Update: Keith Plummer’s take expresses my current thoughts—a week out—better than I could. I think I jumped on this on too quickly. Mea culpa.

If you’re unaware of the situation, Mike Cosper provides a good summary:

The tragic shooting of Trayvon Martin is simmering with racial tension. The 17-year-old African American had been visiting friends at a home in a gated, Orlando-area community when he was pursued by a neighborhood watchman, got into a physical altercation, and was shot. As New York Times columnist Charles Blow describes the incident, “Trayvon had a bag of Skittles and a can of iced tea. Zimmerman [the shooter] had a 9 millimeter handgun.”

Moments before, Zimmerman had called the police about the young man, describing him as “real suspicious.” The police had told him not to pursue. Zimmerman did anyway. Yesterday, Martin’s 16-year-old girlfriend came forward to say that she’d been on the phone with Martin when the confrontation began. “Someone’s following me,” he said. She told him to run, and he said he was just going to “walk fast.”

By all appearances, the shooting appears unprovoked, and yet the shooter is free and uncharged with any crime, protected by Florida’s ‘Stand Your Ground’ law. As the Justice Department opens a query into the case, it appears that a national conversation about race is about to start yet again.

For more details of the alleged crime [JT: I should have used "alleged" from the beginning], this is a good summary of the facts known so far.

Mike goes on to look at some of the broader cultural stereotypes at play.

Bob Bixby reflects on some of the dynamics at play regarding being black in America, and how our snap judgments reveal the true impulses of our heart. I get nervous when I read sweeping statements about “whites believe _____” or “blacks feel _______” as if our respective skin colors gives us monolithic reactions and perspectives, but I still think Bob’s piece is worth reading and reflecting upon.

Here is an excerpt:

It is too easy and not honest for whites to dismiss the charges of racial profiling from Trayvon’s family as political opportunism by disgruntled blacks. While most whites are also grieved by the death of Trayvon Martin and would not be at all unhappy if his killer were incarcerated for life as soon as it can be proven that he is guilty, they still cannot sympathize with the community rage among blacks. They are almost condescending in the way they remind the grieving black community about “due process.” The assumption, of course, is that “due process” will not fail to deliver justice (an assumption not readily shared by many blacks), so with clinical and dispassionate reservation they calmly call for a thorough investigation and fail to see how biases ingrained in their psyche have bled them of sympathy.

It is unfair to the white community to think that they want a murderer to go free. And most thoughtful blacks are not prepared to accuse whites of deliberately preferring the murderer to the innocent. However, they do suspect whites of letting the murderer go free at the expense of justice because they are unable to be just. I share this suspicion. Whites are often unable to react justly in the blink of an eye because of their latent prejudices. And this is what should scandalize all of us.

You can read the whole thing here.

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Comments:


47 thoughts on “The Trayvon Martin Tragedy”

  1. I appreciate Bixby’s thoughts.

    As I listened to the reports, I tried to be conscious of my own lack of sympathy for the black community – shouldn’t I feel the same rage over injustice toward the black community as I do toward the unborn? Somehow, honestly, I don’t…

    Nick

  2. I believe this is hardly about Florida’s law, as the authors of that law say it does not cover this situation. That is what gets press because anti-gun segments of our society will use this to their advantage.

    I believe, and I could be wrong, that this is all going to come down to an error in the sheriff’s department and he and his legal counsel will end up disciplined for their intentional inaction, attempting to force the federal government to get involved so he would stay clear of the obvious difficulties in this case, and thus doing an injustice.

    There is a history of bad race relations in Sanford (I lived near their for many years) and that has something to do with Sheriff Bill Lee Jr attempting to stay clear of this.

    1. Doug Hibbard says:

      You’re right about the “stand your ground” law not being the issue here. That law does not say “get out of your car and confront someone.”

      Given that the facts reported are correct, which I guess has become too much of a question these days, then there is no reason I can imagine that this shooting is justified.

      And certainly some of the problem is our racial prejudices that we are not getting over. I also think some of the problem is that we are accustomed to assuming a media bias in every story that gets reported. Catch all the “ifs” you see related to this story: If it truly is that an unarmed, innocent young man was murdered then it is truly a tragedy. But how many times have the media held back facts to shape a story?

