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BreakPoint This Week: Race and Reconciliation
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John Stonestreet interviews Pastors Christopher Brooks & Bob Lynn about the Martin/Zimmerman trial, and how the Church should respond.

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The George Zimmerman/Trayvon Martin trial has grabbed probably too many headlines this past month. But how should Christians come away thinking biblically about it? During this week's interview, John Stonestreet joins pastors Christopher Brooks and Bob Lynn to discuss how we can encourage racial reconciliation through faithfulness to the Gospel, and why we must do it together.

Pastor Bob Lynn
More than a week has passed since the jury verdict to acquit George Zimmerman. And although the streets are relatively calm, the intense feelings about the case have not dissipated. The death of Trayvon Martin, as tragic as it was, seemed to release rather than provoke a nationwide outburst of pent-up discontentment and bitterness. In the midst of it all, Christians must bring to bear the only message which truly and eternally transcends race, and brings brothers and sisters of all ethnicities together under the banner of Christ.

"Irresponsible extremists on both sides of this verdict instigated deep division," explains John Stonestreet. "The trial was full of legal and cultural nuances, but for many, you just have two options: Trayvon Martin was completely innocent or George Zimmerman was heroic. And yet in the midst of this kind of binary thinking, the real concerns about racial division that this trial has revealed are just being drowned out. Legitimate dialogue and criticism is being lost. Most disturbing to me is that this includes the place where unity and reconciliation should happen first, and that's the Church...What resource is there other than the Gospel that can foster unity and reconciliation?"

Pastor Chris Brooks
Helping us explore the nitty gritty of this controversy, as well as the road toward reconciliation are pastors Bob Lynn, Associate Pastor of Adult Education, Mission and University at Knox Presbyterian Church in Ann Arbor Michigan, and Chris Brooks, Senior Pastor of Evangel Ministries, daily host of the radio show "Equip for Life" on Salem, and Campus Dean at Moody Theological Seminary in Michigan.

We hope this program not only provides a level-headed Christian commentary on one of the most explosive news stories of the year, but also equips you to engage with and love your fellow image-bearers of all colors.

Explore this week's broadcast:

Equipped for Life, the radio ministry of Pastor Chris Brooks

From Galatia to Baltimore

Rev. Robert Lynn | | September 27, 2007

You Are Not Trayvon Martin
William Saletan | Slate | July 15, 2013


wrong approach to race
I thought the interview with Chris Brooks just perpetuated the negative and divisive views on race relations that are harming our society, and Eric did not sufficiently challenge him on that. Chris sounds a lot like the Jesse Jacksons and Al Sharptons of the world, though he's not as inflammatory. It's hard to see where he differs with their views. Christianity teaches us that each person needs to look at his own sin first, confess it, repent, and 'go and sin no more'. Blaming another group for being racist is avoiding responsibility. Most of the problems facing black people would disappear if they would take responsibility and work to better themselves instead of looking for hand-outs. Some whites may have some racism, but it's not restricted towards blacks, but against Chinese, Japanese, Indians, Jews, Vietnamese, and many other groups, yet all these groups are succeeding economically and are not getting harassed by the police. Eric made some attempt to bring up some of these issues, but in general he followed the liberal line of 'mea culpa', which is mostly nonsense. Blacks who are hardworking, polite, self-reliant, and develop their God-given talents for all the world to see are very well received by the white community and by society in general, and racism towards them is not an issue. We elected a black president! - need I say more? Blacks need to stop removing the speck from their white brothers eyes and remove the log from their own, and Chris Brooks message is destructive to those ends.
Timely Sermon-"Some Things We Must Do"
@John Stonestreet

One more thing. Check out Rev. Martin Luther King's excellent sermon "Some Things We Must Do," which deals with the racial blind spots that Black and White Christians must confront and defeat:

It's scary is that a sermon from the 1950s remains so timely.
@John Stonestreet

Your conversation with Pastors Brooks and Lynn was a breath of fresh air in the ongoing debate over racism since the Zimmerman verdict. Too often, when this topic is discussed, the narrative goes that all would be well if White people would stop being racist. This narrative is pushed by the usual suspects: liberal Hollywood, academia, politicians, self appointed Black "leaders," the mainstream media, and the Black press (e.g., the Afro-American newspaper).

