SANFORD, Fla. (BP) -- Dismissing race as a motive in the Trayvon Martin shooting, a Southern Baptist leader in Florida said he believes because an African America was involved, "there was a racial tone" that has resulted in unavoidable controversy over the not-guilty verdict in the second-degree murder trial of George Zimmerman.
Eugene McCormick, president of the Southern Baptist Black Denominational Servant's Network, cautioned those who might be tempted to "carry things to the extreme" while encouraging prayer for both the families of Martin, 17 when he was killed, and Zimmerman.
"We just have to take the high road and be prayerful and continue to move on," said McCormick, team strategist for the Florida Baptist Convention's African American church development ministries team.
McCormick, in hoping that any rallies or protests won't become "violent or negative," said he heard nothing that convinced him the act was racially motivated.
"I believe it could have been a white person, an Asian person, or a Hispanic person, and the same thing could have happened," McCormick said.
Pointing to Martin's parents, Sybrina Fulton and Tracy Martin, McCormick said people should follow their early example in decrying any sort of violence and acknowledging that God is in control.
Within hours following the verdict, Sybrina Fulton tweeted, "Lord during my darkest hour I lean on you. You are all that I have. At the end of the day, GOD is still in control...."
McCormick said he believes the entire situation was "unfortunate" but is resting in the "fact that God knows what happened."
"This is not the first time this has happened and we've had a controversial court decision in U.S. history," he said. "I don't harbor any anger or malice toward the situation because it's life and things don't always turn out or come out in terms of what you feel like is right or wrong. But we have a God who will right every wrong -- not just in this case, but in life in general."
McCormick said the nation is "definitely not the same" in regard to race relations as when he was growing up, and that it is "generally better."
"For it to be worse that would mean we would be on the other side of the Civil Rights issue," McCormick said.
Today, African Americans have been emboldened and given a "platform" to address "battles and issues" from a stronger standpoint than possibly at any time in history, he said. "We have an African American president," he noted. "It's a step forward, a move forward; it's not the ultimate goal, but it's an accomplishment, one of several."
For Southern Baptists, he said looking at controversial racial issues "through the lens of our relationship with our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ" is the ultimate response.
Jesus referred to the Samaritan as a hero in Scripture and used parables to speak to his own Jewish nation, McCormick said, adding, "You can't hold grudges.
"We can't let racial ethnic differences classify our importance," McCormick said. "As Southern Baptists, we always have to look at how we respond.
"If we are the family of God, we have to look at things as how God views it, not black, white, Hispanic, Asian -- as how God views it -- which is not always consistent with how you feel, or is an expression of an opinion of how you think, " McCormick said. "That may not be how you want to respond, but you need to respond in a Christian manner.
"We have to be people of love."
Joni B. Hannigan is managing editor of the Florida Baptist Witness (www.goFBW.com), newsjournal of the Florida Baptist State Convention.
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