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DEBORAH POTTER, host: Faith communities across the country reacted this week to the acquittal of George Zimmerman in the shooting death of Trayvon Martin, an unarmed black teenager.

Demonstrations against the verdict were mostly peaceful. Some ministers organized vigils to press for federal civil rights charges against Zimmerman. The president of the National Council of Churches said people of faith should join in a renewed call for racial justice.

Joining us to talk about all this are Kim Lawton, managing editor of this program and the Rev. Romal Tune, founder of the non-profit group Faith for Change and author of "God's Graffiti: Inspiring Stories for Teens."

Welcome. Romal, let me start with you, there were some very angry reactions to the verdict in the Zimmerman case and the president of the National Black Church Initiative said that it gave any white male who felt threatened the license to kill young black boys. What did you make of that reaction?

Rev. Romal Tune

REVEREND ROMAL TUNE (Founder, Faith for Change): Well, I think at the core of the anger, the root of it was sadness. The verdict really said to young African American males that you don’t matter and so that sadness and that continued rejection by society then led to the anger that then led to some of the behavior we saw in the communities.

POTTER: What other kinds of reactions have you been hearing, Kim?

KIM LAWTON (Managing Editor, Religion & Ethics NewsWeekly): Well a mix, you know, as in society but I’ve been really surprised by the level of calls for conversations coming out of this and especially in the faith community there’s been seems like a real coming together of people saying we should talk about these issues, no matter what we felt about the verdict, we want to see a new dialogue in this country precisely to address some of the pain that Romal was talking about and some of the injustice and all of those divisions that persist.

POTTER: Romal, what kind of dialogue could be productive now and what is the role of the faith community in stirring up that dialogue?

TUNE: I think the dialogue that should be had specifically in the faith community is how do we really go about being this community of faith that is multicultural and diverse and equal but with that moving from the conversation and looking at action steps. We really have to address how we’re going to engage inner city youth and really meet the needs of the underserved. So, the conversation needs to be two-fold in terms of looking to identify how we can be more diverse and equal and embrace our differences but then also addressing the needs of teenagers in the inner city.

Managing editor Kim Lawton

LAWTON: And I was really surprised this week by some of the new voices I’ve been hearing in some of these issues that Romal’s talking about. Even in the Southern Baptist Convention, which is politically pretty conservative, race hasn’t been at the top of their agenda until recently but hearing from them calls, yes, for prayer, but also some of their leaders talking about engaging issues like the disproportionate number of young African American men in prison or on death row. Those are not issues you’ve heard from the Southern Baptist Convention a lot in many areas of it in the past and so it’s interesting how this particular case has spurred conversation but maybe some new action as well.

POTTER: You know, Romal, one of the things that makes this difficult I suspect is the continued sort of segregation of Sunday morning, if you will. The fact that, you know, blacks and whites don’t worship together typically and so they don’t know each other in this context. Does that have to change and how could it change?

TUNE: It definitely has to change. I think when we look at the Gospel and we look at what the kingdom of heaven really looks like. It is not segregated. The kingdom of God is inclusive. It’s culturally diverse. In order to overcome some of the issues we have now on Sunday morning we really have to address issues of power and leadership within congregations and what are we really perpetuating with the Gospel. Are we really seeking to be an example of the kingdom on Earth or are we unconsciously and perhaps in some ways consciously living in our silos. But it really requires some real hard conversations about race in this country.

LAWTON: And some of those have to start with relationships, like you said. I did hear a lot this week, people saying that there aren’t enough relationships between communities where people can be honest and really address tough, tough issues and not just say, oh we’re all warm and fuzzy, but there are some deeper things that need to be addressed and you can’t start doing that if you don’t have the relationships. So I did hear a lot of new calls for that as well.

POTTER: Romal, your last thought. Are you hopeful going forward?

TUNE: I am hopeful. I think the Gospel calls us to be hopeful and it calls us to look at situations like this and answer the question of where’s the evidence of God in these situations. And that answer is in how we engage communities and how we meet the needs of hurting people so I’m always hopeful as long as that we know congregations are out there seeking to meet the needs of young people.

POTTER: Thank you so much. Romal Tune. And Kim.

TUNE: Thank you.

Religious Reaction to Zimmerman Verdict

There were demonstrations all across the country in reaction to the acquittal of George Zimmerman in the shooting death of Trayvon Martin, which has prompted a national discussion about race, violence, and justice. Watch our discussion about the religious community’s reaction with managing editor Kim Lawton and Rev. Romal Tune, founder of the non-profit group Faith for Change and author of God’s Graffiti: Inspiring Stories for Teens.

