Looking back on this essay from July of 2013, about the hysteria surrounding the trial of George Zimmerman regarding the shooting death of Trayvon Martin, I find that considering all that with all that has happened since with Ferguson MO and NYC, this essay remains very applicable. So I decided to edit it a little and republish it…
One of the things that has become painfully apparent in the wake of the hysteria that has surrounded the tragic events of the last few years in places like Sanford FL, Ferguson MO and New York City NY with all of the media hype and political spin, is that there are huge issues facing American Society which we still have to find answers for. Many are attempting to do just that, but I for one find that most of what I read and hear falls seriously, disturbingly, short.
The loudest voices are decrying power structures and institutionalized racism expressed here in corrupt law enforcement and a prejudiced judicial system, as though this is just how things work in a society built by fat old white men who didn’t care about anyone but themselves.
As I said, I believe that there are real issues facing us in America today, and they are huge in scope; but I also believe that the explanations we are being given by our media and our elected officials, by our scholars and our celebrities… all fall short because they are answering the wrong questions and doing so from the wrong premises.
With each tragedy we are left wondering what really happened and invariably the only people who actually know are the people who were actually there. We can wish these tragedies didn’t happen, but we can’t change them and we can’t make up a narrative that soothes our broken hearts based on speculation and personal bias. And yet that is what our our media, our elected officials, our scholars and our celebrities want us to do as they cry out for justice against when the work of the legal system results in an outcome which they dismiss as invalid.
But consider the ramifications of this: Our legal system was set up to protect the innocent from injustice because that has been the more common problem historically. So if we lay aside the high standard of “beyond a reasonable doubt” when facing the unknown variables of tragedies like these, we will inevitably return to those days when the courts were nothing more than the tool of power mongers looking to silence anyone they deemed to be a danger to their personal vision of society.
However, while we cannot construct a narrative for these tragedies, we also can not pretend that they didn’t happen and that there aren’t real discussions and changes which need to occur about Justice and Law and Law Enforcement, about Education and Inequality, about Individuality and Community… because we are all responsible for this.
The Individual sovereignty revealed in Genesis 1-2 and enshrined in the Declaration of Independence does not negate the Corporate responsibility that we have toward one another in the Community: separating these two things inevitably leads to either Anarchy or Collectivism, and neither honor God. We are bound together. The tapestry of Humanity is made up of the individual threads of all Men and Women; each of our choices affects all others in some way.
Thus In Deuteronomy 21:1-9 we find that if there is someone found murdered and no one knows who’s to blame, the town closest to the body has to corporately repent just in case someone from their community was responsible. This understanding of community consciousness must be reawakened if we are going to set this country back on the course of justice and mercy.
As followers of the Way of the Cross, this holds even truer. For the Gospel of John reminds us that the World lies in darkness; it doesn’t understand it only feels, it can not make sense of Life it can only twist what it sees into a caricature of what is so as to numb the pain that gnaws at the inside (John 1). Thus it falls to the Disciples of Yeshua to be His voice in this present life, to speak Truth to falsehood, to bring light into darkness.
When we fail to do this then we, like the watchman of Ezekiel 33, become complicit to the propaganda of the media, the posturing of politicians, the pseudo-intellectualism of scholars, and the ignorance of celebrities.
Silence is no longer an option. The Followers of the Way of the Cross must stop allowing the World to set the talking points. In the wake of the hysteria of these tragedies I have seen many in the American Church come around to this only to return to their platitudes and pseudo-piety the tragedy was no longer a trending hash-tag on twitter… this must change.