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In the Laquan McDonald case we’ve received another warning against uncritical support for and unaccountable uses of authority.

It’s another shooting ruled a murder by officials that would have gone unchallenged and unaddressed were it not for video evidence to the contrary. Prosecutors have rightly moved to press charges against officer Van Dyke for the shooting. At this writing, it’s unclear whether the other officers who witnessed the shooting and participated in a false police report alleging McDonald “lunged at” officers will face any charges.

Here’s what’s clear to this pastor: Nothing will change for the better unless people of sound judgment and good character act.

I have to believe that among those of sound judgment and good character Christian pastors must be at the forefront. Our Bibles call us to be examples to the flock in virtue and practical living. Nowhere is our virtue more tested and our people in need of not only good teaching but good examples than in the real world travesties and tragedies like the shooting of Laquan McDonald. And at no time is our example and leadership more urgent than when such travesties and tragedies are ubiquitous, everywhere, seemingly all the time. How do we think our people will pursue justice if their leaders won’t?

After watching the video of McDonald being slayed by a uniformed officer, I tried to get clear in my own heart and head what I was for and against as a pastor. Here’s my short list of affirmations and denials:

  1. The Bible.

I believe the Bible to be sufficient and authoritative in matters of justice.

I deny the notion that the Bible is silent, insufficient or unconcerned with justice in human societies.

  1. Christian Discipleship.

I believe justice, mercy and faithfulness are weightier matters of the law and integral to Christian discipleship; they are to not simply be espoused but practiced in ecclesial and secular community with others.

I deny the notion that justice concerns are necessarily “liberal,” “progressive,” or “social gospel” aberrations or are ancillary to Christian discipleship.

  1. Pastoral Responsibility.

I believe pastors have a moral responsibility to convey hope to suffering and marginalized people—and such hope cannot be abstracted from the sufferer’s context lest it become escapism and empty hope.

I deny the notion that a pastor’s only responsibility before God is to preach the word, as if the pastor is not more fundamentally a disciple who also has to bear faithful witness in seeking justice in submission to the Lord.

  1. The Church.

I believe the local church is absolutely vital for both the evangelizing—disciple-making mission of God and for the mercy—good works ethics of the kingdom.

I deny that teaching which makes the mission of the church exclusively “spiritual” as if a spiritual mission has no real world consequences or imperatives and I deny that one could be considered a faithful Christian or Christian church while divorcing the truth of scripture from the practice of that truth.

  1. Public Policy.

I believe biblical, Christian witness in matters of public policy is both a freedom granted to all U.S. Christians and a necessary beneficial calling/vocation for some.

I deny the notion that Christians should retreat from the public policy arena.

  1. Possible Progress.

I believe significant progress in racial justice is possible in our lifetimes and that such progress is already evident in the advances earned by so many over the centuries.

I deny that Christians have reason to give in to that despair, despondency and unbelief which trusts neither God’s good providence nor the ability of people made in His image to do genuine good to and for one another.

  1. Love

I believe that the greatest of all virtues is love, which if faith’s highest expression, covers over a multitude of sin, does not rejoice in wrongdoing, does no harm to its neighbor, is redemptive and transformative, and must be shown not only in words but in deeds.

I deny the possibility that one can be loving and sit idly by while known injustice continues, forsake the aid of brethren in the faith who are in distress, or abandon society to its corruptions without calling men everywhere to repent, believe the gospel, and follow the Lord Jesus Christ in the obedience that comes from faith.

Of course, pastors trade in affirmations and denials all the time. It’s our stock and trade. And we can so easily hollow the words of any action. So in addition to affirmations and denials, I tried very earnestly to think of what I could do to contribute to an end to police brutality and the war on drugs and foster a genuinely just system of police enforcement and criminal procedure. So here are my very broad commitments:

I Commit:

  1. Finding ways to foster meaningful discussions that build neighborhoods.
  2. Investigating claims of injustice so that I might be educated and prepared for sound action.
  3. Demonstrating against injustice.
  4. Advocating for public accountability
  5. Bringing moral pressure to bear on justice issues–especially the end of police brutality, misconduct and the war on drugs.
  6. Brokering solutions and strategies for resolving pressing injustices.

