Author Topic: ELCA PB weighs in on Trayvon Martin case  (Read 52100 times)

A Catholic Lutheran

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ELCA PB weighs in on Trayvon Martin case
« on: March 27, 2012, 05:22:39 PM »
Presiding Bishop Mark Hanson has released a statement on the on-going case regarding Trayvon Martin in Florida.

The link to the ELCA's own site for this statement is at:
http://www.elca.org/Who-We-Are/Our-Three-Expressions/Churchwide-Organization/Office-of-the-Presiding-Bishop/Messages-and-Statements/120327.aspx

I intend this as a SERIOUS discussion on the PB's statement and the merits of that statement.  I am starting this because I think there are some serious issues that ought to be discussed.  I am not a moderator and I cannot enforce anything, but I am ASKING (politely) that some propper etiquette be followed:
1) Please observe propper titles, whether you like the person or not.  The propper title, for example, for the Presiding Bishop is "Presiding Bishop" not "Mr." or "Hanson." (Yes, yes, you can shorten it to PB...  The spirit is the thing...)
2) Speak ONLY FOR YOURSELF.  (I, "in my oppinion", etc..)
3) Use concrete examples and quotations if you are going to use the PB's statement.
4) If you don't "like" or agree with someone else's take or opinion, feel free to disagree with them, but your disagreement doesn't inherently make them wrong and niether does the simple fact that they either ratify or condemn what the PB says.

Here is the Presiding Bishop's words on the subject:
In  the wake of Trayvon Martin's tragic death, I call upon members of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America to join in public lament and to ask searching questions as we renew our commitment to act courageously and to work tirelessly for racial justice.

With all who mourn Trayvon's death we cry, "Lord, have mercy." For all who suffer the wounds that racism and violence infect we pray, "Christ, have mercy." For our turning God's gift of diversity into cause for distrust and division we plead, "Lord, have mercy." Who is more equipped to lament such agony, rather than deny it, than a people of the cross who trust that ultimately the power of God's love will reign?

May the sorrow and anger surrounding Trayvon's death move us to ask searching questions. How much longer shall any young person live in fear (and be feared) because of the color of their skin? Are we who are white ready to confront and lay down our power and privilege for the sake of a more just and inclusive society? Are we as a nation ready to reform our criminal justice system which "the cumulative effects of bias in the system as a whole have led to intolerably harmful effects on minority communities" ("ELCA Draft Social Statement on Criminal Justice").

Trayvon's death has emboldened the movement for racial justice. It calls for commitment from us. Now is the time for us as the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America to live up to the commitments we made in the social statement, "Freed in Christ: Race, Ethnicity and Culture" (1993). We said we will "model an honest engagement with issues of race, ethnicity and culture, by being a community of mutual conversation, mutual correction, and mutual consolation" and further that we will "participate in identifying the demands of justice, and work with others who would have justice for all."

Trayvon's death calls us to act courageously and to work tirelessly for racial justice. Such courage comes from the confidence of faith trusting that "he [Christ Jesus] is our peace; in his flesh he has made both groups into one and has broken down the dividing wall, that is, the hostility between us" (Ephesians 2:14 NRSV).
 
Let us together courageously engage in God’s work of restoring and reconciling communities. Let us together pursue justice and work for peace no matter how long the journey or wide the chasm. Let us tear down the walls we erect to divide us and turn those walls into tables of conversation and reconciliation.

In this season of Lent, let us repent and be turned by God toward our neighbor. Let us humbly confess that racism, both blatant and subtle, denies the reconciling work of the cross. Let us trust in God’s promise of forgiveness that frees us from the enslavement of racism. Let us live in the power and promise of Christ’s resurrection.


In God's grace,



The Rev. Mark S. Hanson
Presiding Bishop
Evangelical Lutheran Church in America

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Re: ELCA PB weighs in on Trayvon Martin case
« Reply #1 on: March 27, 2012, 05:33:48 PM »
Since I brought it up, I will speak first...