      So, many people these days withhold their outrage for a few days to see if the other shoe drops. It appears that this time, the facts were reported accurately and new information only speaks more to the tragedy of Martin’s killing.

  3. Kim Barnes says:

    This editorial in the Orlando Sentinel–reposted on the author’s blog offers good thoughts on this issue.

    http://mikebeates.wordpress.com/2012/03/22/article-in-the-sentinel-with-print-edition-photo/

  4. robert steiger says:

    Do I understand correctly that the shooter is Hispanic? Does this fact, if I’m correct, change the so-called race issue? Bob

    1. John says:

      I’m not sure I follow your logic. Are you implying that Hispanics cannot be racist? Or are you implying that only whites have stereotypes toward blacks? Or are you saying that the 911 transcripts – which seem to reveal prejudicial bias – mean something different in the context of being spoken by a Hispanic? I’m confused.

      1. Rusty Lopez says:

        I won’t speak for Bob, but he may be referencing not that Hispanics cannot be racist but that racism extends beyond whites on blacks. Unfortunately, it goes in all directions from all races (as was seen during the Rodney King riots when some black rioters were heard shouting to ignore the Mexicans and go after the whites and Koreans). Indeed, there were tensions between the Korean and black community in L.A. at the time. Perhaps since Hispanics are also people “of color” who have also suffered from racism in the U.S., it’s not so easy to lump this incident as white on black. I don’t know. But what is clear is that, despite the secular notion that we are somehow in a progressive state, the human condition is painfully still with us.

  5. AStev says:

    Unless there’s some technical quirk about Florida’s stand-your-ground law (aka castle doctrine) that I’m not familiar with (and apparently there is), this is clearly outside what the law protects, and the shooter should be in prison.

    Stand your ground laws mean that you are allowed to use deadly force to defend yourself even when outside your home. i.e. Stand your ground. They do NOT mean that you can follow a person and use deadly force against them. That’s not “standing your ground”, it’s just plain murderous assault.

  6. Melody says:

    My first thought was “is that a current picture”? Looks very young for seventeen. Then when it came out that the guy followed and chased him before shooting him in “self-defense”. I wanted to know why he wasn’t arrested for such a bogus claim and I ached for his parents. I didn’t care how current the picture was.

    I will admit though that when news reports started mentioning Al Sharpton, Reverend of what exactly? I immediately thought of Columbine and how in the midst of reports of students being shot for their faith, Sharpton was on CNN trying to stir up outrage over the one student being called a racist name before being killed. I can’t hear Sharpton’s name and continue to listen.

    Most people fight their inner racist tendencies as they recognize them. We all have them, regardless of our color. It doesn’t help to have someone like Sharpton try to grind your face into as if you are guilty of pulling the trigger too. I think that is why a lot of people become apathetic.

  7. MichaelS says:

    This is a tragedy on many levels. I certainly pray that justice is done. However, since none of us know all of the facts, I do not know what justice looks like in this case.

    A few observations:
    1. I am amazed at how many people jump to conclusions in cases like this based upon what they see on the news.

    2. The Good Summary of facts seems to be missing some things.
    2a. Zimmerman was the main contact for his Neighborhood Watch. In fact, the neighborhood newsletter told residents to contact him after they call the police.
    2b. The Neighborhood Watch has about 8 members including Zimmerman. They are not part of the voluntary national organization which includes about 25,000 neighborhood watches. The national association admits that most local groups do not register with them.
    2c. There has been a series of unsolved burglaries in the area.
    The above items were in today’s issue of the Dallas Morning News.

    My point is this: it’s like the fact that Martin was currently suspended from school (repeat tardiness). News sites are notoriously biased in the information they either report or withhold. I think we all need to be careful before we jump to conclusions.

  8. Shai Linne says:

    Here’s an excellent article related to the Trayvon Martin case that reflects how many African-Americans feel, myself included. It’s called “Walking While Black” http://bit.ly/GFknvH

    1. Justin Taylor says:

      Thanks for this sobering word, Shai.

