The Christian Way To Respond To The Murder Of Terence Crutcher Isn’t Forgiveness. It’s Fury. » VSB

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The Christian Way To Respond To The Murder Of Terence Crutcher Isn’t Forgiveness. It’s Fury.

Terence Crutcher via Facebook


Back in September, Terence Crutcher, an unarmed black man, was walking to his car with his hands up when he was shot by Tulsa police officer Betty Shelby. This incident was captured on video by both a police dash cam and an aerial video from a police helicopter wherein Shelby’s husband, a fellow officer who was overlooking the scene, profiles Crutcher and calls him a ‘bad dude.’

Yesterday, Shelby was acquitted of first degree manslaughter.

I’m a minister in a Progressive Baptist Church in Oklahoma, and, almost immediately, my ministerial colleagues went online and started talking about the need to pray in response to the injustice of the verdict. Some even said that this is a unique opportunity to forgive Shelby, and, thereby, show the love of Jesus Christ. Many of them went so far as to ask what would Jesus do when faced with these circumstances. Their assumption is that Jesus would calmly be comfortable with injustice. I disagree. Many Christians find themselves lost when they are confronted with injustice. They assume that God wants them to be passive and overly spiritual when staring in the face of evil; yet, when I look at the story of Jesus, I see 10 things we can all do in response to injustices like the Shelby verdict that Jesus would, unquestionably, be comfortable with.

1: Drink Alcohol

Because, after all Jesus did turn water into wine in John 2: 1-11. I need some spirits to soothe my soul—and I’m not talking about any holy ones.

2: Curse

In Matthew 21: 18-22, Jesus curses a fig tree. I can curse all I want in response to this Darth Susan getting off. It’s better I get it out than hold it inside. After all, as my Jesuit seminary professor taught me, cursing is spiritual catharsis—it cleanses the soul.

3: Riot

Jesus was wilding in the temple in John 2:15. He pulled out whips and was beating niggas’s asses.  His motivation was the injustice he saw in the temple. I can riot in response to similar injustice in the streets.

4: Fight

As the above shows, Jesus was not above laying hands. In fact, in Matthew 10:34, he said, “Think not that I am come to send peace on earth: I came not to send peace, but a sword.”

Translation: Punks that jump up can get beat down—in Jesus name.

5: Mourn

Too many black folks think that being a Christian means that we have to be quick to forgive. Jesus does not say this. In fact, in Romans 12:15, the Bible says we are to, “weep with those who weep.” That is, empathy is important. If we are callous to the suffering of others, then we need to reexamine our relationship with God. Further, it is important to not tell people how to mourn.

6: Cry

Because John 11: 35, “Jesus Wept,” is the verse everyone knows.

7: Sit alone in silence

In Luke 5: 15-16, Jesus withdrew to be alone. Sometimes, we do not know what so Say, Jesus modeled for us how to be alone and tarry with difficulties.

8: Express anger

Jesus would be comfortable with anger. In fact, in Ephesians 4: 26, the Bible says Be ye angry, and sin not. Anger is an appropriate response to injustice.

9: Say that Black Lives Matter

In Matthew 25:31-46, Jesus tells the stories of sheep and goats. It’s a metaphor for his followers who have concern for others and those who do not. When the goats say, “‘Lord, when did we see You hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not care for You?” He responds by saying, “inasmuch as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to Me.”

Black folks in this country have, consistently, been the ‘least of these.’ From decrepit schools to the new Jim Crow, we are the left out and the forgotten in America’s democratic experiment. I have no doubt that Jesus would boldly declare, in response to these injustices, that Black Lives Matter. If you have beef with that declaration, your problem is not with me, it’s with Jesus.

10: Pray

Because once I’ve prayed with my hands and my feet, I should certainly pray with my heart—but it will not be for their forgiveness. It’ll be that I don’t whip their ass.

Law W.

Lawrence Ware is a philosopher of race at his day job and writes if the kids go to bed on time. He is a contributing editor of NewBlackMan (in Exile) and a frequent contributor to The Root and other publications. He has been featured in the New York Times and you can sometimes find him discussing race and politics on HuffPost Live and Public Radio International. He is the kind of Steelers fan that enjoys watching the Cowboys lose.

