Tag Archives: Los Angeles riots

Trayvon Martin, George Zimmerman, and the Prevention of Truth Decay

Why can’t we all just get along?

The Trayvon Martin/George Zimmerman news story refuses to go away. Lines have been drawn and sides have been chosen regarding this explosive case—which could easily become the 21st century version of Rodney King and the Los Angeles Police Department. I lived in Los Angeles during the Rodney King riots and it wasn’t fun. Almost got killed as a matter of fact, but that’s a story for another day.

If you’re rusty on this story, here are the basics: on March 20, a 17-year-old, unarmed, African-American male was shot and killed in a gated community in Sanford, Florida by a 28-year-old Hispanic male named George Zimmerman. Law enforcement officials are attempting to determine if Zimmerman shot Martin out of self-defense or racial prejudice.

Please understand: my goal is not to take sides in this case.

Interestingly enough, yesterday, news reports indicated that witness testimonies had changed between the day of the incident and the days following. One witness, who initially claimed she wasn’t wearing her contacts lenses or eyeglasses, said she saw “two guys running … couldn’t tell you who was in front, who was behind …” She stepped away from her window, then looked again to see “a fistfight. Just fists. I don’t know who was hitting who.”

But roughly three weeks later, she said there was only one running figure, and she heard him more than saw him:  “I couldn’t tell you if it was a man, a woman, a kid, black or white. I couldn’t tell you because it was dark and because I didn’t have my contacts on or glasses … I just know I saw a person out there.” This would fit the story broadcast by the media that Zimmerman had chased Martin down before he shot him.

Another witness said on March 20 that she saw two people on the ground after the shots were fired and wasn’t sure who was on top: “I don’t know which one … All I saw when they were on the ground was dark colors.”

But on March 26, her memory suddenly cleared. She told the trial prosecutor that she was sure it was Zimmerman on top. And how did she suddenly remember with such clarity? “I know after seeing the TV of what’s happening, comparing their sizes, I think Zimmerman was definitely on top because of his size,” she said.

Two other witnesses have changed their stories as well.

Other factors could be attributed to the change in stories, but I’m not surprised after reading the rush to judgement many in the media leveled against Zimmerman.

What The Witnesses Could Learn From Peter

In our weekly study of the 2 Peter, Peter cautions his readers about the preservation of truth:

So I will always remind you of these things, even though you know them and are firmly established in the truth you now have. I think it is right to refresh your memory as long as I live in the tent of this body, because I know that I will soon put it aside, as our Lord Jesus Christ has made clear to me. And I will make every effort to see that after my departure you will always be able to remember these things.” (2 Peter 1:12–15, NIV)

If you remember, false teachers were espousing a different gospel than the gospel Peter learned from Jesus. Yet they claimed Jesus had told them these things. We studied this three weeks ago and a week ago.

Peter wasn’t afraid to stake a claim in truth. This isn’t a popular stance in western culture today because it implies a belief in absolutes, right and wrong…even sin. Granted, arrogant people have used “truth” as a weapon, but even the misuse of truth doesn’t and shouldn’t disprove its existence.

To prevent truth decay, Peter said, “I will always remind you of these things…I think it is right to refresh your memory…[so that] after my departure you will always be able to remember these things” (italics added).

Every day, truth faces an assault from forces that don’t want to be reminded of absolutes, right and wrong…even sin. But without the existence of sin, Jesus died on the cross in vain.

It’s so easy to tailor our beliefs according to the ever-changing winds of opinion and societal pressure. The only way we can stay close to the truth is by returning to it again and again. We need to remind ourselves, refresh our memory, and remember (Peter’s words) so we aren’t led astray.

When I was a college student, I spent a summer in Europe leading a music ministry team. So I could savor the experience, I journaled nearly every day. When I returned home, I re-read my journals and found myself transported back to the original experience. Over time, I had forgotten significant details and important lessons learned. I needed to return to the truth.

