Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Thoughts on the tragic death of Trayvon Martin

I’ll try not to get myself in too much hot water here in commenting on the national hot potato topic concerning the sad and tragic shooting death of Trayvon Martin death. We certainly do grieve and pray for his parents and family who have endured a terrible loss. As we do for all families who experience the senseless loss of children and young people all of races due to violence in our nation everyday.

Now yes in partciular we should be very sympathetic and understanding about the victimization the Afrifican-American community is feeling. Further I have no problem with calls for further investigation from the Justice department or the Governor’s office as long as it isn’t used for political purposes for one party or the other. I think all good morally decent Americans from every race and political parties would want a thorough investigation into the case and see if any mishandling or injustice has been done by the Sanford police department and if evidence warrants it, bring any possible charages against George Zimmerman

But I’ll be completely honest with you; I’m getting alittle tired of all the “kangaroo court” being played out on national TV, blogs, and media in general. From preachers, politicians, political pundits (i.e.,MSNBC news), and even race baiters (i.e., Black Panthers, Jackson, Sharpton, Farrakhan) who stand to profit of such a tragedy.

I think everyone needs to step back, take a deep breath and wait until all the facts can clearly come out before making definitive conclusions either way. After all, we are now really just beginning to get more details on Martin’s death from the police reports. The police claim to have a witnesses that says Martin, at some point during the altercation, was on top of Zimmerman, beating him.

Was this a case of justified self-defense or more about an overzealous neighborhood watchman (or want-to-be-cop/vigilante??) who racially profiled, stocked and provoked the situation into violence. We do know that Zimmerman was armed with a gun, and headed toward Martin, despite the explicit instructions of a police dispatcher. Maybe both can make the claim of defending themselves under Florida’s “Stand Your Ground Law." I don’t know. But neither do you! None of us just don’t know everything that transpired.

I like what David Shane, wrote on “Now, it's quite possible that Zimmerman is guilty of everything his worst foes accuse him of. There is plenty about this case that troubles me. But that's exactly the point—I don't know. Neither does anyone else, and both the scope and tone of the media coverage ought to reflect that fact."

Erick Erickson, who is often seen on CNN debating fellow analyst Roland Martin, is editor of which I think has a pretty good , well balanced article in presenting what we do know a this point and what we don’t know as of yet. He makes the following conclusion:

“The best thing as a nation we can do is to demand justice, but not a preconceived justice. This is why we have the justice system in this country, so we can try to find out what happened when there is such a situation. If it is clear that Zimmerman was acting out of place, he will likely be judged by a jury of his peers: until the case becomes clearer, it does no one any good to project hatred into an already volatile situation. The sad thing is, that is what we are seeing.”

Now, it should hardly go without saying that we’ve been reminded once again that race and racism are still issues in the US. And yes, some, folks aren’t even conscious of this heavy blank of prejudice that they carry around that causes them to see and be more suspicious of people whose skin and language are not the same as their own. And many of this same people can’t fathom that this could ever lead to the kind of misperception that ends in death.

Now, I certainly believe America has made much progress in the area of race relations. I’m thankful that many new strides forward have been made regarding race and racism espeically in regard to the civil rights movement of the 1960's which saw many of our country's discrimanting laws changed. Despite so much that is good about our nation's history and pursuit of freedom and liberty, we should never forget our country's sad history of prejudice, biogotry and racism towards people of color. And I do think that the majority of Americans realize this and believe that racial discrimination is evil and both unjust and unworthy of this nation and the God we claim to put our trust in.

However, it would be terribly naive to also realize and deny that too often what has happened has only a covering over, not a fundamental change. To be sure, we have much room for improvement. So, yes, I do think what the Trayvon Martin case says about us is that we still have a long way to go in regard to race issues.

But let's like more closely and carefully about the Martin shooting death and back to the issue getting all the facts straight and out before making pronouncements of innonence or guilt of those involved in the Martin case.

I do like what conservative author Victor Davis Hanson has said in his thought-provoking column out this morning which examines the public uproar over the Treyvon Martin case and what it means for race relations in the United States today:

He writes:

“The Trayvon Martin tragedy, by the time the entire process is played out, will reflect poorly on lots of people and groups, who in mob-like fashion have weighed in before all the facts in the case are fully aired. We have reached the nadir when the civil-rights community decries the release of further pertinent information about Mr. Martin as gratuitously defaming the deceased — with the implicit understanding that incomplete and leaked information so far has been welcomed if it reflected poorly on the alleged perpetrator.”

Hanson continues:

“The narrative of the shooting unfortunately changes every 24 hours, which suggests the media saw a preliminary narrative it liked and then adorned it in a manner to ensure sensationalism and polarization. …

So what does all this mean for race relations in the U.S.? Again, Davis explains: (emphasis mine):

“The net result of the demagoguery will be more racial polarization, as African-Americans believe that young black males are unfairly stereotyped by society and treated less fairly by police, while non-African-Americans will only be further convinced that the African-American leadership is not concerned with the vastly inordinate rates of black violent crime, given the small percentage of the African-American community within the general population, much less the much higher rates of black-on-white crime – and as both sides argue either for more money to be invested in social programs, or that too much has already been spent in counter-productive fashion.”