There’s a lot of “how” to work out in all of this. I don’t pretend to have magic answers that everyone else in the world lacks. I simply feel the need to join what I pray is the growing number of citizens and people of faith who see the need for massive reform in order to protect life.

Here’s my question for you, especially if you’re a pastor: Would you join me in these basic affirmations, denials and commitments? Would you be willing to work together to build a network of evangelical pastors to end mass incarceration and police misconduct?


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Comments:


40 thoughts on “A Call to Evangelical Pastors: Let’s Do Our Part to End Police Brutality and Mass Incarceration”

  1. Gerard Seldon says:

    Yes, Yes, Yes, a thousand times over YES!!!!

  2. Tom says:

    I am a police officer in a medium sized city and have been for over 8yrs. I am also a seminary student in my final year and preparing for the ministry. My life revolves around the the lost, disenfranchised, the marginalized, and the poor. Right now God has called to me reach and to love those people that would otherwise never make it into a church building.

    I agree with your conclusions. What I don’t agree with is the labeling of criminal activity as police work. When police officers commits crimes while on duty, those are criminal acts, not police brutality. I know the media and social outlets use that phrase, but it is a mischaracterization and pastors need to see beyond that. Murder is a crime and should be punished. Police work is the enforcement of laws including the prevention of murder. They are not the same. You and all pastors should be able to make the distinction between the two and communicate that distinction when talking publicly about this issue. I wish you had been more thoughtful and careful and not identified the two as one.

    I think your comments are well intentioned, but they’re too simplistic for such a multifaceted issue. Right now the national conversation on police work is centered around the criminal or controversial actions of a few individuals while ignoring the real issue. Police are a reactionary entity that primarily respond to incidents while rarely creating them. The real issue are the issues that caused the incidents to occur; issues that such as the educational systems, the entertainment industry, the media, and the glorification of sin and sinful moral behavior.

    The only solution that can and will affect those areas is the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Please don’t lose sight of this. This is a spiritual battle and the Gospel is the only answer. Believe me when I say that the police want what most people want: a safe community, a harmony in society, and people to treat each other with dignity and respect. The only way for that to happen is through the Gospel. If you want police reform, preach the Word! If you want better treatment for the poor or minority communities, send your congregations into those communities with an invasion of the gospel like they have never experienced. If you want accountability, establish the Word of God as the final authority (including over the Internal Affairs Division!) and believe in the power of the Word of God and prayer to work rather than concentrated efforts at temporary fixes. Please don’t allow the media to distract you from the spiritual realities that are occuring by focusing on the police rather than the spiritually lost. Besides, even if all criminal actions done by police officers stopped and communities lived with a renewed love and appreciation for each other, but no one came to Christ, we haven’t helped anyone and we have failed in our mission to follow the Great Commission.

    I’m a police officer, I’m not your enemy. Please consider the police as your co-laborers in the ministry (Rom 13) and pray that God would raise up laborers for the harvest.

    1. Thabiti Anyabwile says:

      Dear Tom,

      Thank you for your comment and, more importantly, your service to our Lord and to our communities. I appreciate your taking the time to respond to the post. You could have done otherwise. So on this Thanksgiving I’m grateful for you.

      Let me respond with just a couple of points.

      1. I don’t have any problem with the distinction you’re trying to make between crime and police. It’s a fine distinction. But I fear you face a risk by separating the two–the opposite risk you see in how I’ve written. Specifically, you run the risk of minimizing the heinousness of crimes committed in the name of and under the auspices of the state. It is brutality and murder committed while acting as officers and only legitimated because they’re officers. They are not acting as criminals who happen to be wearing uniforms. They are not plain clothes vigilantes like the men who opened fire on Black Lives Matter protestors in Minneapolis. They are acting as sworn-in officers invested with state authority. That compounds and multiplies the problem. We don’t need mollifying language; we need to provoke and awaken the conscience of the entire nation to the evil that this is.

