In the small hours of Wednesday, January 6, I could feel pressure weighing on my heart and mind. I had first seen the news on Instagram, just after the events had transpired, and I had spent the evening either facing the events head-on or avoiding them. But here, nearing midnight, I needed a plan. By 7:15 the next morning, I would need to be in front of my AP US Government and Politics class ready to discuss and explain the events of the previous day at the US Capitol. I was struggling to explain them to myself, let alone a classroom full of teenagers.
My feelings are not party-line deep. I'm very proud to call myself an American–not merely a Republican or a Democrat. The scenes from the Capitol hurt me as an American; I grieve over them. I was worried about the media and social media "activists'" response to these events–and worried my students would see and want to imitate them. Some would want to make a joke. It's a common response to events we don't necessarily like or understand. Others might become angry. Others might seek to make comparisons to other acts of violence and outrage. Some may be saddened. Yet others wouldn’t be bothered at all.
I made sure I had a grip on the facts, as best I could, and I prayed over the situation. I prayed for our country, for our members of Congress, and for the President. But, primarily, I prayed for my students and myself.
I’m thrilled to report the students grappled with the issues at the Capitol with great seriousness and level-headedness. It is my goal that none of my students know for sure where my political loyalties lie. Instead, my goal is they know for certain I am a loyal American and a faithful follower of Christ. As a result, we approached the news together as truth-seekers, rather than as a small group seeking to lay blame. And, rather than offering my interpretations of what should have taken place or what measures should be put into effect, I encouraged them to keep asking good questions and to seek God.
You may be unsure how to approach these issues with your kids. I offer two suggestions:
The first, I believe you're already doing. If any of our students at Caldwell bring up the issues in our federal government, I hope you will handle the conversation with a great deal of seriousness. It is in our presence where polite, calm, humble, truth-seeking conversation can take place around these delicate issues. Listen to their concerns. I believe while many students want to align with Mom and Dad and their teachers, many more of them simply want to believe and act in a way that is right and righteous–even when political actors are not doing so.
The second, pray. Pray for our country (she desperately needs it), but also pray for our students as they grow up in such tumultuous times. When I was their age, The War on Terror was taking shape, and I didn't understand it. Though I witnessed the 9/11 attacks on the news, The War on Terror itself seemed distant; I felt safe. The events of 2020 and the first days of 2021 have not been distant. Our students in grades 9 through 12 may feel a variety of things, and our prayers for them are vital.
I’m not sure we understand what has happened and I’m not sure we ever will. As anyone who is a member of the Caldwell community is aware, America is in a state of deep division. And those of us who do not boldly offer possible answers still want answers. Why are things as they are? Who is at fault? When did we lose our way? How will it be fixed, if ever?
But, when answers aren’t enough, there’s Jesus.
May we constantly be aware, as teachers, parents, mentors, friends, guardians, and guides, that our young people are not oblivious to the chaos around them. The headlines scroll across the phones that live in the palms of their hands, and if we don’t walk with them through these valleys of confusion, fear, and anger, someone else will.