Elizabeth Drescher, PhD

White Noise: Christian Whispers and Shouts on the Trayvon Martin Case

34 Comments

White Noise“I don’t want to say this in a public forum,” began the first email message in response to my blog post yesterday on my own hesitation to attend church—to participate in “the most segregated hour in America”—on a day when I suspected there would be little real engagement with the issues underlying the acquittal of George Zimmerman for the killing of Trayvon Martin. The writer went on to describe her progressive, white, suburban church’s response—or lack thereof—to the verdict. “I almost burst into tears at the ‘white noise’ of the liturgy,” she wrote.

Through the day, I would receive forty-three such emails,* another four of them this morning, most beginning with some version of the confession that what the writer was about to share was not something that she or he could say on Facebook or Twitter, where congregants, clergy, or colleagues might read it. They came from laypeople (29) and clergy (18); from seminary and university professors (5) and seminarians (12).** Most (41) of the writers were white, but African American (4), Latina/o (1); and Asian (1) correspondents from mostly white churches also contacted me—they, too, expressing a reluctance to speak publicly about how the Martin case was addressed in their churches.

“I could almost feel the physical strain of members of my almost all white congregation—we’re the only black family—trying not to look at me and my daughters as the pastor talked about ‘who is my neighbor’ in the sermon without saying anything about the young man killed on the side of the road in Florida,” a former student from Ohio told me. But, he explained, he didn’t want to make his teenaged daughters feel any more awkward or uncomfortable than he worried they already did. “I didn’t want to make a thing out of it,” he said, “but I was hurt by it.”

A seminarian who is interning at a church in Michigan asked her supervising rector if she should add something to the Prayers of the People about the killing of Trayvon Martin and the trial verdict. “Only if you want an empty collection plate,” the rector responded.

Several laypeople talked about wanting to discuss how their churches might respond to the case in the wider community, but they had no idea how to broach the subject in the congregation or with their clergy. “I’ve only been here for a few months,” one person wrote. “I’m not sure it’s my place to say what we should be doing as a community.”

Another wrote, “I was so angry after the sermon today. It was so abstract—nothing to do with anything in the real world, least of all the Trayvon Martin case. But,” she continued, “I’m just getting to know the new rector, and I don’t want to stand out as a complainer at this point. I’m disappointed with myself, but I didn’t feel like I should say anything.”

Still another confessed, “I don’t go all that often, but I did want to be there today. I guess I just expected that something would be said to acknowledge the whole situation and help me sort through it. There was nothing besides ‘love thy neighbor’ fluff. But, I only go maybe once a month or so. Who am I to complain?”

The tone of the comments I received through the day highlighted this silence from the pulpit and from parishioners themselves, and the “white noise” humming over it, so consistently that by evening I was still mulling the Parable of the Good Samaritan. A comment a friend had posted on Facebook on the Saturday the verdict was announced turned over and over in my head. Then, having noted the gospel reading set in the Common Lectionary, I’d tweeted, “Hey preachers: Luke 10:25-37 for tomorrow. Time to change it up.”

My friend Matt responded, drawing on a teaching of David Steindl-Rast, that one of the ways in which the Good Samaritan story addressed the idea of social privilege was in the inability or unwillingness of the legal expert quizzing Jesus to so much as say “Samaritan.”

“When Jesus asked ‘who was a neighbor to the beaten man?,’” Matt wrote, “the only answer the lawyer could give was ‘the one who showed him mercy.’ He could not even name the Samaritan. At this moment, what are we unable to even name that gets to the core of the matter?”

Certainly, the bigger answer to Matt’s question includes things like “white privilege” and “racism,” things like “justice” and “equity.” But it also struck me that there was a simpler silence that brought these more complex concepts to a human level: the silence in many churches around the very name of the teenager who was killed in Florida, Trayvon Martin—the slain young man who calls into question all of our theological musings about what it means to treat someone as a “neighbor.”

