A commentary on theology, politics, and culture
What do you agree or disagree with what the President had to say?
The big boss of the NSA, TSA, IRS etc, is saying we shouldn’t treat our fellow Americans with unwarranted suspicion.
Tom, I have been reluctant to say much about the Zimmerman trial until now primarily because I’ve been perplexed by the complexity of it all. I find myself saying “Amen” to recent remarks to this effect by John Piper. When asked why he had not yet spoken up about the trial, Piper said, “I didn’t write anything because I didn’t know what to say.” I have felt that way often since the news of this killing broke. Also, I am suspicious enough of my own limited point of view that I have wanted to let this one sit for a while. In short, I’ve needed time to think about it.
On the merits of the case, my take on the whole thing is probably pretty close to Will Saletan and Charles Barkley. As the President acknowledged in his remarks, reasonable doubt was certainly relevant in this case, and the jury found that there was reasonable doubt that Zimmerman committed manslaughter or second degree murder. But I agree with Saletan that Zimmerman behaved foolishly and with Piper that he probably behaved sinfully (if not illegally) in pursuing Martin.
But what I like about the President’s remarks here is that he reminds us that African Americans interpret all these events through the lens of their own experience. Historically speaking, their sensitivities are entirely justified, regardless of one’s take on the merits of this particular case. People who haven’t had those experiences–like myself–really need to take that to heart when speaking about this case. So I appreciate the President’s remarks.
Thanks for the response. For many of us our lenses are different.
Thanks for responding, Dr. Burk. I’ve actually been wondering why I haven’t seen anything on your blog mentioning it.
It should be noted however (If I understand it properly) that Zimmerman was being asked by the 911 operator specific questions about Martin (“Is he black, white, or Hispanic” and “What is he wearing?” and “How old does he look?”) which required him to look for answers. That’s one of the reasons he pursued. When told that they don’t need him to pursue the Martin, there is no evidence that he continued to follow him (this is what the defense said in the trial).
I think that he if did pursue him in defiance of what the operator told him to do, that would definitely be unwise and probably sinful.
I definitely agree with Barkley’s comments. I thought this line he gave was great: “The main thing I feel bad for, it gives every black and white person who is racist a platform to vent their ignorance.”
In the piece that Denny posted yesterday Russell Moore talked abt the “macroscopic” view vs the “microscopic” view. If we ignore the racial history of the country for a moment & just focus on the “microscopic” facts of this case I see two different opinions emerge. Those ppl who focus on Trayvon Martin being on top of Zimmerman tend to support Zimmerman’s acquittal. Those ppl who focus on Zimmerman’s decision to get out of his car & follow Trayvon on foot tend to oppose the acquittal. But that’s a pat answer that just leads to another question.
If Trayvon had been a 17yo white female would ppl still think that Zimmerman deserved an acquittal or would we ask ourselves, instead, what gave Zimmerman the right to stalk this poor girl? What if Trayvon had simply been younger—say 10 instead of 17—would Zimmerman have deserved an acquittal then? The answer to both these questions is no. The reason is that in those 2 cases once Zimmerman left his car we would think that he was responsible for everything that ensued. Any wounds that Zimmerman would have suffered—say to the back of his head—would be justified. Women often fight back against their attackers. Kids often kick their assailants. Sometimes women even out fight perpetrators but that doesn’t mean that the would be assailants are any less culpable.
The reason these assailants remain culpable is because their targets—women and small children—are presumed innocent. That is, they have a special grace. My question is: why doesn’t Trayvon get that same grace?
I’m a strong supporter of self defense laws generally and SYG laws more specifically. I’m a strong supporter b/cs I’ve been shot at. FL’s law is flawed though. In Texas those who initiate confrontation can’t invoke the law. In FL even if you initiate the confrontation the law explicitly says you can invoke it if you start losing the fight. Even if you don’t invoke your SYG pre-trial hearing, the jury instructions use this same language so the case is effectively over before it begins. This case has made me re-think my support of SYG laws actually. Even under TX’ law, assuming that Trayvon felt threatened by Zimmerman, should the law have allowed Trayvon to pull a gun on Zimmerman and shoot him? That seems as unwise Zimmerman shooting Trayvon. The incident in which I was shot at was a road rage incident in which I was stalked for 3 miles. Toward the bitter end I felt like the guy was going to shoot me and my wife but I didn’t see his gun until seconds before he shot it. Should I have been able to shoot him before I even saw his gun? I think the SYG laws have to be re-crafted to defuse our collective fear when strangers meet at night. This is a country of 315M ppl, strangers will always cross paths at poor times in scary situations, I don’t think it should invite gun battles.
That he profiled in determining to track is possible (maybe likely), but we mustn’t forget Martin’s (alleged) reaction to that: confrontation and assault. Unfortunately, if that part of the story isn’t true, there are no witnesses but the accused who can contradict it.
And so we should all support the verdict in the sense that we should never desire that our strong suspicions be sufficient to send someone to death or life in prison. But we should also be (very) hesitant to say that “justice was done”, because our justice system, by its very nature, errs on the side of preventing injustice to defendants, even (sometimes) at the expense of justice for plaintiffs. We don’t know for certain that this is how it played out here, but it is at best showing an extreme lack of compassion and wisdom to try to shut people up by saying justice was done, because we can’t possibly know that. We can only say that the system functioned as it ought: a jury weighed evidence and found doubt. And to be fair to that jury, they didn’t convict Trayvon. They just said that they weren’t absolutely certain about Zimmerman.
My feeling is that if someone’s on top of you and poses a credible threat to beat you to death you’re legally justified in shooting him.
That said, the fact that Martin ended up on top of Zimmerman punching him was Zimmerman’s fault. It’s also fairly unlikely Martin would have beaten him to death, so if Zimmerman had not been armed it’s unlikely their scuffle would have resulted in a death. To be honest, if Zimmerman hadn’t been armed it’s unlikely their scuffle would have ever taken place at all; one wonders whether his being armed served to embolden Zimmerman to pursue Martin on foot where, otherwise, he would have just stayed in his car.
This was written so perfectly that it shocked me after reading and hearing so many people trip over their logic and the facts for months now. Thank you for putting this just as you did.
The previous post was directed to Chris Ryan’s comment.
We are trying to find answers in a sinful world where the answers can’t be found. It is all speculation. We will find guilt and innocence on both sides. The shame is that this case will continue to be used by those who want to ban guns in the hands of ordinary people to justify doing so and for those who want to incite a racist agenda to do so. I heard the president make a lot of good comments. I also heard him say that a person can’t escape the past that shapes who they are. I know that our experiences play a large role in who we become as individuals and as a nation. I also know that when I became a Christian all things became new and the shackles that once held me fell away. Humanistic thinking is the problem yet we can’t escape that because of evangelistic failure. Not that all will respond to the call to repent, but that we are failing to make that one of our greatest agendas as Christian people. How we maneuver through life and events such as this is highly relevant. For the Christian our responses must be based on Scripture and care must be taken not to allow humanistic tendencies to flair up and justify bad remarks or behavior. We represent to the world their Savior. The hardest thing for me to deal with in all of this is that Trayvon Martin may be spending an eternity apart from God. I appreciate the hesitancy that Mr. Burk has shown in responding to this case because there may be some out there that might tend to “adopt” his way of thinking out of respect for who he is. Wouldn’t it be nice if we just adopted God’s way of thinking out of respect for who HE is. Yes, this was a very sad case indeed. Neither side wins and as a society we struggle to grasp it and allow it to grow us toward unity instead of division. It is times such as this that I crave my heavenly home and remark “Even so, Lord Jesus come quickly”.