  • siante

    I think MLK would’ve appreciated this article. He got a lot of flack from other preachers who felt he wasn’t “forgiving” correctly by leading even a peaceful resistance. It’s a good thing he actually read the Bible & understood that “forgiveness” does not equate to “being a doormat.”

  • Val

    Sigh. All I feel is anger. And speaking of religiousness, may Betty Shelby burn in the word that will get my post moderated by disqus, post haste.

  • Kylroy

    “Hope has two beautiful daughters; their names are Anger and Courage. Anger at the way things are, and Courage to see that they do not remain as they are.”

    • Kylroy

      I phrase it as “driving every motherf*cker out of the room with a whip”, but excellent point. Jesus didn’t get angry often, but when he did, he *committed* to it.

      • Sigma_Since 93

        It you are going to do something, do it right. Besides Christians should be striving to be like Jesus. Whuppin azz like Jesus should be the Gold standard of azz whuppins and not the exception.

        • Kylroy

          If the Pharisees and Romans of your world aren’t coming for you, you’re not doing what Jesus would do.

          • TheUnsungStoryteller


          • I_AmU

            YASSS! Tell it so they can hear hear you in the back of the church.

    • miss t-lee


  • miss t-lee

    I’m glad you brought the real.
    My Jesus wasn’t no punk.

    • cyanic

      He was a radical hippie.

      • miss t-lee

        Get it.

        • cyanic

          Caring about the poor and all marginalized groups.

          • miss t-lee


      • AnotherBlackGirl

        Yes, he was a man before his time. People were not ready for him and the words that he spoke. Truth.

    • Freebird

      I could hear Scarface Homies and Thugs after reading your comment. You right with this one miss-t-lee

      • miss t-lee

        Ha! such an awesome song.

    • Very true.

    • TheUnsungStoryteller

      The Bible says He spoke with authority. He had authority. He could tell Pharisees about they WHOLE LIFE. Jesus was the best people reader of ALL time. Don’t play.

      • miss t-lee

        Make it plain!!!

      • AnotherBlackGirl

        Yep. The Bible also says that his name is so powerful that even demons believe and tremble.

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    • Brown Rose

      Yes. Jesus does not resemble anything close to that pathetic inspid passive character or that weird wormy ugly Christian fundamentalist. He was compassionate, empathetic, caring, and that dude could fight.

      • miss t-lee


      • Emily Harris

        We should know this. He flipped tables… in church.

      • CheGueverraWitBlingOn

        Fact queen facts.

      • Brother Mouzone

        THANK YOU!

    • Objection

      “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.”

      You are right, forgiving people who beat the breaks off of you, and murder you is not punk behavior. Only a strong person can forgive.

  • cyanic

    Black injustice is a daily constant. Because it is, we should buck against anti-blackness by showing courteous affection for each other in public. Being polite to black folks of all demographics for the sake of raising our energy levels to defend the mental warfare they contribute to on days like this.

  • Cheech

    Well said.

  • Alessandro De Medici

    What is a Progressive Baptist Church as opposed to just a Baptist Church?

    • siante

      I was wondering the same thing.

    • King Beauregard

      The Baptist Churches of America are, in large measure, built around slavery / Jim Crow / oppression and accommodate them like a hand in a glove. Even Frederick Douglass spoke on their nature:

      Read on its own, the Bible speaks much more AGAINST slavery and greed and cruelty than it supports them. A whole new hermeneutic had to be devised to make it possible to weaponize the Bible for evil:

      I would guess a Progressive Baptist Church has not adopted the same practices that allow them to accommodate evil, and instead try to emphasize the parts about liberation, equality, generosity, compassion, and the general ousting of money-changers.

      • AzucarNegra

        Exactly! But like any good church it has erased a good bit of its history.

        • Kylroy

          The irony of all of this is that Baptists’ core, defining theological tenet is “Soul Freedom” – which boils down to “only God can judge me”. Any agreement or relationship between Baptist congregations is explicitly just a human arrangement between like-minded individuals, because *nobody* has more right to speak for God than anyone else.