Instead, you and your guests had an honest debate on the blind spots of Black and White Christians concerning racism. White racism still exists in America, a fact that White conservatives do not always appreciate. However, Blacks as well as White liberals are reluctant to admit how many problems in the Black community are caused by the breakdown of morality.
For example, Pastor Brooks admitted that Black Christians have not really taught young Black men that being nice, polite, loving, and compassionate is not "soft" or "gay." This negligence makes it very tempting for young Black men to embrace the stereotype that "true Blackness" means being a thug. Naturally, this makes racial profiling of them more likely among Whites and other non-Black people.

Pastor Brooks showing such humility and honesty takes a lot of courage. Being a Black Christian, I can attest to how in the Black church there is a lot of pressure to not admit to any "dirty laundry" but instead focus solely on White racism. Yet, if we do not have such openness in the church, then we cannot move toward genuine racial reconciliation and thus be a great witness for Christ.
So, I hope that we going with this honest, open and yet respectful conversation on race among Christians. It would fascinating to see what ideas would emerge if the likes of Dr. Ben Carson, comedian Bill Cosby, and pro-life activist Ryan Bomberger (Radiance Foundation) were invited to the conversation.
@ Joel Fieri
Thank you for the link and for your comment. Both are spot-on.
"The death of Trayvon Martin, as tragic as it was, seemed to release rather than provoke a nationwide outburst of pent-up discontentment and bitterness. "

No, it actually did provoke it. How? By the media lying about the facts of this case from the moment the story came to light and continuing to do so. Now these lies have been cemented in the minds of the public. The average person on the street being asked about the case would say, "An innocent black boy was murdered for no reason by a racist white man." The only thing factually true in this portrayal is that the person who is dead was black. The rest about Zimmerman being white (or "white Hispanic, an entirely made up term!), Martin being innocent (he beat Zimmerman), Zimmerman being a racist (proven false by his involvement in the community) and 'murder for no reason' (self defense is not murder, not legally and not morally) - all of these things are factually false.


"Irresponsible extremists on both sides of this verdict instigated deep division," explains John Stonestreet."

See, this is what bothers me. Where is the evidence for "irresponsible extremists on both sides"? The only "irresponsible extremists" were the media people and people like Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton repeating the false narrative put out by the media, as well as all those who believed it. There's nothing comparable on the Zimmerman side. Nothing.

"...for many, you just have two options: Trayvon Martin was completely innocent or George Zimmerman was heroic."

Again, false. No one was saying Zimmerman was "heroic". The facts show he was defending himself. It was never painted as him being "heroic", nor do those on the side of those facts claim any such thing.

The incident itself was a clear cut case of self defense. The reporting of it was a clear cut case of the media deliberately painting the situation in a false manner and convicting Zimmerman before the facts were even fully known.

There is zero equality here between the Zimmerman side and the Martin side.


"...the real concerns about racial division that this trial has revealed are just being drowned out."

And what concerns are those? The real concerns should be the open racism of the media and many in the black community - against whites.

But that is something that will never be discussed.


What's bothersome is this tendency for Christians to want to walk the middle ground, to not take sides, and to accept blame that is not theirs to take.

There are people racially dividing our culture. But naming them apparently is not allowed in Christian circles. Doing so gets you labeled "unloving" or what you're saying is called "bashing", even if it's factually true.

Claiming we are ALL equally guilty of racially dividing the culture is again, factually false.
Richard and Joel,

Thanks for the comments. I do realize that our focus was not directly the facts or conclusion of the trial. That was intentional. The noise surrounding it was too loud already.

The difficult conversation is that for the church to see what the trial reveals about culture, and an incredible unmet opportunity for Christians to confront racial division with reconciliation. Only the church has this resource. Only the Gospel.

I don't think Pastor Lynn was proclaiming white guilt. I think he was highlighting that a part of the body of Christ has concerns we haven't heard. It's worth hearing so we can move towards unity.

It is a difficult conversation only complicated by a dishonest media. Still, I pray we can get above the noise together.


My reaction
I listened to these interviews but didn't hear anything to speak of about the case, the verdict, or much else of any use, really, as far as I could tell. To give you my reaction, let me begin with some background.

