By Jeffrey Weiss, special to CNN
(CNN) Even before the jury read their verdict acquitting George Zimmerman in the shooting death of Trayvon Martin, a number of black religious leaders had responses at the ready.
The voices of white pastors and predominantly white churches and religious groups? Much harder to find.
Nearly a week later, some denominations that often weigh in on matters of national policy have yet to go on the public record. It's particularly notable in the leadership of the Catholic Church, the country's largest religious body.
Admittedly, the flood of responses from black religious leaders was a partly a function of where the TV cameras were pointed.
Familiar figures such as the Rev. Jesse Jackson hit Twitter moments after the verdict was released.
Less familiar figures, such as Pastor Michael McBride, head of the PICO Lifelines to Healing Campaign, immediately issued a call for peaceful demonstrations. McBride had also prepared a tool kit for "Hoodie Sundays" in honor of Martin before Saturday night's verdict.
The Rev. Raphael Warnock, senior pastor at the famed Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta, preached a sermon about Martin's death on Sunday.
Others took longer to react.
National Council of Churches President Kathryn Lohre took a couple of days to release a statement about the “shocking impunity granted by a Florida jury to a man who stalked and killed a black child.”
Similarly, the two largest Protestant denominations in America took several days to figure out their responses.
By Tuesday, the president of the Southern Baptist Convention, the first African-American leader of that body, offered a bland quote to his denomination’s official news service.
"Some people are upset, angry and frustrated, while others are in full support of the verdict, so where does the church fit in? The church should be there to pray for both families, the city of Sanford, and our nation," said the Rev. Fred Luter, pastor of Franklin Avenue Baptist Church in New Orleans.
Russell Moore, head of the convention’s Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, took a stronger stand, saying that regardless of the verdict, Zimmerman was wrong to take “upon himself some sort of vigilante justice.”
Several bishops, white and black, from the United Methodist Church rapidly offered their thoughts on the denomination’s website. That included the white bishop for the area that includes Sanford, Florida, where Zimmerman shot Martin.
But other organizations where reactions might have been expected still haven’t posted anything.
Where’s the response from the Union of Reform Judaism? Where’s a comment from the leaders of the Episcopal Church?** What’s the position of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America?
Those, however, are religious groups that represent relatively few Americans. The largest claims fewer than 5 million members.
The most notable silence is from the American Catholic hierarchy, who head a church that claims to have nearly 70 million members.
It’s not necessarily surprising that the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops has not issued a comment. The conference is large and sometimes moves slowly.
But it has committees that can be more nimble.
The day after Vermont legalized assisted suicide, for instance, Cardinal Seán O’Malley of Boston, chairman of the Committee on Pro-Life Activities, warned of a "slippery slope" and urged Catholics to fight the future passage of such laws.
But there’s been nothing I can find from any Catholic committees this week.
Nothing from Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York, the conference president. Nothing from the bishops’ Subcommittee on African American Affairs. Nothing from Archbishop Wilton D. Gregory, former president of the conference and the first black man to hold the office.
In fact, when I searched the web for “Catholic” and “Bishop” and “Trayvon” and “Zimmerman” and “verdict” over the past week, I found only one bishop on the record: Retired Bishop John H. Ricard of Pensacola-Tallahassee, Florida, now president of the National Black Catholic Congress. And that wasn't until Friday.
Ricard told Catholic News Service that it is proper for the church to encourage prayers for Martin and his family and Zimmerman and his family - "his life will never be the same either."
He also said that he didn't see a place in the church to foster interracial dialogues to deal with the vastly different understandings of the verdict by many whites and blacks.
It’s not as if there isn’t a logical opening for Catholic leaders to offer an opinion. Zimmerman, after all, is a former Catholic altar boy, according to news reports.
The official catechism of the church includes a section, 2263, on the right to self-defense. And individual bishops have not been reluctant in the past to speak out on questions of racial justice.
I did locate a parish priest who gingerly approached the topic: The Rev. Richard Voor serves at All Souls Catholic Church in Sanford, Florida, where the Trayvon Martin trial was held.
On Sunday, the day after the verdict, he focused his homily on the parable of the Good Samaritan.
It’s a story that turns racial profiling on its head, of course. The hero of the tale, the Samaritan, belonged to a group that was a persecuted minority 2,000 years ago.
For several minutes, Voor circled rhetorically around the elephant in the room, talking about compassion and mercy and unpacking the historical understanding of the story.