I find it interesting that Trayvon was killed a month ago and it is only at this point in time the PB has decided to speak on the issue.  Granted, not many were aware of this case until the past week, but it seems odd for the PB to take the initative at this moment.

Also, I find it interesting that the PB did not encourage the observance of the 8th Commandment in regards to George Zimmerman...  Indeed, I don't think Mr. Zimmerman came into the statement at all.  The story is yet unclear, there are doubtless developments of which we are unawares.  And yet, there is no ambiguity in the PB's statement and no calls to "rise to the defense of" Mr. Zimmerman.

Finally, the PB seems to impute a sense of martyrdom to this particular death ("Trayvon's death has emboldened the movement for racial justice....  Trayvon's death calls us to act courageously and to work tirelessly for racial justice....")  While tragic, not every death is martyrdom.  It seems troubling to me that Trayvon Martin has assumed a place of martyrdom while dying--however tragically or unjustly--for something other than witnessing the Faith.

Just my thoughts...

Pax Christi;
Pr. Jerry Kliner, STS
« Last Edit: March 27, 2012, 05:39:44 PM by A Catholic Lutheran »

Dan Fienen

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Re: ELCA PB weighs in on Trayvon Martin case
« Reply #2 on: March 27, 2012, 05:42:35 PM »
This death is tragic, however we need to not rush to judgment before the facts are ascertained.  This is being portrayed as a self-appointed white vigilante prejudging an innocent black youth minding his own business.  Let's not forget that George Zimmermann could himself be described as Hispannic.   As for him being a vigilante prejudging an innocent black youth minding his own business - that is possible.  Other possibilities are coming to light and just as Martin should not have been judged for being black, neither should Zimmermann be judged for being apparently white.
 
A general call for justice in the case and for those guilty to be held accountable is certainly in order.  But it would be wise not to assume that we know at this point where guilt and innocence lies.  If PB Hanson is doing that - he certainly would not be alone.
 
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Re: ELCA PB weighs in on Trayvon Martin case
« Reply #3 on: March 27, 2012, 05:52:51 PM »
A more comprehensive article (including statements from other ELCA officers, including Bp. Bennoway of the Florida-Bahama's Synod) can be found here:
http://www.elca.org/Who-We-Are/Our-Three-Expressions/Churchwide-Organization/Communication-Services/News/Releases.aspx?a=5203

Pax Christi;
Pr. Jerry Kliner, STS

totaliter vivens

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Re: ELCA PB weighs in on Trayvon Martin case
« Reply #4 on: March 27, 2012, 06:05:23 PM »
I am troubled that a month after this tragedy (all killings are tragedies) we, the public, know so little about what happened. Knowing little I can say little.

I am disappointed that the Presiding Bishop's statement like most statements in this matter is predictable and, to my mind, mostly an exercise in "rounding up the usual suspects."

I live across the bay from a city with one of the highest murder rates in the country. But most of the killings are black on black and receive little attention. White people also kill one another with alarming frequency. Here in San Francisco we are reeling from the slaughter of 5 family members in the Asian community. My point is that it often takes a crossing of racial boundaries before a murder takes on national significance. Why is this so? I would suggest that as a society we limit our discussions of economic inequality. It is axiomatic that ours is a classless society (to suggest otherwise is to incite class envy/warfare) so we often conflate race with poverty. We wring our hands about the disparity between black incarceration rates versus those for whites, but I wonder what the disparity would be if corrected for income and education levels? But I digress. My concern is that we are ignoring root causes for periodic bouts of lamentation about symptoms.

Mr. Zimmerman, an hispanic person, who somehow received a broken nose and head wounds, came to that fateful night concerned about a series of break-ins and other crimes in his racially diverse neighborhood. He unwisely disregarded police advice on how to handle the situation. What actually happened we do not know yet, nor may ever really know.

