The Aroma of Life
The aroma of death hangs in the air of our nation. Black, brown, and blue lie bullet ridden in our streets; the blood of God’s image bearers pouring onto soil that promises life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. The blood-soaked soil is groaning for Heaven’s courtroom to be called into session.
The mothers and fathers of young men, whose skin pigmentation yields beautiful black and brown tones, fear for the lives of their sons. This fear churns in the hearts of African-American families, but also stirs in the bellies of Mexicans, Haitians, Puerto Ricans, and Malaysians as well.
I am privileged to serve as Head of School at Logos Academy, an urban school in York, PA. The parents of black and brown young men have vulnerably shared their fears with me. Their precious sons make up a large percentage of our student population.
The spouses, children, and family members of our nation’s police officers are terrified as well, fearing their loved ones may not make it home from the evening’s shift. My own gentle, compassionate brother serves his community as a police officer.
I have often wondered what it must have felt like during the Civil War era for families to be torn apart; brother fighting against brother, friend pitted against friend, ideology usurping its right over the bonds of blood and camaraderie.
Our nation’s educational institutions have a crucial role to play in healing our nation’s divide. I have been pondering how the Old Testament prophets, those great beacons of justice, might speak to the leaders who shape educational policy and practice today.
He has shown you, O man, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God. (Micah 6:8)
Is our nation’s education system acting justly toward students of color? Test scores across the country reveal a widening achievement gap. This reality is screaming at us right here in York County, PA, as students of color continue to be herded into that life-stealing achievement gap.
Our nation’s schools are badly segregated. Urban school districts are overflowing with students of color living in poverty. The graduation rates and SAT scores of these students are far lower than their mostly white, suburban counterparts.
Failure to change the educational status quo for students of color is to continue to walk the well-worn path of our nation’s injustice against them.
Every school needs to provide a safe and vibrant place where children can learn, opportunity to learn to think critically about our nation’s problems, a chance to dialogue with a diverse, integrated student body, a faculty who loves them unconditionally.
The nation’s future leaders, citizens, police officers, and cafeteria workers are sitting in community schools waiting to be molded. Education holds the power to lift us all, especially students of color.
This nation can make a serious dent in crime statistics, but not if school dropout rates in urban communities do not budge. We can break the cycle of generational poverty, but not if our kids lack the education needed to secure jobs that pay a livable wage.
Our streets will continue to be a bloody landscape, unnecessarily littered with the lives of the black, brown, and blue, unless all students are equipped with the power to think, critique, dialogue, and are taught the humility to recognize and change their narrow biases.
Education represents the opportunity to shape young lives, to shatter stereotypes, to break the cycles that bind us, to end the school-to-prison pipeline. Imagine a future where black, brown, and blue welcome each other as brothers and sisters made in the image of God, where they greet one another, and play and dance in the streets together.
If we want our communities to overflow with justice, mercy, and the humility that comes from walking with God, we must start with our nation’s schools.
Of the 250 students at Logos Academy, roughly 200 live in York City. These students represent a tiny number of York City’s school population of 6,000 students. We pray for the peace and prosperity of all of York City’s students, and for wisdom for our brothers and sisters who serve as administrators, teachers, and staff members in the City’s public and charter schools.
Our little flock of 250 kids is precious to us. These lives are important and have great value not only to their families, but to us, and to the God who made them. Our hope is that these children have the opportunity to breathe the aroma of life, and not of death.
I refuse for one second to believe that this vision is utopian and naive. I have witnessed the transformational power of an education centered on the pursuit of justice, the practice of mercy, and the humility of walking with God. If transformation can happen for Logos Academy students, it can happen for all of our students.
May the peace of Christ fill the halls of our nation’s schools, and the streets of our nation’s communities, so that everyone has a fair chance to draw deeply from the aroma of life.
On behalf of the faculty and staff of Logos Academy and with hope in Christ,
Rev. Aaron J. Anderson, CEO/Head of School