July 19th, 2012
07:55 AM ET

Zimmerman: Shooting 'God's plan'

By Eric Marrapodi, CNN Belief Blog Co-Editor

(CNN) -  It was "God's plan" that brought together George Zimmerman and Trayvon Martin in a fatal confrontation in February, Zimmerman told Fox News host Sean Hannity Wednesday in his first television interview.

Zimmerman, 28, has been charged with second-degree murder for shooting Martin in what he says was self-defense. Martin was unarmed when he was killed while walking back to his father's girlfriend's house in a gated residential area of Sanford, Florida.  Zimmerman has pleaded not guilty and has been free on $1 million bail since early July.

Zimmerman, who said he routinely carried a gun except when he was at work, told Hannity he didn't regret deciding to follow Martin that night, after deciding the teen was acting suspiciously, and he didn't regret having a gun.

"Do you feel you wouldn't be here for this interview if you didn't have that gun?" Hannity asked.

"No, sir," Zimmerman responded.

"You feel you would not be here?" Hannity pressed.

"I feel it was all God's plan and for me to second guess it or judge it..." Zimmerman said, pursing his lips and shaking his head.

The 17-year-old victim's father didn't agree with Zimmerman's claim.

"We must worship a different God because there is no way that my God would have wanted George Zimmerman to kill my teenage son," Tracy Martin said in a statement after Zimmerman's interview was broadcast.

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There's an old joke about a Christian who falls down a flight of stairs and then says, "Thank God that's over."  For some Christians, there is a belief that God is in control of everything in their lives, good and bad, from finding a parking space close to the grocery store to the death of a loved one.

When things go horribly awry, it's not uncommon for people to look to God as the one who drew up the plan, says David M. Carr, professor of Old Testament at Union Theological Seminary.

“What's particularly striking to me in this instance,” Carr told CNN, was that “George Zimmerman is attributing something he did to God’s plan.”

“It's one thing to attribute a natural disaster to God’s plan to try and make sense of the world,” he said. “It’s another thing to justify something you did as God’s plan. That’s taking it to another level.”

“That lets you off the hook, but I think it can look to other people as a pretty transparent attempt at self-justification,” Carr added.

Carr is an expert on the Hebrew Bible, which Christians call the Old Testament.

“One thing that strikes me about many of the narratives in the Old Testament is there are so many places where characters think they know what God is up to, but we know because of the narrator in the story, they’re wrong.”

“So the Bible speaks to the human misperception of what God is doing.”

Zimmerman and his family were longtime members at the All Saints Catholic Church in Manassas, Virginia.

"George grew up in Manassas and was active in the church during his youth as an altar server and evening receptionist in the office," Pastor Bob Cilinski of All Saints told CNN in March. "The Zimmerman family were known and respected in the community for their dedication and service."

Despite his Catholic upbringing, some say that that on this point of theology, Zimmerman may be out of step with Catholic teaching.

“God didn’t make us robots, he didn’t make us puppets,” said Father Tom Reese, a senior fellow at the Woodstock Theological Center at Georgetown University.

“A key part of God’s plan is giving us freedom to make decisions.  Sometimes those decisions are good and sometimes those decisions are bad," Reese said, explaining the Catholic teaching on the concept of free will.

"Obviously, not everything we do is part of God’s plan.  Because sometimes we sin and that certainly is not part of God’s plan.  It’s contrary to what God wants."

Reese said Zimmerman's sentiment is not an uncommon one among Christians.  But the idea of a God who controls everything down to the last detail strikes Reese as an idea closer to Greek mythology than the God described in the Bible.

"It’s based on this idea of an absolute powerful God who always gets what he wants.  When we read the Scriptures, we find out God doesn’t always get what he wants.  He’s disappointed and upset when things go wrong,” he said.

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“I think there’s an important insight that these people have, that is when things do go bad, when they go contrary to God’s plan, he can still make good things happen as a result," Reese said.

“When these terrible things happen, God can inspire people to respond to them with courage and compassion so that something positive can come out of something very negative," he added.  "But it wasn’t part of God’s plan that this guy got killed.  We can’t excuse what we do by saying that’s God’s plan.”

Both Carr and Reese were careful to say they were not commenting on the legal aspects of the case and noted that Zimmerman's guilt or innocence should be left up to the courts.

One thing Reese said Zimmerman did get right in the interview was apologizing and praying for the Martin family.

"I'm sorry they had to bury their child," Zimmerman told Hannity.  "I pray for them daily."

- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: Belief • Catholic Church • Christianity

soundoff (1,528 Responses)
  1. Maude

    It looks like Zimmerman hit the tanning booth to make his skin darker as he is getting closer to his court date.

    July 19, 2012 at 4:38 pm |
  2. JD

    So sick of people citing to God or their religion as justification for their actions, their hatred, bigotry, etc. etc.

