Pastors across the country passionately expressed their opinion over the acquittal of George Zimmerman in the 2012 death of Trayvon Martin on Sunday, with some taking to the pulpit in outrage and others calling for national and personal repentance.
Zimmerman was found not guilty on Saturday of second-degree murder in a case that has gripped the attention of the nation and has raised questions as to whether Martin was the victim of racial profiling or whether Zimmerman lawfully acted in self-defense. Zimmerman, a 29-year-old Hispanic, shot and killed Martin, a 17-year-old African American, in February of last year during a tussle in a suburb outside of Orlando.
“I think the prosecution of George Zimmerman was disgraceful,” defense attorney Don West told reporters after leaving the courtroom Saturday. “As happy as I am for George Zimmerman, I’m thrilled that this jury kept this tragedy from becoming a travesty.”
However, prosecutors asserted that Zimmerman, a neighborhood watch leader, acted as a “wannabe cop” in that he allegedly took it upon himself to address problems with crime in the community.
“I think that gun in his mind empowered him to approach [Martin] because what he was trying to do was detain Trayvon Martin so he wouldn’t get away because all the prior guys had gotten away,” contended lead prosecutor Bernie de la Rionda. “He was acting like a cop when he didn’t have the power.”
Following the verdict Saturday night, a number of pastors across the nation addressed the topic with their congregations, some of whom even wore hoodies in support of Martin.
“I knew I would be wearing my hoodie while preaching,” Pastor Tony Lee of Community of Hope Church near the nation’s capital told the Huffington Post, “and I wrote to all the pastoral staff that hoodies are welcome.”
“You see people of all walks of life wearing hoodies, so this is a sign of solidarity, we’re standing with the Martin family, we’re standing with the community,” said Bishop Victor Couzens of Inspirational Baptist Church in Forest Park, Ohio, according to WLWT-TV. “We will not be violent, [but] we will not be silent either. At the end of the day, we are Christians and we are compelled to love. We are called to love, but we are also called to action as well.”
Michael Jordan of New Era Baptist Church in Birmingham, Alabama even posted a message on the church sign that reads, “George Zimmerman jury supported white racism.”
However, Pastor Victor Montalvo of Reality Community Church in Sanford, Florida–where the trial took place–seemed to take a more neutral approach to the verdict.
“Did the jury make the right call? I just don’t know,” he wrote in an article entitled The Verdict is In … And We all Lost. “We will never know. We can’t really know, and that is terribly unsettling.”
“The news, the talking heads, the activists, they just wanted a monster. They wanted someone to blame, someone to hate,” Montalvo continued. “They tried to paint George Zimmerman as a hotheaded, racist, wannabe vigilante. If that wasn’t sticking, they tried painting Trayvon Martin as a reckless, drug-using thug looking for trouble. Both were horribly wrong, but more people watched, and more people seethed.”
He stated that instead of looking to point fingers, Americans should deal with the sin in their own hearts.
“[W]e must also pray for ourselves, that we would recognize the cause of the pain of this world and deal with the sin of our hearts that so deeply distorts everything it encounters,” Montalvo said.
“We can look to Christ who took upon Himself our sin and pain,” he concluded. “This world is pretty messed up, but we have a Savior that catches every tear, comforts every loss, crushes every sin and makes all things brand new.”