Trayvon Martin inspires a call to action at YDS
The Yale Black Seminarians (YBS), a student organization at Yale Divinity School, is calling on people of faith to act with "boldness, courage, and honesty" in addressing the challenges raised by the "not guilty" verdict in the George Zimmerman case.
In particular, in a statement released on July 22, YBS urged students, faculty, and staff at the Divinity School to join in the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington and to call on state legislatures to appeal "stand your ground" laws such as the controversial Florida statute that has been cited as giving Zimmerman a legal right to kill black teenager Trayvon Martin.
Calling for theological perspective, the YBS statement declared, "This case makes clear that racism and discrimination are systemic and institutional evils that are deeply embedded in the American social fabric. As a prophetic voice, we must speak to these and other injustices and call upon all people of faith to address these challenges with boldness, courage and honesty....We encourage us all to shoulder the burden of proof for all young Black and Brown men we interact with."
Quoting Back civil rights and human rights activist Ella Baker, YBS said, "We who believe in freedom cannot rest."
Following release of the YBS statement, Yale Divinity School Dean Gregory E. Sterling said, "There are events when the law, or the practice of law, and morality diverge. The Zimmerman case is the most recent example of such a case. Whatever the legal merits of the case, many share a sense that morality—and justice in particular—have not been served.
"I share the outrage of the YBS students who believe that the system failed. They know how often the system has failed for African-Americans. We all need to do what we can to make sure that justice is not divorced from law."
Carolyn Sharp, professor of Hebrew Scriptures, also weighed in on the controversy by releasing a call-to-action urging theological educators and pastors to commit to educational programs that build "prophetic resistance" to racism and White privilege. Sharp pointed out that theologies can play a critical role, writing, "Liberation theology teaches us that those who cherish Scripture must stand with the poor and the marginalized. Feminist theology lifts up as a sacred obligation the uncompromising resistance to violent power relations."
Sharp challenged theological educators and pastors to promote justice in their work: "Every sermon and Bible study session, every church history syllabus and ethics assignment, every blog post and pastoral workshop, can make a difference in strengthening our communities' moral and spiritual capacity for justice."