      We confer a generous trust upon officers of the state. We expect them to not only enforce the law but to also model the law. When they fail to do that–in the Laquan McDonald case both by one officer murdering a man made in God’s image and others apparently covering it up–they have not only committed a crime and failed to do police work, they have abused the public’s trust and destroy more than even the life taken itself. So, I’m happy with the distinction you draw, but I think I’ll keep using the language I’ve used here because I think we need a heightened concern about this and the scenes are proving that there’s more than “one bad apple” in too many places.

      2. I certainly agree thy my comments are simple. I don’t think they’re “simplistic.” But I wasn’t trying to offer an analysis of the problem. For that, there are volumes and volumes written which I can recommend if you like. I was simply trying in short compass to say, “Here I stand.” And to ask the question, “Is there anyone else who stands on the same or similar ground?” You say you agree with my conclusion. I’m happy to hear that. But if you agree with my conclusion, I wish you had spent the bulk of your comment talking about our substantive agreement rather than parsing terms.

      3. Finally, if you are Laquan McDonald or Tamir Rice or John Crawford or dozens of others in this last year who have died in police custody or were killed before even being read your rights or were slain before you even saw the police coming, I suspect that in that moment “the real issue” wasn’t failing schools, broken families or even gospel proclamation. The real issue was keeping your life! The real issue was living another day so that you might actually hear the gospel and be saved. The real issue is that so many of the people talking about “the real issues” aren’t in any way involved in those issues. They don’t take the gospel to the poor. They don’t volunteer in failing schools. They don’t work as citizens on just and fair laws. They prove themselves to be fairly unconcerned about the real issues. I don’t know you, friend. And I don’t know that what I’m saying in this paragraph applies to you. But I do know this: While we can’t give anything in exchange for our souls, we do actually need to be alive to respond to the gospel and overcome all the other real issues we face. So job number one is keep people alive–especially in their contact with police officers sworn to “protect and serve.” Then we can face the other issues we have to face.

      Grace and peace to you,
      Thabiti

      1. Bryant Omoregie says:

        Hey Thabiti. What would be 3 foundational books you suggest for some trying to educate himself on these issues.

        1. Thabiti Anyabwile says:

          William J. Stuntz’s The Collapse of American Criminal Justice ought to be required reading for anyone interested in these issues. You can find a free pdf online as well.

          Michelle Alexander’s The New Jim Crow ought to be read as well.

          You might try Khalil Gibran Muhammad’s The Condemnation of Blackness: Race, Crime and the Making of Modern Urban America.

      2. Alasdair says:

        T-Dawg,

        But you major in simplistic “discourse!” You posts in the past two or three years about race and crime are a disgraceful, ignorant and just plain ridiculous. I know you think you are pious, but think again. Enough with the race baiting.

        1. Curt Day says:

          Alasdair,
          Not sure why you call Thabiti’s post race-baiting. I think his posts on racism excellent and necessary. Perhaps, instead just making accusations, can you explain why you think race-baiting is involved?

        2. Gordon Hackman says:

          T-dawg? Really?

  3. martin says:

    “I deny the notion that justice concerns are necessarily “liberal,” “progressive,” or “social gospel” aberrations or are ancillary to Christian discipleship.”

    Amen!

  4. CBrannnen says:

    I love Thabiti. I also want to do anything I can do to try and address the issue. The problem is that I am told by some, many even, who are addressing it already that I’m not allowed to talk about many of the things that are exacerbating these issues. Until we can all come to the table and air out our dirty laundry, Thabiti’s call is hollow. Until I can talk about the cultural and spiritual issues that hamper certain communities, while recognizing I have skeletons in my own closet mind you, then I will never have the ability to offer the one thing that can heal these issues which is Christ crucified, a stumbling block to the Jew and foolishness to the Greek, but those who are being saved the wisdom and power of God.

