Trayvon and Jesus Lost in the Verbiage Grinder

My friends had a good response to the verdict regarding the man who killed Trayvon Martin so they put it on Facebook: 

jesus abstractWife: Whether Trayvon Martin was a neighbor or enemy of George Zimmerman, Jesus’ instruction would be for George to have loved Trayvon regardless of who he was in George’s eyes. Whether George Zimmerman is a neighbor or enemy, Jesus’ instruction is to love him regardless of who he is in my eyes. 

I believe Jesus doesn’t allow for loop holes like self-defense. There are no exceptions to who we are to love and care for. This is the radical, turn everything upside down, seemingly nonsensical, nonviolent love that we Christians are called to live out. God help us to figure how to do it.                                           

FB friend 1: Easy to say when it isn’t your head being bashed against the sidewalk.
I don’t
know what happened none of us do. But if I am assaulted I will defend myself. 

Husband: What would Jesus do FB1? And what would Jesus expect us to do? I think that is the point my wife is making. 

FB friend 1: Jesus would have most likely died that evening. Turning the other cheek is a difficult thing is what I am saying. If Zimmerman was attacked he had every right to defend himself. 

FB friend 2: It seems to me, FB1, that Zimmerman provoked the ensuing contact with Trayvon Martin when he got out of his car in pursuit of Trayvon against the instructions given to him. 

FB friend 1: I don’t agree at all with Zimmerman pursuing the young man. But that doesn’t change that all the forensic evidence says it was Zimmerman who was attacked.

This dialogue went on. I wanted to replay it at this point to observe how people think these days. We Jesus-followers keep trying to make points that support Jesus in a system that has nothing to do with him. FB1 above shows this very clearly. I think we should make the points, but I don’t think we should be surprised if we don’t win the argument.

1) The wife makes a very obvious, irrefutable point about Jesus and prays. She typifies her statement as “radical,” which it has unfortunately become.

2) FB1’s first response is mainly personal, displaying a belief that violence is the solution to violence. His personal view has nothing to do with promoting the common good or with listening to a power beyond himself from whom to receive direction. He is well-trained by almost every movie that came out this summer (again) to believe that a good fight makes right. Even the Man of Steel, who has many other ways to be violent, ends up in a giant fist fight at the end of the movie.

The husband objects to FB1’s response by mildly suggesting that a person should consider what Jesus wants them to do, regardless of the situation.

3) FB1’s second response is mainly practical. If it is too difficult to turn the other cheek, then don’t do it, certainly not if it might result in your death. I can honor this, since without the risen Christ with us and without hope of eternal life, one’s existence would be a logical thing to protect at all costs, including someone else’s death.

What Christians don’t seem to understand, especially when they are arguing with Christians, is that there are many people who do not think following Jesus is practical. They do not trust him to save them and have no real hope apart from their own power to protect themselves. They do not believe they have eternal life.

FB2 wades in and tries to interpret the “evidence” to argue that Zimmerman made the fateful decision about his actions early on. That kind of arguing can go on forever and possibly result in a “stand your ground” law. That kind of arguing is all CNN usually has to offer.

csi4) FB1’s third response is legal and scientific. He says that he doesn’t think Zimmerman should have followed the boy, so he understands that the killer had some kind of moral decision to make. However, moral decisions mean nothing compared to the trump card of the 21st century: what does the law say and what did CSI prove? The younger one is, the more one seems to be subject to the “facts,” especially facts that deliver “evidence” that proves a hypothesis. Every argument, such as the one above, is turning on loop holes in the law, procedures, and factoids. There is a constant societal din of verbiage being ground up into tiny bits and reformed into “scientific” conclusions, which are always supposedly “true.” This grinder rarely turns out justice and often creates strange things out of its own churning (like corporations accruing the rights of persons, and so on).

