As Jesus taught his followers during his earthly ministry in the early first century to love and accept everyone as we all fall short before the eyes of God, it is shocking that members of the Christian right would use the death of Trayvon as a sermon on God's intended punishment. Racial code words such as "criminal" are already lodged in the minds of the American public and contend that black males are to be feared. When these code words are used in a context such as this case, they are intended to make someone like Martin out to be a menace with criminal intentions who got what he deserved. This logic and reasoning is profoundly insensitive and disturbing as it is contrary to many of Christianity's most treasured teachings. But the pounding and twisting of Christian thought to fit a particular worldview is nothing new. We have seen this behavior many times before, from the Crusades to the transatlantic slave trade. With each event in world history, the name of God was invoked as a source of inspiration for unspeakable acts of pure brutality and hatred. This is, perhaps, why it is not so alarming when folks like Ann Coulter tweet, "Hallelujah," shortly after the court ruling. Her haughty remark conjures images in the minds of the more self-righteous and like-minded followers of Jesus, inflaming their narrow-minded passions. And when the religious extremist, Shirley Phelps-Roper, opined on Twitter that, "God will require Travon's blood," [sic] it exposed a different and uglier side of Christianity.
This is certainly not the Jesus of the Holy Bible, who would see such behavior as reprehensible and denounce it. Christ's earthly ministry was radical in nature, accepting sinners and publicans while calling out hypocrisy at every turn and replacing the Old Testament notion of "An eye for an eye" with a new gospel of brotherly and sisterly love. This is something that some modern-day Christians have failed to fully embrace and practice like their ancient counterparts, and it is particularly evident when issues of race emerge. But evidently, for a great many of believers, God has spoken and revealed his word through an inspired legal system where He touches decision makers. The irony of a five-white and all-woman jury seemed to escape this extreme version of Christianity; God has spoken and a decision was made.
The Zimmerman jury's legal conclusion to the untimely death of 17 year-old Trayvon Martin told young black men everywhere what we already knew -- that our place in American society is precarious, at best, and not guaranteed. Never get too comfortable and too complacent. Black men have always stood at odds with an insecure white power structure. Since slavery times, black men were seen as threats to white manhood, which provided justification of incredible violence directed at them, whether in the cotton fields or working in the big house. Black men have paid a heavy price in all manner of civil society. And though there are flickers and flashes of great expressions of stalwart black male mobility in life, black men remain an exploited group, relegated to the margins of society, alienated and overly criminalized. Trayvon's tragic death, and more significantly, the so-called Christian response to his death reify this point.