    I hate that Thabiti oversimplifies the issues like he does. I hate that he brings in political albatrosses like the war on drugs and glosses them over.

    Sentencing reform? End war on drugs? Maybe these are necessary. That doesn’t change that crimes are being committed. Is the problem really the justice system or the things that drive people into the justice system? Is the problem really a physical poverty or a spiritual poverty that keeps people from opportunities they might otherwise avail themselves of?

    I’m all for honest discussion, but let’s have it. If you want it, be ready for it.

    1. Dan McGhee says:

      Sadly, I don’t think Thabiti wants to hear this at all. This has been said to him numerous times already and it appears that he is tired of hearing it. In fact, he has assumed at this point that anyone starting with these presuppositions really doesn’t care for the poor and disenfranchised at all. Look at his response to a fellow brother-in-Christ, studying for ministry, and working as a police officer among the poor and disenfranchised.

      Thabiti begins with “the justice system is the problem” and works out from there. You, I, and many others begin with “sin is the problem….personal responsibility is the issue….cultural values matter….” But, I have seen nothing but a bristling response to those who start with this presupposition.

      Here’s a brother-in-Christ, named Lonnie Poindexter, who cares about these issues just as much as Thabiti does, but he is starting from the correct vantage point, IMO. And, this is the starting point that will really change the situation and circumstances for black America. Check it out here – https://www.facebook.com/1588329148115483/videos/1648939072054490/

      1. Wes Holmes says:

        Dan,

        Have you read MLK’s Letter from a Birmingham Jail. You sound more naive than the clergy King was addressing then. If your not addressing unjust systems, and calling the powers that be to account, than your not truly following Christ example. We can do this all while affirming that the sinful heart within each of us is why the world is in such turmoil. There is no incompatibility.

    2. Thabiti Anyabwile says:

      CBrannen,

      Thank you for your comments, friend. The only thing I would say in response is: Why must it be either or? Why the binary of either sentencing reform and ending the failed war on drugs OR crime, poverty (spiritual or physical), etc? Surely a more complex reading of life would posit both and likely see each exacerbating the other. Would it not? Isn’t that the most honest discussion?

      I’m ready for honest conversation. I’ve simply seen very little of it from those who would deny that there’s any problem with our systems.

      Grace to you,
      Thabiti

      1. Alasdair says:

        T-Man,

        Please get your garbage off of this blog so that it can be a respectable one again. What I love, actually, is how many of my friends have stopped reading TGC simply because of you. You have lost all credibility other than that you have with non-thinkers. Take some time off and come off of your afro-centrism already. It stinks!!

        1. Thabiti Anyabwile says:

          The only thing that stinks on this blog is your attitude in this comment. If your friends have stopped reading the blog, that’s their choice. I welcome it. I think it’s a more honorable choice than leaving the kind of comment you’ve just left here.

          Thabiti

          1. Alasdair says:

            Aaaaaaawwww. Hahaha. The comment I left…as opposed to the trash you write. You are a real interesting fellow.

      2. CBrannnen says:

        Brother Thabiti,

        That is exactly what I’m saying! We have to address the foundational issues and the structural issues all at once. However, other issues cannot even be evaluated without looking at the other issues first.

        Did you know the number one indicator of wealth is getting married and staying married? If we can’t talk about the breakdown of the family unit that disproportionately hits the black community then how can we address poverty?

        The war on drugs has been, in many ways, an abject failure. On the flip side do we really want our government to turn a blind eye to drug abuse, which leads to so much more crime?

        Sentencing reform is something I think most people can get behind. However, you have to de-incintivize petty crime somewhere to make it make a difference. The only way I know is to precipitate a culture shift and that starts with the Gospel.

        Divorce, abortion, drunkenness, abuse, crime; they all must be addressed alongside police brutality. Let’s be honest, these events are highly publicized, but police abusing their authority is surprisingly rare considering our large police force in the US.

        We can work to stop profiling and brutality, but the best thing is to keep people from ever being in the situation where they might be brutalized. One thing about every name you named, they had a criminal record and were being accused of committing some kind of Criminal act. Would they be gone today if they had different opportunities? I can’t say, but I’d sure like to find out.