    July 19, 2012 at 4:37 pm |
  3. ChicagoLoop

    His remarks are arrogant; the murder itself was a gross display of his arrogant and delusional way of thinking and justifying his untenable behavior.

    July 19, 2012 at 4:37 pm |
  4. Mithead

    How can there be "god's plan" and "free will" simultaneously? Oh yeah, it's all BS!

    July 19, 2012 at 4:37 pm |
  5. Papasan

    People that believe in god and all the stories in their "good" book. Are C R A Z Y !

    July 19, 2012 at 4:36 pm |
  6. Dread

    I'm guessing his attorney wasn't involved with this statement.

    July 19, 2012 at 4:35 pm |
  7. snowboarder

    sounds like pure malarky to me. i guess they are trying to appeal to the religious.

    July 19, 2012 at 4:35 pm |
  8. Sonoman

    This guy NEEDS to spend the rest of his life behind bars!

    July 19, 2012 at 4:35 pm |
  9. jeru0455

    After having read these comments there is only one clear conclusion that I came to: the athiests on here are on average AT LEAST 30 IQ points smarter than the religious people.

    July 19, 2012 at 4:34 pm |
    • Sonoman

      FuxNews is to news as Boone's Farm is to wine

      July 19, 2012 at 4:39 pm |
  10. Michael

    GOD is a murderous HEATHEN.

    July 19, 2012 at 4:34 pm |
  11. Lsteel

    I'm a conservative Christian,and I'm very offended by Zimmerman's comments.

    As for being sorry that the family "buried their child", wow, what a passive statement.

    Are we sure Zimmerman was even there that night? Because HE seems to be in doubt about his own involvement.

    July 19, 2012 at 4:33 pm |
  12. mauibucky

    Hannity was shamelessly leading Zimmermann. Disgraceful. "God's plan"? Does that mean Trayvon Martin was Satan and Zimmermann is Archangel Gabriel ? What kind of country is are we becoming when a killing is framed as something religious?

    July 19, 2012 at 4:33 pm |
  13. Lisa

    This is Mark O'Mara panicking and attempting to go with the "religious fruitcake" defense .....

    July 19, 2012 at 4:33 pm |
  14. Bri

    WOW...When all else fails...Blame God..SMH..

    July 19, 2012 at 4:32 pm |
  15. DC

    So it was God's plan for him to chase after a stranger with his gun? Hmm, Georgey boy might want to change his plea from 'stand your ground' to 'insanity'

    July 19, 2012 at 4:32 pm |
  16. rec


    July 19, 2012 at 4:31 pm |
  17. Kbone3

    Just shows that Zimmerman is a nut case. Blame it on God, like that song, "Blame It On The A Aaa Alcohol."

    July 19, 2012 at 4:31 pm |
  18. rozatl.

    On 9-11-2001 there was a group of young men doing God's work . Now George Zimmerman. I think his attorney is going
    for an insanity defense forget stand your ground. It will be an easier sell. Just keep this guy talking.

    July 19, 2012 at 4:29 pm |
    • aspiepoet

      I hope he tries the insanity plea...I really do. People who think that is a get of jail card are sadly mistaken. People who are sent to the state looney bin on murder charges will still be behind locked doors most of the time and will be in there alot longer than those in prison since there are no sentancing in mental hospitals. People are in there till they are deemed "cured" which in Zimmerman's case, may never happen.

      July 19, 2012 at 5:56 pm |
  19. Bernie

    Funny, but if you're a Christian, God's plan for handling this type of situation was outlinled in Matthew 5:39: "But I say unto you, That you resist not evil: but whosoever shall smite you on your right cheek, turn to him the other also." How is stalking a child and shooting them in the chest in accordance with that plan?

    July 19, 2012 at 4:28 pm |
  20. Joe

    That is a very good observation!!!!!!!!!!!!! WHO ON EARTH HAS A PRESS INTERVIEW THAT IS CHARGED WITH MURDER????????????????????????????

    July 19, 2012 at 4:28 pm |
    • I'm not a GOPer, nor do I play one on TV

      Wasn't Fox News the one complaining that GZ should not be 'tried by the media' in the days after the shooting.

      So what's this? A proxy argument for the defence in a trail by the media?

      July 19, 2012 at 4:33 pm |
    • Wise Notes

      Someone who was arraigned based on public opinion. This whole case is a study in media, not law.

      July 19, 2012 at 4:40 pm |
    • I'm not a GOPer, nor do I play one on TV

      ooops sorry "trial" not "trail"

      July 19, 2012 at 4:47 pm |
    • aspiepoet

      Only a racist media darling that gets 1 million in donations by fellow racists to get out of jail.

      July 19, 2012 at 5:48 pm |
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About this blog

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.