Young black men are created in the image of God, too

Trayvon Martin was created in the image of God, and should not have been killed. Ever since our culture replaced … Continued

Trayvon Martin was created in the image of God, and should not have been killed.

Ever since our culture replaced the term “religion” with “faith” or “faith-based,” we have found it difficult to be clear about the connection of religious values to public issues. So now, in the wake of the Zimmerman verdict, an understandable cry rises from “people of faith” and others for “justice.”

But justice is an elusive concept. People and groups use the term in a variety of ways, not all informed by religious standards.

Supporters of Zimmerman claim that he received justice when the verdict came in on Saturday. Others, in the attempt to be neutral, offer that the criminal justice system has done its job. Yet others deem the verdict a miscarriage of justice, and pray, protest and petition for real justice. And for many on both sides of a difficult conversation, justice can be a euphemism for revenge, like it was in the Iraq war.

In addition to the calls for a conversation on race, there must be a parallel public discussion of the meaning of justice. Each of us must turn to our religious traditions for definitions of justice which reflect our sacred texts and belief systems. We cannot afford to engage serious issues of public justice solely based on popular, uncritical definitions, regardless of the side which they emerge. And there exist other religious resources in our traditions which need to be applied.

One critical tenet for me is the “image of God.”

Trayvon Martin–like us all– was created in God’s image. He cannot be reduced to a profile, whether by town watch vigilantes, ‘stop and frisk’ cops and pols, defense attorneys bent on destroying character through arguments which stoke a “the kid had it coming to him” response from Zimmerman supporters (including name calling relatives) or even houses of worship that will protest Martin’s death, but wouldn’t know what to do if he showed up on a Sunday morning with a hoodie on.

“Created in the image of God ” a concept lost on many in this age of disconnect between belief and practice cries out “young black men and boys are human! Young brown men and boys have value! God’s children, God’s creation has intrinsic worth even when it wears its pants low!”

In a Huffington Post piece, My colleague, Reverend Michael McBride of the Lifelines to Healing initiative, made the important point that “it is not the verdict, but the values.” A number of us as clergy convened a succession of conversations before he verdict to frame an overtly religious response that had its roots in authentic religious tradition. Reverend McBride warned that irrespective of the verdict, America had some self-examination ahead, because so much of what has transpired from that night of death through the trial into an afterward of anger, mourning and celebration reflects a crisis of values. I submit that there exists agreement between the Judeo-Christian tradition and our founding documents concerning human creation and God-given rights. The constitutional right to bear arms reflects a contextualized interpretation of the fundamental, inalienable right to life.

Let’s face it. What happened to Trayvon Martin reflects a general lack of respect for his creation in the image of God. He was profiled by someone without the qualifications or training to do so (as a legitimate public safety enterprise) who subsequently ignored instructions not to engage the person he had profiled, but characterized him as someone who’s appearance triggered (double entendre intended) a dehumanizing moment that too many of our young black and brown males face whether from vigilantes or gang members, people who deal drugs or depositions, preachers, pimps, or politicians Trayvon Martin was child of God, and did not have to die.

Harold Dean Trulear is Associate Professor of Applied Theology at Howard University and Director of the Healing Communities Prison Ministry and Reentry Initiative.

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  • flintston

    The picture above this story speaks volumes. The fact that a parent would allow a child to carry such a wholly offensive statement is indicative of the problem.

  • Openletter2004

    The problem with this article is that it completely ignores the fact that the old Jewish texts upon which “christianity” (and Islam) are based, are clear about it that “god” hates human being with “black” skin. “God” PERSONALLY marked them with the black skin so they could be recognized by the rest of society and collectively punished for all eternity because of some “sin” someone committed.

    Here in the USA it wasn’t until 1995 that the largest “christian” religious denomination, the Southern Baptists, finally admitted that they were wrong about slavery, segregation, and opposition to inter-racial marriage. But at that same National Convention they declared war on women and sodomites by reaffirming the old Jewish texts teachings that “god” hates the sodomites (after all, “GOD” personally engaged in genocide by destroying a whole culture) and declaring that women are never to be allowed to hold positions in the religion make men subservient to women. That women should not be allowed to control their fertility (have access to birth control), get abortions for ANY reason as reaffirmed by several “republican” politicians and their various claims that “women that are really raped can’t get pregnant because: a.) “GOD” won’t allow it; or b.) “GOD” created women’s bodies to automatically prevent it.