“If somebody does something to us we kind of react and react badly sometimes and then we react back. You know how that goes? It’s called the circle of violence,” he said. “It happens between families, it happens between countries, it happens between groups of people.”
Finally, Voor addressed directly the subject his parishioners were surely thinking about:
“I would suggest to you, especially what we’ve all been through in Sanford in the past 17 months, that what we need is compassion," the priest said. "Because people are all invested in one way of looking at that whole situation or the other way…this has really affected everybody."
Jeffrey Weiss is an award-winning religion reporter in Dallas.
** After this article was posted, an Episcopalian noted that the church's COO, Bishop Stacey Sauls, had a written a blog post about the verdict on July 15. You can read it here.
Gee, I never realized my church was segregated. Those black people, Asian people, Hispanic people etc that I see attending services just must be illusions or maybe cardboard cut outs. Your article is just plain racist.
I don't like the concept of white vs black churches. When i was younger and searching for answers I visited many different denominations of christian churches. Baptist, Catholic, Protestant, whatever was available in my area. Growing up in Alaska, I even attended Russian Orthodox and Jewish Temple. As I had black religious friends I even attended a church with my friend and his family. I still remember when the preacher, announcing new guests at the beginning of the sermon, stopped and said "And we have a special guest with us to day. Can anyone guess who he is?"
I have to admit, this church was the most fun. The people, the passion and the music. But in the end every church , especially Christian-based ones, taught the same thing. God is good. Jesus loves you. Go out and do good. So why was there so much anger and hatred towards others from members of each of these churches? It was then, after years of 'researching' religion by attending, from Sunday School to masses and holiday events, and reading the Bibles that I decided to become Agnostic. If there is a God in the Biblical sense, He is bipolar and indecisive. He opens with 'thou shalt not kill' and then orders a man to murder his own son, only to yell out SIKE! at the last moment. Then he orders the death of men, women and children. And then He sent down His only son who sent out even more mixed messages.... turn the other cheek, think before you act, question what you do not understand and do not follow blindly.... It was a Baptist minister that I asked my final questions to, why were there mixed messages. Who were we supposed to follow, etc. His answer? He strongly advised me that this wasn't the best religion for me and asked me to stop attending.
I discovered long ago that all religions stem from basic stories told from fathers to their sons, mothers to their daughters, and tribe elders to their people to ensure a moral compass in an effort to maintain civility. Protect you ad yours, extend a hand in friendship and above all, do no evil.
My point to all of this (and I could go on for quite some time, but I'll spare you) is that there should be no division of the church based upon the color of the follower's skin. If one worships Jesus Christ (which, unless you believe in the Holy Trinity is a sin in itself, but I digress) then nothing else should matter. In my mind ALL religious leaders should have stepped forward – not to lay blame but to offer their sympathies and support for both families in this time of turmoil. This, based upon the very principles of Christianity, is what should have happened. Instead, the situation was taken advantage of by a select few for no other purpose than to further their own agendas. Sadly, this is the truth of religion today.
I haven't seen you comment in a long time on the Belief Blog. Good to see you again.
Here you go again CNN, you've got the white and black churches covered, but what about the HISPANIC churches?
My church has all colors in it.
It does appear that certain authors CNN uses go out of their way to create a racial divide. I have never heard the term which churches and I hope I never hear it again!
This may seem incorrect but maybe leaders of primarily white churches know it was an unfortunate tragedy but are pretty sure that their members should be able to use deadly force against any attacker of any race.
If there were a "National White Church Organization" it would be considered racist by everyone, but of course, none of those same people consider it racist for there to be a "National Black Church Organization." It's the double standard and hypocrisy of today. Pretty similar to how we tell whites that they can't use some words that blacks use because of their skin color is the determining factor–racist.
Churches with predominantly white members wouldn't dare call themselves a "White church." And no, that sort of church won't say anything about race because no matter what they said, it would be judged as "racist" by people who don't share their same skin tone.
Do you really not understand why people who are underrepresented and minorities would organize? It must baffle you that this occurs in all cultures around the world. I can't imagine living with such mystery.
Yes, it should be obvious why minorities organize into groups, but one would hope the need or motivation to do so would be temporary. Isn’t it folly for anyone to assume that just because someone looks like we do that they have the same values as we do. Of course I’m a half-breed (two very different races and cultures), so I admit I have a hard time understanding how single race \ culture people view things using their race \ cultural filters.
