying on the cross: “Forgive them, Father, they know not what they do.” Even in a situation when his hatred and anger would have been completely and utterly justified, he asked for forgiveness for the people who had put him there.

Of course, it’s unpopular to remind people that the bullies are just kids, that they’re human too, and they just saw a classmate die, at least partly, from their actions. I can’t imagine being the villain in a national scandal is all that easy to deal with, especially at 14, no matter if you’re the one bullying or the bullied (too often we make gay people out to be the villain as well). This is why a blanket response doesn’t work – why we need a case by case basis to handle situations of bullying and to put a stop to it before it gets out of hand. Lance Bass said on Larry King the other night that of course he bullied gay kids – it was because he wanted to fit in with his friends, not out of any inherent hatred in his heart. We need to be careful not to project on these kid bullies an image that doesn’t exist, and we need to be careful about the narratives we pass down to them about love and acceptance.

The Dan Savage article, for those interested.
http://slog.thestranger.com/slog/archives/2010/10/01/sl-letter-of-the-day-sorry-nothing-fun (Warning: Strong language in parts)



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    Dianna

    posted October 8, 2010 at 4:33 am


    To clarify a little bit: What I mean is that we should have anger at the narrative that creates the bully (it’s perfectly okay to be angry about this situation), but we should have pity and sympathy for the bullies themselves. To get angry and vengeful at the bullies themselves defeats the purpose of saying that we serve a God who loves ALL. We can mourn those who died without hating the ones who killed them.



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Mike Furches

posted October 8, 2010 at 5:24 am


Thanks so much for sharing this. I have my own confession article I did some time ago on the subject, but from the perspective of a bully. God changes lives, if we let him, I am thankful he changed my life. http://thevirtualpew.blogspot.com/2010/03/oh-god-forgive-this-bully.html



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Mike Furches

posted October 8, 2010 at 5:26 am


Thanks for sharing this, I really appreciated it. I shared my thoughts on the subjects some time ago, from a different perspective, that of a bully. http://thevirtualpew.blogspot.com/2010/03/oh-god-forgive-this-bully.html



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dave

posted October 8, 2010 at 6:27 am


Albert Mohler recently expressed similar sentiments as MPT: http://goo.gl/pt01

Thanks, MPT, for giving the balanced perspective.



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Kathy

posted October 8, 2010 at 6:29 am


Thank you for this beautifully written blog against bullying. Unfortunately, there are all walks of life and many reasons for kids getting bullied at school. I can recall my own experience after moving to Maine in the 8th grade and being teased and taunted for being Jewish, I hid my religion for years because of this. I was ashamed and humiliated. I also recall when my own daughter was in the 3rd grade, she was called fat and teased and tormented for that – in the 3rd grade!! It then proceeded to when she was put in a resource room for learning disabilities – she was constantly called “stupid”, pushed into walls, tripped in the hallways, had her books thrown down the stairs, it never ended……I found several suicide letters that she had written and after finding these I moved her to a private school for kids with learning disabilities and it literally saved her life. I remember being told by the head public school psychologist that “all kids think of killing themselves and do things like write letters about suicide”. I could not believe my ears and still to this day am stunned by the reaction. I commend you and everyone else out there who is brave enough to stand up against any and ALL bullying because unfortunately, it comes in many different varieties. These kids need to know they are loved, celebrated, cared about, valued and admired. It starts at home and I think parents have a huge responsibility in setting a good example as a role model to their children. We all need to feel love and acceptance, that is what we live for.



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Maeve

posted October 8, 2010 at 6:54 am


Thank you for posting this. I was hoping Christians would join the celebrities, rather than mock their efforts. You give me a little bit of hope for our community every day by calling to attention the things that need to change, rather than ignoring it. Thank you.



