The Biblical resonance in Obama’s Trayvon Martin speech

It seems that President Barack Obama’s recent comments on the Trayvon Martin-George Zimmerman tragedy have struck a deep chord in a lot of people.

As NBC news anchor Brian Williams rightly noted, “He’s the only president in our history who could speak personally on this subject.”

 A few excerpts:

"Trayvon Martin could have been me 35 years ago."

“There are very few African-American men in this country who haven’t had the experience of being followed when they are shopping at a department store. And that includes me.”

“There are very few African-American men who haven’t had the experience of walking across the street and hearing the locks click on the doors of cars. That happened to me, at least before I was a senator.”

His words were riveting. There was something about the most powerful man in the world speaking them. There was something about him being able to relate and intimately knowing the pain of so many. It called to mind Hebrews 4:15, which speaks of our ultimate High Priest, the one who is able to empathize with our struggles.

President Obama has walked in the same shoes as countless other African-Americans and knows their experiences of racial profiling - fully so, in every way.

So when he spoke his healing words, he brought an authenticity that only an African-American man could bring. And when he spoke them as the President of the United States, he carried an authority unlike any other.

We're all meant to hear these kinds of words delivered in this kind of way: the most powerful voice conceivable speaking words that show he understands. We’re meant for the experience of hearing God tell us that He’s been there. We’re made to find deep meaning in that.

This isn’t to equate Obama with Christ, but to recognize that when he says what he says, he’s touching the most human nerve imaginable. He’s speaking to every human being who’s ever felt outside, left behind or least. He’s speaking to each sin-alienated, busted and broken human being on the face of this planet.

And as he’s doing that, he’s offering us a pointer to God.

Behind his voice there’s a Voice. There’s a Spirit inspiring his spirit of reconciliation, a holiness prompting his hope. And that’s why the president’s words on this matter are so powerful.

He’s voicing God’s hope for a future where there will be no black or white, Jew or Gentile, slave or free, nor male and female; a time when we’ll all be one in Christ Jesus.

It’s that hope that Obama has touched and awakened anew.

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The president is simply fueling more racial tension with his personal involvement in the Zimmerman trial. Please find a better metaphor for this spiritual point.

I guess time will tell if the president is healing or adding to the tension. Yesterday on Meet the Press, columnist David Brooks called the speech a ‘symphony’. And, for the record, I see this speech as a proto-evangelistic iconic event through which God might be speaking. I believe God, via the Holy Spirit, authored the truth in Obama’s words (wherever they were true) to help prepare listeners for a more direct gospel presentation. As a result of this speech, society becomes more familiar with ‘power that’s walked in their shoes’ and more open to a more perspicuous gospel message. No mere metaphor at all!

“Fueling more racial tension”?

If that picture next to your name is yours, it’s clear that you have the privilege of a life in which you experience no “racial tension” on a day-to-day basis, because you (like me) are white, and at the heart of white privilege is that our race is never called into question as part of our identity. We can experience much of our lives without having to think about being white.

What President Obama talks about is the experience of an African-American, someone for whom “racial tension” is an everyday experience. I have read many African-Americans’ responses to the Trayvon Martin case and to President Obama’s speech, and not one of them has accused President Obama of “fueling more racial tension”—and from what they’ve written, it’s clear that it’s because “racial tension” is already an everyday part of their lives.

So maybe he was “fueling more racial tension” among white people by implicitly asking white people like us to interrogate our whiteness and try to see the world through the eyes of others. Maybe white people like us *need* a little more “racial tension” in our lives, as a corrective for the temptation to see our experiences as normative and universal in a society that privileges our skin color.

Without denying that we still have a ways to go in terms of racial equality in this country, nor denying that this was a tragic scene all the way around, I agree with Eric. THIS case is the wrong venue for this discussion. This case was NOT “black and white”. There was no clear good guy/bad guy. It would have been better if the President had kept back, let the system work, and waited for a better hill to charge up, assuming his intentions are to do good….  Because the continued attention on THIS case will NOT serve to heal race relations in this country and may destroy the life of a man (with his own racial issues) who was judged by a jury of his peers and found NOT GUILTY of the crime he was accused of. The best way to be truly Christian about this case is to express concern for all involved and pray for healing.

Any critique of this experiential pain expressed by President Obama would be like someone attempting to down-play the pain of the Holocaust - only in the case of racial discrimination in the United States is the history of that pain, also the present reality of that pain. Many anecdotal experiments where whites dress up in makeup and live as black have enlightened people to the extent that NONE of those who role-played being black wanted to actually BE black because of the extreme pressure and racial disparity they felt in one day…now multiply that by a lifetime for millions.

We have not quite overcome. But we shall, because I know that I shall be like him when he appears, so this too shall pass, and Christ will be victorious in the African American race, because no other people has had to endure such adversity, held on to faith and persevered, and why all this trouble…for what, MY COMPLEXION? (smh)  Never mind, I am black and comely saith the wise man, indeed I am!

Nothing will heal race relations in America except the Christian approach, admit, repent, repay!

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