Yes, temporary until they have achieved equality. That can hardly be said to have occured here in economic, educational or political terms.
I wonder if anyone can achieve equality. It seems to be more a matter of convincing the people we put in charge of ourselves that equal status is what ought to prevail. Then, perhaps, it's granted.
Tom Tom: If someone defines themselves as being a member of a group, than yea, they will never be equal. I just don't understand why anyone would wish to be a member of a group, but like I said I'm a half-breed. Both my parerts are upset I don't say I'm part of their group. I just have no need to define myself as being part of a group. But than I don't view myself as a minority either (but is that because I don't belong to a group?).
Very true, jazzguitarman. When people start gathering into groups, I run the other way.
Almost all humans gain their happiness from the relative assessments they have of themselves compared to others. If the prevailing group looks doen on them or their group they will find a new point of reference that values whay they have...a new and limited group. This isn't always race. People may identify themselves by ideology, religion, politics, hobbies, se.xuality, career...whatever. Most people identify with one or more groups thay help sustain the necessary ego reqirements to function, and they do not have to meet weekly in groups to have these identi.ties. There are exceptions, of course, including some with autism, but you do see this even in Aspergers support groups. It's just how humans function.
Now blacks are crying racism for silence in the wake of the trial.. Grow Up.
I think my white pastor said it best, "there is nothing about this that wasn't terrible". Life can be very cruel. It wasn't fair for Trayvon, and it won't ever be fair again to Zimmerman again (going to prison for manslaughter might honestly have been kinder to him that what's going to happen to him and his family over the next several years). There won't be justice for Trayvon, not really, but the state of Florida can revise its statute so that it won't happen again, which will honor his memory. To say this was entirely about race would be completely ignorant and foolish, but to say that race wasn't a critical factor would be just as ignorant and recklessly obtuse.
Think again,this case wasn't about race...the race baiters would like to make you believe it was as do the white liberals! Justice? what about justice for baby Antonio West who was shot dead in his crib by two black thugs as result of his white mother not having any money to give them when they tried robbing her in Brunswick, GA....Travon Martin was a young thug who, unfortunately for him, confronted someone who was armed, legally!
I have to agree with Dan. Since this has happened I have not heard Obama or any other so called black leader step forward and condemn this horrible crime. Two blacks execute a white baby by shooting him in the face, on purpose, with malice and not a peep is heard from the black community. SHAME
Are you kidding me?? Obama has condemned it several times, but people like you accuse him of being racist for DOING so! What the hell do you want him to say, exactly?? What you want is a condemnation of black people, not this particular crime. Well, for SHAME ON YOU!
Really Jeremy can you point me to a link which shows the president condemning the crime? Also did he make it personal like he did the TM case?
In cases like the baby stroller or even that old guy that shot the 13 year old recently;the left wing never comments. Why, because in cases like these white, black, brown and whatever species Justin Beiber is all agree of the heinousness of the act. If all agree-what then do the race-baiters have to manipulate?
you havnt heard it cuz he dont really give a fuk about white people he spent 20 years in a black power church.i dont understand how america can put a black racist in the white house but bash any white man that even has the slightest pride in his race.and for the blk churches out and not the white becouse white churches dont act like animales like the blk ones do.everything is racist even the millions of white men that freed the slaves are racist lol anyway.i really dont care if im labled racist. to all my beautiful women and comrades.white pride world wide.
has he condemd any of theas hundred or so hate crimes on whites?http://whitegirlbleedalot.com/
There is some doubt that those two boys shot that poor baby. Both the mother and the father of Antonio has tested positive for GSR. Although the mother was there, the father wasn't. He is now in jail for different violations stemming from an assault and abuse on the mother$ we may be seeing a variation of the Susan Smith tragedy, where she named an unidentified black man as the assailant. Nothing is set in stone yet with this case, so actually you are fanning the flames yourself.
I want to be a millionaire, but I'm not one. Trayvon may have WANTED to be a thug, but he wasn't one, and that's all that matters. Dressing in the garb of a "thug" isn't a crime.
Is it a crime to disobey a police officer? I don't know, but Zim disobeyed a police officer.
Is it a crime to shoot an unarmed person? I don't know, but Zim shot an unarmed person.
Is it a crime to talk to your girlfriend instead of calling the police when you are afraid for your life and defending yourself? I don't know, but it might get you killed.
