Last Friday we had our screening of Bully. It was interesting that the event was primarily attended by people from the community, and it was really cool that we had a large contingent from Downtown College Prep, the school that is across the street. They sent 25 kids!
Thinking ahead of the sensitivities of the crowd, knowing there might be some in need, Rachel Notor suggested that we have a safe space room. Though I do not know if anyone went, I had a few people, especially the teacher, who expressed great appreciation for just knowing that we cared enough to have that!
While I don’t know what happened on Rachel’s side, I had some very interesting experiences that night. When we have events at night, I usually like to have someone posted in the Narthex, especially if we leave the doors open. Since I have seen the movie many times I stood out there. Interestingly, about halfway through the movie some of the kids from DCP made their way to the Narthex. One by one “going to the bathroom” or “cooling off.” I could tell that a few were struggling.
One boy struck up a conversation when he said “There are points in the movie that make me want to cry.” When I told him that I felt the same way, he began to process a little. When he was done, he made his way back in. For me this was one of the most important moments of the night, since a simple showing of a movie in a safe space really seemed to make a difference in this young man’s life.
I thought about that as the questions came in to the panel after the movie. It was overwhelming to see how big the issue of bullying is so big. On one level, it is impossible to fully grasp since there are so many pieces that factor in from family and school to societal influences. If you took on everything at once, it would be too overwhelming. It was quickly realized that though there might be laws and new regulations, the only real way to tackle the problem is by changing hearts one by one. In fact, this is how all good movements start and was the key evangelism tool in the early church, showing God’s love one person at a time.
When you are sharing God’s love, you know you’re doing the right thing. Because you are building people up and subsequently building up the community and yourself. When you break down and hurt others, pain is the only thing realized.
The police officer on the panel and two others highlighted that one who bullies often was bullied themselves. It can be a vicious cycle; in church, we notice that negativity breeds negativity. Eventually, choices are no longer made with the underlying question of how we are glorifying God; rather, they are coming from how we can make ourselves feel better or attain power.
The difficult part of life is that we don’t always see it, and this is not a modern thing! The scripture that we will be working with in the traditional service is an example of how people, thinking they were doing right, found themselves on a path that brought them so far away from God and it seemed all hope was lost. But as we will see, through reconciliation, one by one, people, and eventually the whole community, can be restored.
Yours in Christ,
Rev. Dr. Bryan James Franzen