    2. The white population is well over 200 million in America. The black population is 35-40 million. If white America was genuinely racist as a culture and society and “walking while black” was true as it is asserted then the crime statistics of white on black crime would demonstrate this. Shockingly the statistics are reversed with the black population responsible for 5 to 10x the number of crimes against whites than crimes of the majority population (whites) against not only blacks but all minority groups combined. This is telling and cannot be ignored in light of the exaggerated language being used to indict the demograpgic and cultural majority.

      1. Nevertheless, many blacks are still often falsely suspected.

        1. The question is not if but why and this explains why they are profiled whether one agrees with the profiling or not. Now your assertion that many blacks are falsely suspected, I assume you have data beyond this mere claim.

          1. I don’t doubt the why. I don’t know that anyone has ever done a scientific study on whether blacks are often falsely suspected or not, but since you agree that blacks are suspected (since you explained why), unless you are willing to say that you believe they are always rightly suspected (meaning that all blacks suspected are actually guilty), then you must admit that some are falsely suspected. I’ll take Shai’s testimony for it from his experience that enough are falsely suspected to the extent that blacks need to be instructed on it that it’s a big enough problem to address.

            1. Some of all racial and ethnic groups are sometimes falsely suspected. This does not support any argument other than it is so. And it certainly does not support your assertion amd it certainly again makes understandable the necessity of highly profiling a demographic which statistics show represent an inordinately high threat to unlike others.

              1. So we agree that many are falsely suspected because of the actions of their neighbors. We disagree that it should be done or to what extent. Is it warranted enough to shoot a kid with a pocket of Skittles? If you say that he’s to be considered innocent until proven guilty, then we have to apply that equally.

              2. No we don’t agree that ‘many” are or that it is because of their neighbors. Some of all races and ethnicities are false suspects because of profiling’s imprecision and that is all that is agreed upon which again provides zero support for your currently unsubstantiated assertion(s). You are grossly lacking data to support your argument(s) but this seems of little concern rather you have a liberal narrative you are determined to repeat over and over hoping it will make it so via repetition.

                As to shooting a kid with a pocket full if skittles you realize poor OsamaBL was just an Arab watching TV when he was killed right?
                Oh wait I am leaving out pertinent facts as you are. TM assaulted Zimmerman and went for his gun. The assault was severe and Z rightly assumed Martin, after repeatedly assaulting him (Z has the wounds and a witness on record), in attempting to take his gun, would further the assault with
                deadly intent so he shot Martin in self defense. But these additional facts do not fit your politically correct theology and sociology so they are left out of your nsrrative
                Shameful to say the least as a Christian.

              3. Your last line is a bit mistyped and I’m not sure what you’re trying to say there.

                Anyone who knows me knows I’m anything but a liberal. (I know better than to claim to be a great Christian. Leave that judgement up to my fellow church members.) So when you jump to the conclusion that I’m a liberal because I speak out in a way that doesn’t fit neatly into your idea of conservatism, you’ve demonstrated some tendency to not stick to the facts you demand. I know of no studies that have been done and I freely admit that I’m taking someone at their word on this instead. It doesn’t serve your point to accuse me of something I freely admit. I don’t know what went down between Martin and Zimmerman. At this point it sounds like self-defense from aggravated assault. But that’s only based on hearsay between you and I.

                So, since you won’t interact with the principles and instead attack me verbally and spout hearsay, the discussion is over.

              4. In this case I have no ideas of conservatism of interest rather my interest is in all of the truth of testimony which you wish to ignore it appears. Whatever you call yourself is irrelevant but your thinking and treatment of the issue is rather basic liberlism 101. As to my last line it is a droid typo but I hv no doubt you can work around it.As to principles LOL you wish to avoid critical ones on Zimmerman’s end. In the end though you now concede it looks like self defense which removes
                your fundamental platform for your more broad bu unsubstantiated assertion. Your mercurial shifting with the wind is rather unflattering but worse it undermines the argument all together.

