March 23, 2012
Powerful writing, Kimberly, haunting even. Especially when coupled with Trayvon's photo; frankly he looks a lot like my son, hoody and all.
Do leaders have a responsibility to speak out? Yes, but not every leader can speak to every issue. Still, it's disheartening that no member of mainstream evangelicalism has stepped up on this one, or if they have it has not been prominent enough to garner attention.
Why has Trayvon's death in particular not been given the attention of overseas causes? Probably because those leaders have been involved in those causes for a long time. For this case to get the same attention, it would have to be in the context of a Warren or Hybels or MacArthur already being involved in improving the lives of people like Trayvon Martin.
Perhaps if they were already doing so it would be much easier for them to speak out when this type of individual tragedy arises, don't you think?
Is this article asking why white Christian leaders are not speaking out on this matter? Because, to assume that black Christians are not evangelical is misguided and a near indefensible position.
But, I think the question is valid. And I think it plays into the racial divide that exists within the church, even for those who extol the virtues of diversity in their churches. I have often found that when it comes to "race issues," many of my white counterparts feel disqualified from commenting or commenting too much. Part of it is because they fear it is not a mantle they will carry very long and they will later be called to the mat for picking up some cause du jour, rather than truly caring about the ongoing plight of racial tension in a South Florida town.
I don't thin white evangelicals bear a responsibility to jump on every major issue that comes up, but I do believe they have a call to speak out against injustice and walk into the breach to be part of the healing process.
What is more, while outrage is merited for a time, is it not also the job of all Christians to call for peace and reconciliation? Not some pie-in-the-sky, "Christians are supposed to be forgiving so lets forget about atrocity," but actual, counter-culture, scandalous calls for reconciliation. The kind of reconciliation that will offend people because it is antithetical to anything any of us feel like giving? Maybe that's a whole other question and it comes from what I'm personally wrestling with between Miroslav Volf and Desmond Tutu and Scripture. But, wrestle we must.
What do black Christians and white Christians do in the wake of all this? Whether this man is convicted or remains free, how are Christians to respond? Do we call for his blood! Or, like Casey Anthony, do we forget after a few weeks and live without forgiveness and with illusions of our moral uprightness?
John Piper had a decent blog post about it yesterday.
While I understand what you are saying, I don't want to insist that everyone react to every news story.
From my place, I first heard about it through Shaun King and his work with @hope. So I did hear about it from an Evangelical leader, albeit one that is African American.
Before we play the race card too glibly, let's ask a more pertinent question. When was the last time Rick Warren, Joel Osteen, Billy Graham, or any of those other evangelical leaders that you mentioned, take a side on the murder of a white teenager? An Asian teenager? A Hispanic teenager? Do they routinely take sides about murder cases? Is that part of what they do?
If not, then there is no reason to think that their reluctance to speak up about this particular murder case has anything to do with the race of the victim. Claiming so, without any reason to make the claim, is essentially race-baiting.
Yes, we all have causes that we support. I speak up about some things, and leave other things to be spoken up about by others. I, for example, have been involved with situations in the Middle East, but have remained silent about situations in China where I have less knowledge. Does that mean that I am a racist, that my silence is racially motivated? Of course not.
If a Hispanic family a mile from you has their house broken into, and you don't stop by and visit with cookies, does that mean that you are racially bigoted against Hispanics? Probably not. The accusation would only be fair if you routinely took cookies to people of other races in similar situations... only then would your lack of response be a sign of racial prejudice.
There is enough true racism in our world today. Making claims of racism where there is no evidence of it only dilutes the concept, and hurts the cause of eradicating true racism in our communities.
I'm sure that Christians are outraged about the senseless shooting of Trayvon Martin, but we aren't visible.
Most of the famous evangelicals I can think of are the super-pastors that I'm wary of.
I was just thinking about why Christians don't band together to publicly speak out against the terrible things that Pat Robertson has been saying for years.
Maybe ordinary Christians need to figure out a way to be visible for situations like this.
[C.] [E'Jon] [M.] and MarkCongdon nailed it.
The Evangelical silence arises from two sectors. First, the non-engagement or 2K side steps around it because until perhaps today (Friday) it was seen more as a gun control issue. Second, the cultural warriors are also silenced because of their own alliance with pro-liberty pro-gun stylings of the Tea Party.
