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My Take: Where’s white church outrage over Trayvon Martin?
National Association for the Advancement of Colored People president Ben Jealous at a town hall meeting at Allen Chapel AME Church in Sanford, Florida about on Trayvon Martin’s killing.
March 22nd, 2012
12:44 PM ET

My Take: Where’s white church outrage over Trayvon Martin?

Editor’s Note: Mark I. Pinsky is a former religion reporter for the Orlando Sentinel and author of “Amazing Gifts: Stories of Faith, Disability, and Inclusion.”

By Mark I. Pinsky, Special to CNN

Orlando, Florida (CNN) - In the classic Sherlock Holmes story “The Silver Blaze,” the key clue turns out to be a watchdog that didn’t bark when it should have.

In the aftermath of the fatal shooting of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin in Sanford, Florida, not far from here, the mystifying missing element so far has been white outrage, especially on the part of central Florida’s religious leaders.

Few if any white clergy have spoken up to demand that the killing be fully investigated. None can be seen standing by the African-American preachers calling for justice, or marching with Martin’s family members. Why?

As someone who covered this area’s faith community for 15 years, I don’t think the answer is racism as much as it is cultural callousness. Week in and week out, the violent deaths and disappearances of poor, black and brown people – especially immigrants – merit a one- or two-paragraph story in The Orlando Sentinel’s (my old newspaper’s) police blotter. So when a middle-class black teen is gunned down, the reaction tends to be a shrug of the shoulders.

In this part of the country gated communities are considered sacred ground, as much or more than houses of worship. The fear of these preserves being violated is enough to shift the presumption of innocence to the presumption of guilt, including among churchgoers. Couple this with a made-for-vigilantes “Stand Your Ground” gun law and, until recently, there is no reason to question the indifference of local law enforcement in investigating Trayvon Martin’s death.

CNN’s Belief Blog: The faith angles behind the biggest stories

While central Florida’s modern image is Sun Belt suburban, a theme park mecca, the region has a dark and violent past when it comes to race:

- In 1920, an attempt by two black men to vote in the town of Ocoee led to a race riot that spread to Apopka, Orlando and Winter Springs. When the smoke cleared, Ocoee had been ethnically cleansed with more than 500 African residents driven off. The town remained essentially white for the next 40 years.

- In 1923, a white mob’s attack on the black community of Rosewood burned the hamlet to the ground and scattered its residents forever

- On Christmas Day, 1951, Florida NAACP Executive Director Harry T. Moore, an anti-lynching activist, and his wife were blown up in their wood frame home by Klansmen, including local law enforcement officers. Harry Moore died en route to a Sanford hospital, where his wife died nine days later.

No one was brought to justice for any of these crimes, and white churches had little to say on behalf of the victims.

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Race was the great moral issue in 20th-century America. And one of the burdens of Southern history is the silence – with a few conspicuous and heroic exceptions – of white religious leaders during the Civil Rights movement, especially white churches. There were times and places where silence bled into complicity. When Northern clergy came to the South to join protests, as often as not their local denominational counterparts were resentful.

To its credit, in 1995 the Southern Baptist Convention acknowledged and repented for nearly 150 years of support for slavery, segregation and racial discrimination, saying that “racial prejudice and discrimination are not compatible with the Gospel” and “a deplorable sin.” Since then, Southern Baptists – the nation’s largest Protestant denomination - have made enormous strides in obliterating the color line in its churches and its relations with other denominations.

But in the case of Trayvon Martin, the white religious community – including those affiliated with the Southern Baptist Convention, this area’s dominant affiliation - has so far been silent and invisible.

Some black Christians are beginning to question this silence. At a predominately African-American Seventh-day Adventist congregation last Saturday, during a previously scheduled discussion of “racial progress,” a man stood up and asked why his denomination had not yet spoken or acted on the Trayvon Martin controversy.

The Rev. James Coffin, a white Adventist minister and executive director of the Interfaith Council of Central Florida, who was one of the speakers, admitted that the man was right. Coffin later wrote the man an impassioned e-mail saying his point was valid, and acknowledging his guilt for his inaction. So far, “it's the victim's affinity group that has to go to battle for him,” Coffin said.