    3. CL Edwards says:

      Lets be real as a black man when I walk down the street I am not looking for anyone named Zimmerman I am looking for another black man because most likely if I am going to be shot to death it will be by someone of my own ethnicity. I have discussed this with some of my family members and this needs to be a opportunity to examine our own presuppositions. To be real it’s just as racist to assume that when a black person is shot by a non-black person it had to be because of racism and the non-black person must be guilty as it is to assume a black man must be up to know good simply because he is black by a non-black person. I also think its wrong to turn this young man into a symbol, he is not a symbol he is a real life human being, his death doesn’t represent black oppression or what “they” have always done to “us”. Black Christians need to be aware of their thinking just as much as White Christians..the human heart is deceitfulness..its a idol factory….you can easily fall into the black man is an inherent victim the white man is the inherent devil if you are not guarding your heart.

  9. Bob says:

    So being late to school justifies the child being shot to death?

    1. MichaelS says:

      Bob:

      If you are referring to my post, then it has nothing to do with it. What does the fact that Zimmerman was accused of a crime and never found guilty have to do with anything?

      My point is that the “good summary” listed many facts that have nothing whatsoever to do with whether Zimmerman is guilty or not. I personally think it looks very bad for him. But it’s sad to me how many news websites are selectively filtering facts to make one party or the other look bad.

      But justice requires that we withhold judgment until all facts are known.

      1. Kaye Jeltema says:

        THANK you, Michael, for your thoughts here. I completely agree with you that there has been lots of one-sided reporting. When the ‘shooter’ is called the “murderer” or to a lesser extent even “killer,” that plants the idea in people’s heads that the shooting was a criminal act–which it may have been–but may not have been.

        I live 10 minutes from the city of Sanford, and that’s where my church is located as well. Local reporting has been a bit more balanced than what I’ve seen in the national news. Regardless, I’m shocked and saddened to see the usually even-handed Justin Taylor calling what happened a “crime.” We don’t know whether a crime was perpetrated or whether one was prevented. I can easily believe the latter. We need to reserve judgment for now.

        1. Anthony Coleman says:

          Kaye,

          “We need to reserve judgment for now” How hypocritical when in the statement before that you say “I can believe the latter.” Were is your judgment reserved for latter? What crime did he prevent “walking while black.”

          1. Jamal Williams says:

            How is it hypocritical to say she can see both perspectives? She just said that what happened may or may not have been a crime. Sounds to me like that’s a balanced way to look at it which does indeed reserve judgment….

  10. Here is a case where the facts are not disputable. I wonder how much “tragedy” and “concern” will be attached to this one?

    http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2110078/Boy-13-doused-gasoline-set-alight-racially-motivated-attack-Kansas-City.html

  11. dave says:

    If you are a follower of Christ any murder should leave us sorrowful and crying out for God’s mercy. Sadly, when Bob Bixby talks about the latent prejudice of “whites,” it only reveals his own glaring prejudice.

  12. Kevin says:

    So is the Gospel Coalition the New Moral Majority? “We condemn racism, and since whites are surely racist, we condemn whites.” Oops, Mr Zimmerman is not white…..Or are you a part of the new Mob Justice group. “We need a sacrifice, so let’s give them one.” The Black Panthers are on board with you.

    Shame on you for posting this Justin. You are spreading gossip which is sinful. Stop it. Repent. Wait for the facts to come out.

  13. Jim says:

    Justin,

    Yes, we should grieve that this young man was killed and that a man will have to live with taking his life. However, as other have already pointed out your post and the recommended sites you’ve given are seriously flawed. Here are a few concerns I’d raise:

    1. The picture you’ve posted of TM is obviously dated and has been intentionally distributed to make him look younger (and more innocent/vulnerable) than he might have been. It kind of reminds me of adoption agencies that post dated pictures of older waiting children (and, believe me, I’m pro adoption). There are other photos floating about on the internet in which he looks much more mature and menacing.
    2. There are reports on the internet (no more or less substantiated than some of the sites you’ve linked) that TM was suspended from school for assaulting a bus driver. There are also reports (again, who knows if they are true) that TM might have been involved in drug dealing and that he assaulted Zimmerman before being shot. Whether these reports are true or not, again, we do not know. The point is that authorities should have time for a fair and thorough investigation before posts like yours jump to conclusions and label this a “tragedy” strongly implying that TM was a completely innocent kid. It might just be the trajedy of human sinfulness on the part of both TM and Zimmerman.
    3. Your post plays into the media hype cycle, buying it hook, line, and sinker. Do you think that raising the profile of this story might also have something to do with election year politics? Stop the merry-go-round, I want to get off.

