From the Rector
In my sermon on Good Friday I told the story of Tanai Benard, a Texas mom and educator, and the conversation she had with her 11 year-old son, Dez, on the way to school. It was not long after the Parkland school shooting, and she anxiously inquired about whether his school was doing any drills. Dez told her all about the active shooter training they regularly practiced, and how he had volunteered to be one of the students to push a desk against the door and stand against it to prevent anyone from entering the room. “If it came down to it,” he told his mother, “I would rather be the one who died to protect my friends than have an entire class die and I be the one who lived.”
I had a hard time telling the story, and at the noon service, I could barely get through it, but the story was meant to illustrate how we are all called to bravely bear crosses as followers of Jesus. As hard a time as I had telling the story without emotion, I was able to compose myself by focusing on the hypothetical nature of it all, and the belief that, as brave as he may be, Dez would never actually be called upon to offer the full measure of his life to protect his fellow schoolmates. It was just a drill.
How naïve I was.
This past week, two students did exactly what Dez said he would if the time came. When gunmen entered their schools and began to kill their classmates, Kendrick Castillo and Riley Howell gave up their lives to protect others. They ran toward the gunfire, giving up their own lives so that others would live. Throughout the week, they have rightly been praised. What remarkable courage. What extraordinary sacrifice.
And what an absolutely absurd thing to ask our children to do.
We are choosing as a nation to ask our children to be the brave ones, the heroes, the sacrificial lambs. We are choosing as a nation to allow them to die in their classrooms, to be gunned down like soldiers in battle by military grade assault weapons. And we are choosing as a nation to teach children how to risk their lives, rather than do the sorts of reasonable, common-sense things that would actually protect them.
As Christians, we should celebrate the remarkable and sacrificial courage of people like Kendrick and Riley. They have done something that defies the logic of our age, and given everything they had for the sake of others. But we must also, in equal measure, lament the sin that necessitates such courage, and cry out in righteous anger that these situations keep happening all the time. They are heroes of the highest order, but their heroism should never, never, never have been required.
Both ends of this balance between admiration and anger should lead us to advocate for change, and to stand up for common sense solutions that will return our schools to the safe places of learning that they’re meant to be. Both ends of this balance between gratitude and grief should cause us to do everything we can to move our society out of its complacence. We don’t want more Kendricks or Rileys! Dez shouldn’t be asked to put his life on the line, or any other child in our country! Schoolchildren should not need to learn how to fend off people coming to kill them in their classrooms!
I invite you to resist the temptation to cynicism and apathy this week, friends. I know more than a few of us felt ourselves break inside when our country did nothing after Sandy Hook, and lost our confidence in our nation to do right by our kids. But we mustn’t give up. We have a moral duty in the name of the Lord of Life to help change this national nightmare into a safer reality. We have an obligation to Kendrick and Riley and every other brave young hero keeping watch in their classrooms to do all we can to make sure such courage is never again needed.