The tragic thing is, the Christians believe in the verbiage, too, and operate the grinder! They do their theology the very same way and their pastors deliver factoids every week while missing what the wife did to begin with: telling the simple truth. They don’t do what the husband did: clarify that we’re really trying to follow Jesus, not engage in the world’s endless, self-protective and other-destructive, perpetual loop.

Related posts:

Why people might not care to be radical Christians

Why people might not care to be radical Christians: Part 2

Drew Hart: Pain Medicine

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About Rod White

Pastor for Circle of Hope. Graduate of Fuller Seminary, PhD in MFT from Eastern University.
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16 Responses to Trayvon and Jesus Lost in the Verbiage Grinder

  1. Pingback: Top Ten posts for 2013 — and five I wish more people had read | Rod's Blog

  2. Zeb says:

    This whole tragic story I think shows the madness of the self defense doctrine. It’s easy to imagine a scenario where both Trayvon and George felt threatened by the other and took escalating self defensive measures that went from eyeing each other warily to verbal confrontation to physical violence to killing. At each moment each could have felt he was doing the practical and justified thing to protect himself from the other. Of course we must admit that George took aggressive action first and without just cause, and we must also acknowledge the power differential due to age, race, class, and the gun which obligates us to be more protective of Trayvon, but still – if either of them had been a well practiced Christian pacifist Trayvon would almost certainly still be alive. From what little we know it seems Trayvon too responded to his own fear with violence, with lethal consequences. It is sad and unjust that Trayvon had to bear the worst of the burden, but to be fair the tragedy rests [unequally] on both their responses to perceived threat.

  3. artbucher says:

    I think there might be a lot of business interest behind the self-defense rationale. Stand your ground laws appear because justice and defense is being privitized: moved from a government reposibility to a private citizen matter, supplied by big business weapons manufacturers/ distributers; demand fueled by news and social media fear propaganda. God implores us not to fear and have faith, lest we get wrapped up in deadly business interests.

  4. Barry King says:

    After considering what Trayvon and George should or should not have done, maybe the next question should be: would Jesus want his followers to be loudly calling for George’s conviction and imprisonment? Isn’t a lamentation about the acquittal ethically identical to a call for conviction and imprisonment? Doesn’t the example of Jesus and of the early Anabaptists lean more in the direction of prayers like, “Father, forgive…”?

    • Rod White says:

      Good question. Joseph may have a good answer for you in the link he provided in the previous comment. Justice and restoration, not vengeance and punishment are the goals, I think. Grace is the beginning of all redemption. Thus we begin with forgiveness, right?

  5. BHolland says:

    And where now, must our radical gospel of Love follow Zimmerman? How must we radically love him? Must we wait for the mourning of Martin to end? Or must we take it up now? Are we not in a current scuffle on the ground ideologically? Are we not screaming out for justice? Or is it safety? Or is it right of protection? If we are to be radical in our faiths, we must now tip-toe the line between justice and mercy, between slain and slayer. And we must wade through complexities of a single action between two men that holds for it significance beyond the measure of one life. We must critically think and not position ourselves to the right or the left, but in the deep center of Christ. We must not affect this case with banal layers of right or left proselytizing but show critical minds and open hearts.

    Beyond the moment of gun or grace, we must now use our radical love to transform the situation.

    Please Advise.

    Brother in Christ.

    • mhamil10 says:

      The restorative love of Christ begins at the point of confession of sin. To my knowledge, there has been no such confession from the defendent. I also believe it is unfair to demand of those who have damaged emotions and feelings regarding the event to immediately love and want to restore George Zimmerman. All things at the appropriate time. For instance, when someone loses a loved one and they are mourning, we don’t chastise them for their sorrow by shoving “to be absent in the body is to be present with the Lord.” A family is mourning the loss of their loved one and the injustice that he was denied. A community is mourning that with them. And that period of mourning, however long, needs to be allowed to happen, fully. Critical thinking doesn’t demand a divorce of feelings or emotions, but rather a closer look at their source and whether or not those feelings/opinions are justified.