Being of the 2K (two kingdom) side of things, I see this less as racial issue than one of utterly bad policy. That is, seeing only race allows us to escape to a kind of sentimentality when we really need to look at the practical and legal side: this is a bad law that introduces a new layer of lethality to DWB.
I am so sorry to hear about this evil that has occurred. As far as evangelist speakers speaking out about this issue I believe that it should be their choice and not expected of them. Their faith in God leads them to believe that unless the Holy Spirit is directly leading them to speak than God has other plans. It is Satan's work to discredit these people who bring thousands to Christ every year. My Question to the author of this article is WHY ARE YOU TARGETING WHITE EVANGELISTS? WHY IS THIS A RACE ISSUE (when the shooter was hispanic, which is irrelevant really). WHERE are the AFRICAN AMERICAN EVANGELSITS? Have they been ministering to the family? Gardner C. Taylor, Jeremiah Wright, and three veterans, Samuel D. Proctor, Charles Adams and Otis Moss, H. Beecher Hicks. Are you also expecting these people to minister to the family? God has His own plans with this issue. It is a sin to judge the motives of these speakers actions or inaction when we simply are NOT God we can not and do not see the whole picture.
Honestly, this is one young man, of many, who are murdered every day in this country. There are issues going on this country that deserve more attention and more of our time. Abortion, Elections, the destruction of our rights, The violation of the constitution by our sitting president. Not to mention the economy, wars to fight, terrorism, fuel prices and the like. I don't think Christian leaders need to express themselves on every issue and while this story is tragic it is hardly the most pressing thing in the news. Trayvon is gone and no amount of public outcry will change that. Should justice be done? Of course it should! I think it is more necessary that we focus on those who are still able to respond to the message of the gospel and spending our time making disciples of those who are able to be disciples. This is a sad story, however, the authorities are more than capable of prosecuting the man responsible.
I almost hit "like" -- but that's not the right word. "Appreciate," "take the point," is more like it. Thank you for this post Kimberly. I also appreciate E'Jon's thoughtful, well-nuanced response, too: "I don't think white evangelicals bear a responsibility to jump on every major issue that comes up, but I do believe they have a call to speak out against injustice and walk into the breach to be part of the healing process." Amen.
Well said, and well-posed questions, IMHO.
You have just written the best comment I have read on here.
SO LOUD A SILENCE
So loud a silence
Will answer my shout
As ears close within
And my throat swells without
So loud a silence
Does answer my scream
Its echo reduces
To likeness of dream
So loud a silence
Still answers my rage
And all empty space
Seems prepared as my cage
The head I held high
Against slander and violence
Now seems to break
Upon so loud a silence
So long the silence
Has answered my call
It causes me doubt
I produce voice at all
So long the silence
Yet answers my plea
I wonder what lingers
To be seen of me
This long and loud silence
That swallows my cry
May it choke on my memory
The day that I die
The face I once set
Against slander and violence
Becomes a mask shattered
By so loud a silence
Merlin L. Taylor, Jr. 23 March 2012
The first problem is that all anybody can do is speculate. This is nothing more than trial by media at this point.
The second problem is, the only correct answer is to side with Trayvon. Not because Trayvon is innocent (we don't and can't know that yet) but because failure to side with Trayvon means that you'll be accused of racism.
This is a fantastic point... that could only be made by a racist. Ha! I'm just kidding.
The truth is, some people just want to cry about the racism problem anytime they even slightly suspect racism. The oddity is that this makes THEM racist as well.
Since I first heard this story reported by Al Mohler, I think you've missed some evangelical voices out there.
Clearly the authorities are not capable of prosecuting the man responsible because he hasn't been charged with a crime yet, and it has been one month to the day that this incident occurred. Christian leaders don't need to express themselves on every issue, but white evangelical Christian leaders rarely, if ever, express themselves on issues of social justice, and as Ms. Davis indicates, the silence is deafening. It calls to mind MLK's Letter from Birmingham Jail. To the parents of Trayvon Martin, abortion, elections, and all the other stuff that you list is not even on the radar. If justice cannot be done for Trayvon, then it is not available for the least of these, about which Jesus left clear instructions.