As a starting point, I thought, we at least need to be saying and hearing that name in our churches, holding the reality of the lost human life it stands for in our hearts. In my multitasking way, I was thinking about this while also scanning Twitter where, on most Sunday evenings, a wide selection of the day’s sermons begin popping up from around the U.S. and across the globe. One after another, I clicked through them—sixteen in total before I lost patience, at which point I tweeted:

If you preached a sermon today w/out saying the name ‪#‎TrayvonMartin‬, you need to rethink your vocation. Just sayin…

Almost immediately, a flurry of clergy began complaining on Twitter and Facebook that I’d been unfair, insulting, judgmental, arrogant, unkind, thoughtless, and more. I hadn’t, I was told, considered congregational contexts and sensitivities, the difficulty of changing up sermons on the fly in light of the responsibilities of a clergyperson on Sunday, the need for time to reflect before speaking, and so on. Perhaps most, I was taken to task for calling into question people’s vocations.

Now, with good reason, clergy can be a defensive lot when called to task, fairly or otherwise. For one thing, most clergy I know are called to task quite often by various parishioners on issues ranging from drone strikes, to the offertory hymn, to the brand of tissue in the loo. Most are overworked, and underpaid, and pretty much all of them, like teachers and nurses, are undervalued in the culture. Many people inside the church and out assume that, outside of presiding and preaching at Sunday services, a clergyperson’s day consists mainly of reflecting on scripture, taking tea with the odd ailing shut-in, and organizing bible-themed games for the youth group. This could hardly be further from the truth in all but the very rarest of cases. But the result of the skewed perception means that many clergy live in a sour spot between the assumption that they do only what is seen in public and complaints about their performance therein.

So, it seems easy to understand the touchiness of many clergypeople when anyone pokes around at vocations they commit to against very great, often very daily, pressures to do otherwise. I get it. And, I’ll grant that my words were strong. Perhaps I might, as one commentator suggested, have asked how clergy had approached discussing the verdict in their congregations. If not in the sermon, I might have queried, why not? How otherwise was the topic explored?

I might have done that. But the truth is that I don’t expect the ensuing conversation would have been especially meaningful. I don’t think this moment in the moral history of the country calls for genteel reflection. And, I can’t imagine very many congregational contexts in the American Church in which a note from the pulpit that the nation is (once again) struggling with matters of race, legal equity, and social justice would not be appropriate—even though I know there are many such contexts in which such a note would be disturbing, provocative, and otherwise unwelcome.

To wit, several clergy contacted me after having tried their best to at least nod to the Martin case only to be rebuffed by congregants.

A Roman Catholic priest who serves an affluent, white congregation in the San Francisco Bay Area, for instance, added two sentences to his seven-minute homily on the Parable of the Good Samaritan: “Maybe we think this difficulty with understanding who is our neighbor and how we should respond to them is a feature of ancient tribal rivalries that we don’t suffer from in our modern age. But we only have to look at the headlines to see that when people who don’t look like us walk through neighborhoods like ours, we often have a hard time truly seeing them as ‘neighbors.’”

No mention of Trayvon Martin or his killer. No labored reflection or confused, unfocused reactions. Just a note “at the intersection of Word and community” as both exist in much wider world to which said community is obligated.

When the priest offered a communion wafer to a congregant who is a significant donor to the church, he reported, the man met “The Body of Christ” with “Keep your opinions to yourself.”

Another followed a similar path in amending the sermon with a sentence or two. She was scolded by the largest donor to the church, “It sounded like Cornell West up there!”

Other clergy have apparently had that sort of experience enough in the past to know better than to try. “I preached about immigration last year in what I thought was the most temperate of ways and about poverty, which I’d think Christians would be concerned about regardless of political leaning,” said a minister from a church in Colorado. “Both sermons were cited in my annual review as evidence of my preaching being ‘too political’ and ‘not spiritual enough.’ I give up,” she wrote.

