This is a photograph of Miguel sitting in front of an abandoned church in Benton Harbor, MI.  I got to know him last winter when he showed me around his home town where the average per capita income is less than $10,000.

Miguel isn’t nearly as menacing as he looks.  In fact, he’s quite shy, a soft-spoken 19-year-old black kid.  The kind of kid George Zimmerman, a man with Hispanic roots, would consider killing if Miguel happened to be walking in his Sanford, FL, community minding his own business.  The kind of kid who would raise the suspicions of most white folks in most white communities across our country.

In worship last Sunday, during the most segregated hour in our country, I offered a prayer about two Americas based on recent reflections by Brian McLaren ( regarding the “not guilty” verdict in the murder of Trayvon Martin.

Justice-loving God, it seems now that one America has more reason to believe that their sons can be presumed guilty until proven innocent without a reasonable doubt when they’re walking down the street armed only with Skittles and an iced tea.

The other America now has more reason to believe that they can get away with murder, or something close to it, as long as the victim is young and black and wearing a hoodie.

Mercy-giving God, it seems one America now has less reason to believe that their children will have equal protection under the law.

The other America is more secure in the right to “stand its ground” and more determined to carry concealed weapons and use them.

Diversity-celebrating God, one America sincerely believes their own gun rights are more threatened than the other America’s voting rights.

Truth-seeking God, one America feels its story is always told from the starting point of an unarmed teenager involved in an altercation, not from the starting point of an armed adult pursuing an unarmed teenager.

Peace-making God, one America is scandalized that an armed adult would assess as a threat an innocent, unarmed teenager walking down the street.  The other America is scandalized that anyone would consider the armed adult as anything other than innocent and justified in that assessment.

O God of limitless transformations, can two such Americas ever come to believe that the best world, your realm, is one where people multiply plowshares and pruning hooks, not swords and spears, where we multiply community playgrounds, urban gardens and parks, not guns and drones?  Do we dare believe and work toward a heaven on earth where there is equal liberty and equal justice for all?  Amen.

George Zimmerman is a free man.  It had to be tough serving on the jury.  There’s a campaign by his admirers at the Buckeye Firearms Foundation to raise money to buy him a new gun.  Nice.

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  1. Dave Kidd July 22, 2013 at 6:06 pm #

    Great prayer! Someday, do one on the other mostly segregated institution in our society: Funeral Homes. Strange, but true. Even in death… Dave

  2. Jim July 30, 2013 at 9:43 pm #

    I cannot imagine the pain inflicted by the legacy of our laws, criminal justice system, and racism all African Americans encounter daily. I would humbly suggest, in this particular instance, the roots of this injustice include the Florida (and many other states’) legislative racism. This law grants an armed person to “hold their ground” , left to the personal prerogative of the armed, with no regard to motivation.

    The jury was put in an untenable position to define what was “beyond a reasonable doubt.” Juries are required to parse legalities.

    It is the legislators and governors (and ultimately, we, as passive citizens) who truly represent the immoral and unjust law on the books. It made jurors pawns of a cynical and racist law.

    Along with the victims of an unhealed, open wound, may we also pray for peace for jurors who are bound by a despairing directive.