Ethos Education

The Amazing Spider-Man: To what extent is there a distinctively Christian response to bullying?

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Learning Objectives:

Awareness of different responses to the issue of bullying.

Learning Outcomes:

  • Reflect upon different forms that bullying can take.
  • Analyse two conflict situations from the film The Amazing Spider-Man and consider the effectiveness of the response to bullying shown in each.
  • Analyse a number of responses to bullying, assessing their effectiveness.
  • Reflect upon the historic stance of the Christian faith in defence of the marginalised in society.
  • Analyse a number of Bible passages, assessing their relevance and helpfulness to Christians who are experiencing bullying behaviour.
  • Synthesise learning by evaluating the effectiveness of a specifically Christian response to bullying.

STARTER:

You might want to introduce reminders of your school’s own anti-bullying policy at appropriate moments during this lesson.

Start the lesson by brainstorming different ways that bullying can take place. Look for answers such as:

  • Violence (harm to the body).
  • Theft (taking of property).
  • Vandalism (damaging of property).
  • Psychological (taunts, insults, public humiliation).
  • Coercion (forcing a person to do things against their will).
  • Rumours (spreading untruths about a person).

Explain that in this lesson you are going to be thinking about the issue of bullying, and in particular asking what a Christian response to the issue might be.

MAIN ACTIVITIES:

Introduce the clip from the film The Amazing Spider-Man. Explain that in this scene Peter Parker (Andrew Garfield) has not yet acquired his super powers, and is just a regular (if slightly nerdy) high school student. Ask the students to pay particular attention to what Peter does and how the other students react to Flash’s bullying.

  • Start time:       0.03.58 (in chapter 1 of the DVD)
  • End time:         0.06.36
  • Clip length:      2 minutes and 38 seconds

The clip starts with Peter pinning up a photo of the school debating team. It ends with Peter on the ground and everyone else walking away.

Was Peter right to react the way he did when Flash asked him to take a photograph. A little later in the film Gwen (Emma Stone), the girl who made Flash stop, tells Peter that what he did was ‘Great… stupid, but great.’ Do the students agree with Gwen? Why do the students think that Gwen was able to stop Flash when Peter wasn’t?

Introduce a second clip from The Amazing Spider-Man. In this clip, Peter has begun to discover what his super powers enable him to do, and he gets his revenge on Flash. Ask the students to pay particular attention to Uncle Ben’s (Martin Sheen) reaction.

  • Start time:       0.31.38 (beginning of chapter 5 of the DVD)
  • End time:        0.34.27
  • Clip length:     2 minutes and 49 seconds

The clip starts with an establishing shot of Midtown Science High School, cutting to a basketball team practising. The clip ends with Uncle Ben making sure that Peter knows to pick up his Aunt May.

Ask the students whether they think Peter was right or wrong to do what he did to Flash. Who is guilty of bullying behaviour in this clip – Flash, Peter or both of them? Why do the students think that Uncle Ben didn’t seem to regard Peter’s actions as being justified, even when he knew that Flash was the boy who had previously hit Peter?

Give out the Responses to Bullying worksheet and ask students to rank the sixteen possible responses to acts of bullying according to what they think somebody who is being bullied should do. Ask the students to give each response a score on the following scale:

1: One of the worst things to do when faced with bullying.
2: A poor response to bullying, which may make things worse.
3: Neither good nor bad as a response to bullying.
4: A good thing to do when faced with bullying, likely to have some positive effect.
5: One of the best things to do when faced with bullying.

As well as ranking the responses from 1 to 5, students should also add a brief comment to explain the ranking they have given each response. This task should be carried out individually, with students then discussing their findings as a whole class (or in small groups first before sharing as a whole class). Draw attention to any of the responses which divided the students, and allow some time to discuss why there is a difference of opinion as to how effective a response they are. When you take feedback with the whole group, this could be a good opportunity to emphasise your school’s policy on bullying.

Ask the students what they think the Bible has to say about bullying, or what help and comfort it might offer to somebody who is being bullied. Explain that although the word ‘bully’ does not appear anywhere in the Bible, the Christian faith has always been one which has sought to embrace the marginalised of society. During his public ministry, Jesus was frequently criticised for spending time with people who were considered to be outcasts by the respectable leaders of the community. In the New Testament James writes warning Christians of the harm that can be done with words, and commenting that the things that come out of people’s mouths reveal the contents of their hearts, even if they don’t intend them to. See James 3:1-12 for more details.

Give out the Bullying Bible Verses worksheet and ask the students, working individually or in pairs or small groups, to assess how useful they think each passage would be to a Christian who was being bullied. Students should also write a brief explanation of the reasons for their rating of each verse.

The Bible passages on the worksheets are: Psalm 9:7-10; Psalm 10:12-15; 2 Kings 2:23-25; Matthew 5:11-12; Matthew 5:38-39; Ephesians 4:31-32; Mark 15:16-20.

SUMMARY AND ASSESSMENT OF LEARNING:

Ask students to write a summary of what the Bible suggests is an appropriate response to bullying, with reference to the passages on the Bullying Bible Verses worksheet and any other passages that they think relevant. Ask them to offer their own critique of the strengths and weaknesses of the approach.

YOU WILL NEED:

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