Now, if you don't know me, I'm a Christian and a preacher. So I want to address and look at this issue of racism always from the lens of Scripture (my worldview). I don’t hesitate one second to submit to you what I think we find the Bible teaches us.

First, we find in Exodus 20:13, God’s commandment against murder. But how are we to apply this commandment, does it mean that we can do anything to our fellow man short of murder? Could you denigrate and verbally abuse him? Our Lord corrects our thinking in Matt. 5:20-22 where He informs us that murder-like behavior is not only actual murder, but unjustified anger and abusive language. (Read also 1 John 3:11-12 where the apostle John equates hatred with murder using the example of Cain---and remember we are our brother’s keeper!) No, we cannot justify our hatred or abusive language on the basis of race or anything else. Life is to be treated as sacred.

Second, we need to realize that man made in the image of God from one blood. Acts 17:26 states that God made from one blood every nation of men to dwell on all the face of the earth. From where did Caucasians, Hispanics, Asians, Blacks, etc., originate? Everyone originated from two parents, Adam and Eve. Thus, no one is inferior to another since we’re all part of the same race, the human race. Further, in whose image was man made? Gen. 1:26-27 tells us that we were made in God’s image and Jam. 3:9 reveals how wrong it is to curse one another since we are made in His image.

Now, while it is certainly true that I believe we can show from the two points above where God emphatically forbids racism in the world at large, but God forbids it even more so in the church. In Galatians 3:26-28 the apostle Paul teaches us in the kingdom of God all stand on equal footing and value before the Lord: “There is neither Jew nor Greek, ... neither slave nor free, ... male nor female. At to this the fact that Christ’s body cannot be divided. (1 Cor. 12:25) Paul I believe in principle condemns racism and any form of it as being apart of the works of the flesh which includes hatred. (Gal. 5:20)

I’d add that as Christians, we are commanded to consider others more important than ourselves. Rather than seeing others as inferior because of race, we are to esteem others better than ourselves, Phil. 2:3. This flies in the face of racism, which dictates that one race is better than another.

Let me just also add two important instructions from the New Testament for believers regarding racism. First, victims of racism, prejudice, and discrimination need to forgive. Ephesians 4:32 declares, “Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.” Racists may not deserve your forgiveness, but we deserved God’s forgiveness far less. Second, those who practice racism, prejudice, and discrimination need to repent. “Present yourselves to God as being alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness to God” (Romans 6:13).

So I think without any doubt, we as a believer in Jesus Christ, I believe we are mandated by God to repudiate racism. And of course we should resist, oppose and speak out against such evils in whenever we see it in our soceityand world. We should repent where we have contributed negatively in perpetuating racism and have done nothing to oppose it and renew our efforts to help bring about racial reconciliation whenever we can in our nation in our communities in which we live.

And I do also think that at the end of the day, we can’t get too caught up in all the “political focus” and remember for us as Christians that ultimately we are charged from Christ to go into all the world (that begins with first the world/communities in which we live) and speak a word for the saving Gospel of Jesus Christ (which deals with all people’s heart/sin problem which includes racism) and allowing that message to bring true reconciatlion all peoples and every race into one united body, the church. (cf. Eph. 2:11-22)

What’s my conclusion?

Well, I do think this is indeed a time of much prayer, wisdom, racial reconciliation and healing with our neighbors of every race and ethnicity. Let's help build bridges and not put up more fences. Let's have open, frank discussions with people in our communities of different colors and race. See if we have been unknowingly contributing or helping stop racism and begin to work together to bring more racial harmony.

Yet, having said that, I do also believe it’s a time for speaking and addressing openly and honestly the racial issues and problems facing our country and the tough solutions and ideas which might be needed to turn the tide for the better of our society for people of all races and ethnicities and cultures in America.

No, we won't always agree on all the answers and solutions but again, we need to be having real, genuine and tough discussions about race matters and what we might do as a nation to address these problems.

I guess bottom line, for me, yes I’m saddened over the tragic shooting death of young Trayvon Martin. And I will be just as appalled and angry as I hope would any morally decent American of any race would be if the truth is discovered that Mr. Zimmerman deserves to be arrested for committing a crime (possible murder)against Mr. Martin.

I do want to put myself in the shoes of those in the African-American community who are no doubt feeling confusion, hurt and anger about this terrible death of a young black teenager.

But I guess I’m just trying in between all this national media hysteria to be a supporter of the truth (and justice for the guilty) but not the circus media and political show that this has sadly turned into.

"Buy the truth and do not sell it; get wisdom, discipline and understanding." (Proverbs 23:23)

But we know that the law is good, if one uses it lawfully, realizing the fact that law is not made for a righteous man, but for those who are lawless and rebellious, for the ungodly and sinners, for the unholy and profane, for those who kill their fathers and mothers, for murderers and immoral men and homosexuals.” (1 Timothy 1:8-10)

Robert Prater