Posted March 28, 2018 in Articles
BY ERIN CONWAY, Saint Martin de Porres Theology Teacher
In an honest attempt to be helpful during a recent class discussion on Martin Luther King Jr’s Letter from a Birmingham Jail, I told my students that it was okay if they sometimes felt overwhelmed by conversations surrounding racial justice and needed to step back for a moment and take a break. I told them that I, too, often find myself exhausted by the challenge of these conversations.
An earnest student challenged me in this moment. “But Ms. Conway,” she said, “when you look like me, you don’t have that choice. It follows you everywhere.”
When I read today’s Gospel, I am struck by how uncomfortable the chief priests and the Pharisees become when they find themselves face to face with the powerful presence of Jesus. They find a lived faith that doesn’t match their own and are threatened by a reality they do not understand.
I, too, sometimes find myself uncomfortable with the way Jesus shows up in my classroom. I don’t always like how he calls me to live my faith. I’m tempted, like many people I imagine, to become complacent in my work. My reality is this: I love my students. I support them on their path to college. I talk to them about Theology. That’s all God asks of me, right?
Maybe not. The reality of our world is that I am a white teacher who teaches a primarily black student body. I am part of a system that systematically oppresses my students and their families. I can’t step back from this. I can’t take a break. My faith does not allow me to remove myself from conversations about racial justice.
I am part of a system that systematically oppresses my students and their families. My faith does not allow me to remove myself from conversations about racial justice.
This reality, like the one the Pharisees face, is uncomfortable. But like the Pharisees, I am also challenged by grace-filled encounters with Jesus’ miraculous work, my students, every day. I am challenged to break forth from my complacency and enter into courageous and uncomfortable conversations. I am challenged to truly put love into action.