Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Trayvon Martin, George Zimmerman, and Respectable Gossip

The incident of Trayvon Martin and George Zimmerman is indeed a tragedy. One young man lost his life and the other may lose what is left of his freedom. I am going to come at this subject from a purely Christian perspective. This blog is not about what happened that night. It is not about who was right or who was wrong. It is not a cry for justice. Instead, this article is about Christian conduct as it relates to this story and every other story that makes its way into the media. As far as I am concerned, I have no specific opinion about what happened that night or what should happen because of that night. You see, I was not there. I am not an eye witness. I do not know what happened, nor can I. I do not know anything about the witnesses that were there and about those who are passing on their account. I know this: every story that involves the potential for racially-charged emotions always brings out those biases with it. My concern is entirely around Christian conduct. How should a Christian think about this incident? How should they conduct their speech toward the two young men involved? What does Scripture say? After all, it is Scripture that provides the norm for how we should relate to incidents like this one.

Those who are indicting Mr. Zimmerman without having been there to see for themselves what actually took place are committing the worse kind of slander. They do not know Mr. Zimmerman. They are better off not saying anything about his character or reputation. Maybe he is culpable. Maybe he killed Trayvon Martin in cold blood. Maybe it was legitimate self-defense. That is the job of the police department to determine. Someone might suggest that the police department is failing to do its job. Maybe it is. However, it is not the mission of the church or the society of Christ to impose its will on the police departments of the world so that they are acting in accordance with the law. That job belongs to someone else. Who? I cannot say who. What I can say is that Scripture nowhere lays this burden on the church.

Those who are now painting Trayvon Martin as a troubled young man just looking for a fight are no less guilty of slander than the ones painting Mr. Zimmerman as a racist and cold blooded killer. They do not know this young man. They do not know that he did anything to provoke Mr. Zimmerman. They were not there. The young man’s past has nothing to do with what happened that night. If you are engaged in slandering this young man for any reason, you are guilty of the worse kind of malicious gossip. You do not know Trayvon Martin and you certainly were not present the night of that terrible tragedy. Your words of disdain and attack are just as sinful as they would be if you were slandering someone you do know. Just because there are media reports about this incident, that is not justification to speculate about what actually took place. As a member of the Christian society, you have no right to comment about the character of men you know nothing about. Silence is the best response in this case.

The news media and "tell-all" publications provide an excellent vehicle by which Christians engage in malicious gossip without even thinking about it. I know, I have done it numerous times. It was not until recently that I began to think about this and wonder about my own behavior. A friend of mine and I were discussing Tiger Woods’ personal coach and the terrible things that have been said about Mr. Woods. This was as recent as last week. I cannot say what the catalyst was that has caused me to begin considering this behavior. All I know is that I realized that these people are real people whose lives are being affected by all kinds of stories. The truth is that we just don’t know anything about them. We don’t know if these stories are true, and even if some of them are, how shameful it is for believers to speak about them openly. Instead, we should commit these people to prayer. We should pray that God grants them the gift of repentance and the subsequent peace it produces. We should not waste time sinning by talking about matters that we really know nothing about. We should prayer for comfort for Trayvon’s parents and especially for their salvation if they are not believers. If they are believers, we should pray that God provide them the grace necessary to accept those things they cannot change along with the ability to respond to them in Christ-like manner.

Racism is an ugly behavior. It is unloving and sinful. We should certainly preach and teach against it just like we do other sin. But we do not teach and preach against it because it is the worse sin a person could commit. We condemn it because God condemns it. We refuse to engage in it because it displeases and dishonors God. The church needs to divorce the culture. For a long time now, she has been enamored and enchanted with the culture. It has been a love feast unlike anything you could read in a romance novel. The sad truth is that most American Christians are far more loyal to America and American ideology than they are to Scripture. If revival is ever to come to western culture, the church must divorce America. The truth is that America’s influence on the church has been far more damning than most care to admit. Preach the gospel. Proclaim the truth. Evangelize the world and make disciples. That is the business of the church. What have we to do with marches and protests against social injustice and political causes?

The very best way to influence these kinds of changes in the culture is to evangelize it! That kind of change is real and lasting change. So what! You end racism or abortion. If you don’t give people the gospel, still we have a number of people who are no longer racists or murderers, but nevertheless are on their way to certain eternal damnation. Nice job.

27 comments:

  1. Amen~ I feel it was TWO cases of mistaken identity~

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  2. All I know is that somebody was killed.

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  3. I'm sorry, I disagree respectfully. To think we should only get involved when we are eyewitnesses is a lovely thought but is simply not teneble. Following this logic, am I to say well. I have been told that my eating habits could mean that some are facing oppressive hours and wages but I haven't seen it myself so I can keep on keeping on? No. This mindset absolutely yields to an ignorance is bliss maxim. Though I appreciate that you are arguing that it is up to us to let the justice system do its job here, these very systems have a long history of not treating everyone as equals. The very reason that there is so much upset is that it was not for the chief of police to make a decision on scene - what is wanted is a day in court. What is wrong with all of us joining is asking for that call? Is it wrong to ask for the life of the shooter? ABSOLUTELY. But a trial of his peers? Tell me how that is wrong, as a theologian and as a citizen of this country, to want that here?