    So,, far better to follow the U.S. Constitution which aspired to declare and provide equality and equal treatment under the LAW for all “men” (DEF as the Framers understood this word — HUMAN BEINGS) .

    Leave ALL RELIGION (especially all MONOTHIESTIC religions) out of ALL DEBATES about “justice”. and “fairness”. If “god” can commit genocide, then so can man if it is “created in “GOD’s” Image. If “god” can decree collective punishment, so can man if it is “created in “GOD’s” Image.

  • 3vandrum

    ” Each of us must turn to our religious traditions for definitions of justice ”
    Hope not. We do not want to turn to our religious traditions for justice whether you read Koran or bible or any other outdated scriptures for 21st century issues. None of us was created in the image of God. God has no image and we all came from monkeys. We should all turn to 21st century, it is better not to complicate this case by bringing religion and God

  • 3vandrum

    I agree with you 100% but I am curious about your reference to God hating human beings with black skin. Where is tis reference from? I have not read anywhere

  • leibowde84

    It is a blatant lie, or at least a misunderstanding, when someone states that religious teachings are necessary for a person to define justice. That is a slap in the face to the human race. We are better than that, and we don’t need justice dictated to us by a few imperfect men. Justice must always be evolving in order for it to be effective. Morality changes … just look at the treatment of African Americans, women, Judaism, and homosexuals. Relying on a constant, unchanging idea of justice will lead us ultimately to injustice. It is unavoidable.

  • Cap40

    Leviticus 19:15
    ‘Do not pervert justice; do not show partiality to the poor or favoritism to the great, but judge your neighbor fairly.

  • Cap40

    Openletter……………………..SHOW ME WHERE !

    “Jewish texts upon which “christianity” (and Islam) are based, are clear about it that “god” hates human being with “black” skin. “God” PERSONALLY marked them with the black skin so they could be recognized by the rest of society and collectively punished for all eternity because of some “sin” someone committed.

  • Cap40

    3vandrum……………You won’t find it.

    John 3:16) “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.

    John 13:34 (Jesus) A new commandment I give to you, That you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another.

  • Cap40

    3vandrum…….”and we all came from monkeys”

    If we evolved from monkeys, why are there still monkeys?

  • Madtown

    why are there still monkeys?

  • samwoods77

    Martin and all humans are children of God. Zimmerman profiled a potential burglar because Martin did not live in the gated community. Citizens of the community elected him (32% of the vote for him was black) in response to the spike in crime. I called the police on 2 men sitting in a truck across from my street for an hour at 2am. They just sat there, and rather than wait for my home to be broken into, I exercised my right to protect myself by asking the cops to check it out. The truck moved on when the police came. I do not know what race they were, and I don’t care. Yes, I profiled them as not belonging in the neighborhood at 2am, and I refuse to believe that there is anything wrong with that action.

  • samwoods77

    How sad: dinging religion then spouting off dogma that we all come from monkeys, or there is no God. Who knows what the truth is? Let everyone believe what they wish.

  • samwoods77

    Christianity started when Christ arrived. The New Testament is a new start, and does not rely on Jewish teachers. Christians are not taught, nor did Jesus teach, an eye for an eye. Quite the opposite, Christians are taught to love their enemies and turn a cheek to those who hate them.

    Please don’t pontificate about that which you have not studied.

  • Joel Hardman

    There’s nothing wrong with what you did, but what you did and what Zimmerman did are very different things. You didn’t shoot anyone.

  • Joel Hardman

    Offensive? How so?

  • dwynn

    Nice move with the photo, Hitler did the same in 1940″s Germany

  • member_1

    Oh, you found that “one” scripture ~ well, that’s good – keep looking maybe you will read something else in that ‘old’ book that is so -out-of-date- /Sarc/off

  • mwr

    Was George Zimmerman created in the image of God?

  • blackjesuscom

    The underpinning of white supremacy is the lie that
    Jesus Christ was white, blond and blue eyed and
    there God must be. Why else did he put us in charge?
    The Truth Will SET US All Free!

