Trayvon Martin and George Zimmerman: Whose God is whose?

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As if the Internet needs more things to explode over, George Zimmerman, who has been charged with second-degree murder in the death of Trayvon Martin, brought religion into the mix in an interview with Fox’s Sean Hannity last night. Here’s how the LA Times describes the turn of events:

In his first lengthy TV interview since killing Trayvon Martin, George Zimmerman initially said Wednesday night that he did not regret anything that happened that night.

“I feel like it was all God’s plan,” he told conservative talk show host Sean Hannity on Fox News.

Near the end of the interview, he backtracked, saying he would tell the teen’s parents, “I’m sorry,” and that he would be open to talking to them about what happened.

“I can’t imagine what it must feel like. And I pray for them daily,” Zimmerman said.

So, of course, reporters pounce and go to Martin’s family for reaction.

Trayvon’s father, Tracy Martin, said in a telephone interview with the Associated Press that he rejected a comment Zimmerman made about the events of that night being part of “God’s plan.”

“We must worship a different God. There is no way that my God wanted George Zimmerman to murder my teenage son,” Tracy Martin said.

As a reader put it:

So George Zimmerman said on video that the death of Trayvon Martin was a part of God’s plan? What are George Zimmerman’s religious beliefs? What are the Martin Family’s beliefs? There’s no other details on it other than George Zimmerman said X, and the Martin family responds with Y.

The lack of basic details here is so painfully obvious. Can you imagine reporters accepting the same kind of general description in the details of the crime? For instance, would they be just fine with receiving information that Martin was wearing clothes? No, the hoodie makes it much more descriptive. Was he carrying just any kind of candy? No, we all remember the Skittles. Why is it so hard for reporters to nail down more specifics on religion?

The lack of specifics exacerbate the quotes even more, especially when the family responds that they don’t worship the same God. Easy follow-up questions would be: So what God is that? Do you attend a specific church regularly? Reporters act like these questions are like asking someone’s weight. It’s really not hard. People often want to share that information. And readers are desperately looking for it.

Who cares if the reports and interviews come out of Fox, MSNBC, AP, LA Times, a blogger, a tweeter? Everyone involved is doing a terrible job. It’s not rocket science. It’s reporting. The hole is so big you could drive a truck through it.

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  • Mike O.

    I agree with this. When the subject of a story brings up religion as a reason for events taking place, the reporters should follow-up on that.

    One question I have that believers may be able to help with: Are there sections of christianity that don’t believe that God has a plan, that all things happen for a reason? I ask this in relation to the questions brought up by Sarah’s post. Let’s say that the reporters covering the interview did investigate further and find Zimmerman is part of “church X”. I’m not sure what a reporter could draw to differentiate church X’s position on God’s plan and those outside of church X.

    I think Sean Hannity definitely failed in not asking a follow-up question on Zimmerman’s statement.

  • Jay

    What kind of truck?

  • Chris M

    I don’t even know if people THINK about that statement (it was God’s plan).. they just sort of spout it as a deep-sounding platitude without any kind of consideration as to what it means. Asking follow-up questions would have revealed a lot, I’m sure.

  • Julia

    And what does “God’s plan” mean? Does it mean everything that happens is pre-determined? that there is no free will? Or more like the Doris Day song “Que sera sera”? – a fatalism that means you have to live with what happens – make the best of it.

    Zimmerman’s father has been reported as Jewish and his mother as Peruvian. Is Zimmerman accepting a view of life in concert with one of his parents, a mix of the two or something totally different?

    Zimmerman was reportedly brought up Catholic in Virginia. The bit about “God’s plan” doesn’t sound very Catholic to me, since Catholicism doesn’t teach pre-destination. Catholic children are definitely not taught that they have no free will.

    It’s the “God’s will” part of his interview that is making the big impact. It will take awhile to dig into what this means in Zimmerman’s case. It will surely feature at the trial if Zimmerman takes the stand.

    As stated earlier, this is surely a strange way to conduct pre-trial matters – prosecutors & judges allowing all kinds of evidence to be made public and a defendant doing an hour-long interview in prime time.

  • Sarah Pulliam Bailey

    An angle from CNN that looks what what Zimmerman meant:

  • Bill Pivnik

    We don’t know God’s plan for George Zimmerman, but surely we all know “Thou shalt not kill”

  • sari

    The commandment actually translates as “you will not murder (Heb: tirdof)”, not “you will not kill (Heb: mait).” We are taught that murder involves a conscious decision whereas killing may be a matter of necessity (e.g., killing to save an innocent’s life or in self-defense) or in the heat of the moment. Intent matters.

