Thursday, April 19, 2007

Cho Seung-Hui, Sanjaya, Cyber Bullies, and The Religious Right

I would like to first of all ask, after you are doing reading this, if you agree with it, pass it along, let others know this article exists.

I have to say it, but will say it in a tame manner of which I really don’t feel. “I am so friggin sick and tired of the hate, attitude, and ill will towards other human beings on this planet I just want to throw up my hands and say to the rest of the world; you friggin idiots! Do you realize what you are doing to humanity?”

Over the last few days I can’t help but think about how our society, and Christianity in particular, has become so much a “me generation” that we have forgotten about the whole message of Jesus. Let me illustrate several points that got me to the place I am presently at. One will be understandable for most, the others, maybe not. Let me get started on my rant for today that hopefully has some meat to chew on.

Anyone else deeply sickened by the events in Blacksburg Virginia at Virginia Tech? I am, there were so many wrongs during this event I have to wonder how we can go on, and act like nothing happened is beyond me. Let’s take a look at Cho Seung-Hui. As the news continues to come out I am saddened by a few things, Cho Seung-Hui seems to be getting all of the attention. While I realize that is wrong, it is the place we have to start. This young man, a senior at Virginia Tech committed the worst individual school shooting in America’s history. I refuse to call it the worst Massacre because our not to distant past involved our own country massacring multitudes of people. Just ask the American Indian of that and their opinion of the sanctioned murders by Custer and others. That being said, Cho Seung-Hui went on a rampage, killing 32 people, wounding numerous others. This has affected the lives of tens of thousands. I have to ask though, is it his entire fault?

Cho Seung-Hui as we now know was mentally ill. Mental illness is a subject I know a little about for a variety of reasons, not the least of which is I trained rehabilitation programs all over the world, and was the executive director for a top rehabilitation agency. I value and appreciate my working history with this population of people. While I have found them to be loving, caring, and extremely intelligent, I have found society being judgmental, critical, and uneducated about this population group which has the potential to affect 1 out of 7 Americans, and more than that on a world-wide basis.

This is a population group where it is still acceptable to bully, discriminate against, and place blame on. While Cho Seung-Hui certainly had a mental illness, we have to look deeper at the situations which caused him to eventually explode and not get the appropriate help he needed. Please understand on this point. I am not excusing him for his actions, just pointing out how those of us in society, if given the chance, could have an impact to keep something like this from happening again.

It was around 1988 that I appeared on the Jack Elery Show, a nationally syndicated radio program talking about the recent Reagan decision for reintegration of the mentally ill. As a result mental hospitals across America were shut down and the mentally ill were released onto the streets of America with no guarantee for follow up and treatment. It was during this time that local treatment facilities were blasted and inundated with an over population of mentally ill adults. The truth is that even for the very sick, there was no place to hospitalize these individuals that needed it. As we look at Cho Seung-Hui, it is evident that while the warning signs were there, no treatment was offered, or forced upon him (BTW, I believe in forced treatment in situations like this). Sure there were teachers, faculty, other students who made efforts, but he slipped through the cracks and as a result, our nation has been paralyzed with these events.

Cho Seung-Hui used the week anniversary of Columbine in Littleton Colorado to carry out his massacre. It didn’t start there though; it started with the teasing in High School that we are now reading about, the unwillingness of the system to get him help and how there seemed to be no help for the multitude of warning signs that existed. We can ask tons of questions, but asking those questions in and of themselves will do little good. We eventually have to come up with solutions. I propose that one solution is becoming better educated about mental illness and the effective treatments that exist. The truth is, various medications are out there that do wonderful things at helping people out in conjunction with a total treatment program. Christians have to start accepting this and quit the idiotic approach that all mental illnesses are related to demons. While some may be, that does not solve the overall need for treatment and help that already exist. For the Christians wanting to enter this debate, be careful, I am fully capable of arguing against the perspective from a Biblical and medical point of view. I would challenge those Christians to do exactly what we are admonished to do on various perspectives, study to show yourself approved. In other words, study the complete aspects of this disease, not just what you heard some preacher say at some point in your life where you may or may not remember part of their discussion, but certainly the preacher was not educated in the reality of mental illness and its scientific and biological basis.

I could delve deeper into the need to understand Mental Illness but my intent is to do an article here, not a book. I must ask the question though; do we as a populace really care about learning about mental illness? Do we really care about helping the least, the lost, and the last? If so, despite what many think, I challenge that the mentally ill are the lepers of the 21st century. While there are other groups out there that may try to claim this, this population group is the least understood, and because they are unable to speak for themselves, with the exception of a few groups like the National Consumers Movement and NAMI, very few people are advocating for this population. What are the dangers of that? I don’t know, watch the news about Virginia Tech this week and then come back and tell me what you think.

