Last year I thought about saying something about the Trayvon Martin case. But then I thought it would be best to wait. The media was generating so much more heat than light, and besides, racial tension is one of those issues one is always reluctant to talk about if one’s opinion strays from the popular narrative. Now that an official verdict has been handed down from our justice system, and George Zimmerman has been declared not guilty, I would like to address some of the appallingly irresponsible reactions I am seeing from the leaders of the evangelical community in the wake of this decision. I don’t mind saying that I am equal parts disheartened, angered, yet depressingly un-surprised to see how thoughtlessly they have, collectively, abandoned George Zimmerman. And I am not the only one.
Let’s begin with this fact, which precisely zero evangelical “voices” have acknowledged: This is a case that should never even have gone to trial. For a detailed explanation of why, read the ever-incisive Thomas Sowell’s cogent article here. The proper authorities investigated the evidence and decided there was not enough to prosecute. That should have been case closed, lights out, end of story, everybody go home now, and I really couldn’t care less what the races of the people involved were. If Zimmerman had been black and Trayvon white Hispanic, he would have gone free, and this would never have become a national drama, as would have been altogether right and just. (I say this despite the insulting insinuation that white people just love them some black blood and would be screaming for Zimmerman’s conviction if races were reversed. Newsflash: Some of us actually care about minor things like, y’know, truth, and um, oh yeah, individual justice. Deal with it.) When backed into a corner on this point, people will still insist, vaguely, that somehow it should have gone to trial because it involved an adult killing a minor. This is merely an excuse which betrays a profound ignorance of the American legal system.
It was nauseating to read article after article regurgitating the same tired, banal blather about white privilege, white racism, and white racial insensitivity, apropos of nothing that resembled a clear-eyed approach to the actual case at hand. It was baffling to read Thabiti Anyabwile, an author I generally like and appreciate, “going back to 1950″ to talk about how black people used to be lynched without legal recourse, but this case shows how much progress our nation has made. (Because apparently, turning an innocent man into a sacrificial lamb for the cause of a politically popular racial narrative represents “progress.”) It was embarrassing to read Al Mohler (Al Mohler!) offer an opinion piece littered with misinformation, biased language and an unhesitating acceptance of the media’s image of Trayvon Martin as a sweet, “smiling 17-year-old boy” who wouldn’t hurt a fly, when the reality was much darker. (Please note: I am not saying, “Therefore the world is better off without Trayvon Martin anyway” or “Therefore Trayvon Martin deserved to die for being a thug anyway.” His death was a tragedy. Nevertheless, it is simply a fact that the media slanted their reporting to gin up public animus towards Zimmerman by trying to convince everyone that whatever happened, it was all on Zimmerman and couldn’t possibly have had anything to do with violence on Trayvon Martin’s part.) And it was downright chilling to hear John Piper (John Piper!) speak of Zimmerman’s “sins” and speak of the last Judgement, intoning repeatedly and ominously, “Justice will be done. Justice will be done.”
Understand, he is talking about George Zimmerman’s sins.
John Piper is not talking about the many black-on-white hate crimes that have been perpetrated in the name of Trayvon Martin, nor the chaotic protests that are resulting in the assault of innocent people. He is not talking about Al Sharpton, Eric Holder, or any of the other black race-baiters who have relentlessly called for Zimmerman’s head on a platter and are even now setting up a witch hunt to keep digging for possible racism in his past, so that he can be persecuted still further. He is not talking about the fact that Zimmerman’s parents have lost everything and gone into hiding for fear of their lives after receiving death threats. He is not talking about the fact that Zimmerman himself will be a marked man for the rest of his life, unable to keep his family in one place, unable to earn a living, unable to be at peace. (Or is that not sufficient punishment for his “sins?”)
John Piper is not talking about the media, who tampered with crucial evidence to make it appear that Zimmerman was engaging in racial profiling, which was never proven. He is not talking about Angela Corey, the attorney who conducted a scandalously deceitful prosecution and is still going about spewing that Zimmerman was a “murderer.”
