Is the Trayvon Martin's case pitting the Church against the State?
It seems so. On April 11, New York's Mayor Michael Bloomberg launched a nationwide grassroots campaign titled "Second Chance to Shoot First" aiming to repeal the stand your ground laws. In a statement released by the Mayor's office he said, "It's now clear: the NRA's 'shoot first' laws that have passed in 25 states have undermined the integrity of the justice system, and done serious harm to public safety."
The church, particularly the white church, didn't launch any campaigns.
What could the church say? Half a century of experience has shown: racially motivated crimes -- regardless of whether Trayvon's alleged murder was one or not -- cannot be eradicated by legislature alone. Think about it. Why a nation with the Bill of Rights, 13th, 14th and 15th Amendments, Civil Rights Act, anti-Discrimination Act, Affirmative Action, anti-hate laws and a whole host of anti-discrimination policies would continue to struggle with race relations? Simple. A prejudicial belief is a prerequisite for a prejudicial practice. The state dictates practice; the church shapes belief.
That's why the real solution lies not with the state, but the Church. The white church, that is. When the church insists upon the belief that all human races come from Noah, his three sons and his wives, when Sunday schools instill the belief that blacks were the descendants of Ham who was cursed by his father, when the pulpit fails to reject the doctrine of "the curse of Ham," then we need a different campaign.
In addition to "Second Chance on Shoot First," my America yearns for a white pastor to launch a "Church's Chance to Uproot Curse" campaign.
Even the data calls for such a campaign. The multiracial congregation project shows that Christian leaders are failing to gather racial hues to the local pews. More than 92 percent of American congregations are not multiracial (where the term "multiracial" is defined as a congregation having no more than 80 percent of any one racial group) and churches in some areas are 20 times more segregated than the nearby public schools.
Wait! Wasn't it half a century ago when Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. observed, "The most segregated hour of Christian America is 11 o'clock on Sunday morning?" Talk to your black friends. They still feel the curse.
While some, like Rev. Alan Brumback of the Central Baptist Church in the town where Trayvon was shot, have stood by the African American communities at the time of this tragedy, none of the white pastors have made race relations a calling. Just scan through Time Magazine's list of 25 Most Influential Evangelicals in America -- 24 of whom are white, by the way -- and you see that they tacitly agree to "work" on the race issues but fail to make it their top agenda.
Rick Warren of Saddleback, Calif., admitted in a recent ABC interview that, "I think one of the most prevalent sins around the world is racism" and pledged to "work for racial equality." Whatever that means. Franklin Graham agreed to work with the NAACP but his spokesperson said "there's no game plan for how he plans to work with the effort." And the most influential Joel Osteen of the Lakewood Church in Texas, who famously said, "You may live or work around a bunch of weeds, but don't let that stop you from blooming" has not made any commitments to even work on this issue.
Is my hope to witness a "Church's Chance to Uproot Curse" campaign completely dashed?
Rest assured, despite all the efforts to repeal stand your ground law, racial prejudice will stand its ground in America unless the white church sees Trayvon's tragic death as their chance -- not a challenge. A chance to show that Acts 17:24, 26 -- "God ... made every nation of men to live all over the earth..." -- can accomplish more than the Civil Rights Act when it comes to the belief that all human beings have a common origin. A chance to show that the genesis of interracial hatred can be neutralized by sincerely preaching Genesis 1:27, "So God created man in His own image; He created him in the image of God; He created them male and female." A chance to adopt the slogan; "There is no favoritism with God" (Romans 2:11).
Forget about the "most influentials." I will go to my white friends and pastors in the area and urge them to take up race relations as their calling. Let's not waste the "Church's Chance to Uproot Curse."
Dr. Faheem Younus is an adjunct faculty for religion and history at the community colleges of Baltimore County. He blogs at www.muslimerican.com.