Do You Understand Littleton?
How Can We Address The Basic Problem?

"He called me ree-tard!! He said I'm stupid. He pushed me and made me hurt.!!" My son Tim had just returned from another day of school. For him it was another day of being called names, being pushed around, and being avoided. Tim was born legally blind, mentally retarded, and with a mixture of mild cerebral palsy and a form of muscular dystrophy. He wore thick cataract glasses and had a steel brace on his leg which gave him an odd gait when he walked. He could not see well enough to throw a ball; he enjoyed fragrances, music, and books All of that was enough to make him dead meat for the bullies and jocks in the school. Even the teachers and support people shied away from Tim. He was not "normal," and they did not know what to make of him. For my wife and me, every day involved some kind of a battle with someone who wanted to abuse Tim in some way or at least exclude him. Even at church, there were the constant reminders of Tim's problems. When the church selected deacons, I was eliminated because of Tim's actions "that might be misunderstood by visitors." When we went to a family encampment, we were asked not to allow Tim to participate in any activities.

So this new harassment was not anything we had not dealt with before. Before either my wife or I could make a response, Tim brightened and said "Mr. Favorite said I'm a neat kid He told the cook to give me extra potatoes today. She said she loves me." Mr. Favorite was the principal of the school. A man of strong Christian character, he went out of his way to be kind to Tim. The lunchroom worker was also a person who emulated Christ. Tim never ceased to talk to her about her church and her faith. Tim gravitated toward those few adults who would accept him as he was-with all of his problems and oddities. Today, nearly 20 years later, these people still occupy much of Tim's conversation. His survival emotionally and perhaps even physically has been due in a large part to their kindness and willingness to take him as he was.

Listen to the message of Eric Harris to his peers at Columbine High School:

Your children who have ridiculed me, who have chosen not to accept me, who have treated me like I am not worth their time are dead. They are dead! I may have taken their lives and my own, but it was your doing. Teachers, parents, let this massacre be on your shoulders until the day you die.
What is the difference between Eric Harris and Tim Clayton. Both were viewed by their peers with disdain. The jocks and the "cool kids" ridiculed, abused, assaulted, avoided, excluded, and demeaned both. The difference seems to be that there were Christians who worked to support and encourage and love Tim Clayton, and Eric Harrison did not have that support to a great degree to enable him to survive. Please do not misunderstand what is being said in this paragraph. I am not justifying Eric Harris and the foul evil deed he did, and I am not accusing those who died of being abusers--although in some cases they may have been. What I am saying is that the rage that culminated in the taking of so many lives was a product of evil in our society that is not related to gun control or any political cause. Frank Peretti has referred to these folks as the "spiritually wounded" among us. These are the less attractive, less athletic, less brilliant, less capable among us who do not achieve as well or as much. Because they cannot compete they become the targets of those who can, and as targets they are hurt over and over in every way that the mind can conceive.

All of the laws man can devise and all of the technology he can invent to prevent a recurrence of Columbine is doomed to failure. The only thing that will prevent a recurrence of Columbine will be the actions of dedicated Christians who will heal the pain of the spiritually wounded. Over and over the Bible admonishes Christians to address the needs of the weak.

It is vital that Christians take an interest in the spiritually wounded. There is a lot we can do to avoid another incident like the one at Columbine. Christian students need to stop participating, encouraging, admiring, sanctioning, and/or tolerating the abuse of those in their schools that are smaller, or weaker, or uglier, or have a handicap. When the top jock in the school jacks up a smaller, weaker student, or trips him or slaps him around, Christians should at least not admire and applaud such actions. Swallowing our own desire to be "in" is consistent with the teachings of Jesus to voice an objection. Jacking up another student, pushing them, tripping them, slapping them, or punching them is an assault and is in violation of the law.

Equally important is the act of being kind and serving those who are not blessed with great ability. There is no substitute for kind words, offering to help, giving of a smile, or encouraging the person. The Bible plainly teaches that Christians are to be typified by doing good. Those of us who are public school teachers need to make a special effort to help and encourage those we see struggling. Parents and leaders in the church with no youth connections need to work to bring positive things to the lives of all young people. Making a special effort to bring the withdrawn into church activities, doing special things to be kind and positive to fringe kids, encouraging our children to help are all things we can all do.

As America has turned more and more away from God and towards materialism, self gratification, and selfishness, the number of spiritually wounded has climbed astronomically. What do we do about a kid like Eric Harris who is so wounded and hurt that his life's obsession is to kill and maim those he feels have done the hurting? The power of Christ is great enough to heal anyone or anything, but getting that person to seek that healing is an exceedingly difficult proposition.

This writer does not claim to have all the answers, but there are answers and a strong outreach by Christians could make an immediate and significant change.

--John N. Clayton

Back to Contents Does God Exist?, NovDec99.