On February 26, 2012 in Sannford, FL - George Zimmerman was keeping watch in his neighborhood. There had been a recent rash of crime and because George cares for his family and neighbors he wanted to help keep a look out for “suspicious behaviors.” When George saw Trayvon Martin, a young 17 yr old African American, walking through the neighborhood with his hoodie up, he called 911 to report his “suspicion,” but George did not stop there - he followed Trayvon, despite being told not to by 911 dispatch, he caught up with him - and an altercation took place resulting in George shooting and killing Trayvon armed with only skittles and an Ice Tea from a local store. George claimed self-defense when the police arrived and was released without further investigation.
It is a tragic story that as President Obama said, “calls for some deep soul searching in America.”
“I am Trayvon Martin” has become a popular declaration of solidarity and support. I, like others have used that tag line - I’ve changed my profile picture on Facebook - to a picture of me wearing a hoodie. It’s important to stand up in the face of injustice and to remember that we are all connected, as Dr. Martin Luther King Jr said, in a “single garment of destiny.”
I too know what it is like to be mistaken for a trouble maker. In my own neighborhood where I live and pastor - I was stopped on the street by a police officer because I resembled a young teen that they were looking for - I resembled him so much that the officer called for back up, in case he needed the vehicle to haul me away. I guess in my town, all young white males in baseball caps look the same.
But this case is about more than racial profiling - it’s about our collective call to wake up. It’s about out inherent oneness with each other - and it’s about the opportunity to transcend into a new way of being. If that is the case, then from a New Thought perspective... I am George Zimmerman. You see, I too have chased down the object of my suspicions to shake them and convince them that I am right and they are wrong. In doing so, I’ve ignored the call to cease the chase. I’ve ignored the fact that upon investigation my suspicions pose no threat to me, and have no weapon against me. Nonetheless I, at times, have fired away with my righteous judgements.
Trayvon and George live in all of us. Which tells me that something needs to change. We have become a society so deeply trapped and locked in our cultural identities of “us and them” that violence has become the self perpetuating response.
Of course as a nation we are outraged at the unjust assumptions to which George Zimmerman seems to have gone to in order to chase down this young man. but bear in mind these are manifestations of the culture he has been indoctrinated in.
Similarly many seem to believe that there is a form of social “sacred violence” that can now be justified upon George. Wether it is the despicable $10,000 bounty on his head or the more covert illusion that our justice system could put him away for life - as if a life in prison sentence could resurrect young Trayvon. Let’s be clear - two men died that night - Trayvon and George. They were killed by the out picturing of our cultural expectations. Victims of our collective consciousness as a nation.
Where then shall we go from here? Are we doomed as an inherently violent species? Gratefully I believe the answer is no. Violence is a byproduct of our culture. Culture needs violence to maintain it’s identity. However, as human being we are actually built for transcendence - we are biologically engineered to overcome such obstacles.
Joseph Chilton Pearce points out that we have 4 major developments in the evolution of our brain structure. Briefly they are:
- reptilian brain - in charge of flight or flight, sex, food, basic survival
- old mammalian - nurturing, love and caring
- Neo Cortext - language and creativity
- frontal lobes - higher consciousness, complex thought
Each developed as the result of adapting and overcoming the obstacles in our environment. Each is equipped and designed to rule over the “lower brains.” Biologically speaking we are designed to transcend and overcome our violent reactions. Violence is the nature of our reptilian brain - which is intended, biologically to be transcended. Biologically there is a higher function available to us. Such an option requires the surrender of our cultural consciousness and an acceptance of a higher realm of consciousness.
Each senseless murder (they all are) and each act of war and violence is an opportunity to recognize that what we have been doing is no longer working. Each act is a wake up call that shocks us (or at least it ought to) into seeing the insanity of our cruel humanity - but it is all too easy to be lulled back to sleep by the sirens of cultural norms, notions of “sacred violence” and righteous indignation fueled all too often by politics and/or religion.
As Christians worldwide prepare for Holy week, Jesus’s final entry into Jerusalem, it occurs to me that the template for transcendence is set before us. One need not be Christian to see and feel the power of the template that is available here. Jesus lived in a time when the cultural norms of “us and them”, right and wrong, good and bad had reached a fever pitch. It was tearing the world apart. We see in the life of Jesus the journey of consciousness that makes him the great example.
When Jesus was born, scripture gives us two names to call him. (Matt 1: 21-23) Jesus (aka Joshua a common name at the time) - his cultural name, and Emmanuel (One with God) his spiritual name. Within the life of Jesus we see him make the journey from "Joshua the man" to "Emmanuel" the vehicle of a transcendent Principle.
It begins at age 12 when his parents travel home and realize that he is not with them, they find him in the Temple - he says "I was in my Father’s house" - thus he begins to shift his identification from his earthly culture to a higher power. (Luke 2 : 41-50)
When jesus reappears in the gospels, he is an adult, responding to the call of his ministry. Yet he still finds himself trapped by his culture. in Matt. 15:21-28 - we see how he responds to a Canaanite women, seeking healing for her son. Jesus tell her that he was not sent to serve her or her people - he was sent for the lost children of Israel. Still she presses on. Jesus is so trapped in his cultural identity that he cannot transcend it - he tells her "it is not good to take the children's bread and feed it to the dogs" But the faith of the canaanite women is not based on cultural identity - it's grounded on the transcendent healing principle within Jesus. She response to him.."Still, even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from the masters table."
He suddenly realizes that simply preaching to “his people” and his culture is not enough - it will only produce more of the same us and them fervor. So his message takes on the characteristics of radical inclusion - from that point on he makes clear that there is room at his table for everyone. The more radically inclusive his message gets - the more “dangerous” he is thought to be by the “authorities “
Unitl finally we come to Passover, he retreats to the garden of Gethsemane (Matt 26 :36) begging his disciples to “stay awake with me" - stay conscious - alert! there He wrestles with God and the deeper insights of his destiny - to bring forth a message of transcendence - Principle over culture - even if it means his life. So when the time comes, he mounts a donkey - a cultural symbol pointing to the prophesied scripture - as well as a symbol of the Higher Consciousness overriding and controlling the lower “animal mind.”
At first he is hailed and celebrated, as long as he is fitting the cultural expectations (the Messiah riding in on a donkey) - but the authorities (Roman and Jewish) see him as a threat to the cultural norms - so he’s arrested, tried and crucified. Of course we know that the story does not end there - it is just beginning. The Easter message is that Christ triumphs over the grave, Life conquers death, Love overcomes Hate...and Principle transcends culture.
It is in the reappearance of Christ that we find the invitation to live from and in this resurrected consciousness - the consciousness of the New Being.
Unfortunately we have made of Jesus and of Christianity a cultural symbol and class of people rather than a transcendent invitation.
“Christianity is not about Christianity - it is about a New Being” - Paul Tillich
As long as we continue to default to our cultural identifications - of us and them - in all it’s forms - we will continue to be met with tragic and alarming wake up calls in every sector of life: the environment, politics, race, religion, class, and so on.
Fortunately, because Principle is eternal - the invitation to transcend will remain ever present. The invitation to become more fully our Divinely Human selves - expressing The Kingdom on Earth as it already is in Heaven. An invitation to the New Jerusalem where “The light of God is one the streets and the gates are open wide - and all who might enter in, no one will be denied”
For now we add to the chorus of voices, Trayvon Martin and George Zimmerman along side Joshua saying...
“Stay awake with me.”