The second area that shows a lack of concern and an attitude in society is the one that promotes self (the individual) over others (your neighbor) is the recent disposal of Sanjaya from American Idol. I could speak in great detail about this and did in another blog, but a large group of people made their intent known by voting for who they thought was the worst on this very popular television show. Since I dealt with this issue in another blog I won’t spend much time here other than to ask the question; “What kind of society do we live in where we would willingly do what we can to tear down, not just a television program but a person or populace who actually care about the show. Don’t get me wrong, it is far from the best show on television, but to think that I have the right, and responsibility to force my position on another group of people is one which I believe is dangerous for society.

I have personally seen this attitude on message boards as of recent, not just with others, but with myself. I have one individual who has made it his public mission in life to tear me down and share things that are untrue on a message board. This individual is unwilling to use his real name, unwilling to let others know who he is for whatever reason. He is an individual that others have called out on various issues and topics, but they still see themselves as the moral authority for this particular message board. I see these types of people all of the time. Today after doing some research I found out this individual around 1991 lost a daughter. I don’t know how, I don’t know why but to loose a 20 year old daughter is an unimaginable pain. I can understand why an individual over the years could become bitter and strike out against the world. I can also understand how my replies, my rants can feed this anger, this bitterness that has no redeeming value for this person. I have to ask myself, what is my response for individuals like this? It is a question we all have to ask as we live in a cyber world where this occurs on a regular basis. Not only do we have to be concerned about real bullying in the school room, we now have to respond to cyber bullying from people who are faceless, nameless, and obviously in one way or another, hurting others and not caring about it. We have to question what we can do, because in a world where an individual may try to work out their differences, we don’t readily have that option available because of the unwillingness, and ability for some to remain anonymous. It is not as if we can provide help for this people so we must ask ourselves what we can do for ourselves when these types of situations occur. Then in that process is what we are doing bringing about some measure of resolve and ultimately helping out the group or is it selfish in its intent.

There is a final group I want to address, it is a group I love, care for, and admire, but also a group with which I am disappointed. This group involves Christians who are so quick to judge and think that judgment is the only way to reach the world around them. We see disputes, disagreements, arguments, and even the questioning of faith that occur. These individuals approach life as if “people are going to hell and they need to know about it” is their approach. They will shout from the street corner, internet message board, and pulpit to share how we all deserve to die and receive hell as punishment. They attempt to disguise this as love but for some reason has the inability to see the total and complete love that is offered from Jesus Christ.

Unfortunately, those taking the position presented in the previous paragraph seem to not understand that they may in fact be doing more harm than good and ultimately be responsible for driving people away from faith in the person of Jesus Christ. They are the ones that muddy the water as to what Jesus was like in comparison to what Christians are like. Unfortunately, Gandhi got it right, many Christians are nothing like their Jesus.

I have asked questions but that would be worthless without presenting some answers. Here is my attempt at where to start.

First of all, we have to get over this me generation and me is it mentality. Jesus made it very clear, we are to love him, and love others. In fact it is from loving others that we show him that we love him. Matthew 25 is a perfect example of this message, and despite the fact that many Christians claim this passage is not for Christians today does not change the overlying theme of Scripture which supports this concept. That theme is, God created us, loved us, we committed crimes or sinned against God to the point that his perfection can’t accept us, he thus presented his son Jesus as a sacrifice for our sins and when we accept that sacrifice, and follow Jesus we are forgiven and saved from the Hell that was created for Satan. It was all done out of love though, not to say that God don’t hate sin, he does, he does though because he is so perfect and so loving, that he can’t stand to be in the presence of sin. It is why Jesus is so important, he becomes our advocate, our substitute.

Enough of that little sermon, but we have to realize, Christ calls us all to love our neighbor, the drunk, the down and out, the leper of society. We have to love them as much, if not more than ourselves, and then be willing to serve them in the same way that Christ served those, including those who would betray him, when he was around him. On this point, I often remind people, Jesus was willing to wash the feet of the very one who would betray him, Judas. If Jesus is our example, we must love and serve. Period!

Regarding the least of these like the mentally ill, we have to get to know them, love them and serve them, whether they be Mentally Ill, HIV positive, Gay, Straight, or whatever. When we see injustices done toward them we have to speak out and seek justice. If that means becoming politically involved, then it means becoming politically involved. We need to base those political decisions not just on what we are promised, but on what is delivered. We have to look at the total picture, not just a single issue.