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    1. The question I am addressing is the role of the church and how she is to bring about change within the culture. It is not by speculation. It is not by boycott. It is not by over-endulging in the political process. Am I to think there was no injustice in Paul's day? The proper function of the body of Christ is to make disciples by preaching the gospel. God produces the change through the preached word. We are NOT called to police the police. The police are not called to perform the function of the church and the church is not called to hold the police departments of the world accountable. DISTRACTIONS from keeping the main thing the main thing.

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  4. so the metanarrative here is: we weren't there so how can we know! the shooter was there, let him face a jury and or judge. sir you pose a weak dialectic!

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    1. Perhaps in your system it is weak. Yet God works all things according to His plan. What is the role and responsiblity of the believer in cases like these? I can assure you that it is not to redicule men you know nothing about. Preach the truth and trust God to work His plan. That is one thing you can count on. Ultimate justice belongs to the Lord. You cannot judge Trayvon or George because you were not there and you do not know what happened. Everything you know is based on hearsay, and gossip. Just because it is in the news does purge it from being gossip. Spend your time giving people the gospel and praying for these people, not speculating about something you can never really know the truth about. That is my suggestion.

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  5. Always safest to stay in the mushy middle.

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    1. The mushy middle? I think my comments are far from non-controversial. Both sides disagree with me. George's supporters want me to indict Trayvon and Trayvon's supporters want me to slander George. I refuse to do either. Therefore, I am getting clobbered from both sides. It is anything but mushy from where I am standing.

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  6. i would have like to see some scripture references in here. but like i posted on my facebook the other day, i dont know all the facts, but i know we need to pray for both families. and pray for a complete forgiveness and for the salvation of those involved. this is above all other things in my heart

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    1. 2 Cor. 12:20; Eph. 4:25-32; Col. 3:8. Gal. 5:19-23; 1 Cor. 13.

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  7. We still have an obligation to denounce evil as defined by the word of God.Christians should not let themselves be carried away by a certain political ideology.However, we have not been instructed to stay silent.Let the world see our light.

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    1. Uh, yes we do. How could anyone read that article and infer that I don't think we should condemn evil. I am pretty sure I did just that. The problem here is locating the evil. We don't know where the evil is. The best we can do is speculate and that is strickly off-limits to Christians. We must stick to what we know. If we see someone sin, we are to go to them. We don't do to them if we THINK they might have sinned. Matt. 18:15-18 is pretty clear about that.

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  8. Ed, I think I see your heart in your article. The problem is that you used "not being an eye witness" and "not being there" as prelude to taking a Christ-like approach. Your basic point is solid. It just got tangled up in a premise that you did not need.

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    1. Good catch! I suppose what I had in mind is the temptation to slander on the basis that it is a news story as if that somehow purges the element of slander from our speech. Thanks for the catch.

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  9. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

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  10. I believe the main contention is that there was no genuine process of evaluation by the justice system. And it is a valid point that had the races been reversed the process may have been a bit more extensive.

    However, violence never is the answer for anything, and we should should pray that Zimmerman finds Christ regardless of his guilt or innocence. I was found innocent in March of 1975 in spite of the fact that I was profoundly guilty.

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  11. The really heartbeat issue for Christians here is not the justice system. The heartbeat issue that I am trying to raise is how a Christian should interact with these stories. To slander either man on the basis of perceived injustice or failure of process or news stories which are little more than speculation is a sin. IT IS FORBIDDEN! That is my point. If you assail either man, you assail God by way of breaking his commandment NOT to gossip or slander. We think we have a right to speak whatever opinion comes to mind. We do NOT! Every action must be examined in the light of Scripture. Our desire to please God with our thoughts and words must take priority over our desire to talk about the latest news story. Even if there was injustice in this case, the church is not called to correct those injustices. The injustices in first-century Roman culture make ours look like cup cakes. Yet the Church focused on preaching Jesus Christ and making disciples. The downfall of the church began when Christianity was legalized and became the state religion. The job of preaching the gospel is more than enough. We don't have time to engage political, social, and legal reform. Preach the word for the edification of the body. God saves those whom He has called through the FOLLISHNESS of preaching.

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  12. Excellent point. We disciples (believers and followers) need to be kingdom minded and not worldly minded. The blending of church and state has distracted most from thinking from a "My kingdom is not of this world" perspective.