What I do know, and wish that the Presiding Bishop would help us understand, is that we have many problems in addition to racial prejudice and we do no one a favor when we rush to judgement or presume to know the motivations of persons we have never met. It is truly a shame when the complexities of our broken and troubled world are reduced to the color of a person's skin. However, I don't see the Presiding Bishop's statement on this matter doing much to increase either our awareness nor our efforts to restrain violence or racism.

It is sinful that a black person is always suspect because of the mere color of their skin. But does it follow that "Are we who are white ready to confront and lay down our power and privilege for the sake of a more just and inclusive society?" is either the actual problem or the solution? Is it a privilege not to be assumed nefarious or ought it rather be the default state? If justice and inclusion are matters of power then what hope will there ever be for the powerless short of themselves becoming powerful and in their turn oppressing the next class of the weak? I would beg the Presiding Bishop not to succumb to the world's worship of power.

I wish I was more optimistic.

SPS
« Last Edit: March 27, 2012, 06:20:34 PM by totaliter vivens »

exegete77

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Re: ELCA PB weighs in on Trayvon Martin case
« Reply #5 on: March 27, 2012, 06:20:22 PM »
Anytime there is violence it is contrary to God’s will. We should speak against injustice as appropriate.

So where is the outrage for the following killed in one week in Chicago (Mar 14-21)?

Quote
March 21 – Ramon Salgado, a 22 year old white male, caused by a gunshot in South Lawndale.
March 21 – Deon Freeman, a 26 year old black male, caused by a gunshot in West Englewood.
March 21 – Ricky Brown, a 30 year old black male, caused by a gunshot in Englewood.
March 20 – Michael Gillespie, a 24 year old black male, caused by a gunshot in Washington Heights.
March 19 – Andre Pierce, a 34 year old black male, caused by a gunshot in Near West Side.
March 18 – George Marrero, a 27 year old white male, caused by a gunshot in Humboldt Park.
March 18 – Celestino Nuevo, a 58 year old white male, caused by a assault in Albany Park.
March 18 – Bert Lindsey, a 36 year old black male, caused by a gunshot in Auburn Gresham.
March 18 – Equilla Coleman, a 24 year old black male, caused by a gunshot in New City.
March 17 – Aliyah Shell, a 6 year old white female, caused by a gunshot in South Lawndale.
March 17 – Jeremy Anthony, a 24 year old black male, caused by a gunshot in Woodlawn.
March 17 – Vincent Fitts, a 22 year old black male, caused by a gunshot in Greater Grand Crossing.
March 17 – Adrian Cruz, a 24 year old black male, caused by a gunshot in Chicago Lawn.
March 16 – Joel Sanroman, a 42 year old white male, caused by a gunshot in Gage Park.
March 16 – Anthony Scott, a 19 year old black male, caused by a gunshot in West Ridge.
March 14 – Gustavo Reyes, a 19 year old white male, caused by a gunshot in West Lawn.
March 14 – Ronald Guidry, a 26 year old black male, caused by a gunshot in South Chicago.
March 14 – Johnny Vargas, a 19 year old white male, caused by a gunshot in South Lawndale.

Most of them were killed by other blacks. So, is this injustice being protested as well?

We have had two infants murdered by fathers or boyfriends of mothers in the past two months in the isolated mountain region. That saddens me, too. Our congregation has not publicly protested, but we have posted “abuse” signs in every women’s restroom in the mountains. We may have an opening to speak to high school youth about abuse. It’s a start.

In humility, we cannot be selective in how we jump to conclusions in one circumstance and then claim that we stand against “injustice.” Who knows, in this case it may not have anything to do with race, other than one is Hispanic and one is black.

My heart aches for all the families affected in just this list above.
Rich Shields (TAALC)

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Re: ELCA PB weighs in on Trayvon Martin case
« Reply #6 on: March 27, 2012, 06:22:16 PM »
Pr. Sabin, that is part of my...perplexity... on the issue, too.  Last year, Chicago experienced a weekend in which there were 57 shootings and something like 17 murders of young African-Americans.  The majority of that violence was attributed to gang violence and included several young people who were killed in a school-yard when they were sprayed with gunfire that was reportedly in retribution from one of the earlier shootings.  Where is the hand-wringing?