          In theory, anyway.

      • The history of the American Baptist Church is complicated. Originally, they were a church based out Rhode Island, of all places, as an outgrowth of the Congregational Movement. What happened was that they, along with the Methodists, were aggressive in offering pastors to what were outlying areas of a growing nation that were far from towns that had churches. Since the South was less urban, the Baptists found the South to be fertile ground for evangelization.

        Anyway, the Baptists were originally foursquare for Manumission and equal rights. Then a funny thing called the Civil War happened, to be brief. The Southerners backed slavery and eventually went their own way. They ended up absorbing a lot of former Presbyterians in the Upland South, who in turn influenced the Southern Baptist Convention in a more theologically conservative direction. The National Baptist Convention was formed to allow Black people to run their own churches without bugging the White people about it. From there, MLK et al formed the Progressive National Baptist Convention to be the more social justice oriented convention. Also, IIRC, he was educated at a First Baptist (which is what the Northern Baptists started calling themselves as a colloquialism) Seminary in PA.

        • Alessandro De Medici

          What role did the social gospel movement play in all of this? I also know the social justice/politicalization of the church, historically speaking, is more a product of catholicism than the protestant sects (a major element of the protestant reformation was the doctrine of faith alone vs. the doctrine of works, as being what qualified one to go into heaven and receive the blessings of God), so I’m sure there’s a big Catholic influence as well.

          • Kylroy

            On American Baptists? Not really. It’s debatable if Liberation Theology has influenced American Catholicism significantly – and beyond Catholics, it certainly hasn’t shaped American Christianity much.

            • Alessandro De Medici
            • Agreed. If anything, the Catholic Church in America has tried to make itself look as conservative as possible, lest it look like they were trying to be too radical with society. The Catholic Church sold the Evangelicals on being anti-abortion and anti-birth control, not the other way around.

              • Kylroy

                I don’t know if the Catholics sold them on it so much as they sold themselves. Fred Clark (Slacktivist) has written extensively on how Evangelicals grabbed on to being anti-abortion like a life vest when the Civil Rights Movement showed they had utterly failed on the most significant moral issue of the mid-20th century.

                • I’m not saying that isn’t true, but they just didn’t stumble onto it. There were efforts with the Opus Dei crowd to sell them on it for their own selfish reasons. The name escapes me but there was a Catholic Priest whose who job was to go around to the Evangelical Churches showing them that this was something they could work together on.

                  • Kylroy

                    Oh, it absolutely provided a precedent for opposing abortion and birth control on religious grounds, and I’m not surprised that there was some minimal coordination. But it wasn’t sold to the rank and file on grounds of “the Papists are on to something”.

                    • OK, I see where you’re coming from. The coordination was on the level of clergy, not rank and file church members. People don’t realize this, but the Southern Baptist Convention was originally pro-birth control when it first came out.

      • Alessandro De Medici

        Are you sure about all that though?

        You can find arguments for and against all the things you mentioned, for the most part in the bible, if you really want to, from my experience.

        • King Beauregard

          Am I sure? No. But I trust Fred Clark; he’s a Christian who takes the Bible seriously. He’s the kind who bumped into the proscriptions against usury and was genuinely troubled at how Christians can use banks at all. (The answer that he found satisfactory was, the proscription against usury was to keep people from being bound by debt. But taking out a loan that a person can comfortably repay, that helps them improve their fortunes, does not run afoul of the principles behind the proscription.)

          • Alessandro De Medici

            That’s more from the Christian historical tradition, as opposed to pure biblical sanction. The part of the bible that often has been used as legitimacy for such arguments has been the chasing of the money changers out of the synagogue (forgetting that it was the synagogue and not the money that was the primary motivator for the actions of Jesus), but if you also read about the parable of the talents, you can see it as an argument for greed and investment.

