Tag Archives: George Zimmerman

Breaking News

breaking-news.htmThere seems to be no end to all things heart- wrenching, disturbing, troubling, questionable, unbelievable.  This 24- hour news cycle is keeping me awake at night as I seek to know what’s happening right up to the minute.  The exclusive coverage is relentless, merciless even in its pursuit for the next top story and I am all ears for “news you won’t hear anywhere else.”

I question whether I should even turn on the television to find out what is happening in the world for fear of another salacious report, incomparable act and (not or) mind-blowing admission.  Criminals are raising the stakes when they don’t kidnap one girl but nearly three hundred (#saveourgirls), when men, women and children are blowing up themselves and with bodies, buildings/ buses/ malles/ planes, spreading pieces of our lives all over the ground, when murder is committed in real time and on live television (referred to as “the ultimate selfie”), when persons are no longer satisfied with secret meetings but show up at a prayer meeting to profess their hatred.

It seems that everyone is upping the ante.  Politicians are asked to tone down their rhetoric of attack on running mates as supporters take to physical violence at rallies.  Not to be outdone, news stations and camera crews are competing against each other, racing to get to where the stories are.  They are on assignment and I am looking at their notes.

But, what happens when there is always breaking news?  What of our selves is being broken, fragmented, disconnected when we are faced with these stories over and over again?  What of our heart’s conditions when these reports become their meditation?

George Zimmerman, the man who murdered seventeen year old Trayvon Martin in 2012 and sparked a national conversation on gun laws, outrage and protest, is back in the news.  Acquitted of the charge of murder, he now wants to sell the gun that took the life of Mr. Martin.  He currently has an offer of some $138,000 and is vetting several others.  The Baltimore Sun described his latest action as “dancing on Trayvon Martin’s grave,” arguing that it devalues African American life.  Before receiving the offers for the gun, Zimmerman had suggested that the Smithsonian acquire it as a piece of American history.  Of course, they declined.

I am stupefied.  What kind of news is this and what does the report say about us, about the kinds of people that we are supporting, about the world that we are creating?  I lament the fact that this is the course that he has taken, that I am even writing these words.  I want to walk around in sackcloth and ashes.

Maybe the news isn’t breaking any more.  Perhaps, it has already broken us as we have gotten use to reports like these.  The reporter’s cynicism, projected unbiased delivery and ability to move on to the next story or return after this commercial break has seeped into our souls.  I have not watched the news much lately, turned off my “the teasers.”

It might be time to break with the news for awhile and spend that time on the good news.

 

After courageously sharing with readers his struggles with “irrational and unbiblical” fear of those who were culturally different from him, Peter Chin asks this question in an opinion piece on the Christianity Today website.  Though he is honest about what educational training and good intentions won’t do with regard to eradicating prejudice, Chin sees the possibility for changes in the way we view and consequently relate to each other.  Where?  The church.  He writes, “We need a place where we can walk alongside a person who is outwardly different but to whom we are inwardly connected… In the church, people who are incredibly different from one another can walk into a room and feel instantly connected, not by virtue of their ethnic or racial or cultural similarities, but by the fact that the name of Jesus brings a word of worship to their lips. ” Selah.

Writing that she now understands the Rev. Dr. William Jones’ book Is God a white racist?: A Preamble to Black Theology, University of Pennsylvania professor and contributing editor to Religion Dispatches, Dr. Anthea Butler, joins him in calling God a “white racist” after a not guilty verdict was handed down in the trial of George Zimmerman over the murder of seventeen year old Trayvon Martin.  But, not only does she call God white and racist, neither of which are supported by sacred scripture but writes, “God ain’t good all of the time.  In fact, God is not for us.”  While she says that she does not believe that God is “the old white male racist looking down form heaven,” that this god is American, using a lower case “g” to denote the difference and in the end, concludes that the responsibility lies with those who teach American religion to inform persons of all of America’s religious history “not just the nice touchy- feely parts”, the fact that she would attribute the actions of George Zimmerman to God is irreverent and irresponsible, that she would suggest that the character of God somehow changes because of the actions of a human being is bad theology.  And the fact that she would allow the actions of another human being to determine how she now sees this God, her God is sad and unfortunate.  “Contend for the faith” (Jude 1.3).

Yes, George Zimmerman said that it was God’s will regarding his murdering of Trayvon Martin.  But, did anyone ask God what He said?  Are there any other witnesses of God’s will or is Mr. Zimmerman the only one?  Unlike Trayvon Martin, God is not dead and Zimmerman’s story is not the only version that we have.  There is another side to the story that can be told.  Turn with me in your Bibles.

“They always get away”: Race and the Justness of God

“They always get away.”  This is what George Zimmerman said to the 9-1-1 operator on the night that he killed seventeen year old Trayvon Martin.  Certainly, he was having a conversation with the operator.  But, he was also repeating an assumption that is attached to a racial narrative with a long and troubling history in America.  He was participating in two realities– one of which drove him to murder.  There was a sense of injustice, of disappointment with the track record of good when compared to that of evil.  It seemed as if evil, which Mr. Martin represented that night, always won.  And Zimmerman was not going to let it happen this time.  Mr. Martin would not get away (with it) or from him.