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Chris Hyde

posted October 8, 2010 at 7:17 am


((((STANDING O))))



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Bad Alice

posted October 8, 2010 at 7:55 am


This was a wonderful post. I witnessed a lot of teasing and some hateful behavior in high school, including singling out anyone who seemed gay, or simply using “gay” as the worst insult they could think of. I know parents whose children have been victims of bullying for other reasons. Just because some kids like to be mean and vicious, and schools can be slow to take action.

Jason,
You are right of course that all bullying should meet with a strong response. Rather than see the attention these incidents have received as favoritism, I would see instead that the dangers of bullying are being brought to the attention of a large number of people. If those schools had anti-bullying policies in place, why weren’t they acted upon? I think one issue is that schools don’t treat all bullying the same, and sometimes they ignore it entirely, particularly if it’s verbal and not physical. They are more likely to respond to some kinds than others, unfortunately, because of the personal prejudice of those involved. Even when there are school rules in place, there are kids too afraid to speak up, families who are required to provide proof, the bully’s family that won’t believe their child in involved or who threaten the school with legal action (or in the case of private schools, with the withdrawal of funds and endowments). LGBT children may have the added fear of having to answer to their parents about their sexuality.

The schools in my district have an anti-bullying policy. I hope that the spotlight on these tragedies will encourage them to pay attention to all evidence of bullying. I, too, have a child with special needs, and I am concerned about what she will face as she gets older.



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Jennifer

posted October 8, 2010 at 7:57 am


Amen.



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becca p

posted October 8, 2010 at 8:12 am


wow this really opend up my eyes. thank you so much for shareing your story with us. i used to get bullied becuase iwas a little chubby in middle school i know what it is like to get bullied its about time we stood up and stop it before someone else kills themselfs . i find it sad when people are judge by how they look or i there bi gay or lez its not fair to target people its a very serious thing to bullie someome. in my school its not allowed they take it seriously i wish others would too next time you see someone getting bullied stand up for them dont just wacht or join in think about how the other person feels and if it was you getting bullied



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    Kathy

    posted October 8, 2010 at 9:15 am


    I LOVED THIS!!!!!!!!! I AM VERY PROUD OF YOU!!!!!!



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ttm

posted October 8, 2010 at 8:43 am


Maybe we should take a look at how media in general, work place environments, sporting events and churches seem to tolerate dogging others who are different or “on the other team.” Sometimes there is a fine line between joking around and hurting.

We all cry when another person dies from bullying, but we laugh at humor that puts others down and we ignore subtle signs of oneupmanship. It seems that our society thinks dignity is reserved only for the richest, biggest, baddest, shrewdest and most popular.

We aim programs to stop bullying toward kids and teenagers; but we seem to ignore, to our peril, the way adults subtly model bullying every day. Our kids will not act the way we tell them; they will act the way we act. And verbal humiliation leads the way…



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ttm

posted October 8, 2010 at 8:52 am


Maybe we ought to take a closer look at how media in general, work place environments, sporting events and churches play a role. There seems to be a preference for dogging others who are “on the other team.” There is a fine line between joking around and hurting people.

We aim our anti-bullying programs toward youth while, ignoring to our peril, the adult world in which people who are the richest, biggest, coolest, shrewdest and most popular routinely remind us that they will mow down anything and anyONE who stands in their way.

Our kids will not act the way we tell them; they will act the way they see us act. We tell them to stop bullying and then laugh at sitcoms where people are put down and/or hurt in subtle and not so subtle ways. We tell them to include others who are different and then when they walk into a workplace, everyone looks the same. We tell them that God loves everyone and then our churches close their doors to relationships with people and organizations that do not align exactly to their chosen set of theological beliefs.

We all cry when we hear of another person who died because of bullying, but we do very little in our own spheres of influence to change the dynamics of verbal humiliation, which is often the beginning of more dangerous behavior.



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    ttm

    posted October 8, 2010 at 8:53 am


    Hmmm… and I thought the first comment had disappeared into virtual space. Oh, well, I said it twice. Not a bad thing to repeat, I guess.



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Ed Cyzewski

posted October 8, 2010 at 9:06 am


Thank for you for sharing out of your brokenness and pain.