  • Elinor

    The problem was that this is a gated community and Trayvon was not recognized in a neighborhood that was experiencing breaking and entering crimes. Mr. Zimmerman was probably (and I can not enter his mind, but this is why I would confront Trayvon) thinking that he did not belong in the community. I would ask who he was and where he was going, and perhaps even escort him to the house. No one seems to note that his father is black and lives within the community. It is not as though this 17 yr. old nearly a man was walking down my street, which is urban, and he had free access to the community here. I would not stop him here, question him, or do anything else. The media have made this into a racial issue, not an issue of a person who appeared in a restricted neighborhood and was not recognized as a community member. In order to discover the genesis of the event, we have to extensively assess both Trayvon’s life (parents, their relationship, how custody was determined, his access to both parents, his school life, his problems in school, his extra curricular activities, and any legal or school discipline problems he has had) and Mr. Zimmerman’s life (his family of origin, method of upbringing, his school records, military records, social history, hobbies, organizational affiliations, relationship history, marriage, and any criminal record he may have). What a personal invasion for a tragic incident to be understood! If it turns out that this was a socially activated problem from the activists who retain wealth and personal prestige within their community by stirring up fear and division, then those activists should be legally retained and re-educated about how to facilitate real understanding between groups of people. Remember, intergroup trust and understanding is new in human development. Groups have always banded together and found reasons to distrust other groups and reasons to feel superior to those groups.

  • Billy Pennington

    Excellent points Elinor. It is apparent that Trayvon had a more hostile attitude that George. This was exampled by the prosecutions own witnesses. Children should be taught the “Golden Rule” and NOT “Mob Rule”. Too bad a lot of grownups have little knowledge of respect or accountability.

  • QUEEN JUSTICE

    This is the ” UNITED STATES OF AMERICA!!! Florida, is a ” STATE,” adopted under the Union, aka USA, thus the ” INCORPORATED,” CITY OF SANFORD…under local manicupality, has nothing to do with gates.. Pertigent issues are ” RACE “,and ,wearing a “HOODIE ” while walking on free soil, free territory, and being ” FREE ” to visit the father; Mr. Trace Martin. IGNORANCE, some say is ” BLISS!” GRANDMOTHERRR, pity.. ” FOOLS IN FOOLISHNESS ” FOOLS, pretending, it is peachy to murder a minor, stalking, or following an unknown individual is a crime, within itself. Is, FREEDOM OF,SPEECH, a crime, for BLACK teens? Asking, why are you…following me? Or is walking, FREEDOM …anti….” Color of law? ”

  • QUEEN JUSTICE

    Children…” CHILD RIGHTS ” harm and injury, any child:; nevertheless, unarmed, is totally…”UNJUSTIFIED” ..As, many sorry, ruthless adults, set no example, themselves, example, George Zimmerman!!! Imagine, GZ, meeting an “ADULT!!!” armed!!! This is the meaning, in public, not home..” FORCE WITH FORCE!” Totally justified. and fair if you conpare a conflicting law of Chapter 776, still full of tricks trickey kinda ” SWORDS & DAGGERS!!!” Subsequently, defends on what color, or privilege, whence comes, the “JUDGE!!!” COMETH, from Virginia SUPREME COURT MAGISTRATE…definitely, here cones the ” PRIVILEGED SAVIOR!!!” for,a nuisance son. Is GOD A ” FOOL?” LOLOLOLOL:) :) :) NEVERRRR!!! The people are??????? GRANDNOTBERRR!!! ,” An ole cliche..”YOU CAN FOOL THE PEOPLE..HEYYYY!!! Some of the TIME!!!! HEYYYY!!! Word from the “WISE!!!”
    “BUT YOU CANNOT FOOL THE PEOPLE, YES LORD…” ALL THE TIME!!!!!!! ” GOD BLESS KNOWLEDGE…AMENNNNNNNNNN:):(:)) (:)
    QUEEN JUSTICE..CATCH MS. JUSTICE.. ALWAYS…JUST LOOK LOLOL:):):) OVER YOUR SHOULDER..” I”LL BE THERE…” ALWAYSSSSS:):()(:)