“African-Americans shouldn't be waging this battle on their own,” Coffin told me. “While it certainly has racial overtones and undertones, it's a problem that's bigger than just racism. So for our own well-being and self-serving purposes, if for no other reason, non-African-Americans need to get involved.”

At long last, some other white church leaders are speaking out.

In a letter issued Wednesday entitled “A Statement of Support for the Martin Family and Call for Just Prosecution,” the Florida Council of Churches, which represents mainline Protestant congregations, said that the state “should be a place where a person of any color can walk in a neighborhood without fear of violence or being presumed a suspicious threat. Florida should be a place where the use of deadly force is rare and uncommon.

“The Martin family and the community at large need protection from vigilantism and assurance that Florida's streets are open to all people without respect to the color of their skin,” the statement continued. The council does not speak for the state’s evangelical churches.

Tardy or tepid, it is never too late for religious leaders to demand justice. Which is what they still need to do. A rally calling for justice for Trayvon Martin is scheduled for Sanford's Shiloh Baptist Church, Thursday night would be a good place to start.

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Mark I. Pinsky.

- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: Christianity • Opinion

soundoff (832 Responses)
  1. Atheism is not healthy for children and other living things

    Prayer really changes things,

    March 24, 2012 at 9:33 pm |
    • Jesus

      -.You've been proven a liar over and over again on this blog. A great example of prayer proven not to work is the Christians in jail because prayer didn't work. For example: Susan Grady, who relied on prayer to heal her son. Nine-year-old Aaron Grady died and Susan Grady was arrested Friday morning...

      An article in the Journal of Pediatrics examined the deaths of 172 children from families who relied upon faith healing from 1975 to 1995. They concluded that four out of five ill children, who died under the care of faith healers or being left to prayer only, would most likely have survived if they had received medical care.

      Plus don't forget. The statistical studies from the nineteenth century and the three CCU studies on prayer are quite consistent with the fact that humanity is wasting a huge amount of time on a procedure that simply doesn’t work. Nonetheless, faith in prayer is so pervasive and deeply rooted, you can be sure believers will continue to devise future studies in a desperate effort to confirm their beliefs!!...-

      March 26, 2012 at 8:29 am |
  2. Heh

    Why should anyone care? It's just another jig who decided to be a thug and get himself offed. I'm tired of the whole "pity blacks, hate whites" idealogy that runs in this sorry country.

    March 24, 2012 at 2:55 pm |
    • Heh

      Nobody talks about the 4 whites killed on a breakin in California, or the older white Detroit couple burned to death by jigs. NOBODY talks about this, it's treated as if it never happened. NEWS FLASH, WE CANNOT LIVE AMONG APES AND NOT EXPECT TO PAY A FATAL PENALTY FOR IT.

      March 24, 2012 at 3:05 pm |
    • AGuest9

      Crime happens. Sometimes hate is involved, other times it is because of "opportunity". I think the crime was committed by the shooter out of fear and perhaps a superiority complex. Your disparaging statements are not welcome here. I may spar with believers on these pages, but have to say that your comments genuinely disgusted me as a human being.

      March 24, 2012 at 7:40 pm |
    • Urafkntool

      Then you're probably not white (IE. not a human being.) Fact of the matter is, is that "Attorney General" Holder blatantly announced (the video is available on youtube) that the ONLY hate crimes would be considered hate crimes IF they were committed against groups who "have a historical claim of hate." Basically, he said that only whites would be charged with and convicted of hate crimes. Meanwhile, a kid is set on fire in Kansas City, and the blacks who did it said he deserved it BECAUSE he's white. Next?

      March 25, 2012 at 12:24 am |
    • Urafkntool

      There's only so long you can go, when you read the REAL crime reports instead of the MSM reports before you decide enough is enough and it's time for a change. It's time for a change. Diversity and multiculturalism DO NOT WORK.