I’d be inclined to give up, too, I suppose. Indeed, I’ve walked away from this post several times today because, like most people, I find arguing disheartening and exhausting. Even when I feel like I’m right, I don’t like having the smug, self-righteous tone that the privileged position of having a public voice can provoke in me when I’m pissed off called out by people I respect and admire. The whole of it just sucks. None of it feels good.

In the end, however, we just can’t give up. Too much is at stake.

We are in the process of losing the Church, giving up on the vision of a Kingdom of love and justice that Jesus invited us to join us in creating. You may well think the growing population of the unaffiliated—Nones—are uncommitted, narcissistic, vapid bores. (I could write a book about how you’re wrong about that…) But we have to contend with the fact that the majority of Nones are being formed in our churches. They’re hearing our sermons, sitting through our liturgies, seeing us act in the world on the basis of the beliefs we profess. And we are again and again found wanting, particularly at moments when the larger culture (from which the Church is not excused) is focused on events like the announcement of the verdict in the Trayvon Martin murder trial. Particularly when the voices of people with a claim to some measure of moral and social insight are needed most. Again, I just don’t know of many contexts in which saying something about that wouldn’t be appropriate.

Finally, I know that the strong words and feelings in this conversation have clearly been difficult to work though. But, however imperfect our words might be—mine especially, perhaps—however uncomfortable the feelings they provoke, they are better than white noise humming over to many of our churches, making so many of us—laypeople and clergy alike—feel that we cannot speak, that we cannot risk speaking, that the context won’t tolerate it.

At times like these, those of us with the privilege of any kind of pulpit or public platform simply must speak. Trust me, if we don’t get it exactly right, someone will let us know. In which case, we’ll still be in conversation.

_______________________________________

*I’ve adapted quotes from these emails to protect the anonymity of the correspondents.

**The numbers add to more than forty-seven because of overlap across categories. That is, some of the seminary professors are also clergy as are some of the seminarians.

Author: Elizabeth Drescher PhD

I am a scholar, writer, and speaker on religion and spirituality in everyday life today and in the past.

34 thoughts on “White Noise: Christian Whispers and Shouts on the Trayvon Martin Case

  1. After coming from a conference of 2,800 creative, out of the box thinkers in Portland the previous weekend, I observed in my sermon last Sunday that few, if any, of those millennial or GenX folks (even those who follow Jesus) would wish to join a passive, privileged church. They are too busy trying to change the world to waste time and money in self-satisfaction or empty rhetoric. The challenge I have is to answer the question: What can a bunch of retired white suburbanites do besides feel guilty for the privileges they enjoy? I’d be interested in your thoughts about practical steps that can be taken.

    The “keep your opinions to yourself” guy just makes me angry. Those who desire a spiritual hospice center where no voices are raised, no uncomfortable discussions had, and no noisy children disturb the serene peace will certainly get their wish. Sadly, it is the younger generations who often see their elder pew-sitters as “uncommitted, narcissistic, vapid bores”—disconnected from the world and uninterested in re-engaging. We clergy will do our best, but don’t expect to be much rewarded for it. Then again, the Old Testament prophets didn’t have much of a retirement plan…

  2. I am surprised by my offense at the use of the words “white noise” in your article. Perhaps it is because I feel that my opinions as a white Christian are considered white noise: without substance and a dampening of what is really going on. Regardless of where I stand on the issue, I am not sure that my opinion, white noise or not, is the right topic for a church service. Instead I would think people came to church looking for a way to find peace and direction in the turmoil of the questions and fears brought up during the trial. I am also interested in why this has become a white versus black issue in some people’s mind when the young man on trial was Hispanic. Certainly a sermon should not be addressed to only the white people in the congregation unless we want to promote racial differences. There is nothing wrong with discussing current events in a church service especially when the preacher can wrap her sermon around scripture and Christian teaching. However, I believe it would be more helpful for the pastor to encourage peace and understanding, forgiveness and love rather than stir up feelings of anger and revenge with their personal opinions. Maybe a sermon should be spiritually edifying and point to the bible as a source of comfort , direction and education in general and specifically to the issues of the day, but it is not the place for personal, political expressions of unfiltered emotion.