  • QUEEN JUSTICE

    Children should be ” HEARD!!! ” not
    ” HARMED!!! ” DO NO HARM TO YOUR NEIGHBOR!!! Nevertheless, a ” CHILD!!! ”
    UNAUTHORIZED TO VOTE, UNAUTHORIZED TO APPARENTLY DEFEND HIMSELF; TRAVYON MARTIN…OOOOPS!!!:(:(:( MOREVER, JUROR B-37, QUOTED, HE HAS,A ROLE IN HIS DEATH!!!!!!! SINCE, WHEN DOES A TEEN ASK TO BE SHOT, OR FOLLOWED, OR QUIERED??? SINCE, JUROR B-37, ” THINKS…” I THINK…” WELL, THIS KIND OF ” THINKING???” UNACCEPTABLE!!!!!! UNJUSTIFIED, UNWORTHY, AND JUST FOR JUROR B-37, ” YOU THINK!!!!!!! MOTHERLY INSTINCTS…REALLY MATTERED??????? NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!! ,GOD BLESS MS. TRUE JUSTICE…AMENNNNNNNNN:(:(:_

  • QUEEN JUSTICE

    A ” CHILD!!!!!!!” SHOULD BE…” HEARD ”
    NOT…” H A R M E D!!!!!!! ” DO NOOOOOOOO…HARM!!! GOD BLESS ALL..AND RESPECT YOUR NEIGHBOR…FOR YOU TOO, WAS A SLAVE IN A FOREIGN LAND…SAYS GOD…IN OT AND NT…TO WHOM RESPECTS ALL FOLKS…SHALOMMM!!!:):):)N

  • Frank

    Award-winning musician Jean
    Paul Samputu lost his family during the genocide in Rwanda. But he
    overcame rage and resentment by learning to forgive and now leads peace and justice ministries. Christians calling for punishment of Zimmerman should read about Samputu in the July 19 online Christian Science Monitor. Why are so many of us just seeking revenge and no one calling for forgiveness. Why don’t we take the resources and energy being expended on Zimmerman and do something to prevent thousands of black youth from being killed by other black youth in all our major cities like Detroit, Baltimore, Washington. Why didn’t we put this energy into the gun control fight last winter? Attacking Zimmerman is easy. Let’s do this other much harder work and be true to our calling.

  • oyesalways

    I regret it when people take one incident and then say the whole nation feels a certain way because one person acted a certain way. Before Trayvon, there was Christopher Cervini, a white NY
    teen shot and killed by Roderick Scott, a black man, in 2008. Mr Obama asked what would be different if Trayvon had been white. Here is an example, though there are some
    differences in the cases. Cervini and a couple of friends were actually caught
    going through neighbors’ cars, allegedly looking for coins and cigarettes, when Scott confronted them and ordered them to stay
    where they were until police arrived. Cervini had no record of problems or misbehavior and was
    described by his father as a gentle 16-year old. Although Scott claimed he
    fired in self defense as Cervini suddenly charged him, he shot Cervini twice in
    the back, and a third shot went into his hand and out his armpit. The police
    arrested Scott right away and charged him with murder. (No stand ground law in
    New York and deadly force not normally justified for petty theft. However, New
    York law does allow a person to use deadly force anywhere, including off his
    own property, if he feels that his life is in imminent danger and retreat is
    not possible.) A grand jury did not accept Scott’s self-defense argument but
    knocked the charge down to manslaughter. A majority-white jury then acquitted
    Scott after two days of deliberation, due to reasonable doubt. After the
    verdict, Mr Scott expressed regret for the loss of young Cervini’s life and
    when asked if he would do anything differently, said,“Would I still have tried
    to stop what was going on? That I would have done. But if I knew ahead of time
    that I could do something to help somebody from losing their life, I don’t want
    anyone to lose their life.” Despite the racial difference between Mr Scott
    and the teen, there were no allegations of racial bias. Scott was not charged
    with a hate crime. There was no Federal civil rights investigation. There were
    no national protests, no burning of the flag, no discussion of racial profiling
    in our society. The case was not even picked up by national media; it was
    barely publicized outside the local area; neither the White House nor the Attorney General commented about it. The case was viewed generally as a tragedy
    caused by poor decisions by two individuals. Mr Scott lived only a street or
    two away from the Cervini family at the time.

  • QUEEN JUSTICE

    NOBLE PRIZE WINNER..DR. MARTIN LUTHER KING….” INJUSTICES HERE…IS INJUSTICES EVERYWHERE!!!” AFFIRMED!!! AMERICA, ROOTS, UPON ROOTS, TO SHOOTS OR RACISM!!!!!!!! CHOOSE YOUR BATTLES..” WELL!!! I SHALL…AS WATCHING GOSPEL TV..THIS MORNING..”

  • QUEEN JUSTICE
  • QUEEN JUSTICE

    GOD.