  • The Old Bill

    Bill Pivnik wrote:

    We don’t know God’s plan for George Zimmerman, but surely we all know “Thou shalt not kill”

    The Commandment is against unjustified killing. Zimmerman claims self-defense. A jury will weigh the evidence.

    I think there is truth in Chris M’s observation. It was God’s plan might be a sincere belief, or it might be a platitude. Without follow up, there’s no way to tell.

    Julia is correct about this being strange pre-trial behavior. But what must a defense attorney do to defend his client? Martin has been lionized in much of the press and Zimmerman demonized. There was a Trayvon Martin Day in a DC public school. The president has weighed in. Messrs. Sharpton and Jackson have pronounced him guilty of murder. Martin’s parents have used the same word. His attorney evidently believes Zimmerman must answer the charges that have been leveled in, and by, the press.

    (FYI, I posted for years as Bill, but new Bills arose and posted and there was confusion among the people. And TMatt saw that it was not good and said, “Henceforth, you shall be called something else.” So now I’m The Old Bill. Whaddya think, does my new name make me look younger and thinner?)

  • SuzieTampa

    Many in the media simply want a sensational headline that will attract clicks.

    I don’t think GZ’s father is Jewish. “Zimmerman” is a Dutch/German name shared by both Jews and Christians. That’s the last name of my minister.

    When a tragedy occurs, lot’s of people console themselves by saying it was God’s plan or will. GZ didn’t say God commanded him to kill Trayvon. GZ is using the expression the same way Sybrina Fulton has.

    Many Christians are confused on the subject of free will. For example, why would God create imperfect humans, let them make their own decisions and then punish them for eternity for making bad decisions? Why would God let other people suffer — such as Trayvon, his family and friends, and GZ’s family and friends — to test GZ’s free will? Why would a loving and omniscient God set people up to suffer and fail? It sounds like a cruel game.

    I think that’s why many Christians hold on to the idea that God has a plan or works in mysterious ways.

  • Jeff K

    “a strange way to conduct pre-trial matters”

    I guess GZ is broke and going on air to raise money. To bring up God in the context discussing an alleged killing might open up some pocketbooks. It really seems shady and doesn’t show any remorse, regardless of the fine print you might read into the 10 Commandments.

  • Maureen

    A lot of Dutch/German people are Jewish, and anybody who got out without the “make Jewish people have weird last names” law is free to have a normal profession-surname. If you use the search terms “Zimmerman” and “synagogue”, you will find that a lot of rabbis are named Zimmerman.

    Moving along… God’s providence doesn’t preclude free will, and God not forbidding bad things to happen is generally considered “part of God’s plan,” and Job-like misfortune also.

    Meanwhile, it seems clear that some reporters aren’t so much interested in understanding Zimmerman’s POV as in getting new material to stir the pot with.

  • Ed Dougherty

    The point is not what Mr. Zimmerman meant by the use of the term “God’s Will”. Rather, it is only important that Mr. Zimmerman showed himself to be a God-fearing person to the Fox News audience. And that audience, which contains a lot of folks who call themselves Christians, will go along with the shooting of a young, unarmed African-American man so long as the shooter professes himself to also be a religious person. As someone who is a Mass-going Catholic, I’ve seen this type of attitude in my church and in other chrucehs recently.

  • Ed Dougherty


    I should also add that I’m not following any kind of press construct here. I hadn’t known about this until I was over at a relative’s house and was forced to watch the interview with Mr. Hannity (I hate all cable news, by the way)and I’m going off of what I heard. I didn’t need the press to tell me about what he was saying-I saw and heard it and then research the case on my own after my relative was following verbatim what Mr. Zimmerman was saying and agreeing with all of it.

  • northcoast

    I think that Mr. Hannity instinctively avoids the kind of conversation that a follow up question would have invited.

  • rachael

    I can see how a Christian would believe that God has a hand in all that happens. But if Mr. Zimmerman wants to play the God card, why is he begging for money and trying to change judges? If all is going according to God’s plan, surely everything that happens to Mr. Zimmerman is going according to God’s plan too, and will, regardless of his outcome.