June 6, 2020

I Wish We Were Together, a Letter on Faith and Justice

Originally posted June 6, 2020

My Dearest Pacifica Community,

Oh, how I wish we were together right now. Our isolation from one another these past few months has been painful, this is especially true now. There is no statement that I can make to adequately address the magnitude of suffering and grief so many are experiencing.  Under normal circumstances,  Pacifica would add to the conversation we are having as a nation by having our own, in-person conversation.  We cannot do that because of COVID-19, so I’ll do my best in writing. But a letter simply cannot adequately express our love and support for those who are hurting or afraid in our school community. Experiences and discussions of love and suffering are uniquely human and are best and rightly experienced in community and in person. I so wish we could be together.

Across our country, and in our Pacifica community, people are horrified by the unjust killing of George Floyd, and before him other image-bearers, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, and many others. We share that outrage. The behavior displayed reflects an utter dehumanization and indifference to the dignity of life. Brutality, oppression, racism, and lawlessness are evil and have no place in a Christian community nor in a free and just society. Our souls are groaning as we experience the pain and trauma in our country.

Every person is made in the image of God — the Imago Dei — and therefore divinely gifted with dignity and immeasurable value. Wherever and whenever this dignity and value is violated, Christians must seek and work for justice. 

Scripture is clear about the call to love our neighbor.  Wherever evil and injustice exist we are called to stand against it, to root it out, and to live lives that reflect God’s goodness, mercy, and love. “You are the light of the world, don’t hide your light under a bushel. You are the salt of the earth. Don’t lose your saltiness. You are your brother’s keeper.”

As a school, we uphold the ideals of classical liberalism and the cardinal virtues of prudence, temperance, fortitude, and justice. The killing of Mr. Floyd was a reprehensible violation of the ideals demanding just and equal protection of the liberties of all persons under the law. As a school, we seek to teach, by word and deed,  the value and dignity of every human life along with its civil and human rights. We must be a people who dojustice, and who call out injustice when it happens. 

The Christian tradition also teaches us that all are sinful, falling short of the glory of God. Therefore our aims and ideals on this side of Heaven will always be imperfectly lived out. We are all guilty of wounding and hurting one another. This fact ought to humble us and remind us that we are not capable of achieving these ideals on our own strength. We need repentance, the forgiveness of Christ, and the power of the Holy Spirit working within us. 

With these things in mind, let us remember Christ as our example, a man who had all the power and authority in the world, but did not use His power and authority to lord it over others, but chose rather to serve, to defend the fatherless and the widow, the poor and the outcast. Jesus gave Himself away for the sake of others. Let us then, following our Lord Christ, seek not to tear one another down, but to build one another up in love. To love our enemies, to do good to those who persecute us, to seek the peace of the cities in which we live–this is what it means to be the firstfruits of God’s new creation here on earth.

Pacifica wants to continue to have conversations about painful issues.  And it wants to empower its students to have the courage to do justice and love our neighbors. Students, your faculty and staff aren’t going anywhere; we are here with you and we are for you. One of the aims of your education has always been to prepare you for moments like this one as you pursue thinking, living, and loving well–especially in the hardest  times in life. But, friends, we are not afraid of the hard conversations that need to take place. Everyday, we must pursue meaningful, attentive, and charitable discussions in a common pursuit of all that is true, and good, and beautiful. 

In the days, weeks, and months ahead, let us pursue justice, love our neighbor, listen to and learn from others, and do good! And, may our Lord be with us as we do.

If you are struggling personally and would like to talk with me or one of our staff, please reach out, we’d love to walk with you.

With love and prayers,

David O’Neil
Head of School

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