      March 25, 2012 at 12:25 am |
  3. SickOfTheCircus

    I too was led to believe that Zimmerman, who is Hispanic and not "white" or "white Hispanic," was the aggressor in this case, but I'm finding more and more reason to doubt the biased stories I'm seeing on the news and across the internet. According the an eyewitness account, it was MARTIN that was on top of Zimmerman, beating him. Does that mean that Zimmerman is innocent? No. But it DOES mean that nobody has the entire story, but black activists (and I include Obama in that group) are so blinded by their racism, that they refuse to allow that Martin was doing ANYTHING wrong.

    http://www.myfoxorlando.com/dpp/news/seminole_news/022712-man-shot-and-killed-in-neighborhood-altercation

    March 24, 2012 at 2:04 pm |
    • Still Divided

      AMEN. The blatant rush to LYNCH Zimmerman is what I'm outraged about.

      March 26, 2012 at 7:53 pm |
  4. lastofall

    They of the world speak of the world, and the world hears them; but they who are of God hears God's Words. As a result of John the Baptist wrongful slaying the Lord Jesus Christ did not provoke any to involve themselves into a chorus of disapproval, rather He simply spoke commendably of John, and left it at that.

    March 24, 2012 at 10:07 am |
  5. Prayer changes things

    Atheism is not healthy for children and other living things

    March 24, 2012 at 8:01 am |
  6. joe

    Mark pinsky the day people like yourself quit using color to define people is the day we will all come together as one. Until then by asking a question like this openly is also like wanting to start a race war. Do you understand how uncomfortable it might be for a "white" leader to stand by "black" leaders who have said many bad things about white people before? The sooner the older generations who can only communicate by defining us by skin color die off or become less relevant in society the sooner all races can come together.

    March 24, 2012 at 4:23 am |
    • dulouz

      Joe, there are plenty of us that don't want to come together. You should ask us before you speak for us.

      March 24, 2012 at 4:31 am |
    • Heh

      It's about time for a race war. I'm tired of being surrounded by animals all day.

      March 24, 2012 at 2:30 pm |
  7. dulouz

    Anti Semitism – The author is Jewish and is calling White Christian churches bad names... for no reason. Zimmerman isn't White and his dad is Jewish. Pinsky didn't call out the synagogue acts of omission. This is what the Anti Semites talk about. Its a really oily position and again CNN is behind it.

    March 24, 2012 at 12:40 am |
  8. Big_Mike

    Just to post the TRUTH in light of all the distortions in the media.
    http://www.myfoxorlando.com/dp...

    "
    The shooting happened just after 7 p.m. Sunday evening on Twin Trees Lane. A man who witnessed part of the altercation contacted authorities.
    "The guy on the bottom, who had a red sweater on, was yelling to me, 'Help! Help!' and I told him to stop, and I was calling 911," said the witness, who asked to be identified only by his first name, John.
    John said he locked his patio door, ran upstairs and heard at least one gun shot.
    "And then, when I got upstairs and looked down, the guy who was on the top beating up the other guy, was the one laying in the grass, and I believe he was dead at that point."
    So, Trayvon Martin(who was six feet three and weighed 180 pounds) was beating George Zimmerman in the face as Zimmerman was on his back calling for help.

    Why does the media continue posting ancient pictures of Trayvon Martin. I managed to find a recent one of him without expending too much effort. It's on his Facebook page(Trayvon Slimm Martin). If I can find it, why can't the media? Why continue using pics of a 12 year old Martin and Zimmerman's mugshot(from dropped charges, BTW)? Because the media wants to portray Martin as an angel and Zimmerman as a criminal.

    The media are obviously disappointed that Zimmerman is Hispanic, and not a mullet-wearing redneck. That is made clear by their sudden usage of the term "white Hispanic" to describe him. I've never heard of anyone else called that-not Ricky Martin, J. Lo, Gloria Estefan, Antonio Banderas. No, they're always just Hispanic.

    Nice gold front tooth, Trayvon. That pretty much destroys the "good boy with a bright future" argument. Nobody who gets a gold front tooth at 17 is anything but a thug from the ghetto.

    http://s1151.photobucket.com/albums/o628/trayvonslimmmartin/

    March 23, 2012 at 9:50 pm |
    • Kathryn

      You're kidding, right? That picture is not thuggish in the least. Pastors of churches have gold teeth. That is not uncommon at all in the Black community. That statement was just plain ignorant. I was with you....until you said that.

