Friday, July 8, 2016

An Open Letter to My Son

Sweet Boy,

I would be remiss if I gave you the impression that I have sufficient cultural competency to tread these waters safely. I don't. My few attempts at stepping out on this subject have been fraught with imperfections. If you want a treatise on racial, economic, and criminal statistics, I'm not your person. But I am your mother, and what's going on in the world you're growing up in, is important. I hate knowing that some of your friends are more likely to die of violent causes than others, on the basis of skin color alone. And as your mom, nothing puts me into an emotional tailspin more than thinking of me losing you, or of you losing me.

Right now, you are delighted when you see a police car with sirens on. You love all things with wheels and motors and flashing lights. How could you know that these first two years of your life have been fraught with media coverage regarding the deteriorating relationship between men of color and white officers wearing blue?

At weddings, they often say, "what God has joined together, let no man put asunder." I keep thinking of that line today. In the last week, two black men and one Latino man have been killed via situations and methods that could be classified as police brutality. Last night, unrelated snipers retaliated by killing 5 officers at an otherwise peaceful protest several states removed from the previous crimes. That's 8 men who will never take another breath on this earth.

Noah, never forget that every human being is an image-bearer of God, knit together by the creator of the world, body and soul. None of us can claim the right to tear the body from the soul on the basis of our fear of the "other."

In an interview with Maya Angelou, the interviewer said, "It's very hard to hate someone if you look them in the eye and recognize them as a human being." Angelou responded, "Ah! You must add that: 'And recognize them as a human being.' Because people have lynched people, and people threw people in gas ovens, and they were looking them in the eye. But in order to empathize, you have to accept that 'this person is as human as I.' Once you do that, it's very hard to impose cruelty on another human being."

Fear feeds fear. Anger fuels anger. Violence leads to more violence. But love? Love begets love. Do I think that world peace is literally attainable? Not really. Not on this side of salvation history, where earth is filled with imperfect people, each and every one of us.

But will I hope and pray and work toward a cultural revolution in this country, beginning in our home? I have to. I want you to grow up in a nation where black lives matter. I say this not to the exclusion of others. Of course all lives matter. But the violence in today's news has reached a fever pitch and my heart is so heavy.

Of COURSE all lives matter. Of COURSE I want to watch the news without actually witnessing another soul depart from this world. Of COURSE I want to feel safe at the playground, sending you to school, flying on an airplane. Of course.

And of course I mourn with our black friends, and police families, and moms who lose babies at the Happiest Place on Earth, and babies who lose moms to the ills of this world. I'm scared. I'm scared that somehow I will quite literally be caught in the crossfire of hatred. I'm also scared because my full-time job is with you, raising the next generation of white middle class male, and the stakes are high.

Noah, you can make a difference. Two thousand years ago, an apostle named Paul told us to gird ourselves with the belt of truth. Roman soldiers donned their belts before all else, to support their core, to aid in endurance, to prevent injury, and to bear the weight of their other tools for protection and defense. At the end of the day, you can and must filter the truths of this world through the sieve of the Gospel truth. And that truth is love.

Sweet boy, let your love stay genuine. "Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good. Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor."

Romans 12 goes on to say,
"Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. Live in harmony with one another. Do not be haughty... Never be wise in your own sight. Repay no one evil for evil... If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, 'Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.' Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good."

Noah, I don't want you to have to grow up in this racial hotbed. But I don't want you growing up 'colorblind' either. I want your life to be filled with vibrant colors, lending you a life that's richer for the depth of its hues.

Hold fast to what's good.


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