Earlier today, Focus on the Family announced a remodeled Day of Truth (Day of Dialogue). Then just a few minutes ago, I read of a Middleburg, PA youth who ran in front of a truck due to his despair over being bullied. According to this local report, Brandon Bitner had endured bullying for years before walking 13 miles to Route 11 where he ran in front of a tractor-trailer.
There seems to be little doubt in the students’ minds why Bitner did what he did.
“It was because of bullying,” friend Takara Jo Folk wrote in a letter to The Daily Item.
“It was not about race, or gender, but they bullied him for his sexual preferences and the way he dressed. Which,” she said, “they wrongly accused him of.”
The local Daily Item interviewed ministers in this rural Central PA area, all looking for answers. One, Denny Mallonee, seemed to implicate families:
Another, Karl Polm-Faudre, pointed to anti-gay bias in the church and local politics:
Mallonee said a stronger bond between kids and their parents also will help.
“If the kids can get the message that nothing beats that close family relationship and that close communication with mom and dad … we get busy with so many things that pull that family apart instead of binding it together,” he said.
Polm-Faudre said in his regular clergy study group — which encompasses Episcopal, Lutheran and United Church of Christ — everyone was aware of bullying that’s present in there areas, “and these are people from Mazeppa to Lewisburg, Sunbury, Benton, Berwick …” he said.
“I think the message we would want to give is that the community needs to take stock of the anti-gay rhetoric that’s been going on, especially from some political and religious circles,” Polm-Faudre said. “Because this is giving permission for bullying, harassment and name calling.”
And then another, Rev. Julia Beall, offered a helpfuf perspective:
People will come to terms with their pain, Beall said, but to stay there, things will need to change.
“We need to embody that kindness that doesn’t tolerate this kind of hurt, in every small way we live,” Beall said, adding the culture of the church is that “we do affirm that God created us for a purpose, and respect that God created every person for an purpose because that is part of the Christian culture. … We are all loved by God, and we should love one another.”
Seems to me this is the prime dialogue we need to promote.