      March 24, 2012 at 8:36 am |
  9. Ricardo

    The killer was latino, why doesn't this goofball writer ask "why are all the latino churches so quiet?" The answer is because he is a white guilt driven idiot who can only still see things in black and white.

    March 23, 2012 at 9:14 pm |
  10. STEELWOLVES

    What a bunch of silliness.

    March 23, 2012 at 7:38 pm |
  11. Reality

    Where is the rage brought about because of the 2000 years of Christian racist mumbo jumbo (from hatred of the followers of Judaism to those of opposite skin colors) that put us in this scenario to begin with??

    For a good review of anti-sem-itism and Christianity, see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Christianity_and_anti-se-mitism.
    (note: Wikipedia's articles typically are very well researched and written. Check the references given in each article to ver-ify the ve-ra-city of the information.

    Added checking can be done by reviewing the same topic posted on on-line encyclopedias, with many of these being free to all those with library cards. Go to your local library's website and look for reference sites like the Power Library.

    And there is always Google, B-ing and Ya-hoo search engines to get up to date information on current events which are also reviewed in many Wikipedia articles. )

    For Christian issues with a person's skin color, let us start with those Christians who call themselves Mormons,

    "According to Mormon history and authoritative Mormon teachers, the Ne-gro, as they were referred to, are a cur-sed race because they were not faithful to God in their first estate (the pre-existent life with God). Hence, when they are born they are born in black ski-nned families.

    The early Mormon church was highly prej-udicial against black people. And though there has been a change in att-itude to blacks as of June 9, 1978 when they were finally allowed into the Mormon priesthood, it cannot be denied that Mormonism was, up until very recently, a seg-regated church."

    And you still have all-white Christian churches and all-black Christian churches throughout the USA where sk-in color and seg-regation still are important.

    Some words hyphenated to defeat the "secret" word/fragment filter.

    March 23, 2012 at 7:30 pm |
    • dulouz

      Jews are a handful. There is 2000 plus years of Jews annoying everyone. Jews aren't hated. because they are different, they are hated because they are annoying with their concepts of soft totalitarianism having their way. Jews move around to the richest places and demand equality. They aren't good at moving to places that are poor and demanding equality.

      Jews feast on White Privilege. They always live in the White part of town and not the Black side. They were there in South African and in Rhodesia acting White when it got them more money. They love White women more than Black women.

      Holocausts follow Jews. The Iranians are next. The whole world is bad and Jews are good.

      No.

      March 24, 2012 at 12:56 am |
    • Reality

      o http://www.adherents.com/Religions_By_Adherents.html
      o
      Religion………………………… Adherents

      Christianity ……………………..2.1 billion

      Islam…………………………… 1.5 billion

      Irreligious/agnostic/atheism 1.1 billion

      Hinduism 900 million
      Chinese traditional religion 394 million
      Buddhism 376 million
      Animist religions 300 million
      African traditional/diasporic religions 100 million
      Sikhism 23 million
      Juche 19 million
      Spiritism 15 million

      Judaism…………………………………….. 14 million

      Baha'i 7 million
      Jainism 4.2 million
      Shinto 4 million
      Cao Dai 4 million
      Zoroastrianism 2.6 million
      Tenrikyo 2 million
      Neo-Paganism 1 million
      Unitarian Universalism 800,000
      Rastafari Movement 600,000

      See also: Constantine's Sword: The Church and the Jews - A History by James Carroll (Paperback – April 1, 2001)

      Then there is this:

      “John Hick, a noted British philosopher of religion, estimates that 95 percent of the people of the world owe their religious affiliation to an accident (the randomness) of birth. The faith of the vast majority of believers depends upon where they were born and when. Those born in Saudi Arabia will almost certainly be Moslems, and those born and raised in India will for the most part be Hindus. Nevertheless, the religion of millions of people can sometimes change abruptly in the face of major political and social upheavals. In the middle of the sixth century ce, virtually all the people of the Near East and Northern Africa, including Turkey, Syria, Iraq, and Egypt were Christian. By the end of the following century, the people in these lands were largely Moslem, as a result of the militant spread of Islam.