        1. Thabiti Anyabwile says:

          I’m glad we agree that the issues are complex and inter-related. The place where we may diverge seems to be what we regard as “priority issues” and when we do so.

          To reply to each of your thoughtful paragraphs:

          1. I know well the research on family structure. I spent several years working on that issue in the policy world before going into full-time pastoral ministry. While it’s true that the marriage between biological parents in homes with little turbulence benefits everybody (dad, mom, kids), marriage in no silver bullet in a community that’s seen steep declines in two-parent married households since the 1960s/1970s. There’s a lot of work to do in poor neighborhoods to even make marriage viable–including having “marriagable” Black men available once mass incarceration has done its work of permanently shutting even petty offenders out of even entry level work. So even at the basic level of promoting marriage, we run into the widespread challenge of criminal justice policy making it difficult for men to play the role we’d want them to play in marriage. By the way, even for married, stable AA families, the wealth gap is significant and wealth transfer is very fragile from one generation to the next in AA families.

          2. The war on drugs has been an abject failure. But we do not want government to turn a blind eye to drug use. We want government to address it equitably by supporting treatment options rather than criminalizing it. If you use powder cocaine, you go to rehab. If you use crack cocaine, you go to prison and for much longer than if you’d had powder. The effects of that are catastrophic on one community and remedial in another. So let’s not ignore it. Let’s create a coherent system of treating and rehabilitating users.

          Sentence reform is vital. We can’t continue this path, locking up more and more citizens. In fact, we’re well past the point where “tougher sentences” have a deterring effect. At a certain point, you reach the inverted U curve and the sentences have the opposite effect. Malcolm Gladwell has an excellent chapter on this in his book David and Goliath. Easy read and well worth it for anyone who wants to think about this issue. Here’s the real point for those of us who want to see the gospel take root: The despair and despondency caused by over-incarceration actually makes gospel work more difficult and the cultural change longer and slower. Hopeful people tend to believe the best in life and grow the best in life. Our policies retard that hope and that growth.

          When you find a way to keep people from these situations, please let me know and broadcast it widely! :-) But for the record, not every name I mentioned had a record or was committing a crime. John Crawford wasn’t committing a crime. He was on a cell phone in WalMart. Tamir Rice didn’t have a record and wasn’t committing a crime. He was playing in a neighborhood park. I could go on with such examples. And many of the folks who had records or were suspected of committing a crime didn’t have to be killed. Take Laquan McDonald mentioned at the top of the post. Watch that video and tell me that young man deserved to be shot at all–much less 16 times! What we have to guard against is the notion that if you have a record or are suspected of a crime that by itself legitimately marks you for death. It doesn’t and it shouldn’t. We have a constitution that used to guarantee life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness and worked to protect those by preventing unlawful searches and seizures. Our framers were better in their vision than we are in our practice right now–not only on this issue but also on marriage, abortion, etc.

          Anyway, thanks for your comment and pressing toward a more holistic picture of things. I don’t disagree with much of anything you’ve raised. I’d just put the accent in different places depending on the primary issue under discussion.

          Grace to you!

  5. William Pickering says:

    Pastors scarcely need to be activists to help. Much good could be accomplished by simply laying aside DHS Clergy Response Team propaganda: “Romans 13. Surrender to evil! The apotheosis of Washington is not idolatry! The will of the State is the will of God!” …if they could tone down rhetoric like that, it would be great.

    1. Matt says:

      I would not waste your time debating with Thabiti. I think he is as much “Christian” as Mr. Obama is. He sounds more like a black muslim, the things he promotes do not emphasize the gospel, as a message that will save all people. Rather it is a message that ends injustice. Totally false. All heat and no light. His sophistry is comical, and comparable to the race baiters and blind watchmen like Michael Dyson, Farakkhan and other black ministers who promote their ethnocentric agenda. I’ve met Blacks who support police and are submissive to the law. They never make the headlines of CNN; because submission does not sell. Thabiti and others promote PROPAGANDA, that will prepare this country for the one world government that the Hitler in white house wants America to be.

