The Courts Failed Trayvon Martin: Can the Church Step Up?

Americans demanded a jury trial in the case of George Zimmerman and that is what occurred. It would not have happened at all if good people in this country had not demanded it. Now debate of the verdict is appropriate. How could he get off for killing Trayvon Martin while the same state sent an African-American woman abused by her husband to 20 years in prison for firing warning shots at him?

The world seems upset down.

President Obama is right:

The death of Trayvon Martin was a tragedy. Not just for his family, or for any one community, but for America. I know this case has elicited strong passions. And in the wake of the verdict, I know those passions may be running even higher. But we are a nation of laws, and a jury has spoken. I now ask every American to respect the call for calm reflection from two parents who lost their young son. And as we do, we should ask ourselves if we're doing all we can to widen the circle of compassion and understanding in our own communities. We should ask ourselves if we're doing all we can to stem the tide of gun violence that claims too many lives across this country on a daily basis. We should ask ourselves, as individuals and as a society, how we can prevent future tragedies like this. As citizens, that's a job for all of us. That's the way to honor Trayvon Martin.

As a minister, I want both reconciliation and justice. If you think there is no racism in this nation, you are willfully blind. If you believe there has been no progress towards racial justice, your eyes are not open. But we are still far from being the Beloved Community and the fact that a boy with iced tea and candy could die while doing nothing illegal, and his killer walk free, is evidence of that. So is the unemployment rate among African-Americans, the incarnation rates among African-Americans, and the reality that people in this nation today question both the Christian faith and the place of birth of the President of the United States of America because of the color of his skin.

We need a new civil rights movement in America. It should be a movement that truly addresses the systemic racism faced by African-Americans borne out of the history of slavery and segregation. That lingers in real ways. But the movement should be bigger. It should also include Latinos and the struggle for comprehensive immigration reform. A new civil rights movement in America should revive the Equal Rights Amendment for women but broaden it to include gays and lesbians and all those who have been left out of the American Dream through discrimination and bigotry.

No political party can take on the leadership of this movement because the movement we need today needs to also be world wide in scope. To date, no party has shown such vision or courage.

Fighting climate change is a civil rights issue. The church universal, which should see the world not as a place with national boarders, but as a global community where the survival of us all depends on the well being of every part of the creation -- in partnership with faiths across the globe -- should undertake this work. President Obama has put forth a good plan to fight climate change but look for a minority of members of his own party to join with the opposition to try and torpedo it.

Keep your eyes on the prize. Yes, do that for Trayvon Martin. I still stand with him. But the prize is bigger now. As we work toward racial and economic justice at home, people of faith must be waging a campaign to bring peace, equality and the restoration of wholeness to the earth. Our imagination, vision and hope -- tempered by our times but not crushed by them into the indifference counted on by the powerful who benefit from oppression -- needs to be expanded to envision a world where Trayvon Martin and George Zimmerman could somehow have been friends. We owe our children a world where no one goes hungry or dies in war. In Scriptural terms, we need to be working toward the Kingdom of God, a place where:

7 The cow and the bear shall graze,
their young shall lie down together;
and the lion shall eat straw like the ox.
8 The nursing child shall play over the hole of the asp,
and the weaned child shall put its hand on the adder's den. (Isaiah 11:7-8 NRSV)

A place of peace, world wide.