It is a story that he shares with most Americans which began with the belief that America was and is the “Promised Land” that belonged to “us” even though “they” were here.  It is the narrative that justifies the injustice of the rape, murder, enslavement and oppression of “other” people in order to bless “our” people.  His conversation is apart of the troubling dialogue that American Christians have with each other very often using the Bible as their reference.  The theological ground upon which we stand shifts to support the unhealthy weight of race and racism.

It is the belief that the other socially constructed race always gets away with wrong- doing, that either or both society and God favor “them” over “us.”  We, American Christians, who believe in the goodness and ultimate will of God also believe that God allows persons to sin against others without punishment because of their socially constructed race.  We believe that God lets persons get away with evil because God likes one cultural group more than another.  But, God has no favorites and we as believers are all chosen (Romans 2.11; First Peter 2.9).

While there are protests in the streets of many American cities, I would call for us to turn that protest inward.  I assure you that destroying property and stealing products may momentarily relieve the anger and disappointment that some of us feel due to the not guilty verdict in the murder trial of Mr. Zimmerman but it will not bring about lasting change.  Broken windows will be replaced and the products will be reproduced.  And our actions do not address the heart of the matter.  Mr. Zimmerman’s words were but a repetition of our own.

We, as believers, need to march within the cities of our souls and overturn the injustice system inside of us that says that God is somehow influenced by race and racism or changes His attributes to suit His creatures, that God willfully neglects His duties as Judge of all people because He is socially colored white and thus, privileged to do so.  Or, the belief that God is only on the side of the socially oppressed as if we are not all spiritually oppressed.  That we can determine whose side God is on and which cultural group God is with simply by looking at the social coloring of skin.  That our socially constructed race exempts us from our tendency to sin and changes our fallen nature so that we are able to judge God.

We should not allow race to get away with changing our theology to suit our racialized needs and hopes, to justify our conclusions about persons we cannot not see clearly because of the dark night of race/ racism, to question the justice of God who does not allow race as a witness for the prosecution or the defense in His court.

A Second Prayer for George Zimmerman

Not guilty. This is the verdict in the murder trial of George Zimmerman concerning the death of seventeen year old high school student Trayvon Martin.  While I am surprised that he was not found to be at fault for any of his actions on February 26, 2012, I am hopeful that this demonstration of social justice offers for us (By this, I mean those who are not closely related to either Mr. Martin or Mr. Zimmerman as they are involved in their own grieving processes for which this reflection at this time is not appropriate.) an occasion to reflect on the justice of God.  My faith tells me that only this justice, from the One who knows exactly what happened on that dreadful, life- changing and death- wielding rainy night will satisfy our longing for rightness.  And for some of us, justice was done and it was believed to be God’s justice.

Today, I wish that Mr. Zimmerman would have followed instructions, done as he was told, listened to the voice of a stranger on the other end of the telephone line and stayed in his car.  If he would have stayed in his car, Mr. Martin would have made it home to enjoy the teenage delicacies of candy and a beverage.  But, Mr. Zimmerman did not and as a result, he will have to live with the decisions that he made that night, decisions that have changed his life and ended the life of Mr. Martin.

But, I believe that we too have a decision to make.  We, as believers, who may believe that Mr. Zimmerman is an enemy, whether personal, social or cultural, a threat to so- called black men or socially constructed black life, must choose to love our enemy.  And in so doing, forgive him.  We must not forgive him because it is the right thing to do.  We must forgive him because he is our neighbor and God’s creature.

Frankly, I can’t help but see myself as an enemy of Mr. Zimmerman as well and wonder how my own prejudicial thinking and stereotyping has contributed to this racialized society.  How have my words and actions contributed to a society in which Mr. Zimmerman felt empowered to pursue another on the basis of his prejudicial assumptions?  What scenarios did I create during the trial that painted a picture of Mr. Zimmerman that were rooted in racism’s history and not his reality?  I am not innocent and yet, I have escaped a guilty verdict.  It is for this reason that I need him to forgive me as well.

I believe it is not justice, at least not our prescription of it, that he needs.  I assure you that no matter the verdict, you or I would not have been satisfied.  This is why the Bible teaches us that “vengeance is the Lord’s” (Romans 12.19).  We must not take revenge because we do not know how to render justice and are biased in our delivery of it.  We are influenced by America’s slave history, our personal and cultural experiences and our racial/ prejudicial biases.  We do not know how much to give or when to stop.  Revenge is never satisfied and there is always room for more.

So, I am praying for the parents of Mr. Martin for whom I can offer no words of solace save those of our great Christ: “I am the resurrection and the life: he that believes in me, though he were dead, yet will he live” (John 11.25). I don’t know how they are feeling because I have never lost a son but God has and it is to God that I turn for wisdom.  This is also why I can and do pray for Mr. Zimmerman whose feelings I cannot share in as a murderer but I have lied and cheated and stole so we are in the same lot as sinners.  For him and for me, I offer the prayer of Christ but this time as a dying man, convicted and sentenced to death without a trial: “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do” (Luke 23.34).  Amen.