  6. bgouge says:

    Rod, I appreciate your above comment about finding another defnintion or a different interpretation of the definition, proactive. The opposite of sitting by idly and watching injustice evolve in the community is not toting a gun. There are different options for us to engage in the cycle of destruction that do not lead toward the taking of life rather the building up of life. We can too often get pulled into the categorical argument of, avoiding conflict is weak and passive “standing up” in an aggressive way is strong and justice seeking. Everyday that each one of us goes into work and loves others as Christ tells us to is fighting against injustice, everytime we engage in relationships that are about building a long lasting, long happening change we are fighting injustice.
    Thanks for pointing out the importance of that truth.

  7. sara beth wilkens says:

    zimmerman was probably not a jesus follower. we shouldn’t expect the unsaved to live as christians. he does not have the holy spirit to enable such radical behavior.

    liberals failed to have an innocent man put in jail solely to advance a fictional narrative. for liberals, the facts are not relevant, only how the verdict advances the interests of the oppressed classes matters. The goal, of course, was to advance the narrative of helpless blacks under siege from crazy, gun toting whites.

  8. mhamil10 says:

    You weren’t unclear. I just find myself extremely frustrated and torn. I understand that Jesus doesn’t want us to place our hopes and trust into this world’s systems. However, I can’t believe that He wants us to just disengage and passively watch continued injustice and oppression without any words or actions, either. I’m having trouble reconciling emotions, reality, and faith. I can’t help but think about my own son and the seemingly contradictory things that I have to tell him, “You’re valuable, you’re equal, you’re more than the color of your skin – and that’s worth something, too” I “feel” impotent telling him , God will render justice and we can’t trust the worlds systems. Those things are true, but we live in these world systems; he has to function within these systems. Travis doesn’t travel in “bad’ circles, but I’m fearful for him nonetheless. This whole things has actually made me more afraid for him and other boys his age. If Zimmerman were a police officer, that’s almost one thing. But he wasn’t. He was a regular citizen who felt like he could question and detain another citizen who was just minding his business. When Zimmerman became afraid, he killed Trayvon, and the law doesn’t say that that’s wrong. America has run an excellent PR campaign to malign the reputation of minorities, particularly African-American men, to the point where a lot of us believe the negative hype ourselves and live it out, to our shame. Maybe I need more prayer about this for Jesus to change my heart and tell me something constructive to do. Nothing that I can think of seems sufficient. I know that Jesus can help with my anger, but what do I do in the meantime? “And we’ll understand it better by and by…” is not comfort to me right now. I feel guilty about questioning God in this. I’m just a bit… unclear myself. Sorry for the long respond, but thanks for your explanation.

    • Rod White says:

      I certainly don’t know everything you should do. And I think I feel most of what you feel — especially regarding Travis.

      I don’t think Jesus “wants us to just disengage and passively watch continued injustice and oppression without any words or actions.” The Lord’s whole life and death was engaging injustice and oppression. My friends were giving the prophecy about how one does that and demanding the world conform. There are a lot more ways to engage than prophecy, and I hope to participate.

  9. mhamil10 says:

    I’m curious about what you believe “we’re really trying to follow Jesus, not engage in the world’s endless, self-protective and other-destructive, perpetual loop” means. Could you explain this a little bit, please?

    • Rod White says:

      Just working out the scripture, Marquita. I don’t want to get looped in to the godless arguments of “the world” and lose the truth. My friends experienced the threat as soon as they opened their mouths on Facebook.

      Jesus said, “My kingdom is not of this world.” John 18:32

      Paul: For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light (for the fruit of the light consists in all goodness, righteousness and truth) and find out what pleases the Lord. Have nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness, but rather expose them. Ephesians 5:8-11

      Psalm 5 — Not a word from their mouth can be trusted;
      their heart is filled with malice.
      Their throat is an open grave;
      with their tongues they tell lies.

      Sorry if I am unclear today.

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