      The Situation Today
      Barring military conquest, conversion to a faith other than that of one’s birth is rare. Some Jews, Moslems, and Hindus do convert to Christianity, but not often. Similarly, it is not common for Christians to become Moslems or Jews. Most people are satisfied that their own faith is the true one or at least good enough to satisfy their religious and emotional needs. Had St. Augustine or St. Thomas Aquinas been born in Mecca at the start of the present century, the chances are that they would not have been Christians but loyal followers of the prophet Mohammed. “ J. Somerville

      It is very disturbing that religious narrow- mindedness, intolerance, violence and hatred continues unabated due to randomness of birth. Maybe, just maybe if this fact would be published on the first page of every newspaper every day, that we would finally realize the significant stupidity of all religions.

      March 24, 2012 at 9:16 am |
  12. Susan T.

    What white mainline churches do doesn't often get reported in the media anymore. That doesn't mean they aren't doing anything.
    http://www.ucc.org/news/032212-trayvon-martin-prayers-protest.html

    March 23, 2012 at 7:02 pm |
  13. Jill G

    I agree with your article. This is quickly becoming a race issue and it's important that white Christians stand with their black Christian brothers and sisters during these types of travesties. Silence shouts that we don't care. I don't think it's that whites don't care but that we are afraid to get involved in anything controversial. Now is not a time for fear. This law that has let Zimmerman free for the time being must be changed and this law will only change as a result of our outcry over this injustice.

    March 23, 2012 at 4:36 pm |
    • Heh

      umm.. we DON'T care. This was a hispanic on black issue, it has nothing to do with whites. Why should we care?

      March 24, 2012 at 2:36 pm |
  14. Al Moasdonn

    The suspect was HISPANIC. When have blacks ever come out to protest the killing of a White or Hispanic by a black?

    March 23, 2012 at 3:39 pm |
    • Kathryn

      Never. You are right about that, for sure.

      March 24, 2012 at 8:38 am |
    • john smith

      racist blacks only protest against whites

      March 24, 2012 at 11:23 pm |
  15. damo12345

    CNN is doing great harm publishing opinion pieces saying "the fear of a black mother that her child might die is very different from the fear other mothers have that their kids might be killed" and "white people are so different their churches aren't outraged like black churches are."

    By focusing on what "white churches" and "black churches" do you feed an "us and them" mentality, encouraging people to close ranks in support of their own community and view those of a different color as very different people.

    It perpetuates ignorant tribalism, and it results in men like Zimmerman looking at a young black man and seeing "an outsider, a typical young black, you know what they're like".

    The failure of people from different groups to come together is a serious problem facing America, but opinion articles like this make things worse.

    March 23, 2012 at 3:31 pm |
  16. Meathead (of the Word)

    Notice how some immediately flip-the-script with their childish like responses.... but what about so-in-so?, well you didn't say anything about so-in-so... this is a classic pattern of denial. They mostlikely have other deep-rooted issues of unresolved anger, jealousy, hostility & rage. Like so many who suffer from bi-polar madness.

    Grow up. This is no THAT. Stick to the subject at hand or get outta here with that.

    March 23, 2012 at 3:03 pm |
  17. Atheism is not healthy for children and other living things

    Prayer changes thing,
    Proven

    March 23, 2012 at 2:54 pm |
    • Jesus

      –~`You've been proven a liar over and over again on this blog. A great example of prayer proven not to work is the Christians in jail because prayer didn't work. For example: Susan Grady, who relied on prayer to heal her son. Nine-year-old Aaron Grady died and Susan Grady was arrested Friday morning...

      An article in the Journal of Pediatrics examined the deaths of 172 children from families who relied upon faith healing from 1975 to 1995. They concluded that four out of five ill children, who died under the care of faith healers or being left to prayer only, would most likely have survived if they had received medical care.