Yes...  The Presiding Bishop has the responsibility to lead, to address the current issues facing the faithful.  And yes, Lent is an ideal time to address issues of sin, of which racism belongs.  And yes, the Presiding Bishop cannot say everything every time.

I guess I would have liked the Presiding Bishop to have counseled us to have calm even as we address the tragedy of the Martin case.  I guess I would have liked the Presiding Bishop to have encouraged us to embody the heart of Christ even as bounties are issued upon the heads of people. 

Lest, I merely point out the my percieved shortcomings in the Presiding Bishop's message, I do want to commend the start of the message...
"In  the wake of Trayvon Martin's tragic death, I call upon members of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America to join in public lament and to ask searching questions as we renew our commitment to act courageously and to work tirelessly for racial justice.

With all who mourn Trayvon's death we cry, "Lord, have mercy." For all who suffer the wounds that racism and violence infect we pray, "Christ, have mercy." For our turning God's gift of diversity into cause for distrust and division we plead, "Lord, have mercy." Who is more equipped to lament such agony, rather than deny it, than a people of the cross who trust that ultimately the power of God's love will reign?

May the sorrow and anger surrounding Trayvon's death move us to ask searching questions. How much longer shall any young person live in fear (and be feared) because of the color of their skin? Are we who are white ready to confront and lay down our power and privilege for the sake of a more just and inclusive society? Are we as a nation ready to reform our criminal justice system which "the cumulative effects of bias in the system as a whole have led to intolerably harmful effects on minority communities" ("ELCA Draft Social Statement on Criminal Justice")."


I thought these paragraphs were pretty good...

Pax Christi;
Pr. Jerry Kliner, STS



Eileen Smith

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Re: ELCA PB weighs in on Trayvon Martin case
« Reply #7 on: March 27, 2012, 06:41:08 PM »
I am concerned with the PB message for several reasons.  As others have stated herein), we simply do not know all of the facts.  The facts of this sad case may never be brought to full light.   If I may digress slightly:  We had a situation in our town where several boys were arrested for injuries they inflicted on some other boys in a fight.  The boys from high school #2 were hurt - and outnumbered.  However, before knowing any facts, the boys were tried in the newspapers, tried in town meetings, tried at dinner parties - the local pub, restaurant, and diner.   Some of our township clergy wrote op ed pieces or letters to the editor, condemning the boys who were arrested.  As it turns out, not all were guilty.  But they have been damaged.  I'm not suggesting Mr. Zimmerman didn't kill this young boy.  I'm simply suggesting we not rush to poor judgment which, I believe, is either stating or inferring that Mr. Zimmerman is a racist and this was racially motivated. Some of the PB's words seem to polarize rather than bind - almost pitting (I know that's a strong word, it's been a long day and I'm drained, sorry) white and black people.  Daily, there are children who are the victims of violence - shootings, knifings, drive-by incidents.  One could go on.  Perhaps it would have been better for the PB to use this tragic killing to raise up all forms of violence, not concentrate on what we do not even know to be racially motivated and pray for peace in our time. 

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Re: ELCA PB weighs in on Trayvon Martin case
« Reply #8 on: March 27, 2012, 06:47:39 PM »
Throughout his administration the Presiding Bishop has issued statement after statement which sprinkle a few words of Scripture onto the talking points of the Democratic party.   

This latest statement does little to diminish my frequent thought that the Presiding Bishop's deepest aspiration is to be the Chaplain to the Obama White House.

I confess:  I have broken my self-imposed Lenten abstention.  But that raises an important point concerning timing.

This week is Judica week, taking its title from the old Latin Introit  Judica me, Deus, et diserne causum meu de genti non sancte... "Judge me, O God, and discern my cause from deceitful men....". 

False accusation is always to be avoided out of reverential fear for the Eighth Commandment, but all the more in this week and as we contemplate how false accusation became the fiat for the Passion of Our Lord.