The United Methodists have spoken out:
United Methodist Coalition Decries Shooting of Unarmed Black Teen in Florida
The historic coalition of advocacy groups in The United Methodist Church made its first joint statement on the shooting death of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin in Florida.
â€œWe are shocked by this shooting of an unarmed African American teen by an armed neighborhood watch person who contravened the directives of police by pursuing and shooting this high school student,â€ said Steve Clunn, director of the Love Your Neighbor Common Witness Coalition. â€œAs a Christian coalition that works at the crossroads of issues, we must challenge all race-based profiling. It only leads to heartbreak and disaster.â€
Read the rest at: http://gc12.org/featured/united-methodist-coalition-decries-shooting-of-unarmed-black-teen-in-florida/
It is sad that white non-Hisipanic evangelicals are not doing more to prevent violence that takes the lives of so many other Trayvon's every day. But that doesn't mean you shouldn't also have outrage over the police's lack of effort to properly investigage this case. Not collecting Zimmerman's clothes? Not asking Zimmerman if they could test him for alcohol/drugs (or compelling him if FL law allows)? Not checking phone records and contacting the girlfriend to conduct an interview? You can't get involved in every case, but when your African American brothers/sisters have their heart pierced because it brings home their experiences of DWB (Driving While Black), or being pre-judged as a threat because they may dress in ways that are more common in African American culture than White America...you can't help but want to show your solidarity and speak out. By the way, Franklin Graham, after your comments trying to paint Obama as a possible Muslim (not that we should be prejudiced against Muslims in office), you're no longer a relevant evangelical leader as far as I'm concerned. And when Franklin needed to be called to task for his recent remarks about Pres. Obama, there were too few white non-Hispanic evangelicals joining the refrain (Disciples of Christ were the exception---rest of white non-Hispanics chuch leaders were mainliners and Brian McClaron (who is just about kicked out of evangelicalism), and no other emergent/missional church leaders.
What's a Race Card? And how is it played "glibly"?
Is this the Race Card one gets when one signs up to be a minority Club Member (USA Charter)? Are you suggesting the fact that Black and Latino Americans - and particularly youth - are routinely and systemically targeted by poverty, police, and the justice system to be some sort of advantage one gets with the use of this card?
Membership sure has its rewards. But bragging about it, I guess, is a if faux pas.
Silence may be the wisest response when the facts are hard to discern. There is a great deal to be concerned about in this event, and it certainly sounded like vigilantism when I first heard about it - but I heard about it from the mainstream media, whose words I take with a grain of salt. Everything I have heard since, from all kinds of source, point to a confusing situation.
Very few people know me outside the area where I live, so it really doesn't matter what I say - but it is hard to make a fair comment when you do not know what really happened.
Here we need to remember a life is lost, was it a malice act by Mr Zimmerman ? only God knows ; should he be charged that is up to Florida state law, here we need to rely on what laws are protecting us from future street slaughter, no matter what back ground we are from, this issue needs to be address not by a Christian leaders, but by the people making the laws .......
I always remember to REMEMBER what happened to those Duke LaCrosse Players. We need to wait for the judicial system to take it's course before we start judging. Those that throw stones about the lack of white outrage should remember the Duke LaCrosse players(and Tawanna Briley) as well.
Mark, first if all, bringing up the issue of race doesn't mean I'm playing the race card. That claim only serves to try to shut down any discussion of race. As for whether these leaders routinely speak on these issues is part of the larger issue that the article is trying to get to: why don't they speak out on issues like these that happen to their closer neighbors in addition to overseas causes? Why were many white church leaders silent when blacks were being lynched during the Civil Rights Movement? There is an historical context that seems to be lost here--and it is an historic continuum.
Thank you for writing. I wrote this because I truly believe that we as a body are called to racial reconciliation, as I've written about on TC before. Moreover, many Black Christian leaders have been visible in their support of the Martin family.
Also, since when is asking a question considered judgment?
And Zimmerman is Hispanic and white.
And I'm always wary of people trying to tell others what "true" racism is. What does that even mean?