    • The second and third definitions of “white noise” in the Merriam-Webster Dictionary (http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/white%20noise) might help you to understand the metaphor the writer was using. I believe she was getting not at a specific opinion that might have been expressed, but the way in which a church “business as usual” approach downed out any acknowledgement of so significant an event in American racial and moral history, regardless of how one might feel about the outcome.

      The use of the term as I picked it up here expresses a certain desire among people of privilege to not have to hear, see, and think about–let along act on the basis of their faith commitments–things happening in the world that make us uncomfortable. For myself at least, I do want to come out of a Sunday service feeling a peace that does not exist for “the least” of my neighbors, who were the focus of Jesus’s concern.

      • Elizabeth…I think you omitted a critical “not” from the last sentence of this reply.

      • Edit: For myself at least, I do NOT want to come out of a Sunday service feeling a peace that does not exist for “the least” of my neighbors, who were the focus of Jesus’s concern. [H/T to Jason H]

  3. Amen. If people want to know why the young are leaving churches in droves, this is another example why. If the Church has nothing to say about this, then the Church isn’t the Church of Jesus. It is the local community center and needs to call itself that.

  4. Thank you for this marvelous post. I am an African American seminary student serving as an intern in “white noise” type of congregation this summer.

  5. Here are 3 sermons that dove straight into racism and the death of Trayvon Martin on Sunday morning. For the 3 of us, rewriting our Sunday morning sermons was a no-brainer. We weren’t alone, either.

    From @jdmcleodjr: “Do This and You Will Live…” http://notsotamedcynic.wordpress.com

    From @hughlh: “Trayvon Martin and the Least We Could Do” http://lovewins.info/2013/07/trayvon-martin-and-the-least-we-could-do/

    And my own sermon: @grammercie: “A Certain Child Was Coming Home From the Corner Store…” http://insideouted.blogspot.com/2013/07/a-certain-child-was-going-home-from.html

  6. Dr. Drescher,

    The Trayvon Martin killing has left me, as a Christian, struggling with my beliefs on both sides of the issue and on the broader issue of racism. Although raised in the “south” I was raised by a family who were run out of Tennessee before the civil war for freeing their slaves on the grounds of their faith. I grew up in a very privileged area of a major southern city. In 1957 we were ostracized by our neighbors for allowing a black, elderly female church officer to stay as a guest in our home during a national church meeting, because no decent hotel in our city would accept a black female, much less one who was unaccompanied. As a senior executive, I have hired, promoted and encouraged people of all races, genders and faiths. Okay, so I hope I’ve made my point about where I am coming from. By the way, I also abhor violence. So why am I conflicted about this.

    I think people on both sides of the liberal/conservative spectrum are overreacting for the sake of their own POV. Both sides are so quick to condemn. Both sides are so quick to jump into the racism. It is no more “Christian” for the black community to blame the white community for Travon’s untimely death, than it is for members of the White community to assume that all blacks are violent. Neither you (to my knowledge) or I were in that courtroom or the jury room. Many of us heard snippets of testimony that were frequently taken out of context to reflect the political POV of the media outlet presenting them. How many of those who are so quick to pass judgment. also prayed for GOD’s will to be done, rather than for their own political desire? How many prayed for the wisdom of the jurrors? Hmmm……… I thought so. Do you really think that this was a phenomenon that was unique to white churches in wealthy neighborhoods? I don’t know the answer, but I seriously doubt that was the case.

    Yes. Travon’s death was tragic, whether he was shot as the result of an intentional act by Zimmerman, or whether he was shot as the result of an attack that he perpetrated. Either event is human failure and the result of mankind’s sin. I here very few people discussing that. In Paul’s letter to the Roman’s he reminds us that ALL have sinned and fall short of the Glory of God. Seems to me that this is an excellent time to remember that and to remember that God alone judges us.

    In this, as so many areas that are destroying our society, I think it would be more “Christian” if we focused on commonalities and common needs than on those issues that divide us.

    Grace, Peace and Love – MES

  7. I dislike spell check. I’m really not as illiterate as the grammar in my post would lead one to believe – 🙂 MES

  8. I keep a list of corrections in the New York Times to salve my pride when my many errors are revealed to me. 🙂 Thanks for your comments. Much to thinking about in all of this.

  9. I’d call it clergy malpractice.

    I remember the complaints after 9/11, when people crowded into churches that Sunday and were sometimes shocked to hear nothing, absolutely nothing, about events of that week. How do we address a congregation and fail to consider what is on people’s hearts and minds? So there’s that, quite apart from the need for a prophetic word. But week in, week out, this is what bothers me about so much preaching I hear. It has nothing to do with what people are carrying. Preachers seem to spend a couple of hours on a sermon, and then deliver a book report. Its as if scripture never really goes through them either.

    • Because you don’t give your pastor the freedom to speak. Pastors who try get eaten alive. Weak preaching is in response to weak listeners. As Paul told Timothy, “In the last days people will gather around them teachers who will say what their itching ears want to hear”

  10. I have stepped into the pulpit on most Sundays for the last 25 years. And there are times when I have struggled between preaching from the Bible text or from the evening news. As Christian ministers we always carry in the back of our minds that our Lord Jesus was put to death for what he said, and we have been called to follow in his footsteps. But the news is filled with troubles we could speak to. So what we do speak to reveals our interests – for we can not speak to everything in one sermon.

    It’s easy to tear into clergy, they have the pulpit to speak from and are far to often careful about what they say. But then, those who listen to them have the power to fire them. The power we who read your blog do not have over you in this blog. It’s safer for you to share your outrage. I dare you. To take the pulpit and speak your mind. We will see how long it takes for you to throw in the towel.

    • Not sure it’s either the Bible OR the evening news. You know the old saw attributed to Karl Barth: Preach with the Bible in one hand, and the newspaper in the other. But, I do know that the challenge is significant and daunting for all of us who keep body and soul together largely by way of speaking in public. Whether that might offend hiring or personnel committees or put off readers and those who select speakers (which is largely how I make my living), speaking out is consequential. So is Christianity. Or, at least it’s meant to be, IMHO.

  11. I was also struck by the level of defensiveness by clergy in the comments to your statement, and the level of fatigue and congregational context unfortunately echoed much of what was said in this article by Bishop Willimon I had posted earlier that week (http://willwillimon.wordpress.com/2013/05/01/919/): ministry is and should be difficult, especially since the Gospel is not about pastoral care for the few, but the witness to the community for the healing of the world. As a priest and preacher I know preaching is difficult and as a pew sitter, I don’t care to be bathed in politics–or really any pet opinions of the clergy– week after week when it is disconnected from the readings. One didn’t need to “take a side” to mention the tragedy of Trayvon Martin, though most of your readers accused you of this, and the Good Samaritan reading cried out for at least a nod toward the divisions in our country. Thank you for your ministry of the Word.

  12. Whenever I struggle with how to address current events or political issues from the pulpit, I’m reminded of one Sunday a couple of years ago. After the early service, a parishioner complimented me for not preaching politics from the pulpit; after the second service and the same sermon, another parishioner congratulated for a prophetically political message. I did mention Trayvon Martin this past Sunday, and it did mean rewriting a couple of paragraphs, but given the gospel text, and the direction my sermon was going, to omit mention of him would have been an act of cowardice and even worse, unfaithfulness to the Gospel, and my calling as a preacher.

  13. I think this is a fabulous perspective.

    Ironically, in my context I normally leave people with a quote or a thought as we begin our service with the ringing of the church bell. This week I quoted Cornel West, “Justice is what love looks like in public.”

    I to had a sermon prepared that spoke about “Who is my neighbor?” Relying heavily on the work of Amy-Jill Levine in the Misunderstood Jew. She also points out what your friend Matt asked, “whose name can you not even speak?”

    Mostly, I threw that out on Saturday night and spent my time reading facebook, twitter, blogs, and my colleagues sermons early on Sunday morning. Katie Mulligans was one I particularly resonated with.

    Ultimately, I did not write anything down (I am comfortable thinking on my feet) but placed a folding chair in the middle of the chancel and just spoke about frustration and who was Trayvon’s neighbor, who was George Zimmerman’s neighbor. I, generally, stayed away from the race angle mainly because the idea of white privilege is completely foreign to my small rural Nebraskan community. I did speak about the minorities in our town (mostly hispanic) noting that they were effectively silent and invisible. I wondered aloud why and did they fear for their children when they leave the house.

    I closed with this statement, “I pray that one day we will see others that look different than us, not as suspicious, but as brothers and sisters in Christ.”

    Luckily, I have receiving nothing but a positive response which led to a discussion of race and privilege at our young(er) adults group.

    I tried my best to have integrity about my call and what I believe the Spirit to be saying to me, as well as being responsible to the Gospel story.

    Thank you for reminding us, that our call is to speak with conviction and with Christ.

    Here is a link to the posts that had the most effect on me. http://sermons.firstpresnc.org/2013/07/go-and-do-likewise-luke-1025-37.html

  14. During the 60s when I lived in Dayton, Ohio which has a (50%)? black population, every time I was downtown in an elevator or gathered in close quarters with black citizens, I’d just drop my eyes, not knowing what to say. My mind would be racing with thoughts, but I didn’t know how to approach the subject whether it was cities burning or Bulldog Conner’s dogs. All I wanted to do was apologize profusely. I’m so sad that it’s the wealthy congregants who spoke up in your examples and revealed their biases. I was very disappointed in how the churches in those days dealt or did not deal with racial matters and the Vietnam War. As for my beliefs, I’ve been an atheist for a long time, mostly for rational and logical reasons. To me, the idea of God is like the idea of Santa Claus. I can’t help where my rational, computing brain has led me to.

  15. I also found it disheartening that the wealthier congregants felt it was their ‘duty/responsibility’ to comment on the sermon. Does no one else see this as a form of bullying or subtle intimidation? That, in juxtaposition with the idea of those ‘nones’ who come and want to see if or how the church beliefs connect to the real world they live in. If pastors continue to be ‘bullied’ into milquetoast sermons, and seekers continue to not hear relevant to the world they live in messages, is it little wonder that church attendance is down?

  16. This is my first time reading your blog. I’m glad I’ve found it. Thank you for speaking up.
    Just the fact that there were so many people opposed to your tweet, and so many people opposed to any mention of the case at their churches, shows there is soooooooo much more work to be done. So I thank you for trying.

  17. I for one am sad that no one seems to have paid much attention to Mark Snyder’s comment above.

    There is so much racism in this country — on BOTH sides of the color divide. I’m livid that there has been all this furor over this one incident while many, many, many other incidents of equal injustice are ignored. By churches, attendees, clergy, as well as the unchurched.

    However, confusing ANY of the reaction with what Jesus taught is just plain wrong. In so many ways the “Christian Church” today is like a single team on the football field so broken up into numerous huddles that they can’t even GET to the line of scrimmage to fight the real fight. I see mega churches sprouting up all over the place and I wonder if all the money spent on self-indulgent pampering for parishioners were spent helping the poor, weak, battered, etc., whether we all would be better off.

    Trayvon’s murder was horrible. Don’t get me wrong. But the examples of aborted justice are numerous. And what makes a Christian think that This World in which sin rules is going to ever treat people with justice. If we were so worried about murder — really worried about not murdering people — then perhaps this nation which has been at war for the last 235 years should consider finding a way to stop killing people who don’t agree with us. As a nation we idolize the warrior, we patronize violent movies, we stick our nose in everyone else’s business around the world but we can’t get our own house in order. Shame on us. All of us. Christian and non-Christian alike. This is not a religious problem — it is a societal problem. Our clergy come from among us. We tolerate them because they represent who we are. The problem is within.

