Ideological bullies

Is all bullying physical? Let’s talk about it on Deeper Waters.

Yesterday, I blogged on bullying. I had in mind more physical and social bullying than anything else. I appreciate the insights of a commenter on TheologyWeb as well who pointed out most of the advice we give is terrible. For instance, a kid is to go tell an adult? Yeah. That’ll really help the next time the adult isn’t around. No. That will mean the kid gets teased even more.

The best advice I know of to deal with a physical bully is simply that when he throws a punch, you punch right back.

“But aren’t we to turn the other cheek?”

Turning the other cheek refers to receiving a private insult at worst. A slap on the cheek was not really a physical assault, although it involved a physical action. We have no record of Jesus saying “If you get punched in the face, you stand there and just bleed.”

“But Jesus went to the cross and did not resist.”

Jesus was also not dealing with bullies per se but was dealing with the government of the time and He was not seeking to be a revolutionary. Furthermore, Jesus’s own purpose in coming to the Earth was to go to the cross. Why would He go and resist it then? Not only that, there is a difference between standing up and foolhardiness. Peter would be taking on a crowd of about 200 who came to arrest Jesus. The disciples reportedly had two swords.

There is courage, and then there is rash stupidity.

Therefore, I strongly believe in self-defense. If someone goes after my family, I can assure you there will be no cheek turning going on. This is the well-being of my family at stake and I will do what I can to defend it.

What about social bullies? These are bullies who simply give insults and don’t give physical confrontation. They’re the ones who stand on the side and say “You’re ugly! You’re stupid!” and things like that.

Ignore them.

These people often want any reaction that they can get and if you react to them, it is just giving them what they want. Pay them no attention because frankly, they’re not worth it.

Now let’s move on to ideological bullies.

Case in point: Richard Dawkins.

Richard Dawkins is the man who at the Reason Rally said to the audience of atheists that when you meet people who are religious, mock them. Ridicule them in public.

With people like this, I say return the favor.

“Whoa. That sounds like a different line than what I’d expect.”

These people are not just insulting you. They are wanting you to apostasize. They want you to be embarrassed because you’re a Christian. Maybe you know enough to see through their shallow reasoning, or lack thereof, but what about others. Do you want this to be the mindset of people who your loved ones will interact with who don’t know apologetics like you do?

In the OT, if you were encouraging someone to apostasize, the penalty was death. Now I’m not saying we do that today since we are no longer a theocracy in that way, but I am saying we ought to take it seriously. Note also that anyone who has read the God Delusion and is somewhat informed knows that Richard Dawkins does not have a clue about what he speaks. I could easily teach high schoolers to deal with Dawkins.

This is the mindset that makes someone like Dawkins even worse. They think they know so much about religion and they don’t. They will say they don’t need to study it because it is not worth studying. Don’t believe that? Just look at the Courtier’s reply, which is an exercise in laziness. It is even mocking the idea that one should study theology and philosophy and history.

And it is an idea I encounter most every day.

“I don’t need to read scholarship! I don’t need to study! I just go by the plain literal sense and the literal sense is nonsense!” (Unfortunately, too many Christians also think they don’t need scholarship and study.)

“Who cares if all NT scholars think Jesus was crucified?” (Would we get the same if we said “Who cares if all biologists think macroevolution is true?”)

“All you have is faith!” (I have yet to see a new atheist show me a definition of “pistis” which is the Greek word for faith, that means to believe without evidence.)

The list goes on. Everyone believe the Earth was flat! We oppose science! There’s no evidence for what you believe! You just have an emotional need! I find it quite amusing when people say it’s because of how I feel or that I think God is talking to me, particularly since being an Aspie, the feeling side of faith is not that strong and I don’t buy into the “God told me” mentality. If anything gets me excited, it’s really reading a good book on history or theology or something of that sort. Learning is exciting.

These people are usually not interested in truth. They don’t care about why you believe what you believe. They care about tearing you down. They want to not only tear you down. They want to tear down any Christians they meet. On the internet, they’re rampant. Always keep this in mind. The person who will go after you will also go after those who are less capable of defending themselves and will delight in getting someone to abandon Christianity.

They are what the Bible calls wolves.

They are the reason a good shepherd carries a rod.

They are the reason a good shepherd uses a rod.

Now to be fair, being confrontational is not something everyone does. I realize that, and I think that’s also good. We need all types in evangelism. Some people are quite good at friendship evangelism. God bless them. We need them. Some people will not respond until you stand up to them, and that is where those of us who confront step in, following right in line with what Jesus does in Matthew 23.

Does that make a confronter a bully?

Let me ask you this. You are the parent of a boy who is about 8 years old, and he comes home one day crying because a 10 year-old bully knocked him to the ground and laughed about it. You are the parent. You tell your son to not stand there and take it. Next time, he is to fight this bully back and not take it.

Your son is standing up for himself.

Is he then a bully?

Change the situation a bit. Your son is ten and is on the playground and sees a little girl of about seven being pushed over by an eight year old boy. Your son goes after and knocks the boy to the ground and gets the girl up.

Is your son being a bully?

In both cases, no. He is defending himself in the first case and defending another in the second.

You are here in defense of the gospel and of your fellow believers. I can already hear the objection of some people.

“Don’t defend your faith. Let God do that.”

My question is always the same. “Do you take the same approach to evangelism?”

Someone else might quote that Spurgeon when asked about defending the Bible said he’d rather defend a lion.

This sounds so good and holy, but it is oh so not. Josephus wrote, for instance, that Jews of his day were to die for the Torah if need be. Are we to treat our Scriptures any less sacredly? The Bible if not accurately studied will not defend itself. It is not its own thinking book. If you throw a Bible into a fire, it will burn like any other book. Now of course the Bible has cut to the heart of many people who read it, but for those who despised it, they can often get nothing but more mockery. These people are treating our Scriptures, which we say come from God, with contempt. That means they are mocking our God. God is the one we claim to be the greatest good and yet we think we can say “Go ahead. That’s fine.” Would you settle if someone made mockery about your mother for instance?

For those of us who can defend our faith, let’s remember that on this playground, we have brothers and sisters who can’t. We are their line of defense. We are the ones that they are counting on and if we do not stand up to the opposition, then they will not stop. This happens not just in religion, but also in politics.

Why do so many people get their way who shouldn’t? Because they know they can run ramshackle over anyone else. They know that their opponents are more concerned about how they will be seen in the eyes of the public instead of caring about what’s right and wrong. They know that their opponents don’t want to be seen as “intolerant” or “closed-minded.”

Well yes. I am intolerant and closed-minded in many ways. I do not tolerate good ideas and I am closed-minded to what I think is evil. If you wish to push something on me, my loved ones, or my society that I think is evil overall, it would be wrong of me to not do something just because I’m afraid of how I’ll look to the public.

When bullies are stood up to, after awhile, they back down. They want to look out for #1 because most all bullies are incredibly insecure. They are concerned about their own social status. To give them what they fear is something that they cannot handle. For opponents of Christianity they will either stop or they will just keep embarrassing themselves by showing that they have no good arguments.

“Well don’t you want to win these people over to Jesus?”

No.

“No?”

It’d be nice to win them over some day of course. These people right now don’t care about truth. They care about attacking the flock. I am more concerned about the well-being of the flock than I am about the well-being of wolves.

There are times you stand up to an ideological bully like this and they do back down. They do admit they were in the wrong about something. You know what you learn about that person then?

They really aren’t a bully. Or at least they were and they are willing to change. What happens then? This person gets the red carpet of friendship. After all, there are people out there who honestly have real questions keeping them from Christianity. There are people who really want to know if Jesus rose from the dead and don’t dismiss it. They’re skeptical, and that’s excellent, but they’re not dismissive. These are people who are actually willing to read a scholarly book that disagrees with them. These are people who come to the debate having done their homework. I have people I know who are like this. When I stand up to someone and they back down after that, we often have an excellent dialogue and I am pleased to call them friend.

