When I was in elementary school, I was frightened terribly by a boy named Winfred. Winfred was a huge (I thought) fifth-grade bully. Somehow I had crossed him and as a result, he had threatened several times to beat me up. I worked hard to take different routes home from school (hiding a lot along the way) so Winfred wouldn’t find me. And fortunately, he never did—though I had some close calls.
That was how bullying worked when I was young. I’m just glad Winfred didn’t have social media.
Today, as we know, bullying has gone high tech…and become a lot more anonymous. Late last year, a 13-year-old girl from Southern California hanged herself, leaving a note saying she just couldn’t take any more of the hate from her classmates. About 2.5 million people have viewed the interview with her parents on YouTube, an account that states—almost unbelievably—that the social media bullying continued even after her death.
And then there’s the mixed-bag story of Jeremiah Thomas, a 16-year-old Christian athlete dying from cancer. I’ve watched a couple of Thomas’ videos on YouTube, including one in which Jeremiah shares how excited he was about a girl who came to Christ when she came to visit him in his hospital room.
But for some reason I just can’t begin to understand, Jeremiah has been pelted with hateful messages from people who say they’re glad that he’s dying. Why would anyone do that? As it turns out, Jeremiah Thomas boldly decided to use his remaining days to stand up for the life of the preborn and speak and write about it, too. According to The Daily Signal, that led to responses such as these:
“Cancer is giving your mom a late term abortion. Lmao [laughing my a– off],” one message said.
“Jeremiah … You aren’t dead yet? God do your job!” taunted another.
“Good Riddance,” another posted to Jeremiah’s prayer group page on Facebook, following with a one-star review.
Jeremiah’s mother, Kendra Thomas, quoted one person as saying Jeremiah has “a racist, homophobic, misogynistic, xenophobic, Islamaphobic [sic], hateful” agenda, and another as saying “He’s garbage and is suffering as he deserves.”
These comments are beyond vile…and so sad! What’s more, I’m sure that Jeremiah was stung by them. Who wouldn’t be?
But you sure wouldn’t be able to tell when watching him share his faith and concern for the unborn on video. He rises above the hate, finding great joy in leaving a “legacy wish” to make abortion illegal in the state of Texas. And interestingly, he has an ally in the state’s governor. You can check out his conversation from his hospital bed with Gov. Gregg Abbott here.
Without question, bullying and its modern iterations on social media are wrong, wrong, wrong. But it’s nice to see a young man turn the other cheek, ignore his hate-filled critics and focus on the right things. I hope none of us have to deal with such vitriol and contempt, but if we do, we have a great example in Jeremiah Thomas on what it looks like to handle our enemies.
Jeremiah, may the Lord have mercy and heal you. But if not, see you on the other side, my friend.