Like it or not, the concept of bullying has been with man since the very beginning of his existence. We called it "survival of the fittest," to rationalize terrorizing the weaker species. During ancient times, bullying took the form of slavery. It took the form of victors lording it over vanquished: male rape was seen as an excellent form of bullying as well as slavery, which, if one thinks about it, is perhaps the ultimate form of bullying. In the Bible, the ultimate bully was embodied in Goliath, the man-mountain whom the Philistines sent out to daily harass and taunt the Hebrew armies. Some people argue, however, that the ultimate bully was the God of the Old Testament. Israel was His schoolyard. Look what He did to poor, defenseless Job!
On a bet with Satan.
and strength characterized bullies whether in personal size or number
of soldiers in an army: Napoleon and Hitler were considered bullies by
the relatively defenseless Eastern European countries: when Neville
Chamberlain waved the paper treaty with Hitler in front of the Britons
and declared "peace in our time," the Czechs cowered with the thoughts
of the bully German army - which did, in fact, march into Czechoslovakia
Whatever the form, however, bullying was always a state of the strong ruthlessly handling the weak.
bullying is not new: if you think of one sect purposely taunting,
terrorizing, then ultimately killing off another sect as bullying, then
you're right. The first case of western civilization genocide was the
bullying, then annihilation of the Cathars
of Southern France. They were different than anyone else, wore
different clothes, worshipped not in churches but out in fields, did
not eat meat, did not believe in hierarchy such as bishops and were
extremely good to their neighbors. Naturally, the pope hated them.
publicize their heresy, they were forced by the Church to wear yellow
crosses sewn onto their tunics (demonstrating that Hitler wasn't very
original) and routinely had their hands cut off, the only reason being
that the church considered them heretics. Their numbers continued to
grow despite the vicissitudes imposed on them, until the pope had a
plan: get together with the king of France, Louis the VIII, take their
lands and simply eradicate them. That's when the battle cry above was
born: while beseiging the city of Beziers, one of Louis' commanders
asked the papal legate how he could tell the 200 Cathars from the rest
of the 15,000 Christian citizens of Beziers. The legate's answer went
down in history: "Kill them all - God will take care of his kind."
Louis and Clement's strategy claimed approximately 120,000 lives over a
period of some 20 years, becoming the first genocide in modern history.
It was known, of course, as the Albigensian "Crusade."*
"historians" of Christianity always seem to overlook the Albigensian
Crusade, perhaps because it not only stained the church of the Middle
Ages but because it also gave rise to another dark era of religious
bullying: The Inquisition. For hundreds of years, men like the
legendary Torquemada carried out the bullying of Jews and Moors
(Muslims) in Spain, Portugal, Italy, France and scattered places across
the rest of Europe.
I remember the evening I went to see the film adaptation of Dan Brown's The DaVinci Code. A nun was holding a makeshift sign that said "Lies, lies, lies!" But while the movie focused on the Church organization, Opus Dei,
it did not touch upon the Albigensian Crusade to any substantial
degree. That was, to me, the typical philosophy touted by almost all of
America's religious leaders: never admit to anything and never, ever apologize.
And if you have to apologize, do it when people won't remember what
you're apologizing for. The Vatican recently apologized to a very dead
Gallileo for imprisoning him, and the Southern Baptist Convention
apologized for its part in the institution of slavery 140 years after
the U.S. condemned and abolished the inhumane practice.
how many religious people in America know of the "dark side" of their
religion? The percentage would be closer to "0" than you think.
Today's religion and yesterday's history aren't exactly friends, which
is why we're seeing revisionists cropping up, so that people of faith
need not apologize for anything. One wonders if people actually know
about the first Christian theologian - Tertullian
- and his last-minute conversion to Montanism or that many of the
Vandals and Visigoths sacking Rome were Arian Christians. How they
would react to the stories about the concentration camps for pagans in
Skythopolis, Syria? Or the persecution of heretics?
And for the last hundred years little has been made about Martin
Luther's horrendous anti-Semitism (he wrote the seminal work, On The Jews and Their Lies)
Other instances of religious demonizing, then bullying, were the St. Bartholomew's Day
Massacre (40,000 "heretical" French Protestants massacred in one day),
Native American Indian slavery ("ungodly heathens" forced to build and
work on the California Missions - approximately 50,000), and Chatila
(massacre of 1500 Muslims by Christian P halangists).
Bullying on a continuous scale came in the form of The Crusades
(millions of Jews and Muslims killed in the an untold number of major
wars, minor wars and massacres), Charlemagne's forced conversions of
the Saxons (legend of Widukind) and in later years, the Russian pogroms and massacres of Jewish villages and settlements.
worst incident at demonizing in history? There are so many, but
arguably the most vile was the "Blood Libel" of the Jews, so strongly
entrenched into the European psyche that it took hundreds of years to
convince Christians that Jews did not kill gentile children to drink
their blood for secret ceremonies. (BTW, this gave rise to the Jewish
Legend of the Golem)
people were demonized during the "Age of AIDS" (1982 - 2000).. PWAs (
People With AIDS -primarily gay men) were the new lepers since during
the first years medical establishments and health organizations were
uncertain about how contagious the virus was. There were a few
faith-based agencies in San Francisco during the beginning and the
Episcopal Diocese of Los Angeles stepped up to the plate in 1986, but
so very many churches abstained from doling out compassion. They just
weren't up to the courage of Father Damien.
Christian Right's eagerness to demonize gays, politicians and
non-Christians became evident with the like of Jerry Falwell's Moral
Majority and Pat Robertson's 700 Club. Of course, statements from
people like Strom Thurmond and Jesse Helms didn't hurt either: