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Al Mohler pens a poignant piece, which begins this way:

As the father of a young man, I know the talks parents have with their sons-or should have. I have had plenty of those talks, and I know them from both sides. But there is one talk I never had to have with my son, and my father never had to have with me. That is the talk about what to do when the police pull you over and you are a young black man. The talk about what to do when you are eyed suspiciously by people just because you are a young black male. The talk about how to act and how to respond when people watch just to see if you are trouble.

America is divided once again in the aftermath of the verdict in the George Zimmerman trial. The decision of the Florida jury to acquit Zimmerman on charges of murder and manslaughter in the killing of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin has reverberated around the world. Americans are divided along some very tragic and recognizable lines in the wake of the verdict. But the line that I find most important is this—the line between those parents who have to have that talk with their boys and those who do not.

Mohler concludes:

The central tragedy remains. A smiling 17-year-old boy who had gone to a convenience store to buy a soft drink and a snack was shot to death, and we will never know exactly how or why. We just know that it is an unspeakable tragedy. It is a moral tragedy that even the best system of justice cannot remedy, much less restore. It is a political tragedy, a cultural tragedy, and a legal mess. But far more than these, it is the tragedy of a boy now dead, of parents and loved ones grieving, and of a nation further wounded, confused, and tormented by the color line.

I think of the young black men on the campus I am honored to lead. I think of the faithful black parents whose families I so know, love, admire. I think of what they have to worry about that I never have to think about. I think of the conversations that must come for our nation and for our churches.

But most of all I am thinking of those parents who have to have that talk I never had to have with my son. I pray and yearn for that day when those conversations will not be necessary. May God watch over every single one of them, for they, starting with Trayvon Martin, belong to all of us.

You can read the whole thing here.

See also pieces by Thabiti Anyabwile, “A Personal Take in the Aftermath of Trayvon Martin and the Zimmerman Verdict” and Trillia Newbell, “Not Guilty: Now What?

I also think Will Saletan, “You Are Not Trayvon Martin” and  Ta-Nehisi Coates, “On the Killing of Trayvon Martin by George Zimmerman,” are worth reading.

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19 thoughts on “The Central Tragedy of the Trayvon Martin Case Remains”

  1. John says:

    “There are pundits on all sides taking advantage of this case and controversy. I do not want to become one of them”
    Then you should have not posted your opinion, because when you make statements that are debatable at best or to being completely refuted, you have done exactly that.
    George Zimmerman “rejected the police dispatcher’s order to stop following him”. My exact main point of contention with Zimmerman this whole time. That was Zimmerman’s main fault. He should not have continued following him. So, I guess that gave a “normal, happy, 17-year-old-boy” the right to do what the forensic evidence shows he did, backing up Zimmerman’s original statement?
    “The New York Times editorial board rightly lamented….”
    “The Washington Post got it exactly right when they declared….”
    Those two comments are confusing/outrageous/stunning to me. Since when do we take our cue’s from two of the most biased sources of media ever? Like, ever in history? Like, since the printing press? Like, since the Egyptian Sun Times never questioned Potiphar’s wife’s story when she accused Joseph of attempted rape? Stuns the imagination. Now I don’t feel so bad wanting to hear from Thomas Sowell and Bill Cosby.
    Was Zimmerman completely in the right? No, I don’t think so. As said above, as a community watchman he should have stuck with that-watch. Don’t try to do anything else. Just watch. (And as far as Florida’s Stand Your Ground law goes, I happen to think there are elements of that law that have the potential to become really controversial if acted upon regardless of what races are involved; but that’s just me). But on the other hand, was Martin the complete and absolute victim? Highly doubtful. He did, as forensics show, assault Zimmerman, an assault that he apparently did not have to initiate in spite of the fact that he was being watched and followed (I mean come on; Zimmerman was tried for murder because the state felt he did not act within the limits of stand your ground. Does the same standard, even in a limited application, not apply to one was bashing another persons head with his fists and and against the ground as well?)