  6. RJ Garner says:

    Thabiti is not interested in conversation unless it’s with someone who agrees with him. He already deleted one comment from me where I showed him cold hard facts that police brutality is an incredibly rare event. Since he has no answer for it he simply deletes the comment altogether. I’m sure this one will be deleted too.

  7. Thabiti Anyabwile says:

    Dan, CBrannen, and RJ,

    Thanks for your comments. As always, you write as if you know me or know what I’m willing to discuss. And as usual, you state things with your own peculiar skew.

    Fact is, I’ve engaged each of you (CBrannen excepted) on a number of occasions. We’ve had twitter “conversations” (if one can have a conversation on twitter) ad nauseam. As I recall those discussions, two things are often happening and seem barely fixable:

    1. We fail to have the same conversation at the same time. You want to talk about your view of the problem (i.e., crime rates, immorality, sin, etc). That’s a fine conversation to have. Let me know when you want to have it, but not as a way of dismissing another set of problems, smaller in comparison, but no less real (some agents of the state abusing their authority and power over life and death). I’m happy to have the first conversation with you as long as you don’t continue insisting it’s the only conversation and that it explains away other problems as easily documented as a YouTube search. Let me know when.

    2. Inevitably the “conversations” degenerate into insinuating someone is either a racist or isn’t faithful to the gospel, etc. Then there are the inevitably charges of “reverse-racism,” “race-baiting,” and on it goes. Forgive me if I tire of that, but I do. It’s old. It’s stale. It’s unproductive. I’m not interested. I hope you’re not as well because it’s beneath our ability and certainly beneath our calling in Christ.

    So, no, I don’t want to keep replaying the same script with you guys. No, I’m not going to let anyone hijack a comment thread on this blog. It’s not that I don’t want to hear what you have to say. I’ve tried to listen. I don’t think anyone can fairly say I avoid difficult conversation with others. I list for you discussion with Doug Wilson about slavery and Black and Tan, exchanges with Rachel Held Evans and others re: homosexuality, back-and-forth re: T.D. Jakes and ER2–all on this blog, besides many other discussions in person, on camera, etc. I’m not known for much, but I do think people who read me regularly know me for engaging people who differ with me at great length with charity. At least I try. To date, you guys are among the first to exceed my imperfect patience.

    From my perspective, it’s not my avoiding you; it’s that we’re not having the same conversation. Add to that the various states of emotion people experience and the way people sometimes want to construe disagreement as either a personal attack or an attack against officers, and it’s just not productive.

    Frankly, if we disagree so widely, unable even to begin at the same starting place, unable to live at peace with one another, then it seems to me the godly thing to do is find another conversation partner with whom we can have fruitful exchanges. I’m sure you have people like that in your lives that disagree with you but are nevertheless able to talk with you. I know that I do–both in person and online. I’d rather talk with them, because with them I can talk. I’d rather not have another round of the same with you all.

    So, either let me know what conversation you’d like to have, where, when, by what rules and toward what goal(s) so that we can be productive, or I ask you kindly, please find someone else to engage. There is no requirement that you follow my posts and tweets and none that I reply to you. If we can’t make it edifying, let’s go our separate ways.

    Fair enough?

    Thabiti

    1. Dan McGhee says:

      Thabiti, I can’t even remember the last time I tweeted you, so I have no idea what you’re talking about here. We had an exchange a while back, but that was a very long time ago. However, I do agree that it seemed fruitless. Some of that is due to the platform of Twitter itself and its character limitation. It makes real conversation impossible and seems to always devolve into a battle of pithy “one-ups,” which I despise.

      I would like to have real conversation in a context that allows for real dialogue among those with differing perspectives on this issue. Let me see what I can do about getting a group together for some discussion. I’ll be in touch. God bless.