Speaking out about a racially motivated murder, in which the perpetrator has not even been arrested, is not "playing the race card." There's a difference between speaking up about a murder in which the victim happened to be a minority, and speaking up about a murder in which a black victim was called a "f*#!ing coon" by his killer moments before he was shot. Pointing out that a murder was very likely racially motivated and that white evangelicals have been oddly silent is hardly race-baiting.
And in your analogy re: Hispanics (fyi, the term is Latino now) - our culture has been handing cookies to everyone else for years. Think of the response to Casey Anthony, Jon Benet Ramsey, Elizabeth Smart, and any other pretty little white girl who goes missing. Nancy Grace et al go nuts! But Trayvon's family had to fight for coverage of his death. So, yeah, media coverage of these sorts of things is pretty racist. We tend to more sympathetic to white children dying than we do with black kids.
And like Kimberly said, I'm extremely wary of someone who can look at Trayvon's case and then say that our reaction to it undermines efforts against "true" racism.
I appreciate the sober and respectful dialogue here -- something missing in the media. That said, As I wrote in the Orlando Sentinel last week (not as an evangelical leader but as a dad), the simple fact remains: if Mr. Zimmerman had stayed in his car as the 911 operator advised, no one would be dead. I am pretty sure if my white sons had been walking that night (hoody up in a drizzling rain), they would not have been shot. If my black sons had been there, . . . not so sure. That's the troubling aspect. See here for more:
Thanks again for the good comments.
What do you suggest these evangelical leaders say? That racism is bad? That murder is wrong? Beyond the pain of the victim's family and friends, what specific issue should evangelical leaders address here? Is enough known about the motive of the shooter -- what was in his heart when he pulled the trigger, or did he intend to shoot to kill? -- to make this more than what it likely is: a horrible personal tragedy? Is Trayvon's death evidence of rampant racism in America, or of a conclusive miscarriage of justice, something evangelical leaders should paint our entire society with, something that every white person should share the guilt of? I don't buy it. Maybe these leaders should speak out against the effort of some to use this tragedy for political reasons, to further divide the nation along racial lines, to fuel anger and to direct it to their advantage.
Charlie, appreciate your wise words. I've seen this discussed in some places I visit on the web, but I have been silent for the same reason. And a lot of people are silent because on volatile issues, people love to spin your words and give them the appearance of saying something you never intended. If anyone says anything about any mitigating circumstances at all, they get characterized as condoning the murder of someone unarmed. There are legitimate questions that need to be asked concerning some of the details of the report, but to ask those questions is to subject onself to badgering simply for asking them. With that kind of atmosphere being created by the media and by those protesting the self-defense judgment given by officers, how cna anyone logically presume that "evangelical silence" is automatically blameworthy? If they can't ask the right questions about the issues, and can't get all the details from the reports that have come out, how can they be expected to say ANYTHING? It would seem far more wise to me, not to jump on a bandwagon just to keep people from criticizing me for not jumping on the bandwagon. It all seems to me to be an effort to point fingers at someone for not pointing fingers.
I would urge everyone to keep cool and to dig for more information. There are indications that the mainstream press isn't reporting all of the information on this story.
So dig and wait for the rest of the facts.
I agree with one of the other 'posters' who observed that the leading evangelical figures rarely weigh in on these hot button issues. It's not that the leading preachers have no opinion on injustice; it's that they know that if they speak out before all of the facts are known, they risk being discredited or labelled as racists. And that's harmful to their ministries.
In the Trayvon Martin incident, all of the facts are not known. Some witnesses have spoken up and have said that Mr. Martin attacked Mr. Zimmerman. Police at the scene shortly after the shooting report that Mr. Zimmerman had a bloody nose and that he had wet grass stains on the back of his windbreaker. If these two details prove true, then it may be that Mr. Zimmerman's account may have some merit.
It's details such as this that make it highly inappropriate for the leading evangelical figures to make pronouncements at this time.
Kimberly - why would you want leaders unacquainted with the facts of the case to comment from thousands of miles away - and why would you assume such silence indicates they don't value a young man's life or have incredible sympathy for his family whatever the circumstances of his death? Will you do a followup essay discussing innocent until proven guilty and how the media gets things wrong if facts in this case emerge that don't support your position?
