Time to stand up to cyberbullies

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Leave the children alone. And for that matter, leave my brothers and sisters alone. Leave my family alone.

It’s about time someone stood up to the bullies.

Even though I’ve had enough of pastors and others using the pulpit and the keyboard to embarrass, ridicule, and point to the “sins” of others, while hiding behind LLC’s, half-truths, and undocumented videos to spread misinformation–until now I’ve chosen to ignore such foolishness for the most part rather than to expend any energy on it.

Cyberharassment or cyberstalking that affects and targets a family, however, has now caught my attention, and those adults who engage children in such endeavors are no longer on equal ground and the ick gets ickier, the stakes are raised, and the bullies need to remember that words do hurt.

Adult bullies may easily forget they are dealing with children, and when children suffer, so do their families–and so do we all.

Many may have the misconception that anyone old enough to hold a phone, create a Facebook account, or set up a Twitter ID is old enough to defend themselves against an onslaught of vicious remarks and moral commentary–but they’re wrong.

Children and teenagers, especially those who are born into minister’s families, are especially vulnerable. They may already feel like they live in a fishbowl and have no right to privacy.

I should know.

It was my own imperfect son, now an adult with four children, who pointed out to me last night that one of my dearest friends’ own teenage son took his life following a month of what another close friend described as by being “cyberbullied” by “merciless” bloggers and Tweeters.

Just because the teenager chose to live in this century and engage in social media, didn’t mean he invited adults to engage in conversation or talk openly about his life choices without his permission. That’s called cyber-harassment and cyber-stalking, according to a law enforcement website.

Some of the folks who engaged in that egregious behavior have had a disagreement with my friend for years. And they’ve let him and others know it. They’ve contacted media outlets. They’ve broadcasted their concerns far and wide. They’ve put a lot of energy into telling their side of the story. They seemingly refuse to agree to disagree with my friend or others who don’t see things their way. They relentlessly stalk him, taunt him, badger him, and refuse to go away.

I can’t tell you the depths of despair I am in for my friend and his wife. For all of my friends out there who have been publicly flayed by a communications phenomenon that is easily and readily used to edify and exhort, to uplift and encourage, to hold accountable–but has all too often been used to destroy, damage, embarrass, ridicule, harass and vent–I’m sorry and disappointed.

Apparently, it’s now OK to go against the grain of what even those who are outside our evangelical world know is forbidden. Apparently it’s OK to draw the children in.

Oh, the stories we can all tell about this person’s daughter who got pregnant out of wedlock, or this person’s son who lived a homosexual lifestyle, or this person’s daughter who listened to crazy music and read trashy books, or this person’s son who spewed forth bad language in a public place, or this person’s daughter who has a drug problem, or this person’s son who spent time in jail for stealing or this person’s daughter who wore dresses that are shorter than we consider modest.

But to what end shall we go about airing the sins of our children or putting ourselves in the seat of judge and deciding about which aspects of their lives we should publicly comment?

Instead, friends, when tempted by the White Witch (Chronicles of Narnia, C.S. Lewis) who offers us bold words, or too much Turkish Delight–flee. Don’t be drawn in by those who are bent on destruction. Think about what might motivate men (and women) who lead by slander and by seeking to find fault with others–and post or RT with comments and photos of people’s families and children and grandchildren–in order to ridicule or belittle them.

Steer clear of preachers, ministers, writers, bloggers, and commenters who are so immature that they lead you down a path that mixes in just enough Bible truth with plain nonsense to make themselves sound reasonable. They are seeking to build their own kingdoms, not the Kingdom. Listen for the Holy Spirit to guide you.

And when you are tempted to tell me what is permissible according to the First Amendment, let me remind you that whatsoever might appear to be strictly legal, is not always the right thing to do.

Finally, brothers and sisters–we can and should agree to disagree on many issues, including how one should repent and what one should repent for.

I leave for you this passage my mother marked in her Bible many years ago from Philippians:

“Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your graciousness be known to everyone. The Lord is near. Don’t worry about anything, but in everything, through prayer and petition with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses every thought, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.

“Finally brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable — if there is any moral excellence and if there is any praise — dwell on these things. Do what you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, and the God of peace will be with you” (Phil. 4:4-9 ESV).

For our children–and for our families–stand up to the cyberbullies!

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July 30, 2014 · 7:17 pm

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