Everyone and their brother has had their say about the George Zimmerman acquittal, so I am perhaps foolish to jump in. But we had a strong sermon in church this morning that immediately brought that case to mind—not that we can escape thinking about it on this day after the verdict.
An associate minister titled his sermon, “Religion for Grown-Ups” and told the story of a small village in the mountains in the south of France, a village of perhaps 3,000 residents. During WWII, some 300 of those residents hid and saved over 5,000 Jews, mostly children. They fed and clothed them, educated them, and loved them. When word of an impending Nazi raid came, they spirited their guests to the woods; afterward, they would bring them back. Apparently they were never discovered, but the residents of the village did this at great risk to themselves and their families.
The movement was spearheaded by the Presbyterian minister in the town, and when the minister’s wife was asked why they did it, she said, “We did what we had to do.” Asked when a decision was made to save these people, she said, “There was no decision. We just did it.” That, our minister suggested, is the true spirit of God’s injunction to love they neighbor as thyself.
Somewhere on Facebook this morning I read the comment, “Would it be cool to live in a world where George Zimmerman offered Trayvon Martin a ride home to get him out of the rain?” I couldn’t help comparing the town in France with Zimmerman’s reaction.
Through the long seventeen months since Trayvon Martin was killed, one fact has bothered me: Zimmerman called 911 and was told to stay in his car. He didn’t do it. Today I saw a post on Facebook that made all kinds of sense to me: If George Zimmerman had followed any of the basic rules of a volunteer citizen patrol program, Trayvon Martin would not have died. They are:
Always have a buddy.
Wear some kind of identifying clothes with a badge or label—jacket, T-shirt, whatever.
Never carry a weapon of any kind—gun, blackjack, nightstick. Nothing.
Never confront someone.
I’m not fooling myself that Trayvon Martin was innocently skipping along, Skittles in his pocket, whistling Disney tunes, but I am very dissatisfied with the verdict. Justice was not Zimmerman’s to enforce, and if he hadn’t confronted Martin, he would have no claim of self-defense. A sad business all around.