By Laura Kelly Fanucci
Maybe like me, you’ve read and watched the news for weeks, yet still don’t know how to respond.
Maybe like me, you’ve sat with a messy mix of emotions – anger and disbelief and fear and concern.
Maybe like me, you’ve been frustrated with a Facebook feed full of grinning water challenges and achingly empty of outcry at violence and racism.
Maybe, like me, you’re wondering what to do next.
How to let this awful news, this broiling violence, and this shocking death serve as yet another prophetic cry to shake me from my comfortable ways. How to respond as a person – and as a parent – of faith.
As a mother of three white boys, I am raising some of the most privileged people on the planet. My children live in a safe neighborhood, attend good schools, never worry about having enough food. And because of their gender and race and (probable) college education, they will likely enjoy more opportunities and comfort and security than I can dream.
Isn’t that exactly what a mother wants?
And yet I believe that I am a part of the Body of Christ. Which means that my life is bound up in yours and theirs and every other life on this planet. Which means that I am called to love neighbor and enemy, called to seek justice and peace, called to a thousand other truths so much easier to read on paper than to live out in the brokenness of reality.
This means that Ferguson matters to me, a white mom living in a peaceful suburb. This means that I cannot rest easy when the media forgets about Michael Brown’s death and moves on. This means that I will always be challenged to consider how the day’s news affects our family’s life together.
Because I have to help raise three white boys.
I have to help them learn about privilege and compassion, about power and service, about inequality and justice. These are tricky, troublesome topics to tackle. I can’t just dump a bucket of water on my head and smile that I’m making a difference in the cause of fighting racism in this country.
I have to stay the course on a much harder, murkier path beyond discouragement and despair at the worst of what humanity can do.
I have to help them believe in something better – the Reign of God that ushers in the peace and justice for which our restless hearts long. And I have to keep going despite stubborn racism and growing violence and the evil of murder.
One of the changes I can make in the aftermath of Ferguson is to start engaging with the news as a spiritual practice. How I read, how I react, and how I respond to reports of racism, violence, and death in our country must all be wrapped up in how I live as a Christian day to day.
I have to teach my children that wrestling with the news is a spiritual practice.
Many of us have heard the line about doing theology with the Bible in one hand and the newspaper in the other. I believe we have to parent this way, too. With the pain of the news of the world in one hand, and the hope of our faith in the other. With ears turned toward the voices of the poor on our street corners and eyes turned toward the visions of the prophets in our scriptures.
Not only for my own fumblings at faith, but for my children’s as well. Because the world will only grow messier. And the spread of social media will only continue to overwhelm us with the weight of suffering, at home and abroad.
As a Christian I want to raise caring, compassionate children who will see how they can use their agency for the service of others, rather than for self-seeking success. I want to raise a family that has conversations about white privilege and nonviolence and respecting life at all stages, of all races, in all situations.
I want to raise three white boys who know that Michael Brown’s life matters.
And that means that as my children grow older, I have to have the hard conversations with them. I have to pray about what I hear on TV and read in the headlines. I have to show my kids what it looks like to seek peace in a violent world and to keep faith in the face of despair.
I have to keep wrestling with the news. Even if I walk away limping like Jacob did after he wrestled with God, my children can still see that wrestling is an act of faith.
And, I pray, they will be challenged to keep wrestling with their broken world, too.
By Laura Kelly Fanucci