  • Catken1

    “If we evolved from monkeys, why are there still monkeys?”

    If I had a common ancestor with my cousin, and my cousin resembles our common ancestor more than I do, why is he still around?
    That’s the actual equivalent to your question. Modern monkeys aren’t our ancestors (though our common ancestor probably looked more like them than like us, though not completely so), they are our cousins.
    Samwoods, the difference between the assertions that we evolved from monkeys and the one that we were magicked into existence, in our current form, by a special magical superbeing who was never created and always has been, is that the first fits the available evidence. Fossil evidence, DNA evidence, the evidence of comparative morphology, the evidence of multiple dating methods (radioactivity, magnetic fields in oceanic rocks, etc.), and direct observation all support the theory of evolution by means of natural selection – there is NO tangible, measurable evidence for a magical creator.

  • Dorette Lyons McCracken

    Only in America is this a religous and racial issue. A black guy commits a crime, a Hispanic guy shoots him, and a white man gets blamed. Can anyone explain THAT???

  • Rongoklunk

    How can anybody be made in the image of a god if nobody ever saw a god? As far as we know – no gods ever actually existed – our forebears made-up thousands of them. They were forever inventing them.
    That’s good evidence that Allah was also made up, and Brahma and Vishnu and the un-named Christian Godchap. All inventions of the human mind, like fairies and gnomes and devils and demons and witches and tooth-fairies and Santa Claus.

  • IntellectOne

    Obviously, it was God’s Will that Zimmerman had a gun to protect himself. God does not like thiefs or lairs.
    The Stoners reject God, so they no longer have ties and protection. Especially ,when they attack a person that is trying to do good for the neighborhood and keep it safe, because there was a thief breaking into homes.

  • FarmerDJ

    We are all made in the image of God, but if we get mad at someone for following us and questioning us, we have no right to punch them, jump on them, and pound some more. If you or I do that, then that other person may fight back with whatever force the law allows. If in fear of life, then with deadly force. The jury believed the evidence supported a reasonable doubt that Zimmerman was not doing anything more than defending his life. All made in image of God should expect anyone we assault to fight back, maybe with deadly force.

  • medogsbstfrnd

    Trulear diminishes the obvious racism of Zimmerman (and his idiot defenders) by suggesting Trayvon was killed for wearing a hoodie. He didn’t die because he wore a hoodie. He died because in America, it’s apparently okay to kill an unarmed black teen. Of course, let’s go further and understand that in America, it’s okay for a white gun-owner to show up and massacre elementary aged children (and you can bet that Trulear and his colleagues diminished that horrific scene by whining that America was concerned about white kids but not black kids, but this is where marching the ideological line gets you). The level of violence multi-layered in this culture is a stench. Finally, Trulear might address the death of Omar Sykes, killed by a black teen who may or may not have been wearing a hoodie. One thing is for sure, he was armed with a gun but not a conscience and the community in which that murderer resides refuses to hand him over. Was Omar made in the image of God or does your rage get aimed only at those murdered by someone other than an African-American? Have you entered a black church and held to account that community for overlooking the image of God in Omar Sykes and pleaded for them to stop buying the lie of rappers that “snitching” is a crime?

  • SimonTemplar

    This article is a perfect example of why I believe the press is responsible for the aftermath of the Trayvon Martin/Zimmerman case (and for all of the social turmoil and resultant violence we see in our culture today).
    The press is so primarily concerned with securing subscriptions, advertising revenue, click-through rates, seats at posh Washington Press Club events and other high-society celebrity gatherings that they have abandoned their primary responsible of informing us in favor of their more lucrative and seemingly intoxicating habit of inflaming us.

    In spite of all of the facts associated with this case which led to the acquittal of Zimmerman, the people responsible for the Washington Post (like so many other people running press outlets today) have chosen to run several more stories which fan the flames of racial division, even using a photo which is misleading in this context because it shows a young boy who looks to be about 10 years younger than Trayvon Martin was when he was shot. All this is typically excused under the rationalization of “adding to the discussion” which really translates to “fanning the flames so we can keep leading with the bleeding which is really so lucrative for us.”

    It’s criminal.

    As proof that America is NOT a country dominated by racists, I offer the fact that Barack Obama was TWICE elected by a MAJORITY of Americans..