And I'm sure they will pay for their crime. This wasn't about race– all white jury? Are you for real? Every black boy that dies, you all call a thug. How about all the blacks that have been killed during Jim Crow; were they thugs too....preachers, civil rights leaders.....You white people have forgotten your history...How about Emmett Till, Rev George Lee...???? I know my black history but you all have forgotten yours. Your hatred makes you stupid.
No Sonya it is not a forgotten history, but it is not the history of most of the families in the U.S. now. At the time of the war, there were roughly 27 million whites living in the entire U.S. with about 1.4% owning slaves. The total population of the U.S. is now over 300 million. Most people living here did not own slaves and families like mine were not here during that time. A whole lot of our ancestors, mine included came here as indentured servants. Not only that but not every black in this country is a descendant of a slave. Lots came here after slavery was ended and even after the 60's. Emmett Till, beyond sickening, and made even more so by Lil Wayne using him is his sorry excuse for a song. What about Medgar Evers, you didn't mention him? You also failed to mention that there were a lot of whites marching in the civil rights movement, some of who were killed for it. Percentage wise, very few people caused a lot damage and grief.
It was not an all white jury. Two hispanics...a jury of HIS peers since Zimmerman is Hispanic
Jim Crow? Those laws were invented by democrats Sonya....please know facts before you post. And at this point, Jim Crow never did anything like food stamps and rap music have to keep blacks poor
What a garbage article...the Catholic church is not a "white" church and neither is George Zimmerman "white" and it is not a "white" issue!
Is zimmerman racist of his mother because she of dark skin? She was very dark when she spoke out to the public on abc
At its heart, the rhetoric about the Zimmerman case is racist. There is not so much as an ounce of evidence, logic or real justice admitted in any of it. What is called for is racist vengance, a reckoning for a perceived affront against the public persona of hate mongers such as Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson. These men drink Treyvon Martin's blood. Not literally, of course, but figuratively in order to advance their own agenda.
Walking among their supporters these men (and many of the same flavor) steal whatever peace, respect and credibility the rest of us seek in this matter. They are the vampires of the modern age, the vultures of society who feed upon the roadkill carrion that George and Treyvon have become in media headlines. And their thirst for blood is not slackened by any judgment of a court of law that disagrees with them. It is not justice they seek, but more hate and sensationalism and blood.
Jesus called his servants to forgiveness, yet black preachers from one end of the nation to the other call for more hate and less forgiveness. God help us, we love our racism too much.
and that's just me, hollering from the choir loft...
I fail to see what Zimmermans race or that of his mothers has to do with how racist he was in profiling, following and shooting a young black man. I wouldn't care if Zimmerman was black, it would make no difference on what he did that night that took the life of a teenager. If both had been black we likely would not be hearing about the case since over 80% of the violence blacks experience comes from other blacks but what most people don't know is that over 80% of the violence against whites comes from other whites. This was an issue of a little whiny cry baby with short mans complex and a racist chip on his shoulder who went to the gym each week so he wouldn't feel so small and weak and buys a gun to carry around to make up for what a scared sandy va g ina he is and on that night he was to worked up to keep it in his pants. Maybe if he had known that 80% of violence against whites is perpetrated by other whites he would not have been so ready to shoot a black teenager.
Pssst.....he wasnt white......... so your white on white crime stats don't matter. So much for your facts. Your "facts" are your own opinion and should be recognized as such. A teen lost his life this is true just as true as a man has had his life changed forever. What I do know is this. If Z had stayed in his car he could not have been attacked and if T had not attacked Z he would still be alive. BOTH persons could have avoided the whole thing. There is plenty of 'blame' to go around. But as a PROUD WHITE MAN im tired of hearing how a WHITE man killed T, no thats just NOT the truth. Z isn't white.........
Z is a hero now! Why still all the negativity. Hesaved a families lifr from a turned over car that was smoke and breaking into flame! Ehile the rest just drove on by. Like that limo driver who just watched the poor girls burn. Whe. He his self could help get them oit that car. So i say go zim!
"Zimmerman is half Hispanic, half white. Please keep your facts straight."
Zimmerman identifies himself as hispanic. President Obama is half white, half black. Yet he identifies himself as black. Do we call him "white" also because he is half? What exactly was your point of your comment?
I will be the first to admit that my vision is not what was, when i was younger, but..
