I wish I had written this weeks ago when the Zimmerman trial was raging in the press but I hope this gets out to many people because we are definitely lacking perspective. It is important for Christians to know that there is a biblical perspective to this tragedy that can help us avoid making the same mistakes that the world has made and continues to make.
No one knows what happened. The only three witnesses are Zimmerman, Trayvon, and the Lord, and none of them testified. It’s important that we always keep that fundamental fact in mind about this killing, especially those who live thousands of miles away and are not familiar with the basic facts of the case. People have been speaking with presumption and arrogance as they voice their heated opinions about the case. Christians should maintain humility and seek to discover the truth about what happened and not be prejudiced.
The media’s decision to give this story national attention is very much biased. There isn’t any standard criteria by which they make these decisions. It comes down to someone with an agenda making the decision. The media reports on stories by using a template that predetermines the narrative. Only the details change but the basic story is the same. There are sundry motivations: sensation; a juicy race-based violence story; the next O.J. Simpson trial. There are also political prejudices at play. Whatever the reason Christians should look at the big picture and ask themselves why certain stories get attention and others don’t. Why was this a national story and not Kermit Gosnell’s trial, for example?
Christians should exercise patience and withhold judgment until all the facts come to light. When the media first reported the story there was a lot of presumption and speculation about Zimmerman’s story. Some programs played a selectively-edited 911 call by Zimmerman. You also saw the fuzzy video of Zimmerman arriving at the station without any apparent injuries before a better quality video came out showing the lacerations on his face and head. One has to be discerning about what they see, hear, and read.
The court of public opinion and the court of law are very different. The former is a kangaroo court that conducts show trials in which the verdict is handed out first and the evidence presented later. The latter is a process that follows procedures set by law and principles that have developed over centuries in order to determine innocence and guilt. In the court of public opinion accusations are reality but in a court of law the burden of proof must be met by those who have the responsibility. In the former court the verdict is decided based on emotions and in the latter the verdict is based on predetermined criteria set by law, namely reasonable doubt.
Neither Zimmerman nor Trayvon are heroes. Zimmerman doesn’t have to be idolized for one to think he should be acquitted and Trayvon doesn’t have to be idolized in order to think Zimmerman is guilty. Also, neither should be demonized in order to be held responsible for the killing. These are two flawed individuals who made mistakes that eventually led to this tragic encounter. We can view this as a tragedy and strictly follow the law in determining Zimmerman’s guilt or innocence.
Christians, as well as all Americans, should stand for justice for all, as we say in the Pledge of Allegiance. We want justice to take its course for both sides. That means that we honor the process of trial by jury. Those individuals have a solemn responsibility, not shared by anyone else, to weigh the testimony and evidence against the legal requirements and arrive at the appropriate verdict. It does not mean making arrests and pressing charges in order to pander to public outcries. Mob justice is not justice, it is simply primitive violence. That kind of overwhelming desire for vengeance is the operating principle of the lynch mobs and vigilante groups of the past. Christians should not abandon one extreme only to substitute the opposite extreme.
While this is not an exhaustive list I think it’s safe to say that the overarching principle that should guide how Christians view these stories is love. We must be guided by a desire to know the truth and the patience to wait for the facts come out before passing judgment. It means we see everyone involved as equal persons for whom Christ died and never letting hate color our perception of them. If Christians can maintain a biblical perspective on the issues then we can influence society in a beneficial way. We must be the conscience of the nation as we prophetically witness the work of redemption that God has done in us to a fallen world.