This morning our class here at APU went through the “Walk Through Athens” cultural exegesis paradigm. For those unfamiliar, it’s a process we use to evaluate culture that’s based on the Apostle Paul’s interaction with the culture of Athens (Acts 17). It offers us a way to first listen to the culture speak, and then to respond in ways that allow the Gospel to address the spiritual hunger pains of individuals, institutions, and cultures groaning for redemption.
As is always the drill, we followed up with putting the “Walk Through Athens” paradigm into practice by viewing and evaluating a cultural artifact. . . like a music video, ad, or film. Today, we opted for the latter, with our class choosing to view Bully, a powerful documentary that depicts the horror and pain of our fallenness in profound ways. It’s the story of real-life kids – some who tragically found suicide to be the best way to escape the pain of victimization – who have been on the receiving end of the harassment and taunts.
My copy of Bully has been sitting in my office for a couple of years. I’m ashamed to say that because I’ve been too busy with other things, today’s viewing was my first. I’m glad the room was dark as we watched. It was incredibly moving. The darkness of the room, however, is no match for the darkness of my own heart, a reality I was reminded of once again as I remembered how my younger self responded to being bullied by turning around and doing the same to others. It’s one of those moments when I wish life came with a “rewind” button so that “do-overs” would be possible.
In twenty minutes, I will go back into the classroom to process the film with groups that are working through the “Walk Through Athens” paradigm now. In the end, we will be asking the question, “What are the implications for ministry?” I highly recommend that you view, ponder, talk about, and respond in Gospel-centered ways to Bully. It’s heart-breaking. . . but I do believe it can serve as a catalyst for redemptive ministry with those whose hearts have been beaten-down and broken by the scourge of bullying.
World Vision founder Bob Pierce famously prayed, “Let my heart be broken by the things that break the heart of God.” Watching this film is an answer to that prayer.