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?”



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