Now on the above part, I realize that Americans have a level of involvement here that others may not. I also realize that people all over the world read these comments. I am aware of my own political convictions in comparison to my faith walk. My first obligation of citizenship is Heaven, not the United States of America. While I am given some leeway by my system to be involved, that involvement can never compromise my faith. That is where it becomes incredibly difficult because there is obviously no “Christian” political party, as much as any one party would have us believe. It is why we have to look at the actions of those making the promises, and above all, stand for justice and the things that God would have us stand for. We must be just as concerned about a hungry starving child as we are over an issue like prayer in school. We must seek out our own individual answers to those issues, and then respect the search and journey that one has been on to come to their conclusions, whether it is the same answer we have or not.

Next in the area of bullying, especially cyber bullying; I have come to a conclusion, and it is not an easy one. But the Bible tells me to love my enemies, to pray for them, to do kind and good things for them. It is in reality, living out the message that Jesus himself lived. In fact it wasn’t the people we saw him often times getting angry at, it was the religious community. In fact Jesus went out of his way to show others his love. Of course there comes a point in time where we have to ignore what is being said and done, and that is not easy, but sometimes we have to turn people back to their own ways, let the Holy Spirit do his job. In those situations we have to make sure we have done our part. I realize for example, that I will ultimately stand before God and have to answer for how I have treated people, even my enemies. Instead of feeding their trolling attitudes, I have to let my actions speak, hopefully my actions become actions of love. I must admit, I am week in this area, I want to often times argue my point, prove that I am right on an issue. While there are times for that, while there are times that people need to be called out, it should be prayerfully considered as to when I/and/or others do that as opposed to displaying an obvious attitude of love.

Now to the last group, the group hardest to address because they often think they have all of the answers. That is those in the church who are so judgmental. I challenge Jesus and the Bible uses many analogies, from babies to sheep, and from families to the body. The Bible certainly understood the concept of analogy and metaphor. I challenge that we start looking seriously at the actions of Jesus and the early church. We need to focus on becoming more like Jesus and less like Judas or the Pharisees. I challenge, that if people are calling you a Pharisee, then maybe, just maybe, it is because you are displaying the attitude of the Pharisee. I continue to be amazed at the Christians who get upset about this analogy, deny it, and refuse to think about the comparison that many, including others who recognize Jesus and God as not only as lovers of humanity but the judge of humanity place on them. Christians are called to be accountable, not to be lone rangers in this battle we are engaged in. It is time that accountability partners are in place to help with these self assessments. If a person is unwilling to do that, then I certainly question whether or not they are speaking for God. It becomes obvious in these situations, that people at that point in time, find themselves speaking for themselves. Of course where those accountability partners come from is incredibly important as there are quack groups out there who as a group will give bad advice. There are those that read this that I would love to be a part of my accountability, if willing to help, let me know through email or pm.

For me, personally, I have a variety of accountability partners who check me out, advice me, and help me. When they speak to me of a mistake, or a misunderstanding, or regarding something I have written that may be taken the wrong way, I listen and value their input. They come from across the country, and from various denominations and Para church groups. I know the process while easy to implement, is not always easy to follow because constructive criticism is not always easy to hear. It is needed though, but I and others need to listen to that criticism.

I could go on, but I challenge to think about one thing, the one thing I have already mentioned. Who will be our model? Jesus or the Pharisee? What will be our action? Love or judge?

We have a long way to go, as people who follow Christ, we have to get over this, “I am it” mentality that has permeated our ranks. For those looking for someone to follow, and especially looking at Christianity as an option, I beg and implore you, look at the one more like Jesus, and ultimately Jesus himself. Please don’t judge my religion with how I practice my faith, judge it by the person of Jesus Christ. It is he who I want to be like, and it is he who I realize sat an example for me where I have a long ways to go. Where I have failed forgive me, where I have succeeded, I give all honor and respect to he one who gave me the ability to succeed, Jesus Christ through his Holy Spirit. Now if understanding that we are as humans are not perfect, that we make mistakes, and you can learn from those, then like Paul, I would say, by all means look at me, look at my example. I can be honest here because I have been honest with myself. It is not I who have succeeded, it is Christ through me. It is not Christ that has failed at times in my life, it is my failure for refusing to be like Christ.

God bless and help us all.

Here is a tribute video in memory of those who died at Virginia Tech.

Here is another Tribute Video by Nickelback

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