    1. DavidS says:

      the unedited 911 call is available . . . it seems to clear up many misconceptions . . .

  2. David says:

    Well, I am from Malaysia and in my country, there are 3 major races and they are the Malays, Indians and the Chinese. If you only have black and white to deal with in America, we have at least 3.

    However, what I want to point out is that, I have nothing against the Malays and the Indians but my experiences indicate that majority of those who committed serious crimes like robbery, rape and murder consists of these 2 races.

    Of course, I am sure there had been Chinese who committed some of these crimes. When you know the Chinese are good in doing business, this will not be the case for no reason. They have been probably telling lies and twisted the facts a little bit in order to do business and you get the point.

    But, throughout history, they were they people who committed the crimes. Now, I seriously have nothing against the races itself as I have close friends who are Malays and Indians. However, it is just that, it has been happening in the society for quite sometime and to some extent, people will have this kind of perception against some of these people that they are going to commit crime.

    I know it is sad, but it is the reality.

    I have no say about what’s really happening in your country, as I am not physically there. But I believe what’s been happening in my country is also happening in many countries and America is not exempted.

    Again, I have nothing against the black or even white. I am just sharing with you, what I experienced.

  3. Doc B says:

    Mohler, who I normally greatly respect, says he doesn’t want to be a pundit, then proceeds to take a side and pundit as hard as he can for a couple pages.

    That’s the first time I’ve seen that kind of inconsistency in him. Those of us who look to him for cultural commentary need him to stay above the fray. He hasn’t in this case.

  4. Scott C says:

    The more I reflect on this whole situation the more disappointed I have become with several Evangelical responses including Mohler’s. There seems to be the automatic assumption that regardless of the outcome of the trial that some sort of racism was involved on Zimmerman’s part. That is entirely unproven. The police did not arrest Zimmerman until after 44 days of pressure from protesters and others in the black community. They saw the matter as self-defense. The FBI’s investigation saw nothing suggesting racial motivation. The jury acquitted Zimmerman believing he responded because he feared for his life. If Zimmerman had the notion of killing Martin why did he call the police and ask what to do? Yet because of the pressure from many in the black community we have this assumption of racism that has tainted a more rational response to what would have otherwise been a little known routine criminal case.

    In similar situations like this, the knee-jerk response of many in the black community (and the complicit media) I believe ironically ends up fomenting actual racism in America. Many white people become frustrated and at times incensed that anytime there is white on black crime that it is ALWAYS motivated by racism as if that is an absolute given. This is an insult and it actually foments racists attitudes that otherwise would probably have never led to racism. I think the angry, automatic accusatory responses from the black community and many others to these situations do more to aggravate racial tension in contemporary America that any other cause.

    But what is more disappointing is that I think it hurts the Christian community when wise, Biblical, respected and beloved Evangelical leaders like Mohler and Anyabwile pander to the racist narrative in a situation where it is obviously unclear whether racism had any part in the matter. I think most Americans and Christians do not think race had anything to do with the Martin case and yet we are told against our better judgment that it did. What does this result in? Frustration that white Americans and Christians are naturally disposed to racism and we had better face up to that fact. As a whole I think it is false, but ironically the false accusation as it is pushed harder and harder begins to incite bitterness among white people. And as believers how are we to deal with this collective guilt complex foisted upon us as if we are truly guilty? Do we confess to God what doesn’t actually exist? Racism is a grave injustice but so also is the false accusation that seems to automatically assume racism.

    Furthermore, there is no discussion of the possibility of black racist attitudes toward whites. We have star black athletes asking the jurors to go kill themselves and nobody seems concerned to make a big deal out such a horrific comment. This is sheer hypocrisy and most people know it. The black community gets a free pass on racism and whites continue to bear the guilt for the lion’s share of racism whether real or imagined. The narrative is always that racism is a white problem. I know of no prominent black voices either secular or Christian that admit of any black racism towards whites. These matters do not help the REAL problem of racism in America. But for Christian leaders to adopt this mindset exasperates the problem even more when we should expect far better reasoned and Biblical responses to the problem.