All the more reason that there should be no "bounties" on George Zimmerman; no cries of "no justice, no peace" until the forensic investigation is completed.
« Last Edit: March 27, 2012, 07:37:34 PM by Rev. J. Thomas Shelley, STS »
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LutherMan

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Re: ELCA PB weighs in on Trayvon Martin case
« Reply #9 on: March 27, 2012, 07:30:08 PM »
I am with Dr. Thomas Sowell on this one.  Let's wait for all the facts to come in before commenting.
http://www.onenewsnow.com/Perspectives/Default.aspx?id=1565560

Charles_Austin

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Re: ELCA PB weighs in on Trayvon Martin case
« Reply #10 on: March 27, 2012, 07:57:06 PM »
 To me, these paragraphs (emphasis added) are the most interesting and critical. These are folks directly involved in ministry in Florida. We should listen to them.

"The Rev. Edward R. Benoway, bishop of the ELCA Florida-Bahamas Synod, helped develop a statement in collaboration with other Florida faith leaders to convey condolences to the family of Trayvon Martin. The statement says Martin's death was "unwarranted" and that the investigation into his death "should proceed swiftly without racial bias, so that the matter is not continually tried in the media."
      The circumstances surrounding Martin's death have "a significant appearance of injustice," said Benoway. "Trayvon was pursued by the one who shot him, and there has been no arrest in the case. Florida's 'stand your ground' law, which allows for deadly force when one feels threatened, lends itself to abuse and misuse. The law can be and is applied inconsistently across the state. It certainly opens the door for racism and disparity."
      Benoway said that the "ELCA is concerned that our criminal justice system be fair and just for all persons, victims and accused, and all involved. Our laws must be enforced reliably and appropriately without regard to color, class, creed or sexuality of those involved."
      The statement was released March 21 through the Florida Council of Churches. The Rev. Russell Meyer, an ELCA pastor who is executive director of the council, said more than 100 church leaders have already endorsed the statement.
      "The death of Trayvon has really galvanized the young people in Florida," said Meyer. "You cannot be declared suspicious of how you dress. No one is fooled by the fact that (Trayvon) had a hood over his head. This is what racial profiling is all about.
      "My hope with what's happened with the Trayvon case is that we not just deal with gun laws or structural and cultural racism, but that we understand how all of these things together have a created a culture of despair for young men with dark skin," said Meyer, adding that one out of three "black young men in Florida will be incarcerated or arrested some time in their life."

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Re: ELCA PB weighs in on Trayvon Martin case
« Reply #11 on: March 27, 2012, 08:33:30 PM »
On the one hand, it is hard to deny that the case has apparently been poorly handled and has the appearance of racial bias.  Also, whatever has happened in this case, there seems to be far too much racial profiling in general in our nation.  (While it is not as severe in terms of numbers affected or results some of that racial profiling also involves profiling of whites as being automatically suspect of being in the wrong in any conflict with a minority, profiling in either case [profiling of whites or of blacks] should not be tolerated.)  Calls for unbiased investigation, review of laws that may have contributed to this situation, and review of proper proceedures for block watchers are all in order.  Calls for calm and not rushing to judgment would also be appropriate.  Until all the evidence is in and what really happened is laid before a court of law, assuming the either Zimmermann or Martin instigated the fight and assuming motives for either are premature at best.
 
There has been a long and unfortunate history of prosecution of "DWB" (Driving While Black) or even "WWB" (Walking While Black).  The very real injustice of that will not be solved by inventing new crimes like "PWW" (Policing While White).
 
Dan
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Re: ELCA PB weighs in on Trayvon Martin case
« Reply #12 on: March 27, 2012, 08:40:23 PM »
Charles, I agree with you on those significant points...  I commend Bp. Bennoway for expressing his condolences, and the PB as well, to the family and others who are bereaved.  (I hope that you notice that I said I thought the first couple of paragraphs from the PB's statement were pretty good...)  And yet there is something about the concern for this one young man and the lack of context of many other young men who have died too soon...and die without similar grief ever being expressed...that leaves me wondering.