Quite frankly, and speaking from my own experience as a teenager, it’s a lot easier to wear a Jesus t-shirt or hold hands around a pole than stand up for someone else. I wonder what we as adults can do to model another way of living to our children? Quite frankly, it all begins with the choices our children see us making.



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Michael

posted October 8, 2010 at 9:49 am


Thanks Thew for sharing your story with the public. I knew your story and I see the honesty in this post and it is appreciated.

For those that want to rally against all bullying, you are completely right. However, to not see that joining this particular rallying would help more than just the LGBTQ community is shortsighted. This longstanding issue was given spotlight by the media and the opprtunity must be seized to make the most of it. Starting here would surely reach further than just homosexual students.



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    Matthew Paul Turner

    posted October 8, 2010 at 11:53 am


    Thanks Mike. Means a lot.
    Miss you friend.



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Mark

posted October 8, 2010 at 9:50 am


Bullying is child abuse! It’s just children abusing children instead of adults. And for a long time it wasn’t taken seriously. It was almost viewed as a rite of passage. If some thugs attack an adult at the mall, the police get involved. But if a kid takes a seriously beating of the playground at school, it’s an internal matter for school to handle. (And that worked so well with the Roman Catholic Church)
My neighborhood bully was never dealt with, later he would go on to rape an eight year old boy. The bully committed suicide in his jail cell the night he was arrested.
I have many issues with my former fundamentalist high school, but they did do a good job of dealing with bullies. A bully, whose father was a deacon at a local church, was expelled for stuffing another kid into a dumpster.
It did help that there were some understanding teachers I could talk to.
But we were also taught that the Roman Empire fell because they accepted homosexuality.
Here is how screwed up fundie logic is. There are two ways you can speed up the rapture and the return of Jesus.
1. You support gay marriage. People change rings and kiss. There are nice parties and no one gets hurt.
2. You advocate the American government launch a pre-emptive strike against Iran, in order to defend Israel. Soon oil is $1,000 an barrel. The world economy collapses, World War Three breaks out and millions of people die, including children and pregnant women and their fetuses.
If you pick option two, you are a fundamentalist. And when Jesus doesn’t return, you will blame gays for the war.



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JLL

posted October 8, 2010 at 11:31 am


This sounds cold, but I’d be very interested to hear the “tragic” stories of the poor persecuted Christian children who have been bullied into suicide by those intolerant LGBT kids. Those Christian children (or autistic children, or overweight children) are most likely going to get plenty of support at home–the gay kids most likely will not. That’s why people are hanging themselves and jumping off of bridges–because from the day they are born, they hear that they are an abomination unto God. They hear it from their pastor, from their parents, from their classmates–often under the guise of “love.” To deny the point of this post is to be part of the problem–just like the many right-wing organizations who oppose anti-bullying legislation.

Thank you for this post. When I read your statement that Christians need to “own” the hate that LBGT kids experience, it brought tears to my eyes. I wish I had heard a Christian say anything like that when I was growing up gay, ashamed, and frightened out of my mind.



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Noelle

posted October 8, 2010 at 11:36 am


Thanks for sharing. I still hate the kids who tormented me when I was 15 and I haven’t seen them in 20 yrs. They picked the worst yr of my life to do it too? Metastatic melanoma was slowly and painfully killing my 39 yr old mother. I was the oldest of 6 and on just step-dad’s income as a manager at Arby’s we were plenty under the poverty level. Since I was the oldest, most of the household and child-rearing responsibilities fell on me. I was a driven perfectionist with school, so I still studied like crazy to keep my A’s. I was small (99#, 5’2″), still in my awkward ugly phase, had a bad perm and thick glasses.

I was at my weakest and most vulnerable . My usual spark was stifled. I suspect that’s what draws a mean child.