    The Martin case should have never been exploited for the racist narrative – that is the real tragedy here and that is not to downplay the tragedy of Martin’s death. As Christians looking eagerly to our Evangelical leaders for guidance, I think we need better responses or we will fail to adequately deal with the real problem of racism.

    1. Justin Taylor says:

      If you reread Mohler’s piece, he says that we don’t know why for certain Martin was targeted. He’s making a larger point.

  5. DavidS says:

    Justin, what happened to Jim’s comments? they disappeared about 1059AM today?

  6. Jake says:

    My comment (which now appears first) was in response to the comment that was deleted, not in response to any of the links Mr. Taylor posted.

  7. Sean Carlson says:

    Black fathers may indeed have to have conversations with their sons that no white father ever will. How a young black man may have to present himself before a police officer is a valid issue is a valid point of discussion. What tragically happened here however has nothing to do with that issue. An untrained neighborhood security person gets into some kind of tussle with a black youth & ends up killing him. What’s this have to do with trained professional police officers?

  8. DavidF says:

    Hey Justin,
    I have an honest question that I hope you’ll take in the spirit I’m attempting to ask it:

    Did any aspect of your opinion about this case change once the trial started and since the trial has completed?

    I’m not trying to play “gotcha” or be coy or obnoxious. The reality is: Prior to the start of the trial, we did not have or know all of the facts. During the 3 week trial, we were able to see and hear evidence in this case. Evidence about George’s past and character. Evidence about Trayvon’s past and character. Eyewitness testimony from that night. Forensic and medical analysis of the persons and objects involved. Expert testimony. Law enforcement testimony. Etc.

    After you viewed that evidence, did any aspect of your opinion on this case change?

    My assumption (and please correct me if I’m wrong) is this: You didn’t watch the trial. Dr. Mohler didn’t watch the trial. Trip Lee didn’t watch the trial. Pastor Anyabwile didn’t watch the trial. Dr. Moore didn’t watch the trial. Etc.

    I’m not saying you are being intentionally dishonest or deceptive. I’m just guessing that you didn’t actually watch the trial and wait until you were able to see and hear all of the evidence and testimony before you reached a conclusion.

    I’m guessing you didn’t have time to watch the trial because you have a job, a ministry, and a family. Therefore, I assume that you have had to rely on (and only on) media reports about the trial (or comments from others who relied on media reports).

    I would posit this: If before the trial you had a negative opinion about George’s actions on February 26th, and if that same opinion has remained unchanged even after the trial, you did not watch the trial or examine the evidence.

    If my assumption is true, you reached your conclusion about this case before all the facts and evidence were presented, and you’ve not changed your opinion even after all of the facts and evidence were presented.

    I would say that it is unwise and not very discerning to reach a conclusion prior to knowing all the facts. And it’s also unwise to double down on that conclusion by not considering the facts once they are released.

    Again, I’m making some assumptions about your thought process here, and I’d love to be wrong.

    But, I literally cannot piece together how someone as discerning as yourself (and Mohler, Moore, etc.) could view the evidence presented in court and then conclude that the jury should have found George guilty of 2nd degree murder or manslaughter. The assumption in court is that he is innocent until proven guilty, and the burden of proof is “beyond a reasonable doubt.” The prosecution had to remove reasonable doubt about George’s presumed innocence.

    Whether or not you like George or think he did the right thing that night, I literally do not see how you can make the case, based on the evidence presented to the jury, that all reasonable doubt as to his innocence was removed (if you can make that case based on the evidence, I’d love to see it). Since it was not, it would have been immoral and unethical for that jury to find him guilty if they still had reasonable doubt in their minds.