  14. Mark Khoury says:

    I’m wondering what damage control will be done if this turns out to be true… it will be embarrassing at best…

    http://www.myfoxtampabay.com/dpp/news/state/witness-martin-attacked-zimmerman-03232012

    1. Bruce Russell says:

      Mark: The train has left the station :(

  15. Dan Erickson says:

    Justin, This is the first time in my memory that I find myself in almost total disagreement with you. “Jim” (above) articulates some of the points I would make, very well. The death of TM is a tragedy. At this point, too little is known about what actually happened that night to make any judgment on the actions (and motives) of either TM or GZ. What does seem clear is that Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson bring no civil or moral leadership to this issue, and that “the New Black Panther Party” appears to exemplify a “hate group.” A key belief that underlies many of the accusations is that the American judicial system is “racist,” unfair, and in need of radical reform. Though it has serious flaws, I think our judicial system (by the grace of God) ranks as the best ever devised by fallen humans. Race relations in the U.S. are very complex and the reconciliation which only the Gospel can bring is desperately needed. Joining the media frenzy on this accomplishes nothing positive.

    1. Justin Taylor says:

      Dan, I’ll try not to repeat getting us into a situation of “total disagreement!” But I actually agree with all that you say here. I regret referring to Zimmerman’s shot as a “crime” without qualification and I have adjusted the wording. At the same time, I think there are important procedural questions being asked, and without all the media “frenzy” I’m not sure much would be done. E.g., the police report that night listed the act as negligent homicide / manslaughter. But someone higher up must have changed this. Why? They simply let the guy go home? I don’t think one has to see racism under every rock to recognize that almost never happens when the perp is black.

      I agree that at this point there is too much we don’t know (including now those who are painting Martin as a thug and Zimmerman’s shot as self-defense). I suspect the autopsy will tell us a lot about whose side is more accurate.

      I may have jumped on this too quickly, and yet I still think Bixby and Cosper raise valid points that should be part of the conversation.

      1. Samuel Penner says:

        Nobody needs to paint Martin as a thug. He did that himself on his twitter and with his illegal behavior and criminal activity.

        And if the Hispanic shooter (who is now white, apparently) is deserving of arrest, why hasn’t the FBI or the Justice Dept. arrested him? They’ve had the case for a week now. Are they also racist, as you claim the Florida police are?

        So epic to see how wrong you are on this. Your concern should be about the racial fires that the President has stirred up and refuses to douse. This death is ring exploited for political purposes to increase racial discord, which helps Obama, and to attack the 2nd amendment. Trayvon’s mom has applied to trademark his name. Obama’s campaign is now selling hoodies. And you are outraged that a troubled teenager with a criminal record is being misrepresented? Where is your concern for Zimmerman? I’m sad that it was predictable that you’d be wrong on this. When I saw you had an article, I knew you’d be taking this ignorant position, and you did. So sad. And now Shai Lynn has chimed in to stoke the racial fires. I’m sorry some people are white and racist. Lots of black people are racist, but nobody cares if I feel scared to walk home at night. Why? I’m white.

        How am I suppose to continue enjoying Lynn’s Attributes of God CD now? This unwise and ignorant foray into race and politics has distracted from the Gospel, and you’ve let that happen.

        1. Justin Taylor says:

          Shai mentions his personal experience of being suspected of bad behavior because of the color of his skin—and *that* distracts you from the gospel??