If you saw me, you would probably identify me as a white person. Since 1995 I have refused to call myself a white person. When I tell people that, so far no one has asked why, or took a guess as to why. On forms I am sometimes asked to identify my "race" (I put that word in quotes because, as far as I am concerned, there is only one race of people on this planet: the human race. I could elaborate on that but I won't; it is too far off topic.) I usually say Asian, because my ancestors thousands of years ago came from western Asia. But if the form says Asian means Eastern Asian, I say Other. Again, I won't go into any further detail. The important thing is why. Something happened in 1995 that caused me to do this. Because of the context of this comment, you can probably guess what it is. If you say, "The O.J. Simpson trial," you are close. If you say,"The O.J. Simpson verdict," you are closer.

The answer is the reaction of white people to that verdict. I followed the coverage of the trial and the verdict as closely as I could, given the constraints of time since I was working, and the Internet was still fairly primitive back then. I regretted missing the most interesting part, the DNA science. This was described by the TV news correspondents as the boring part for some strange reason, but once again I digress. The point is, from what I saw of the trial, it was clear to me that the prosecutors had failed to prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt, so when I heard the verdict, I knew the jury got it right. Then they showed the reactions of groups of black people and white people to the verdict: exact opposites. Black people, of course, were relieved, and 2/3 of them thought the verdict was right. Of the whites, 2/3 thought it was wrong. What???!!! I thought it was because they didn't understand about some police practices in dealing with black people, including but not limited to racial profiling. It's been so long I don't remember the details. I knew about those practices because I had seen them covered on network news magazine programs like 60 Minutes and 20/20, as well as on C-Span back when I had cable TV service.

Anyway, I likewise followed coverage of the Zimmerman case, the trial, and the verdict. Again, I thought the jury got it right for the same reason. This time, it was the reaction of black people that I found troubling. One of the things I didn't say before about how I identify myself is that I could argue that I am an African-American, but I didn't think I could get away with it. But just as I haven't called myself white since 1995, I no longer want to call myself African-American either, because of the reaction of that ethnic group to the Zimmerman verdict.

I am old enough to remember the Civil Rights movement, which I supported, and the Jim Crow laws and other despicable practices that I didn't support. Back in those days, if a black-on-white crime went to trial in the South, or vice versa, the all-white jury would inevitably side with the white person (victim or defendant) no matter what the evidence was. Today, too many African-Americans have a similar attitude, in reverse of course. They are no better than the white racists in the South who rigged the courts against blacks. Two wrongs don't make a right.

Anyway, here is how I see the case. Two men (one of them technically a minor), saw each other as a criminal or at least potentially as such. Zimmerman saw a teen male in a hoody he didn't know, and as a Neighborhood Watch member decided to investigate. Martin saw Zimmerman as an adult following a child, possibly a pedophile, and asked him why he was following him. I would like to know more about what they said to each other before it became a fist fight, but we haven't been given that information. And the only one who is alive to give his side of that story is the defendant who just got acquitted, and anything he says is at least suspect.

Once it became a fight, everything each one did convinced the other that he was, in fact, a criminal. Each one saw himself as defending himself against an attack by a criminal, with his own life at stake. Naturally, it escalated until it got to the point where Martin was banging Zimmerman's head against the pavement. At that point, Zimmerman's life really was at stake, and he quite properly used his weapon in self-defense.

Yes, the 911 dispatcher had said to Zimmerman, about following Martin, "We don't need you to do that." But that doesn't mean don't do it. Maybe if she had said that, the incident wouldn't have happened. I don't know. If a police officer had approached Martin instead of Zimmerman, when Martin asked, "Why are you following me?", (s)he could have (and hopefully would have) shown his/her badge, and then the incident probably wouldn't have happened. Perhaps the answer is to either issue some kind of official identification cards to Neighborhood Watch members, that they could show like a police badge to people they follow, or Neighborhood Watch members could be told not to follow people.
I'm sorry John, but this wasn't the 'difficult conversation'. The difficult conversation would be about why the trial took place at all, and why it's was framed in the racial and political context it was. If the conversation could include other black perspectives like this from Pastor Ken Hutcherson ( then I think we can all talk. But not if we're required to follow the lead of our dishonest media and those with p.c. racial agendas. And if we're required to treat racial issues with the soft racism of lower expectations, by laying liberal white guilt on white evangelicals while at the same time validating the highly politicized identity of African Americans (as I'm afraid Pastor Bob does here), then we will never get beyond race.

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