    So, if you opinion about this case didn’t change after the trial took place, then you are operating as if the trial didn’t take place. You are accepting the premise put forth by the media. One of the treasures of is that we can come here to find analysis that is not just a parrot of what the media tells us is true. On this case, I’m saddened to see that the media’s narrative has gone unchallenged.

    The FBI conducted an extensive investigation into the civil rights/race issues in this case. Their conclusion is that there were zero racial factors at play in this case. Did you know that?

    There are many other assumptions that have been stated as fact that were disproved in court: George profiled Trayvon because he was black; George disobeyed the instructions of the police; Trayvon was scared of George and tried to run away; and many more. I’m not going to go into all that detail here for sake of space. But I gladly would if you want.

    I would challenge you to withhold your opinion unless it is based on your personal comprehension of the evidence presented in court.

    My assumption is illustrated above, where commenter DavidS provides a link to the full 911 call. The thought that someone would need to hear that call again tells me that they didn’t watch the trial. It was played literally dozens of times during the trial. But I bet most folks have only heard the NBC-edited version from March 2012 and not the complete call. The fact that DavidS felt the need to link to the main piece of evidence in this case is troubling. It should be assumed that the author of this piece and every commenter has, at bare minimum, heard that entire call. Have you, Justin? If not, please give it a listen and also give a look to the evidence. The entire trial is available for viewing on YouTube. It’ll take time to watch, but it’s worth it if you are going to hold firm to your conclusions. (Again, I’m assuming you didn’t watch the trial. Correct and then forgive me if I’m wrong).

    I would also encourage you to apologize to the jury for implying that they didn’t rule properly and to Mr. Zimmerman for believing the lies about him (that he is violent, racist, reckless, etc.) despite evidence proving the contrary.

    Let’s have the discussion about race in America. But not in the context of this case. That’s an inaccurate portrayal of George Zimmerman and of the facts of this case.

    TGC needs to do more than just parrot the media’s narrative and then add on some Gospel truths and a call to prayer. We need to show discernment and then focus primarily on the Gospel truths and the calls to prayer. If we are going to wade into hot-button political issues (and we should, at times), it needs to be with excellence. That will require significant time and effort. In this case, it requires taking in all the facts and evidence (not fully known until June/July 2013).

    Be blessed.


    1. Justin Taylor says:

      Yes, my opinion changed from the beginning to the end. Can you point to a single statement by Mohler or me that says that we think the jury was wrong?

  9. This is a beautiful piece by Mohler.

  10. Mac Daddy says:

    It is indeed sad (tragic) that a young black man is dead and the parents, family, and friends are left grieving, but I have to agree with Jim on this one.

  11. Justin Taylor says:

    Jim, thanks for the comments. I think if you go back and re-read the Mohler piece in full you may not see it as full as “racial lies” as you allege here. His piece does not validate everything that has been said in favor of Martin contra Zimmerman. My own take would be pretty similar to Ta-Nehisi Coates’s points 3-4 (linked at the end of my post). I also don’t think it helps any to pretend as if we know exactly what happened and to respond to one-sided media accounts by erring in the opposite direction by presenting a simplistic one-side account on the other side.

  12. What we fail to acknowledge is the media and world powers are under the power of Satan and he is doing a good job of dividing people in this country.

  13. DavidS says:

    Justin, what happened to Jim’s comments? they disappeared about 1059AM today?

  14. Bruce says:

    Richard Cohen is on track with this column. The problem is culture. Cohen puts his hope in new government programs. We know that the Gospel is the only culture changer that can bring about a future reality where the majority of black children can name their own faithful great-grandfathers, grandfathers and fathers. It is troubling that this metric is pointing down for whites and blacks in America today. Because only Godly fathers can turn this around. The Gospel shows the way.

  15. Justin Taylor says:

    I deleted it since he’s trolling (posting similar comments on more than one TGC blog under more than one name).

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Justin Taylor, PhD

Justin Taylor is executive vice president of book publishing and book publisher for Crossway and blogs at Between Two Worlds. You can follow him on Twitter.

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