        2. Alex Chediak says:

          Samuel,

          This Christian Science Monitor article, while acknowledging the marijuana suspension, says that Martin did not have a criminal record. Is this incorrect?

          http://www.csmonitor.com/USA/Latest-News-Wires/2012/0326/Trayvon-Martin-was-suspended-from-school-at-time-of-death-report-says

  16. Chris Donato says:

    Am I going completely nuts? Bottom line: there is no scenario, in this particular instance, that can justify the firing of that weapon. Everything else is beside the point.

  17. Chris Caligiuri says:

    Justin what’s up good buddy! I respect you more now for speaking on this bro! I think I am growing to respect Piper since he choose to speak on it as well. Anyhow bro, I love you dude! Thanks stud muffin!!! :-) :-)

    First, my question is “can we ‘sit’ with someone who is ‘bleeding’ internally and externally with past, present, and future trauma.” Not really, we don’t know how or what it’s like to be in their shoe’s at all. We can try, but we will fall short and really have no clue. One reason I feel we can fall short and have no idea is because our stories are all in different/unique/special books being written. We all have stories.

    “Stories”
    The sad reality is most of us don’t know what to do with our own “bleeding” and trauma in our own stories. So how could we even begin to “bleed” in Trayvon’s story? Selah… I know this isn’t Bible, but ponder this deeply friends.

    Most of us can’t and don’t know what to do or know how to really care! Let’s just keep it real. We are violent to ourselves and violent to others. Words, actions, passive aggressive junk, and not sharing toys. So if this is true and we are violent with others then how can we truly “sit” with someone in major pain and or hurting or grieving?

    Above Shai Linne hit it right on the money with Mrs. Frances Waters reflection! Check it out! http://bit.ly/GFknvH

    I loved Justin your response to him bro: “Thanks for this sobering word, Shai.”

    I want to encourage any reader out there to read Mrs. Frances Waters article. Especially if you desire to begin to understand her story and other stories she graciously allows us a “window” into seeing what’s it’s like being African American.

    Also, I have lived in DC and have found this too be true for my friends as well. I agree with Justin, it’s sobering! So all of what’s been going on for years and now with Trayvon I am taking much more of a personal hit! My heart is deeply grieving and I am sad!

  18. Michael Swart says:

    I have all too often seen the word racism used as if it were something far worse than other sinful actions. Consider the following. A white teenager says a horrible thing about someone in his class simply because the other boy is black. He is viewed as committing what is virtually the unforgivable sin. When this same white teenager slanders another white boy because he refuses to give in to peer pressure it is hardly even noticed – this is what we expect of troubled teens. The Scriptures are, however, clear – both break the second great commandment and both actions call down God’s judgement. Perhaps we need to replace the word racism with a word that better describes the actual sin in each context to avoid the fast and loose use of this word.

    1. Michael, I think that’s a very balanced approach. There are plenty of times when the race card gets played when there is no racism while legitimate sins are committed on other occasions, whether on account of racism or not, that get a pass. Focus on the addressing the actual sin and it’s hard to go wrong.

  19. Barrett says:

    There are many contributing factors that led to this unfortunate loss of life. Little discussion seems to be directed toward the presence of the firearm. All technology is both a blessing and a curse. No technology is neutral, i.e., has no effect on thinking and action. Take for example the automobile. On the one hand, it maximizes travel efficiency (blessing). On the other hand, it is deadly, by its very nature. The automobile takes the human body beyond the speed that the body is able to withstand impact. Sure, there are safety measures, but those measures do not overcome the risk. Over 30k deaths per year are a result of the automobile (curse). This does not mean we should all walk, bike, or ride on horse drawn carriages. We cannot turn back the clock, nor should we desire to. However, awareness of both the blessing and the curse of a given technology is essential. A firearm, by nature, is lethal. Given that humanity is stricken with xenophobia, why should there be a law in place that has the potential effect of elevating the drawbacks of firearms? Zimmerman felt empowered by the presence of the firearm. Clearly he viewed Martian as a criminal (whether warranted or not). Is it likely he would have approached him (a possible criminal) if he had no gun? While racism and fear of the unknown will haunt us until the eschaton, God has given us gracious wisdom to minimize the effects of the curse. In this case, it would be by minimizing the presence of firearms. That is not to say firearms are completely unnecessary or serve no positive purpose. However, is a given community safer with the presence of a handgun in each citizen’s hands? Given the phobias and paranoias within the fallen human heart, that is a grim picture.