  18. It’s not only the absence of discussion of the Trayvon Martin case. I realized after reading all of the comments that I hadn’t even noticed the absence of the case from Sunday’s sermon. And I realized that I’ve given up expecting serious connections to the world outside the church. Since I’m a lifelong white and privileged Episcopalian, the only time I remember feeling the church was connected to the world in a useful and honest way was the small African-American parish I belonged to in Roxbury in the late 60s. Draft resisters and junkies were given homes in the church annex; the phone was tapped and the trust fund was banked in the new African-American bank much to the African American bishop’s consternation.

    I have an opportunity to try this in the church I go to in a small western MA town. I’m preaching July 28; the Gospel is the text from Luke about the neighbor asking for bread. I preached on the same text three years ago. After reading all your comments, I just changed up the draft notes in my head. The congregation is deeply liberal with a number of Ivy League educated people (myself included…privilege again). So we’ll see. How can I let you know what happens?

  19. Dr. Darescher,

    Thank you for your honesty, and for engaging in this conversation with people who desperately need to be a part of it. What you said, and the way you said it, was absolutely on point. We should not expect to spend Sunday morning in worship service avoiding the most important issues facing our society, we should expect to find ways to understand and cope with them.

    I am a 54 year old African American, and I belong to an African Methodist Episcopal (AME) church. Or congregation is overwhelmingly black. Our pastor spoke eloquently, passionately and exclusively about the verdict in her sermon. Our standard practice is to have a lay person to give the invocation at the beginning of our worship service. Sunday happened to be my day to do that, and I included the Martin family, our community and the issue of such tragedy prominently in my prayer. Our associate pastor led the alter call reciting the names of Emmet Till, and the four little girls killed in the 1963 Birmingham church bombing along with that of Trayvon Martin. Before and after the service, nearly every conversation among the congregation included discussion of the pain, anger and disappointment at the verdict. My feeling on Sunday was that I I was glad that the news of the verdict was delivered on a Saturday night, because I would at least be able to spend the following morning in church.

    I was grateful for the comfort I received at church on Sunday. I am sorry that so many people either did not experience or flat out resisted the opportunity to examine this important moment in our society at the one place that everyone should feel safe and comfortable doing so.

  20. You are on the right road my friend. Visit an African American congregation. Christologically speaking, we are to become like Christ. Christ chose to identify with the oppressed. We then must become as the oppressed to be Christ like. This requires immersion, a communing and fellowship. The binding of wounds, carrying the dead weight of others afflictions and finally to pay for restoration of wrongs you didn’t directly cause. This is Jesus The Christ revealed in scripture and must by our words and actions become flesh and dwell among us.

  21. Several points not necessarily related to each other:

    * We talk/write too much. Too many words usually means we are missing what’s essential. Both preachers and bloggers should remember this.
    * Our 24/7 news culture is not something everyone – either minister or parishioner alike — operates on the basis of.
    * Preaching that preachers should have preached on news, albeit big news, from 7/13 on 7/14 as opposed to 7/21 seems a bit, well, nit-picky in the scheme of things. Yes, some coming to church for particular comfort or wisdom in this regard may have been disappointed. But if a church is not speaking to injustice, human and social failing, and providing comfort and wisdom every Sunday in this regard, is missing the point to begin with. In other words, that same visitor would be disappointed sooner or later for the same reason if the church isn’t doing what it is supposed to do in the long run.
    * Who buys into the notion that the minister is any wiser and has anything more enlightening to say than parishioners any more? It seems there is a minister-knows-best bias at work here that is a big turn-off. Having an intentional and planned discussion after church would seem better than a sermon on it.
    * If people are truly honest and conscientious, a sermon on the injustice of 7/13 would be preaching to the choir. Tools to get past our societal and individual angers and hatred so they can be more truly honest and conscientious seems more fitting every Sunday.
    * Generalities are always dangerous. Some ministers may have had a good reason to have held off on preaching about 7/13 on 7/14. Not considering individual variations means we come from the same place of generalities and judgment that Zimmerman did.

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