The following excerpt was written by Victor Montalvo. Victor is the lead pastor of Reality Community Church in Sanford, FL, the city where Trayvon Martin was killed. Reality Community Church is a diverse congregation — a mix of Latino, Anglo, African-American, and Asian congregants.
I wanted to post this piece as an introduction to the issue and get your reactions. I plan to share my own thoughts on the bigger picture of race relations in the Body of Christ sometime this week. So stay tuned.
Did the jury make the right call? I just don’t know. The reality is that, above all else, this was an extremely complicated situation with both individuals involved operating from a sense of fear. Trayvon feared he was being followed and George feared another home invasion in his neighborhood. Did it all happen the way the trial painted it? We will never know. We can’t really know, and that is terribly unsettling.
It’s unsettling because we want to close the book. We want answers. Outsiders came looking for a story or looking for a fight. We who live here just want this to be over. We want justice served and the spotlight gone so we can begin to put the pieces of our fractured city together. As long as the nation peered into our little town they sought for one thing: a villain.
The news, the talking heads, the activists, they just wanted a monster. They wanted someone to blame, someone to hate. They tried to paint George Zimmerman as a hotheaded, racist, wannabe vigilante. If that wasn’t sticking they tried painting Trayvon Martin as a reckless, drug-using thug looking for trouble. Both were horribly wrong, but more people watched, and more people seethed.
It reminded me of one of the wide range of responsibilities I have as a father. One particular night, I was called upon to be a “tiger slayer”. At three-years old, my daughter saw the Jungle Book and woke up afraid. Apparently, there was a tiger in her closet. In the wee hours of the morning I concluded that trying to explain to her the absence of the tiger would take too long and may not actually work. So, I lied. Well, I pretended. I “found” the tiger, smashed it and drug it out of the room. Afterwards, my daughter slept wonderfully.
Maybe that’s what we wanted after all. We wanted a boogeyman in the closet. We wanted a young thug or a racist vigilante. We wanted someone to be evil so we could move on, feeling like there is some sense to this tragedy. Well, that just isn’t going to happen. It’s never going to happen. Our world just doesn’t work that way.
So what do we do? We grieve. We pray. We pray for the Martin family, who is grieving the tragic death of their son. We pray for the Zimmerman family, who will never be the same after this experience. We pray for Sanford, which has a mountain of fear, distrust and racial tension to climb. We pray for our nation, who is still deeply mired in racial distrust. We pray for the Church, that we would be a beacon of hope and a shining example of Christ’s desires for our world.
The Church must model the way out of this racial abyss. As long as we preach racial tolerance we will get nowhere in remedying the racial divide we have in our churches and in our nation.