      Plus don't forget. The statistical studies from the nineteenth century and the three CCU studies on prayer are quite consistent with the fact that humanity is wasting a huge amount of time on a procedure that simply doesn’t work. Nonetheless, faith in prayer is so pervasive and deeply rooted, you can be sure believers will continue to devise future studies in a desperate effort to confirm their beliefs!!~-

      March 23, 2012 at 2:55 pm |
    • william

      Where is the black outrage over the 13 year old white boy who was set on fire on his front porch by two black 17 year olds on March 2nd (three weeks ago) who wittness testify hearing them say "this is what you get white boy, this is what you get for being white!". Where was CNN, MSNBC, and all the others then? Where was Al Sharpton then? Where were you then?

      March 23, 2012 at 3:25 pm |
    • Herb

      I disagree with this statement. I believe that religion is bad for children. Children who grow up believing the world is only 6K-10K years old and that there is an omnipotent being that will send you to a place called hell is bad. Scientists have proven many things over the years (even though they were killed by Christians during the middle ages for their work). When I was growing up preachers were always talking about going to hell and the end of the world. It scared the crap out of me and I remember having unnecessary fears and nightmares from these sermons. I believe that is a form of child abuse. No one should be scaring children with stories of "fire and brimstone". Plus all the fairy tales like Jonah and the Whale, the fiery furnace, and Noah's Ark are just completely absurd. Children should be taught about physics and the universe and how nature and life came to be on this planet. Children are naturally curious and teaching them about our world with real facts is much better than crazy religious myths that only confuse them. Just because you don't teach children religion doesn't mean you can't teach them values and morality.

      March 23, 2012 at 9:05 pm |
    • just sayin

      To deny a child eternal life with God is the worst form of child abuse.

      March 23, 2012 at 10:47 pm |
    • AGuest9

      Deluding a child with fantasies is equivalent to psychological abuse. It's why so many believers grow up to be warped adults. See above.

      March 23, 2012 at 10:52 pm |
  18. Atheism is not healthy for children and other living things

    Prayer changes things .

    March 23, 2012 at 2:10 pm |
    • Jesus

      -~`You've been proven a liar over and over again on this blog. A great example of prayer proven not to work is the Christians in jail because prayer didn't work. For example: Susan Grady, who relied on prayer to heal her son. Nine-year-old Aaron Grady died and Susan Grady was arrested Friday morning...

      An article in the Journal of Pediatrics examined the deaths of 172 children from families who relied upon faith healing from 1975 to 1995. They concluded that four out of five ill children, who died under the care of faith healers or being left to prayer only, would most likely have survived if they had received medical care.

      Plus don't forget. The statistical studies from the nineteenth century and the three CCU studies on prayer are quite consistent with the fact that humanity is wasting a huge amount of time on a procedure that simply doesn’t work. Nonetheless, faith in prayer is so pervasive and deeply rooted, you can be sure believers will continue to devise future studies in a desperate effort to confirm their beliefs!!~`

      March 23, 2012 at 2:18 pm |
    • william

      When religion ruled the world it was called the Dark Ages. Look it up...or just look around you at where religion is taking the world again.

      March 23, 2012 at 3:26 pm |
  19. Dennis

    I will hold off judgment on the situation until all of the facts are made available. However, I agree that justice is needed. However, if in fact it is determined that Zimmerman acted appropriately will people accept that as justice or will people still call for his punishment? Justice is important,whether it be proving somebody's innocence or guilt! If he is guilty, he should be punished if not, he should be allowed to proceed with his life.

    March 23, 2012 at 2:03 pm |
  20. Athiest > Fairy Tales

    What does the murder of this innocent child have to do with WHITE churches? The killer was HISPANIC.

    You should be outraged that Zimmerman didn't "Stand his ground", Zimmerman followed (hunted), challenged "What are you doing here", and shot an unarmed boy who was trying to get away from him.

    March 23, 2012 at 1:57 pm |
    • jerry

      The innocent boy was not "trying to get away from him"...he was beating hisass while Mr. Killer was on the ground, on his back, yelling for help. Everyone complains that "oh, The killer didn't listen to the dispatcher", well in the same respect Trayvon did not listen to someone either, if he would have just answered and not resorted to violence, this would not have happened.

      March 24, 2012 at 10:29 am |
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