We all drift away from truth. I know I do–which is why we so desperately need to return to the truth of God’s word again and again.

If we don’t, we’ll forget the significant details, important lessons learned, and the deep truth of Christ’s great love for us.

Michael co-pastors The Neighborhood Church in Littleton, Colorado with Eugene Scott. A little-known truth about Michael: he once worked as a valet in Beverly Hills, California where his zip code was 90210. Other valets called him “clergy to the stars.”

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The End Of The World As We Know It

I walked outside our Pasadena apartment to witness billowing smoke rising above the Los Angeles skyline. This can’t be real, I said to myself. We live in America. This doesn’t happen in America.

Moments before, a jury acquitted four white Los Angeles police officers of beating an African-American man named Rodney King—despite capturing the pummeling on video. The African-American community was incensed and began ravaging their neighborhoods, breaking into stores and burning buildings. Not long after that, the color demarcation no longer mattered as people regardless of race began rioting.

Concerned about the safety of my family, we holed ourselves in our apartment and kept the doors locked for several days.

Finally, the disturbance seemed to calm down. I was scheduled to work as a valet in Beverly Hills, which meant I could take one of two routes to get there—through the safer suburban area or through the flashpoint of the riots. I drove to work via the safe route, but curiosity won out on my way home.

I was nearly killed twice.

First, a gang of people who mistakenly assumed I was an off-duty police officer challenged me to arrest them. Then, the front bumper of my Hyundai was torn off by a car that ran a four-way stop.

I drove straight home as quickly as I could.

Reflecting on the events of the riots, I realized the fragile nature of democracy. No matter how safe we feel, nothing is completely secure. The World Trade Center tragedy on September 11, 2001 confirmed this.

If you knew you were going to encounter a lifestyle-altering, culturally devastating tragedy in 2011, how would you live?

TODAY’S READING

Zechariah 10:1-11:17
Revelation 18:1-24
Psalm 146:1-10
Proverbs 30:33

INSIGHTS AND EXPLANATIONS

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THE WORD MADE FRESH

“Woe! Woe, O great city, O Babylon, city of power! In one hour your doom has come!”
Revelation 18:10

As we inch closer to the end of Revelation, we read about the destruction of Babylon. Scholars agree that Babylon is a veiled reference to Rome (see Revelation 7:18). At the time of John’s apocalyptic vision, the thought of Rome being destroyed seemed like an impossibility. No one could envision the greatest empire in the world being brought to its knees. But it happened.

While we could take time to explore the various prophetic interpretations of Revelation 18, I suggest we read the chapter as if it were written into our context.

Are you content with life as you know it? Do you consider your lifestyle to be secure? Deeper still, to what extent do you enjoy the standard of living your country offers you?

It all could change. Actually, the chances are pretty good that it will change.

Safety and security—they’re the American way. Perhaps our readers in South Africa and Australia feel the same way. We relish our lives of privilege. Participating in our society isn’t a sin, but far too often I think their importance is overemphasized.

Ironically, the most predominant Christian music station in our country promises their listeners that they are “safe for the whole family.” But is safety the most important value?

The original Babylon met its destruction, as did Rome, and as it will the United States (hopefully not in my lifetime!).

If you knew that civilization as you know it would one day come to an end, would you live differently? I would, I think. Possessions wouldn’t seem as important. Safety and security wouldn’t, either.

End of the world-themed movies wrestle with this question. One lesson they teach us: looking face-to-face at our eventual destruction changes our priorities. Offenses and possessions become less and less important while relationships become increasingly important. They also motivate us to keep our accounts short with God.

Perhaps wrestling with this question isn’t such a bad idea.

CONVERSATION STARTERS

  1. What spoke to you in today’s reading?
  2. If the end of the world was going to take place in 2011, how would it affect the way you live?

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Michael co-pastors The Neighborhood Church with Eugene Scott in Littleton, Colorado.

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