How do you know which is which? If you don’t know, by all means, be cautious. Again, if this isn’t you, don’t be someone you’re not. For me, I have always enjoyed sarcasm and satire and a finely crafted barb. Often times, my replies to my opponents can be more subtle but still meant to embarrass, because they are being embarrassing and attacking the cause of Christ.

Do you want what you think is moral to be shown in the world around you? Stand up for it and fight the ones opposed to it on ideological grounds. (To go into physical confrontation during an ideological debate is to lose the debate) If you will not stand up for what you believe in, why should anyone else think it’s worth believing in? If you will not stand up for Christ, why should it be that He would stand up for you on the last day?

Friends. We have truth on our side. We can deal with ideological bullies. The question is, will we?

In Christ,

Nick Peters

 

The Problem of Bullies

Are we taking the wrong approach to bullies? Let’s talk about it on Deeper Waters.

Bullying seems to be a topic everyone is talking about these days. Let’s be clear at the start. Bullying is wrong. My own Mrs. has very painful memories of her time being bullied, memories that affect her to this day.  There are numerous accounts of children in school who have committed suicide because of bullying. (And to be clear, committing suicide like that is also wrong) My wife watches accounts like these on YouTube. Recently, she watched one about a girl who was ten years old who killed herself.

As she was  listening to videos, I was in the other room listening as I was going through my book. I could not help but still think about what I was hearing from her room and started thinking “What if we’re doing this all wrong?” Unfortunately, I sadly think that a lot of groups are doing it wrong and will become the bullies themselves.

For instance, Allie told me about a group called “We Stop Hate.” I immediately thought their intentions were noble, but it’s a disaster waiting to happen. Why? Because today hate is treated like a dirty word. It is this idea that there ought to be nothing that we hate. We need to be people of love.

Okay. I hate bullying. I hate that children are committing suicide. I hate that people are mocked for any number of things such as physical characteristics or the amount of money they have or the clothes that they wear. I hate evil. I hate anything that lowers the well-being of my family.

Is such hatred wrong?

Absolutely not. In fact, it is because I love so many things that I hate other things. I hate that which is opposed to what I love. In this case, hate is something that is mandatory. If there is nothing that you hate, then I would also conclude that there is nothing in this world that you truly love either.

Of course, we should do all that we can to limit the behavior that is wrong and indeed, we should hate that behavior. We need to go and make a stand against that kind of behavior, but when we make hate such a nebulous term, then it will eventually be that disagreement will be seen as hatred and we will be shut down by the bullies of tolerance, what Greg Gutfeld in his book “The Joy of Hate” calls “The Tolerati.”

For instance, in my family, we are both Christians naturally and as Christians, we believe that there is one way to God and that’s through Jesus Christ. Now suppose we go out and do some evangelism. What happens then? We are seen as bullies because we are telling other people that they are wrong. Never mind of course that when people come against us for that, they are telling us that we are wrong in telling other people that they are wrong.

In these kinds of debates, there has to be room to disagree on issues. There are serious issues being discussed today that affect the future of our society and usually we can’t even get to the reasons because the spell of the Tolerati has been cast and the person that the media disagrees with is ipso facto the bad guy.

It is because of reasons like this that I think the current approach will lead to trouble. But is there a better way? As I was listening to these videos my wife was playing, I started piecing together a different approach mentally.

We all have this idea it seems that we want to make the bullies see that what they are doing is hurting people. The reality is, they already know that. In fact, they delight in it. They say the things that they do because they want to hurt others. I think it’s the same mistake in the gun control debate. We assume that most everyone really wants to be a good person and if we pass these laws, then everything will work out fine.

Our society does not have that as a fundamental foundation. Instead, we have as a more foundational belief that man is corrupt. If men were angels, there would be no need of government. Our government system was set up in a way to try best to avoid the evil of man and contain it.

Let’s consider at the start then that we will always have bullies amongst us.

While we can go after the bullies, that is treating more of a symptom than a disease. What if it could be the case that the bullies could see that their attacks aren’t doing any good? What if we could instead build up the people that the bullies are going after and have them affirm their inherent value.