John Piper is not talking about fellow evangelical leader Russell Moore, who joined in the outcry by falsely claiming that Zimmerman had “murdered” Trayvon Martin without bothering to look at the evidence (see here, 4th paragraph down).
And for that matter, John Piper is not talking about Trayvon Martin, who brutally attacked Zimmerman, without reasonable provocation as far as we can tell, and was screaming death threats over the man’s head at the moment he lost his life in an act of legitimate self defense. Because in the country’s eyes and Piper’s too, the real monster, the real villain, is George Zimmerman, who, as a neighborhood watch officer, committed the damning “sin” of… following a young man who raised his antennae in various ways (he appeared to be on drugs, was taking a shortcut between two houses, etc.), late at night, after the neighborhood had suffered a rash of crimes committed by young men (black men, in fact, but once again, Trayvon’s race appears to have been incidental to Zimmerman’s profiling him). Was it the wisest thing to do? No, in large part for Zimmerman’s own sake it was not wise. But was it a sin? No. At worst, it was a reckless, foolish error in judgement. The assumption seems to be that Trayvon Martin must have suffered the greatest injustice in all this because he wound up dead and Zimmerman is still living. But this absolutely does not follow.
Speaking of Russell Moore (who, far from apologizing for his disgraceful language in reference to this case, has instead re-worked a completely irrelevant piece on Jim Crow laws and racial injustice), he was on national television recently patiently explaining that what white people need to realize is we’re looking at this case “microscopically,” while “the African-American community” sees it “macroscopically.” In other words, white people are concerned about whether George Zimmerman is in fact innocent or guilty, while the black community is irrationally clinging to the belief that justice hasn’t been served because they can’t help comparing this case to unrelated cases of truly racially motivated violence in the distant past.
I didn’t say it. Russell Moore did. And frankly, if I were a black person who happened to agree with the verdict (and there definitely are such out there), I would be deeply insulted by his implication that a concern for individual justice is somehow uniquely “white.” That’s a pretty racist comment, when you come to think about it.
What happened to the dream of Martin Luther King, Jr.? What happened to his vision that there would come a day when people would not be seen as part of a “group,” but as individuals? I wonder what he would think of Eric Holder, soliciting “tips” from people who may have “information” about Zimmerman’s personal views on race to glean fodder for a civil rights suit. I wonder what he would say to Al Sharpton, who spoke at rallies where members of the Black Panther party handed out bounty posters for Zimmerman in the spring of 2012, after openly announcing on Youtube that they were putting a price on his head. I wonder how he would respond to President Obama, who has personally added his voice to the race-baiters and whose Justice Department financially contributed to “Justice for Trayvon” demonstrations while Zimmerman’s trial was still ongoing. I wonder how he would respond to the bitterness. The grudge-holding. The deliberate blindness to evidence. The insistence on clinging to the past even if it means ruining the future of men like Zimmerman who are caught in the present.
We are being told that “we need to keep talking about race.” But frankly, some of us don’t want to talk about it anymore. It takes two people to have a conversation. If white Americans are branded as racists before they even open their mouths to speak, how is this helping our nation? If we can’t even agree with a just verdict without people saying our words are necessarily tinged with racial bias, how is this “healing” or “bridging” anything? How can anything move forward if nobody can agree whose court this ball is even in? And above all, how can the Church speak helpfully and honestly into this issue if its own leaders are determined to embrace the very lies that are shrouding everything in smoke?
I have no answers. I can only call on the leaders of ostensibly conservative evangelicalism to repent. And I can wait for somebody, anybody in that camp, to be bold enough to speak the truth. The only one who’s come close is Voddie Baucham, who has been quietly linking via Twitter to a couple articles that put a little bit of distance between himself and the general evangelical reaction. I understand that he probably feels he can’t raise his voice louder because so many of these people are his good friends, but at this point I welcome anything at least somewhat different as a breath of fresh air. Because I hope we can all agree it’s a sad day for evangelicalism when Bill O’Reilly is more helpful, sensible, and to the point than John Piper, Al Mohler, Russell Moore and Thabiti Anyabwile combined. (HT: Gerald Wolfe on the O’Reilly clip.)