It seems that evangelical leaders and many others would do well to await the facts in the Trayvon Martin case, as it seems new revelations come to light daily. It seems that they can set the example by not rushing to judgment, like our first â€œwhite African-Americanâ€ president, and feeding the vigilante mobâ€™s desire for revenge, because it seems that history should teach us that the mob is not always right.
It seems that a young black man's life has tremendous value, particularly if he is shot by a â€œwhite Hispanic,â€ because it seems that if he had been killed by a black person his death would not have made the news, the usual race-baiters would not have shown up to plaster his face on t-$hirts and the Black Panthers would not be offering a $10,000 dead-or-alive reward for the man who shot him.
It seems that we had better keep the narrative simple because if it becomes too complicated it may cease to provide us with grievance we are angling for, and how much fun would that be.
It seems that if we do not like the results of the police investigation, we can clamor for George Zimmermanâ€™s arrest and once we have given him a fair trial, then we are free to hang him. For expediencyâ€™s sake, it seems we really should skip the trial and go straight to the hanging â€“ for what will we do if that trial does not give us the results we want?
It seems that if we do not know who certain ministers are ministering to, then we are free to conclude that they are not ministering to anyone and also to conclude that those who keep their faces permanently in front of TV cameras must be the ones who truly care.
It seems it is easier to wait for the responses of white evangelical leaders than listen to black evangelical leaders, like the Rev. C.L. Bryant of Texas, who said (among other politically correct things): â€œWhy not be angry about the wholesale murder that goes on in the streets of Newark and Chicago? Why isnâ€™t somebody angry about that six-year-old girl who was killed on her steps last weekend in a cross fire when two gang members in Chicago start shooting at each other? Why is there no outrage about that?â€
Of course, should we hear from Rick Warren or Franklin Graham and not like what they have to say, we are free to tell them that because they are not black, they are not fit have an opinion about the matter, and therefore it seems they should please sit down and shut up.
More facts are emerging every day, like the fact that the investigating officer swore in an affidavit that he was "unconvinced" by Zimmerman's account and sought a warrant for his arrest. The police chief failed to state this.
The point is not to "rush" to judgment, but to arrest so that a full and thorough investigation can be done.
Moreover, waiting for such an investigation does not preclude evangelical leaders or anyone to speak up and call for healing, for racial reconciliation or to offer biblical words of support to a family that is devastated.
You don't have to make a judgment about the situation to be aggrieved by the fact that there is a child to mourn and an evil history of racism in this country that should be reconciled. The bible calls us to reconciliation.
There is so much we don't know about this-anyone who has come out and picked a side has done so out of ignorance. Anyone on either side is doing so because of a reasons other than seeking justice.
I mean-everyone is looking into this case-what else can be said?
How about we let them gather all the facts and then form an opinion-instead of picking sides based on race, politics, or our prejudices.
Anyone demanding we pick a side now is just bloodthirsty and not concerned about justice.
It is embarrassing that this is turning into another O.J. trial.
Great article that really hit stuck a chord in my own heart. I am a pastor in an Evangelical church and I have a two teenage sons who wear hoodies all the time. Since my sons are white, the wouldn't look suspicious to most people, but Trayvon Martin did. This is sad and wrong. I am praying and thinking about how to respond.
Just a few quick remarks that may or may not contribute:
1. Every day the story seems to morph into something different, so a quick reaction is rarely wise (other than to comment on the tragedy that events like this ever happen).
2. Who appoints Evangelical Leaders to begin with and what gives them special insight into this case?
Not sure but think it's a feeling of not belonging. More sadness for this and inconsistent with Christianity. I'm a conservative white male in Arizona and very Christian in my principles. The race issue bothers me very much - it needs to be regarded but isn't the issue at all. I have many guns but would never follow someone with a gun. Zimmerman snapped and it will not matter what the "justice" system does in the end. In his mind he now has no way out. I wish I were there, I wish you were there I wish someone was there to stop those few seconds. I don't know what would have become of Trayvon - nobody does. Maybe I would have met him and he would have helped open a FL office for my company? I really don't want to hear about the "bad" things he had done though - our sins are probably worse. So - WE FAILED - again. Just a Romeo Dallier, the Canadian General said of his efforts in Rwanda when asked if he did enough - "NO" but he tried so hard. So I hear these comments and in my mind I hear these words meet every worming wiggle or reasoning. We are the UNITED STATES - he's dead and we failed again. UNITED STATES we failed again, he is dead.
