Today my seven year old told me they had a drill at school where everyone had to hug the wall as flat as they could for a few minutes. This didn't sound like the typical fire-drill, so I asked her what it was for. "Sometimes people come into our school who aren't supposed to be there, who want to hurt us. We're supposed to try to be invisible." Did she know that this was just a drill, and that such a person was not actually at the school? She said yes, she knew that, but she spoke about these would-be intruders as if they had already come.
I was shocked to hear that this was how the afternoon was spent at her elementary school. Back in our day at school in Florida we had fire drills and hurricane drills, and that was it. Now there is a whole new crisis to add to the list, the gunman drill.
My suspicion is that this new exercise in fear-management was in response to an incident at a school near here, when a disgruntled 4th grade teacher shot the principal and the assistant principal. I heard on a local radio show yesterday that the Knox County School District was being forced to look at the situation in two parts: to investigate how this man was able to become a teacher in the first place, and to implement strategies for how to deal with such events in the future.
That's all just fine, but my question is, why is the Knox County School District not also investigating ways to make the system more healthy, so that teachers don't find themselves overwhelmed, overworked, underpaid, and constantly freaking out about testing standards? Why, indeed, is our response to disasters such as this always to blame somebody and then to put more ineffective yet annoying safety measures into place? Look at how we suffer still from the attack on 9/11. We suffer not because the terrorists are still flying planes around, but because we have isolated ourselves, paralyzed by the anticipation of another attack, and because we are playing the blame-game with the lives of our soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan.
But I'll back up, because that's political, and apparently it's unbecoming of the clergy to have opinions on such matters. It just makes me mad. I am mad that while I had to sign a permission slip to let my daughter see President Obama's speech to school children a few months back, no one bothered to ask if I was OK with her participating in a school drill where she was told "bad people might come in the school" and to make herself invisible against the wall. We are worried about what our President might say, but we're OK with fear-mongering? People, that is just plain wrong.
So here's another thing I love about the rebel Jesus. He was by no means a fear-monger. He didn't try to sugar coat his message, but he was not in the business of scaring people into faith. I heard a great sermon on Sunday in which the preacher said, "Jesus did not say 'come unto my religious institution so that you might be dragged to me by guilt.' Jesus said, "come unto me.'"
How does approaching the Savior, as he has invited us to do, inform what's going on in our children's schools? I think it's more than just a lack of concern over this world because soon enough we'll be in paradise. I think it's an attitude of love, and trust and faith that will keep us sane. Jesus also said, "my yoke is easy and my burden is light." He said this to a people who knew what it was to carry heavy burdens on their backs for miles.
We are also a burdened people. Our yoke is fear: fear of being hurt, fear of being blamed, fear of change, you name it, we're scared of it. But Jesus preaches a different way, a way where with him we can go anywhere with confidence. In Christ we are not made bulletproof, but we are invited into his loving embrace so that we might participate bravely in the world as people who shine with his reflected glory.
If Jesus were to walk among us today, would the little children feel free to come to him? Or would they be flattened against a cinder-block wall somewhere, hoping to God he won't see them?