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Zimmerman Verdict, God, and Racism in America

( [email protected] ) Jul 20, 2013 03:32 AM EDT
Professor and author Anthea Butler recently posted a blog entry entitled “The Zimmerman Acquittal: America’s Racist God” – a statement in opposition to the Zimmerman trial verdict that primarily targets white Christ-followers.
George Zimmerman listens as his defense counsel Mark O’Mara questions potential jurors during Zimmerman’s trial in Seminole circuit court in Sanford, Fla., Thursday, June 20, 2013 Gary Green/Orlando Sentinel via AP

Professor and author Anthea Butler recently posted a blog entry entitled “The Zimmerman Acquittal: America’s Racist God" – a statement in opposition to the Zimmerman trial verdict that primarily targets white Christ-followers.

George Zimmerman was recently acquitted for killing African American Trayvon Martin while on neighborhood watch. Zimmerman pursued Martin and shot him while the two were fighting. According to Florida legislation, citizens are allowed to use deadly force to defend themselves, and Zimmerman was not convicted for murder charges. The situation has enflamed racial tension in America, and several African American leaders are calling the acquittal an injustice.

Butler, who has a degree from Fuller Theological Seminary, seems to disdain what she perceives is a mistreatment of African Americans by those who would call themselves Christians. While this stereotype does not truly represent Christians, it does, unfortunately, stem from a horrific historical reality – many white people condoned slavery in early America, misinterpreting the Bible in order to justify it.

The slavery found in the Bible was generally designed for those who needed to work off a debt, and afterward they could voluntarily become a bondservant if they desired to stay working for the family. It was not the coerced slavery that African Americans were subjected to in the 1800s. Moreover, New Testament verses that speak of contentment and true freedom in Christ, like “Were you a bondservant when called? Do not be concerned about it. (But if you can gain your freedom, avail yourself of the opportunity.)” (English Standard Version, 1 Corinthians 7:21), were misinterpreted in an attempt to justify slave-owners’ selfishness, pride, and greed.

While her blog post was likely written out of frustration over both historic and modern-day racism against African Americans in America, Butler’s comments in the blog post are predominately untrue. “God ain’t good all of the time. In fact, sometimes, God is not for us,” she said, which is heretical. God is good, all of the time – even when we suffer, He is doing it for our good and for His glory (see Romans 8:28-30); His steadfast love endures forever (see Psalm 100:5 and Psalm 136).

Butler went on to imply that she is in support of abortion and said she feels slighted for legislation that restricts her “reproductive rights,” yet later accuses white Christians of hindering “human flourishing” in the African American community. Human flourishing certainly does not entail killing babies in their mother’s womb – many of whom are African American. The desire to make one’s own choices about abortion rails against the Word of God – the One Butler claims to follow.

Despite what her blog post title might imply, Butler did not seem to be saying that God is racist; rather, she was implying that white American Christians must worship some different god. “Is God the old white male racist looking down from white heaven, ready to bless me if I just believe the white men like Rick Perry who say the Zimmerman case has nothing to do with race?” she asks, retorting that the answer is, of course, no.

“I am sure my inbox will be full of well-meaning evangelical sermons about how we should all just get along, and God doesn’t see race,” says Butler. While unity among the body of Christ is important, it should never come at the expense of justice. What’s more, He does see race – He loves variety. He will call people from every tongue, tribe, and nation - unique expressions of His glory - to be His redeemed people (see Revelation 7:9-17).