    1. I think gun control is a separate issue. Studies seem to indicate that crime tends to be higher in areas that have more gun control (like Washington DC, the “murder capitol” of the US, where private handgun ownership is banned) so gun control apparently doesn’t assuage violent crime. In the internal security training I had in the Marines, we were taught that when we drew our weapons, we must be prepared to kill. There was no “shoot to wound”. So personal responsibility is the key.

      Was Zimmerman being responsible? I don’t know, but I doubt it. Me? If Martin was really behaving suspiciously I would have called police and observed from a distance. If he was just loitering, I would have kept it holstered, nicely introduced myself and offer any help he might need. A little respectful conversation goes a long way toward keeping things peaceful and neighborly.

  20. As I contemplate this thing further, it seems to me that Christians have missed out on the opportunity to build trust cross-culturally. Instead, we’ve gone against our calling to be agents of reconciliation, particularly with Christ, and have fostered distrust instead.

    Now, I’m not talking about the government. It’s the government’s place to keep the peace by punishing lawbreakers. It’s not the government’s place to conduct social experiments to force people to like each other. The charge of fostering a heart for civility belongs to the Church. The government has taken up what they should not in part because we’ve failed miserably to do it in the Christian community. We abrogated our responsibility by largely teaching moralism instead of grace for at least several decades. If Christians don’t make the effort now people will continue to turn to the government for moral fortitude, and the government will only continue to heap the weight of laws on us we cannot bear and that only foster more distrust.

    I was in middle school when my family first moved south. I had never met black people before and had never been instructed to fear or despise them. The school was in walking distance and there was a black neighborhood between my neighborhood and the school. The white kids in my neighborhood all walked to school the long way around the black neighborhood. I looked at the city map and determined that it would be quicker to walk through the neighborhood. I didn’t know that only blacks lived in the neighborhood and that I was supposed to fear walking through it. So I walked alone through the black neighborhood day in and day out. Nothing bad ever happened. I encountered two bullies at school: one black and one white. I made friends who were black and white. I couldn’t tell a difference in character between people from the different subcultures. Perhaps I was ignorant, and that’s my point.

    What I see here is that we are forming opinions not from a wealth of knowledge, but a lack of knowledge. We fill in the gaps with pieces of unrelated information or the opinions of others and pretend that we know something that we don’t. Instead of speculating, we Christians need to build relationships cross-culturally in our surrounding communities. There’s a reason Christ mentioned Samaria in Acts 1:8. We need to fill the gaps in our understanding by getting to know our spiritual family in that other neighborhood over there and contributing sacrificially to their spiritual growth as we submit to them doing the same for us.

  21. taco says:

    Update: I think I jumped on this on too quickly. Mea culpa.

    Vobis remittuntur.

  22. Dan Erickson says:

    Justin, You and I might be back to being in “almost total agreement.” Yes, Keith Plummer’s essay was very good.
    I have been pondering a column in the Duluth (MN) newspaper this morning that maintained that any individual (no matter what their ethnicity)can be “racially prejudiced,” but only instituions can “be racist.” The writer insists all African-Americans suffer in a white dominant “racist” society.
    I’m not sure I can buy that. The definitions seem totally arbitrary. Aren’t “racist” societies and institutions, at least in most cases, simply the result of cumulative “racial prejudices.” Laws that disciminate against (or in favor of) of particular ethnic group would certainly fall into that category, but I really don’t think their are laws targeting African-Americans in the U.S, today. I know I have spend most of my life in small town communities, largely isolated from “people of color.” I am, however, the father of an adopted bi-racial (black-white) son. I hope that neither he nor I are “judged by the color of our skin,” and believe that when we are it is the fault and responsibilty of individuals with sinful, “racial prejudices,” and not that of supposed “racist instituions.”

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Justin Taylor


Justin Taylor is senior vice president and publisher for books at Crossway and blogs at Between Two Worlds. You can follow him on Twitter.

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