Saturday, November 06, 2010

    Let's Start Talking: Teens, Bullying and Suicide Pt. 2

    Part two of a mini series exploring how to invite Christian youth into an examination of the disturbing trend of teen bullying and its consequences.

    For those of you who may have missed it, we wanted to print in its entirety a thoughtful comment posted by reader "Dew" detailing how he approached this important subject with a group of youth. 

    "I actually did a class on Tyler Clementi. I teach faith formation for middle schoolers at at a Catholic Church. I set aside the issue of what type of sexual encounter was involved because I felt the lesson to be learned applied to all young people both gay and straight.

    I talked first about the commandment "Thou shalt not steal." I maintain that this extends to not stealing someone's privacy, secret, self esteem, reputation, etc, etc. And that is exactly what happened to Tyler. His roommate stole something private, personal and intense from Tyler and splashed it across the web. In his case it was an encounter with a man but it could have been any number of moments.

    I also talked about how the web provides a level of detachment and we must guard against that leading us to do things we might not otherwise do. For example, I do not believe Tyler's roommate would have stood in the room with a video camera. Nor he would have set up a screen in the hallway to show his video. He only did this because he could hide behind his laptop. I urged my students to think before the posted anything to the web or said anything on Facebook — would I say or do this if I had to look someone in the eye when I did or said this? If they wouldn't look at someone and say it, don't say it on Facebook or Twitter or AIM. If they are not willing to tell me what they were doing on the web, don't do it.

    Lastly, I suggested that Tyler took his life because he felt alone. I then reminded them that they are never alone. Jesus stands with them. Perhaps Tyler was embarrassed or felt he had done the unforgivable. But God forgives all. God loves even the worst sinner and Tyler was far from that. Though he felt alone, there were many who would have stood with him if he had only reached out to them.

    I also urged in this class, and others, that the kids think about who they can turn to when things go really wrong in their lives. When something really bad or tragic happens, we are not thinking clearly. At that moment, we don't know where to turn. But if we have already thought about where to turn, it becomes instinct. Bad moments = call my 'person'. Make it ingrained."

    Read part three of this series here.


    Cindy said...

    I love your blog but I disagree with the analysis that removes Tyler's sexuality from conversation. I find it hard to believe that he would have commtted suicide if a video was posted with him having heterosexual sex. The reason for his suicide was the sin of hompohobia that pervades North American society. There is an epidemic of suicide among gay youth. I don't have the statistic at my finertips but I believe lgbt youth are at a much higher risk for suicide.

    As Christians we have been part of the problem. I know that this series meant to engage homphobia and I applaud that. But the sin in question is not theft it is hatred and prejudice in the form of homophobia.

    - Rev. Cindy

    Brian said...

    Hi Cindy. Thanks for commenting. As we are working on offering a variety of ways to address this topic, this post is just meant to be one possible approach, with the focus admittedly shifted away from the specific issue of homophobia. That said, I completely agree with you that homophobia is one of the major issues at play here and I agree that it is one of the great sins of the Church. I'd go as far as to say that if the Church would stop preaching intolerance on this issue, the oppression of GLBT persons would largely be eliminated. More on this specific issue coming early this week.

    Andy Beck said...

    thanks for getting this topic out there. Yesterday an adult volunteer and I had a conversation with 2 students about the suicide of a former classmate of theirs a week before. The content of your posts have been helpful in my preparation and comforting in my self-care. Thanks again for this ongoing ministry.