I agree with Bp. Bennoway that this death has a "serious appearance of injustice...." and yet, as every child can tell you "appearances can be decieving."  Not only that, I am struck by a completely secular/American principle that has also gotten lost in the shuffle: You are presumed innocent until being proven guilty...  A serious appearance of injustice is, in and of itself, not enough to presume guilt. 

As to the "Statement that was released on March 21," as I read the ELCA News Service Article, that refers to Bishop Bennoway's statement that was crafted with other religious leaders in Florida.  Which is all well and good...  The Presiding Bishop's message does not have a date (that I can find, and I did LOOK for one in several places on the ELCA's website....) of issuance, but it popped up on my screen this morning.  I had not heard it mentioned before then and I have been paying attention to ELCA discussion sites.  So I don't have a good date for the PB's message, but I am assuming (bad, bad, bad) that it was issued today.  If I am incorrect on that, I beg due correction.

I keep coming back to this seminal point...  It's not as if the ELCA was terrible and incorrect in their handling of this, but it just feels...inadequate? troubling? reactionary?... to me....  Not only in what is said, but also what has not been said...

Pax Christi;
Pr. Jerry Kliner, STS
 

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Re: ELCA PB weighs in on Trayvon Martin case
« Reply #13 on: March 27, 2012, 08:43:21 PM »
Not a criticism of Mark Hanson- just a gentle warning- A) Tawana Brawley and B) The Duke Lacrosse Case.  Even the religious "boots on the ground" in FL do not  as yet have all the facts.   Condemn racism, yes.  Just make sure you don't have to eat your words.  Especially with the Hispanic community.
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Erma S. Wolf

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Re: ELCA PB weighs in on Trayvon Martin case
« Reply #14 on: March 27, 2012, 08:59:47 PM »
   I am still taking in what the Presiding Bishop wrote.  I do not find the lack of reference to George Zimmerman by name to be as disturbing as some others here; I felt that the sentence referencing "the sorrow and anger surrounding Trayvon's death" included the rage that has been directed against Mr. Zimmerman.

   I grew up in the South, during the Civil Rights era.  The South is a complicated place, too often a tragic and terrible place, but also a place of great beauty and, sometimes, surprising kindness and forgiveness.  I love the South, but it sure doesn't make it easy to continue to love it.  The legacy of ugly, vicious, hateful racial discrimination and prejudice goes on and on. 

   We don't know the whole story.  Mr. Zimmerman should not be judged in the press.  No one knows what happened when the confrontation occured between these two people, or what level of responsibility Mr. Zimmerman should bear if he did indeed cause the confrontation to occur.  And of course there are other deaths, violent and tragic deaths, that occured elsewhere in this country on that same day and on the days since then.  So why is this different?

   It strikes a deep nerve, in both the black and the white communities, that can (I think) be traced back to many of the notorious horrors of the past.  Yet again a young unarmed black male has been killed.  Yet again it appears that the police bungled the follow-up.  Yet again it appears that he was pursued and confronted simply because he was a black male wearing a hoodie, so he looked suspicious.  Why is a black male wearing a hoodie automatically deemed to look suspicious? 

   Sometimes some events take on iconic meanings that go far beyond the bare facts.  I think Trayvon Martin is, for many, becoming a symbol of the ongoing racial profiling that occurs every day, a profiling that has made the lives of young black males so high risk, regardless of their character or actions. If this becomes the catalyst for a real change in how racial tensions are addressed in this country, that will be a gift from God, in spite of the pain experienced by those most affected by this event. 

   If, however, this becomes yet another excuse for grandstanding and violent retribution against Mr. Zimmerman and others in the Sanford community, including the police, then this young man's death will truly have been in vain.

   
« Last Edit: March 27, 2012, 09:04:11 PM by Erma S. Wolf »