            Furthermore, there’s a lot of arguments for and against the pursuit or wealth in the old testaments, ranging from Job, Solomon, Jeremiah, Elijah/Elisha. The one constant theme, as perhaps best exemplified by Job, is that the realm of matter, is subservient to the realm of the Spirit where God reigns supreme, and thus like the Platonic view, the man or person who wishes to find truth and salvation, should ignore the pursuit of wealth, success and attachments to the world and dedicate his whole body and soul to the pursuit of God.

            • King Beauregard

              “That’s more from the Christian historical tradition, as opposed to pure biblical sanction.”

              Well yes — the Bible isn’t the Junior Woodchucks Guide and shouldn’t be treated as such, where you look up the rule for every situation. In fact, we have fallen in the habit of doing so only because that’s the only way to get the Bible to jibe with slavery and other forms of oppression.

              Meanwhile, the Jews are such experts at reading and interpreting the Torah, they have a second holy book (the Talmud) that consists of reflections and analysis of the Torah. That stuff matters too. If it didn’t, then nothing in their holy book could be applied to modern society because people don’t live in tents and trade birthrights for pottage.

    • miss t-lee

      I have an idea, but hopefully the author will expound, because I don’t want to speculate.

      • Hadassah

        I rolled my eyes. I ain’t gon lie.

        • miss t-lee


          • Hadassah

            At the term progressive….i’ont know but I felt some type of way.

            • miss t-lee


    • Deeds

      I just assumed LGBT friendly, but that’s a guess.

      • Val

        One can only hope.

        • I answered up above.

    • First, a quick primer on Baptist Church governance. The Baptist denomination is a Congregational Polity. In plain English, congregations choose their ministers, and the churches freely associate with each other as equals in Conventions. While there are occasionally bishops and elders, there are more honorifics than titles with real power. Also, as a result, a Baptist church can be a part of multiple conventions as they see fit. While obviously someone’s in charge of these conventions, there’s nothing stopping an individual church to say Screw You, I’m Out.

      With that said, the Progressive National Baptist Convention was organized by MLK and fellow SCLC Baptist members to be a social justice-oriented version of the historically Black National Baptist Convention. Also, cross-membership in the National Baptist Convention is common but not required. Pastors in this convention are asked to be focused not just on spiritual growth but on spiritual justice in the temporal realm.

      • Alessandro De Medici

        I’d love to see the theological debates on this in the black church, because it’s a lot harder to consistently defend a spiritual justice approach to Christianity, given the anti-materialist nature of the religion itself.

        • A lot of it has to do with simple realpolitik. In the South, the Black church was one of the few institutions that were generally left alone to flourish. As a result, a lot of bright Black people ended up there for want of other opportunities. Few other groups had the money and social networks to pull it off, theology be damned.

          • Brooklyn_Bruin

            Arguably the institution had squandered its power because of individual selfish motives.

            • Kylroy

              Not the first time that happened to a church.

          • Alessandro De Medici

            Ah, welp, there wouldn’t be so many Christians in the world, if the Holy Book wasn’t so easy to use for one’s cause. But it is interesting to see how theologies are developed, mostly in the desire to pursue short-term needs and goals, which ultimately get rejected by younger generations, because they are inherently contradictory.

  • Freebird

    I got a lot of angry hateful things to say. But at the end of the day there really needs to be a Negrotown.

  • King Beauregard

    11) Challenge the white people around you to say that they’re okay with this.

    I’m not so sure Jesus would suggest prayer and forgiveness. I figure he would demand that people recognize evil and call it out. That’s not the same as working to harm Betty Shelby, but neither is it ignoring her actions.

    • King Beauregard

      And fuck no, I am not okay with this. I have no idea what to do about this except rant on Facebook and try to start uncomfortable conversations with my fellow white people, but no I do not wave this away.

    • Hadassah

      We are challenging them because they don’t have brains to challenge themselves already?!? The phakk you mean?

      • King Beauregard

        They have the brains, yes, but do they have the interest in confronting it? It’s easy to shrug one’s shoulders and say “oh well what a shame HEY SAVE SOME GLUTEN-FREE CUPCAKES FOR ME!”, but actually thinking about it and making the effort to empathize is another matter.

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