Keep in mind that we who are Christians believe two things about man. We believe that he is good in that he is created by God and bears His image. We also believe that morally, he is corrupt in that his every inclination is to evil. I can’t help but think of how recently I saw a Muslim say that every baby is born in submission to Allah. I commented saying that I am not a parent, but I am sure it must be news to many parents that their babies are born in submission to God.

Our goal in part is to get man to recognize his place. We are to get him to recognize that he is the image of God and needs to live life like that image. Of course, the essential to reaching that place of fulfilling the image is to commit one’s life to Jesus Christ. Still, as all Christians will testify, the process of sanctification after that is long and hard.

So what if we looked at the people then that are being bullied? We are telling them today platitudes that seem to hang in the air. We want them to just believe by faith entirely without evidence. We tell people they are beautiful when everyone says they’re ugly. We tell people they’re smart when everyone tells them they’re stupid. We tell people they’re valuable when everyone else treats them like trash. Upon what basis do we expect them to believe us?

Unfortunately, it is often upon the same basis we expect them to believe Jesus rose from the dead. It is a feeling or just a leap of faith. Now to be sure, I do believe as a Thomist that insofar as something exists, it is good, true, and beautiful. In fact, I think something like that when taught would go a lot further than the talk we have today, but our children are not philosophers. Our children are not really taught to think so much but rather to feel. Feeling is fine, but feeling is not meant to tell you the truth about yourself.

How about if we took our eyes off of ourselves for a moment?

Maybe we should bring God back into it.

If man is in the image of God, then man is meant to reflect God. For we Christians, that means ultimately Christlikeness. This is what the author Don Matzat gets at in his book “Christ-Esteem.” We do not need to talk about self-esteem. We need to talk about our value in Christ. Our identity as Christians is to be in Christ. Go through the Pauline epistles and see this. When Christ is crucified we are. When Christ is raised, we are. When Christ is seated in the heavenlies, we are. See how Jesus shows this in saying “When you did it to the least of these, you did it to me.” Our world is not to be centered around who we are, but who Christ is.

Which means that if you are a Christian, it is not a question of “Am I beautiful?” It is a question of “Is Christ beautiful?” first and then “Am I allowing His beauty to shine through me?” Quite frankly, when we don’t do that, we are simply ugly. That’s the reality. Sin is ugly and we need to realize that. The question is not “Am I valuable?” but “Is Christ valuable?” and then “Am I allowing His value to shine in my life?”

If you as a Christian are placing your whole being in Christ, and to be sure, none of us do this perfectly, then what on Earth can people do to really shake you or lower you? Now to be fair, there will be good people around you who will tell you ways they think you need to change your life, and you should listen, but you realize you don’t have to please everyone. You don’t have to make everyone love you.

Christian. Ask yourself this. Would you consider it a good life if you disappointed everyone else but got to Heaven and heard Christ say “Well done thy good and faithful servant”? Would you be complaining then about the people that you didn’t please? Would you wish you had had the perfect body for that guy or been a little bit smarter or been the star of the football team or had those nice shoes everyone else had?

Now there’s nothing wrong with pleasing people, provided you still please Christ. There is nothing wrong with studying hard or taking care of yourself or wanting to dress nicely or be a good athlete. As Christians, we should strive to excel at all we do, but it must be that we do not need to get our identity from these things. We get our identity from Christ. Be the star of the football team, but know your worth is in Christ. Enjoy that new dress, but know that your worth is in Christ. Get your body into shape, but know your worth is in Christ. Get your Doctorate, but know your worth is in Christ.

I suspect that if we start teaching our youth good Christian doctrine rooted in the facts of the life of Christ and the truth of Scripture, then we will see transformed youth who won’t be as affected by bullies. If we treat them to go just by their feelings or by their experiences with just a leap of faith, then we can expect that they will fail regularly.

There will always be bullies among us, yes. But let us remember that there will always be Christ in us.

In Christ,

Nick Peters

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