One historical note: though most of the lynchings/murders of innocent black men, women and children took place in the south this terrorism was spread around the country, there was at least one such murder in my home state of Minn. An excellent, though chilling read on this subject is James H. Cone's, "The Cross and the Lynching Tree."
It isn't just evangelical's who are silent, as a mainliner I hear nothing from our leadership, no posts, nothing...and as someone already noted the silence is deafening. One reason why church leadership may be silent might be because there is a fear of rushing to a judgement before all the facts are in. One fact is clear: a 17 year old was killed and for no good reason (as if there is a good reason for killing).
Thank you, Kimberly. As a fellow journalism, I urge you to identify conservatives and fundamentalists as that, not as evangelicals. I am a member of the moderate ELCA - Evangelical Lutheran Church in America - the largest Lutheran denomination in the U.S. Our leader, Bishop Hanson, spoke out early and strongly about this slaying. Visit http://www.elca.org/Who-We-Are/Our-Three-Expressions/Churchwide-Organization/Office-of-the-Presiding-Bishop/Messages-and-Statements/120327.aspx
This is what happens when religion and politics collide. They're afraid to stand up for Trayvon lest it outrage the NRA which falls on their same political side. Religious leaders should stay out of politics but for voicing concern for certain relevant issues. They should never choose sides.
You have said it all !!!
I'm extremely wary of someone who can look at Trayvon's case and think they know enough to draw any conclusions.
The truth is, Trayvon's parents are running a media war - disabling Zimmerman from any chance of a real fair trial. The accounts that have been given are only small snapshots of a much more complicated situation. A lot of stuff happened quickly - it takes time to properly vet the details out.
And in my hood, the Hispanics here prefer "Hispanic" or "Mexican". A Latino is typically a dainty Hispanic girl.
Who is targeting Black and Hispanic youth with poverty, police, and the justice system? These white pastors? Or is it a cultural cycle of nihilism that stifles all hope? Be careful who you blame.
As I read the article and the comments, I can't help but notice a small problem with the author. She asserts, in the body of her piece, that white pastors need to speak out against the racial injustice shown in Trayvon's death. However, when challenged on that view in the comments, she asserts that they really only need to speak words of healing. Which is it?
As to my own views, this is a tragedy, but we live in a Republic with laws and rights that must be protected. And, as always, we only ever here the side of the story the media presents, and it doesn't help when our esteemed president makes foolish statements based off of what the media reports.
I do not think that Trayvon's family had to fight for coverage. You're making this a black v white issue when, in fact, it is not. Your argument truly sounds like an Argumentum ad antiquitatem, "It has always happened like this!" you cry.
Hmm. OK, let me first say what happened is horrible, and from all accounts Trayvon should not have been shot and it was wrong.
Here's my issue. You are making this about race as much as anyone. When before have we ever heard of a "white hispanic." That's just convenient as a way to easily demarcate this as a white v black issue.
It is unfair to make a unverified leap into this idea that white evangelicals never help comfort black families.
Explain to my why it is your job to decide what every minister's (white or black) responsibility is to speak out on public issues. Who decides that kind of thing? It's just a handy oversimplified position that allows everyone to judge them because they didn't make the supposed proper response.
Here's the thing: what happened to Davis is sad and wrong and who knows, maybe was racially motivated or influenced at the time. The killer should be called before some type of justice, and hopefully will be in time. You're right, the continuing racial divide and attitude has been revealed in many people, but not just in the way you think. Yep, lots of racist a-holes assume this kid was trouble because he was black. But calling out "famous evangelicals" for not speaking out is ridiculous.
They do not speak for me as a white Christian, nor do I ever want them to. So don't take your interpretation of their reaction or non-reaction as some sort of bell ringing on the part of the entire evangelical community. What is done on the ground every day family to family and person to person is a billion times more important than some sort of impotent self-important posturing for the news about a "call for justice."
Rick Warren spoke about the Trayvon Martin case on ABC recently. He said he would be promoting racial reconciliation...
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