They Shall Not Hurt or Destroy on My Holy Mountain: Theological Reflection on Bullying
CCS Program Staffperson Ann Naylor reflects on bullying from a theological perspective:
“The wolf and the lamb shall feed together… they shall not hurt or destroy on all my holy mountain…” (Isaiah 65.25)
This compelling vision, this call to accountability, reflects a God whose purposes are for respectful, loving relationships for all of Creation, a vision rooted in the pronouncements that each aspect of Creation is good, that all of Creation is made in God’s image.
This week, Anti-bullying Day (also known as Pink Shirt Day) has drawn our attention to the bullying – the name calling, the humiliation, the physical, emotional, and spiritual violence – that marks daily life for many children and youth and some adults. It has called us to action as people of faith. We proclaim faith in a God who wills abundant life for all, a God who demands that we do no harm, a God who understands the power of naming to shape our identity and our relationships with one another.
This God refuses to be named by others, steadfastly maintaining “I am who I am”, not accepting the limitations imposed by our efforts to name, to define. This God names all of us as beloved, calling us by name, sometimes conferring new names. This God understands that how we name one another matters – affects how we are perceived and treated by others and how we understand ourselves. Names offered in love bestow respect, uphold personhood. Names imposed by bullies demean, dehumanize, cause harm on God’s holy mountain. Bullying, in any form, distorts our sense of ourselves, rendering us in our own minds, and in the minds of others as “other”, less than, unacceptable, unlovable, unloved.
As church, we are called to create and sustain communities which celebrate diversity, which reflect God’s vision of justice and peace, which offer sanctuary, solace, prophetic witness, hope, communities which offer genuine hospitality and ask courageous questions, communities which affirm personhood and challenge words, actions, attitudes which degrade or diminish.
Offering sanctuary and confronting bullying can be costly. Maintaining silence in the face of bullying makes us complicit in the violence, compromises our integrity as a community of faith.
May we dare to be the church we are called to be.