Christians are urging youth groups take a cue from the White House conference on bullying by stepping up efforts against bullying and spreading the love of Jesus Christ.
Golden Rule Pledge founder Warren Throckmorton praised President Barack Obama’s Thursday conference as a reminder that Christian youth should be taking the lead on bullying.
“Christians should be known for being peacemakers and treating others the way they want to be treated,” stated Throckmorton.
His Golden Rule Pledge website provides resources for bullying prevention to churches. Since bully victims had made news, Throckmorton said that churches from all groups began showing interest. Still, more interest needs to shown, he said.
Andrew Marin, president of the Marin Foundation, agrees. His organization attempts to build bridges between evangelicals and the homosexual community.
Marin laments that some youth groups simply focus on entertaining youth rather than taking on difficult issues such as how to deal with bullying and homosexuality. “We need people in church to be bold enough to stand up and to say ‘no’ [to bullying],” he said.
On Thursday, Barack and Michelle Obama held a White House forum to address bullying.
Parents and victims of bullying gathered together and listened to the president share his personal experiences with bullying.
“With big ears and the name that I have, I wasn't immune,” he shared. The comment elicited some chuckles but the Obamas emphasized that bullying is no laughing matter.
“If there's one goal of this conference, it's to dispel the myth that bullying is just a harmless rite of passage or an inevitable part of growing up,” said Barack Obama. “Bullying can have destructive consequences for our young people.”
He praised teens for taking efforts to stop bullying in their community.
Obama recognized Emily and Sarah Buder who wrote the book, Letters to a Bullied Girl: Messages of Healing and Hope, to help a California girl struggling after having an epileptic seizure in class in front of her peers.
He also praised Rhode Island teen Brandon Green for creating an anti-bullying organization at his school using community service projects to create bonds between students.
The conference was a follow-up effort after a handful of teen suicides made news nearly eight months ago. As a result, the public began to cast a hard light on bullying in America’s schools. Incidents, such as that of Texas teen Asher Brown who took his life after being bullied at school, showed Americans that bullying could be deadly.
“The issue was pretty hot in the news because of the suicides,” recalled Throckmorton. “The awareness [among Christians] was really great.”
However, he the Grove City College professor said the sense of urgency has dropped off since the issue died down in the media. Christians, he believes, are in denial, believing Christians don't bully others.
Throckmorton recalled the words of a Pennsylvania assistant superintendent during training for Grove City principals, guidance councils, teachers and a Christian ministerial association.
“Some of the kids who are leaders in church groups are coming to school and exhibiting behavior that is atrocious,” said Tom Bell, the assistant superintendent of the Grove City Area School District.
“That was a real wake-up call,” said Throckmorton about Bell's words.
The experience led the Pennsylvania professor to create a Golden Rule anti-bullying curriculum that encourages young Christians to be more Christ-like at school.
While it is important young Christians learn how to address bullying, many family groups have expressed concern that anti-bullying curriculum is being used to desensitize children to sex and homosexuality.
In California, conservatives expressed grave concerns over sexuality–focused anti-bullying curriculum, believed to positively portray non-traditional lifestyles to children attending California public schools as young as seven or eight.
“We wholeheartedly agree with the message that [the White House] shared that putting a stop to bullying is responsibility we all share,” said Candi Cushman, the education analyst for the Focus on the Family project True Tolerance.
However, Cushman noted that anti-bully initiatives should protect all students, not just those struggling with their sexuality. “We believe every child should be protected against bulling for any reason whatsoever."
Focus on the Family plans to emphasize this during its Day of Dialogue on April 18. The Day of Dialogue website urges Christian youth to use conversation cards to address issues of bullying and sexuality while emphasizing God’s love and care of all individuals despite their individual problems, heartbreaks and struggles.
“We challenge students participating in this event to be the first to stand up for those bullied around them,” said Cushman.
Cushman said the Day of Dialogue resources can also be adapted for a youth group.
Throckmorton, meanwhile, is thankful to the White House for reintroducing bullying in the media. He hopes that more Christian leaders will begin discussing bullying in church and youth groups.