Everyone wants to know whether you vote Guilty or Not Guilty, and someone is bound to be very disappointed with whatever answer is given, or the answer that is not given at all. And, with the nationalization of local crime, “someone” turns out to be quite large numbers of someones.
Yet if we are able to reasonably discuss those things that threaten to divide us, in which the stakes of further division are high, hearing more voices is generally better than hearing fewer.
Viewing the Martin-Zimmerman case from a distance, I naturally come to a conclusion about what the evidence shows, with one large caveat: I don’t know all the evidence. Nevertheless, I think that the evidence, as it has been reported, would support either the jury’s conclusion that Zimmerman committed a type of manslaughter (something less than premeditated murder) or its decision that Zimmerman acted in justified self-defense.
At this point, most readers will disagree with me, perhaps violently, and claim that there is only one possible outcome from the evidence, and depending on your perception of the case, some will say the jury reached that one possible outcome while others will say it did not. Herein, as they say, lies the problem and the potential for a tumultuous national future.
For if you believe that the only reason the jury reached a Not Guilty verdict is because Trayvon Martin is black and George Zimmerman is not-black, because it capitulated to the jurors’ own latent racist tendencies, because it is part of a long train of race-based abuses foisted on minorities by the majority government structure, then you will never be part of a solution to our nation’s real racial divide, but instead will exacerbate it.
Similarly, if you believe that the only verdict the jury could have reached is Not Guilty because Trayvon Martin is black and George Zimmerman is not-black, because young black boys in hoodies are always thugs looking for trouble, because black people in gated communities must be criminals, because you refuse to consider the possibility of sinister racial motivations, then you, too, will never be part of the solution to our nation’s real racial divide, but instead will exacerbate it.
Given how the conversation tends to go, one suspects, however, that a solution is not within human reach.
Thabiti Anyabwile, in his post about this, states well the frustration some of us feel regarding the race discussion. First, for those holding a biblical worldview, there should be no race, only ethnicity. Second, in many situations, the race card is inserted to a deck that did not already contain it; in others, the issue becomes either only about race or not enough about race.
Yet one thing that is always present in conflict between people, that never needs to be inserted, but that is almost always neglected, is not the race card, but the sin card.
It is not right that anyone needs a Neighborhood Watch. It is not right that humans should use weapons against one another. It is not right that residents view certain other-looking people with suspicion for only that reason. It is not right that teenaged boys should die, or that entire families should face violent retaliation, or that riots and inciting riots should be seen as acceptable standard public discourse. Yet these things are not right, not because we have different amounts of melanin in our skin, but because we have an abundance of sin infecting our hearts.
Right now, we engage in acts motivated by sin. Our assessment of those acts is distorted by filters tainted with sin. And our discussions with one another about those acts is also contaminated with sin.
The trump to the sin card, however, is not hate or revenge or riots or government. The trump to the sin card is the gospel of Jesus Christ, the gospel that frees us from the penalty, power, and presence of sin when we admit our inability, repent, and trust the reconciliation to God that is found only in Jesus Christ.
This gospel of reconciliation to God makes us ambassadors of reconciliation, and empowers us to live together, to love our neighbors as ourselves, to do to others what we would have them to do us. It enables us to live in meekness toward one another: not demanding of each other our rights, respect and reward, and to live hungering righteousness and justice for one another, not looking only to our own self-interest.
Whatever the opinion of Christ-followers to the death of Trayvon Martin, and whatever our opinion about the acquittal of George Zimmerman, we should not allow this gospel to be eclipsed.