Tuesday, February 25, 2014

A Tragic Anniversary & A Law That We Christians Need To Help Get Changed

February 26, 2012.

Does that date mean anything to you? Be very sure that on this date, in the state of Florida, a 17-year-old Black teenager was killed that particular awful night. That date changed his family's life forever. This date outraged an entire community as this teenager became the poster boy for generations of oppression, inequality and institutionalized racism that the election of a Black President has by no means eradicated. That date greatly heightened our national awareness of a controversial law, wherever each of us may stand on this law. Brothers and sisters in Christ, as we are in this world and this culture affects us, we can't excuse ourselves from our responsibilities to speak up for those whose voices have been silenced.

Why the Controversy of Racially Charged Cases?

I know that this George Zimmerman/Trayvon Martin, polarizing case, has been politicized. I know that many of you, my fellow Christians, are aware of this very high-profile case but decline to speak to it out of a desire not to "get political" or to avoid "playing the race card." But it is intellectually dishonest to duck the social evil of racism, or to deny that it still remains institutionalized and affects everything, including the criminal justice system. This case is not about one teenage boy but is an icon for centuries of oppression, racism and inequality. Possibly taking note of George Zimmerman's acquittal of murdering Trayvon Martin, months later, a software developer saw a car full of Black boys and heard very loud music playing; Michael Dunn allegedly had an ugly verbal argument with Jordan Davis, another 17 year old Black boy. If you were following this most current case, you know that it all escalated into Dunn shooting 9 times into that car of teens, Jordan Davis included. You will know that the trial resulted in convictions for the 3 surviving boys but no verdict on the murder of Jordan. Why is it so tough to get murder convictions when victims are viewed as suspicious? Ought we, as Christ-followers, be concerned and involved?

What Is Stand Your Ground, Anyway?

You may or may very well not know what Stand Your Ground laws mean. It has taken two racially charged cases to bring nationwide attention to these laws. I know many people in and even out of the Christian community have priorities other than following, much less speaking out on, such cases. But these cases and others like them matter. Why? Both these cases and many others they are just examples of, put the Stand Your Ground law in the spotlight. What is Stand Your Ground? Simply put, the Stand Your Ground law is an extension of the right to use deadly force when our lives are in danger. Stand Your Ground extends legitimate self-defense; in states where it is law, citizens, wherever they are, have the right to use deadly force if they simply perceive that they face a threat of death or serious bodily harm AND they do not have to retreat from this "perceived threat" but can exert deadly force. The opposite side of a Stand Your Ground case, Marissa Alexander, shows that Stand Your Ground isn't even applied equally to people groups. Marissa, a Black mom of three, fired a few warning shots against her allegedly abusive spouse, with two of children being in the line of fire. No one was injured, but Marissa was not allowed to use her desired Stand Your Ground defense. She was sent to prison for 20 years. Why do we need this law, anyway? What is the problem with this, especially as we ponder the principles of Scripture concerning not rendering evil for evil and pursuing peace?

What About Stand Your Ground?

We Christ-followers have always approved legitimate self-defense when ours or another's life are in imminent danger. Scriptural principles would seem to allow self-defense when we know that ours or another's life is in immediate danger. Lawful wars are a HUGE example of this. But Biblical principles favor the pursuit of peace, self-control, nonviolence and turning the other cheek. Stand Your Ground, with its granting permission to people to act on their suspicions and prejudices and to "exert deadly force," runs counter to Jesus' call to pursue peace, to turn the other check, and to not resist evil. These principles run directly counter to Stand Your Ground laws, which encourage loss of self-control, giving into anger and hate, and render evil for even PERCEIVED EVIL! Thus, how can we who are committed to following the Prince of Peace, if we ponder this, support Stand Your Ground laws? The two high-profile cases I have mentioned, not to mention many others, do not even involve ACTUAL dangers to Zimmerman or to Dunn, but PERCEIVED threats to the lives of these two individuals. Stand Your Ground is not a Black issue, either. Recently, a Caucasian shot and killed another Caucasian over texting and flinging popcorn in his face. In his arrest, he claimed Stand Your Ground (the case has not come to trial).Stand Your Ground does not support the Biblical call to pursue peace with all people and to exert self-control! So, what are we Christ-followers to do?

Let's Be Part of the Solution

First of all, we need to educate ourselves about Stand Your Ground laws and what they are. Below You will find sources for this. We need to work on changing hearts, one person at a time. This is not about gun control; I'm all for gun rights if you can handle this responsibility. We should oppose racism wherever we find it and, above all, be models of peacemaking, self-control, love and understanding. We should, if we can, be involved in changing the Stand Your Ground law, which can save lives. Changing this law will get rid of a law that is redundant, encourages violence, has unclear language and is not even applied equally to all people groups. Above all, we need to fight against it because it violates the command "Thou shall not kill" and the call to be peacemakers. Doing these things will ensure that Trayvon Martin, Jordan Davis, and other victims of Stand Your Ground laws, have not died in vain.

What would Jesus do?

Stand Your Ground Laws Are Linked to Increase in Homicides

Legal Blog (With Stand Your Ground Articles)

Please Sign This Petition.

The above photo of Trayvon Martin is courtesy of a Justice For Trayvon Facebook page and can be found here.

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