Notes for a George Zimmerman Sermon

by Bob Schwartz

This is Sunday, the day after the night before when the George Zimmerman verdict was reached and announced.

There will be countless sermons preached in churches today about the meaning of the crime, the trial and the verdict. The quick take of the media has focused on black churches for obvious reasons. In a case easily seen as having a racial component, the anger and frustration has been color-blind, but members of the black communities have reason to have special interest, if not to take it personally.

That still leaves a large number of churches that are not predominantly black. or more broadly, not non-white, or more plainly, white churches. This isn’t a monolith, nor is this an easy case and verdict to digest. There will be pastors who openly question how well justice was done, others who distance themselves from judgment, and maybe others who find a vindication of something in the verdict. Many more will not touch it at all, either because it has nothing to do with what goes on in church or because even if it does, the right words aren’t yet found to be spoken.

Whatever the identity of those in the pulpits or the pews, here are a few points that might belong in a George Zimmerman sermon.

The laws written by people and the higher laws (whether you call them the laws of God or something else) are two different things. Human imperfection extends to our inability to do perfect justice. Not only is it impossible to do perfectly, it is impossible for people to conceive of how it would be done perfectly in some other “better” realm. If there is a heaven or heaven/hell combination, exactly what are those trials like and what do the statures and rules of evidence look like? Whether you picture the 10 laws, or the 613 laws, or however many laws and interpretive regulations being litigated against you or those you love or despise, how does that case go?

There are some suggested solutions that are widely preached but, let’s say, inconstantly practiced. If we admit we don’t know everything, can’t build everything, can’t “correctly” judge everything, then we might be stuck with just some one-size-fits-all answer: forgive. This doesn’t mean, in the case of George Zimmerman, giving up on changing the laws, or not pursuing further legal tactics such as a federal civil rights suit or a civil wrongful death suit, or being friendly to George Zimmerman if you see him on your street or on your tv screen. Those are the worldly things we should feel free to pursue if that is what’s in our hearts. But in our hearts, where those higher laws are supposed to find a home, we are better off working on the compassion and forgiveness stuff. Especially with a tragic death, when we are the living, still capable of making things better.

Imperfection. Compassion. Forgiveness. Especially in light of this case. Oh God, that is so hard to take.