I had few friends. I never told anyone what was happening, so don’t know if there would’ve been any help

Of course a homosexual adolescent is a target. They’re at at weak and vulnerable point in their lives with little support and mean kids act on that

Doesn’t have to be that way. We teach kids fire safety early on and give them plans of action for that. Shouldn’t be any different for physical, emotional, and sexual abuse in school

I’d also point out my torment was done in a private Xian school. When mom died at the beginning of the next school yr my one full brother and I left step dad and the half sibs to live with “real” dad on the other side of the state. The kids in my public school were much kinder and I’m still good friends with many of them. And most of those are atheists



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Kathy Pride

posted October 8, 2010 at 12:47 pm


I have been known, more than once, to speak my mind, and I do. And yes, it has and I am sure will continue to cost me. A book contract, being reported to my elders when I wore a Pink Menno shirt at the National Mennonite Church USA convention, in support of the grief, struggle and dilemma my brothers and sisters in Christ live with; being G, L or T and also loving Jesus. You’re absolutely right that not many of them are running to the church for love; but I can love and show support, and do, and take it in return. It is not the kind of suffering Jesus went through by any means, but it also isn’t complacently sitting by while other people do and say things that ire us to the point where we feel convicted to do or say something and it ends up costing us personally. I prefer that brand of Christianity to silently sitting by and saying and doing nothing.

Thanks for writing this.



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Diane

posted October 8, 2010 at 1:26 pm


Thanks … linked this on my Facebook. I was bullied b/c I was fat. My friend was bullied b/c he was gay. We both found love and acceptance through God.



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gitz

posted October 8, 2010 at 2:48 pm


amen to this. I had a year in high school where I was severely bullied. and I can’t say drastic measures never crossed my mind. the news has been breaking my heart. and making me furious.



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Claire

posted October 8, 2010 at 7:33 pm


MPT,

Thank you so much for writing this.

Honestly, I am SICK TO DEATH of Christians who think nothing of insulting and persecuting members of the LGBT community.

I’m baffled. And I’m saddened. And disgusted. I’ve been so upset about this issue lately, I’ve prayed about it.

Folks are so focused on being hateful–it’s almost as though they think that all of their hatred will somehow make them right with God. I’m trying to stay away from my blog for now, and although I haven’t yet found the courage to speak up on this issue, I just might have to.



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Jesse

posted October 8, 2010 at 8:28 pm


I haven’t read all 4357 of these comments. But I’ll say one thing: if you are a follower of Jesus Christ, whatever you do, please, please, do not kill anyone with your opinions. Please.



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Linda Berard

posted October 9, 2010 at 3:47 am


I strongly suspect that if were 6 evangelical or fundamentalist Christians who took their lives, Jason would not be arguing for a “blanket” response to end bullying in schools. He would use the recent suicides of Christian kids to call attention to the real or perceived oppression of evangelicals. I cannot imagine Jason including the systemic bullying of gay and lesbian kids to support his argument. Can anyone else?



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Jenn

posted October 9, 2010 at 1:19 pm


MPT and those wondering about a solution,

It maybe a small solution but in Canada we have “Pink Shirt Day,” it was started by students who saw a male peer being teased/bullied regarding a pink t-shirt he was wearing. They realized you negate the power when you side with the victim. So their little act is something that every child and adult can get involved with each April. Of course the point is to do it every single day, but I always find it reassuring when you see everyone from public figures like news broadcasters and athletes, to teachers and child care workers to people the general public like myself and my staff. We wear pink to let every child who comes through our office know that we don’t agree with bullies, we believe that each child regardless is precious and deserves safety and freedom and that because we believe those things they can ask for help.

Maybe the church needs to start the same action. A visible reminder that just like all those who turned to Jesus – He is a place of unconditional love and safety and value. Each child be them LGBTQ or not, was knit together into a beautiful child, and they need to be reminded of it. Unfortunately because of our church history with LGBTQ peoples and their current struggles we need to really remind them of that.



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Tom

posted October 19, 2010 at 2:17 pm


Recently cited this article on my blog. Check it out – http://goo.gl/9kZj



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