    David

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  13. You stated those who are trying to portray Treuvyun as a troubled teen are the same as those who are demonizing Zimmerman. Apparently you have written an article with very little facts. Trayvyun himself on his Facebook page described himself as a thug for life. He is shown grimacing with gold grill while flipping birds to the viewer with both hands which says FU. He was suspended from school for beating up a bus driver, hit caught dealing marijuana and

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    1. I wonder if you heard about those FB pages or saw them yourself. Still, that does not matter one iota in this case. We do not know what happened between the two men. It is best to give it to prayer and hope for justice either way. The burning question is "how do I please God with my behavior in this situation?" What does Scripture teach? That is really what matters. Slander and gossip are ugly. If your FB comments are based on something someone else said, then you really don't know if it is true. It is better not to engage in this wickedness and sin against God.

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    2. This Daily Caller article is a perfect example of what I mean:

      Second Trayvon Martin Twitter feed identified
      Published: 1:59 AM 03/29/2012
      By David Martosko - The Daily Caller
      Executive Editor
      Bio | Archive | Email David Martosko Follow David Martosko

      Get David Martosko Feed
      David Martosko is The Daily Caller's executive editor. He is the father of two, a frequent public speaker, and a graduate of Dartmouth College and the Johns Hopkins University.
      inShare.42 Ads by GoogleDownload Google ChromeA free browser that lets you do more of what you like on the web www.google.com/chrome
      This image is the photograph the late Trayvon Martin used to represent his Twitter identity in late 2011, under the screen name "T33ZY_TAUGHT_M3." Although the Twitter account was deleted, The Daily Caller retrieved it from the social analytics website PeopleBrowsr. The upper-arm tattoo in the image matches one in a close-up photograph on Martin's MySpace page. (Image: Twitter)
      This image from the late Trayvon Martin's MySpace page shows an upper-arm tattoo that matches one seen during late 2011 on the youth's Twitter account. The Daily Caller has brightened this image to show greater detail. (Image: MySpace)
      This tweet, retrieved via the social analytics website PeopleBrowsr.com, shows the late Trayvon Martin tweeting a message that read, “Plzz shoot da #mf dat lied 2 u!” He was using the handle “T33ZY TAUGHT M3” near the end of 2011. (PeopleBrowsr/Twitter)


      The Daily Caller has identified a second Twitter handle that was used by the late Trayvon Martin during the last weeks of 2011. Tweeting in December under the name “T33ZY_TAUGHT_M3,” Martin sent a message that read, “Plzz shoot da #mf dat lied 2 u!”



      It’s unclear who Martin intended the message for, or whether he intended it to be taken literally.

      The photo Martin chose to represent himself on Twitter as “T33ZY_TAUGHT_M3″ depicts him in a black Polo cap, looking into the camera and extending his middle finger. The photo’s file name on Twitter’s server indicates that it was taken on the afternoon of June 17, 2010.

      At least one website issued a retraction this week after mistakenly linking Martin to a middle-finger-salute image on a Facebook account corresponding to a Georgia teenager who shares Martin’s name. This image, however, was uploaded to Twitter by the teen himself.



      Read more: http://dailycaller.com/2012/03/29/second-trayvon-martin-twitter-feed-identified/#ixzz1qpvZjNL6

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  14. For beating up a student. He had tools for breaking and entering and had recently tweeted to kill all white MF-er's. So Trayvyun died exactly the way he wanted to as a thug. And me stating those facts instead of perpetrating the myth that he was an angel doesn't equate me with Rev. Al.

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    1. I have no knowledge of this tweet. I wonder if you read it. I wonder if you really know he had tools for breaking and entering or if you are making a judgment without all the facts. I wonder. I am not equating you with Al Shapton. I am saying that if you make judgements and pass along stories about anyone based on hearsay, or rumors, without having witnessed the events and having personal knowledge of that persons behavior, you are guilty of gossip. Gossip is a sin. Sin is loving what God hates and hating what God loves. I suggest you take time to think about this and do all things to please the Lord. Avoid gossip, slander, and false judgements.

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    2. Your just trying pathetically to appear above the fray at the cost of the facts. Makes you looks mature and socially correct. Why let facts get in the way of a superiority complex. Get off mainstream news, focus on truth instead of trying to appease everyone. Zimmerman will be exonerated cause of the facts that seem to allude you, and the Sharptonites will burn Sanford to the ground. You know.... Justice.

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    3. My comments are directed at the Christian community. My concern is that the Church be about the business of glorifying God in preaching the gospel of repentance and making disciples. My primary purpose here was to point out how sin, under the guise of media could creep in and seduce the believer by drawing them into a discussion around an event they know nothing about except what the liberal media wants them to know. What I desire is that someone read this blog and realize, as I did not too long ago, the sin they commit when they speak about men like these two, that they know nothing about. I have made judgments about people based on news stories. That is sinful. New stories can be just as much gossip as private stories being passed around. The Christians must guard against the temptation to freely engage in these sorts of activities. You have mistaken my blog for a political or social statement of sorts. Fundamentally, it is neither.

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