People that I see face to face, are extremely rarely White or Black or Red or Yellow – not impossible, but rare
Most folks that I share life with are normally pink, or tan, or brown – darker living near the equator, lighter living nearer the poles –
Some folks in rare occasions are jaundised, or albino, or sunburnt, and I have even known Brown folks, who after cobalt radiation therapy, had black patches of dead skin, from where the cancer was destroyed –
The folks in the story picture above, what color are they?
The main dude has a black and white sign, which makes color identification simpler, for those who are challenged –
Add to the confusion, the premise of which side is a god on, and no wonder it can be enigmatic –
Someone was afraid of Trayvon, someone is afraid of me, someone is afraid of you –
Some believe that one is innocent until proven guilty –
Are you guilty of seeing people as a color?, or as who they actually are?
The reporter is upset that some churches were not rabid racists?
I'll smoke to that!
Just popped my third brew, a fine IPA from Two Brothers, got some great tunes bumpin' on the stereo, and have a few minutes to do some Christian bashing!!
Because that is what us atheists just love to do, bash some Christians!
Where are all the fundies?
All these atheists all up in your board, talking smack about your magic man, dissin' the boy, and you are nowhere to be found.
At least come back with some babble quote, about how we will all burn in the fiery pit if we don't find jeebus.
Come on out fundies, and give us some of that old school religion.
What do you want the "white" churches to say?
Once again the white society has a very bad habit in lying to people's faces.if I was KING of the world I would persecute each and everyone of them here in this planet and around the universe
If it wasnt for a white man you wouldnt even be on this computer, you wouldnt be using a light bulb, you wouldnt be driving a car, you wouldnt be using electricity and using air conditioning, you wouldnt have x-rays to detect diseases and these are just a tip of the iceberg of his contributions to the world. That wouldnt happen because the King of the Universe is light, beauty, and love and not darkness, ugliness and hate.
What religious issue is implicated by the Zimmerman verdict? Religion was not part of the case. No church representative was involved. No religious claims were made by anyone. The closest anyone has come to anything related to religion is "Reverend" Sharpton and "Reverend" Jackson, neither of whom, as far as I know, have mentioned God, Jesus, the Bible or anything else associated with Christianity. Even the responses made by "black" churches are not religion-based.
Why should "white" churches respond?
Why do we keep calling this a white/black thing? Zimmerman is Hispanic... Why is the Catholic church a white church?
I know many people of color who are Catholic... Why do black people seem to want others to change, yet if you point of their problems you are called a racist.
The civil right movements in the 1950s and 1960s was a fluke. Poor black men moved their families from the South to better paying Union protected jobs in the North mainly in manufacturing and building cars in Detroit. This, in turn, gave more black people are voice in how things were done. They had money and influence but now those jobs and their money and influence are now much weaker. Their race is being replace by the smart Asians and illegal Hispanics. Now we have a class of people that have no high paying jobs-Low education rates and image that says that you must grow up to be a rap singer or a sports player...
Really is does this all really matter? I see things going back to where they once were...That is what the black race fear the most... It doesn't have to be this way... They must regroup and heal within.
If we are going to have a discussion about race issues in America, then I agree that the African American community DOES need to also be open to critisism. If whites are too quick to judge or they are scared, they should be able explain why without being labelled a bigot. The African American community needs to stand up and admit to some of its own problems and try to help the white community understand why they are feeling discriminated against.
Zimmerman is half Hispanic, half white. Please keep your facts straight.
White churches don't have Trayvon hoodie days because we are generally NOT racists. This movement to have Trayvon days in churches is an expression of Black racism against whites. If you are not a anti-White racist, you will conclude that the jury came to a reasonable decision based on the evidence presented to them rather than assume they did not condemn Zimmerman because he is( what is inaccurately called) "white." Sadly the most racist group in America today is now Blacks, not Whites. The movement "justice for Trayvon" looks strikingly like the lynch mobs of KKK types in the Old South. Many Blacks, sadly, are becoming the kind of racists they once rightly hated.
Zimmerman is Hispanic, Martin was Black. How did white Christians suddenly become responsible for this???
These flame-throwing liberal democrat activist news journalists have been trying to stir up a race war for the last week. For the sake of peace, I wish they would shut up for a while.
Grab the torches and pitchforks! Let's storm the castle!
"...for the last week." Really? More like, for the past 40 years or so. And some of the comments from the so-called black church leaders are just mind-blowingly ignorant, talking about "vigilante justice" as if that had anything whatsoever to do with a self-defense case.
Because Zimmy is half-white, half Hispanic, not just Hispanic.
Obama is just as white...
The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.