      1. Wes Holmes says:

        Dan,

        If you want to have this conversation, why don’t you start by adopting the same tone as Thabiti. You come across, whether you know it or not, as a right-fighter out to make others submit to your view.

        It’s also funny that you think you are bring issues to Thabiti’s attention that he assuredly knows more about than you. A bit a humility at the outset would go a long way as well.

        1. Dan McGhee says:

          Wes, thanks for the comments. I’ll try to do better on the tone for you, OK?

          Now, having said that, how do you know that Thabiti knows more than I do about the subject at hand? You say “he assuredly knows more than you do.” Wes, how do you know this? These seems to be quite a sure statement from someone who has never talked with me as far as I know. You may be right here, but you may also be wrong here. You have no idea what I do or don’t know. Please understand, I’m not upset that you’ve said this. I’m really not. I’m just stating that you can’t possibly know if this is true or not.

    2. RJ Garner says:

      Thabiti, the bulk of your article was about police brutality. I posted statistics relating directly to that topic. How is that interpreted as me having a different conversation than you?

      Do you insist that one must first acknowledge that police brutality is a widespread problem before they are even allowed to be in the discussion? Especially if the statistics I posted clearly debunk that premise?

      As I stated before, 0.0039% of all police/citizen contacts result in a credible brutality complaint. Why can’t we talk about that?

  8. Curt Day says:

    Tahiti,
    First, thank you for this blogpost. I think your blogposts on social problems like racism and police abuse of authority have been excellent and necessary to read.

    Second, Ithere is ambiguity in the following line:


    I deny the notion that justice concerns are necessarily “liberal,” “progressive,” or “social gospel” aberrations or are ancillary to Christian discipleship.

    To me, the line is confusing simply because the people who have first brought justice issues to the attention of many, but not all, are liberals, progressives, and those advocating social justice.

    I think what your post exemplifies is a third position between Black-Lives-Matter vs Support-the-police, though I hasten to say that there is much merit in the Black lives Matter movement. That third position says: I support justice. To support justice allows us to escape the tribalism trap than can of be a part of discussions on movements like Black Lives Matter and police abuse of authority.

  9. dghart says:

    What works in your neighborhood, pastor?

    1. Thabiti Anyabwile says:

      What “works” is surely a mix of things. And “works” will always be incremental and slow.

      But I think the better question–at least the one I have to ask myself first–is, “What’s right?” That’s important to ask because it keeps us from being pragmatists AND because sometimes we have to do the right thing even when we have no sense that it will “work.”

      T

  10. todd says:

    Thank you pastor for this post. I am the lead pastor of an Church located in predominantly impoverished, urban area. You have given some wonderful principles but could you mention some practical suggestions? I understand to a degree what you’re advocating would look different in certain parts of the country but since the majority of us are American citizens are there some general practical suggestions that would be helpful anywhere? Or could you recommend a book or website that offers those suggestions? Thanks.

    On another note, for years I have gained much insight into how to respond to critics and hostile individuals through your interaction on this blog. I have even copied a number of them on a word document to further study!! Its old now. SMH, Particularly the Cyber Stalking!! You don’t even post here everyday so some individuals are just Cyber Stalking. That just doesn’t make any sense. I’m glad you’re done with it.

    I’m praying for your labors in Anacostia! Please continue to keep us updated on how the work is going there. I have a brother named Joe who doesn’t know the Lord and lives in your area. Praying the Lord works on his heart and sends him you guys way.

    God Bless Brother Pastor
    Todd

    1. Thabiti Anyabwile says:

      Thank you, brother. The Lord bless and keep you!

  11. Mark says:

    Pastor Thabiti, thanks for your courage in calling evangelicals to engage police brutality and mass incarceration as well as your graciousness in responding to some of your critics. I think mass incarceration is one of our country’s most heinous sins and evangelicals have made little headway because of simplistic solutions like “improving family life” or “making better decisions”, usually offered by people who have never been a victim of the system.

    Michael Emerson and Christian Smith’s book Divided by Faith is another essential read for anyone who denies the reality of systemic injustice. I’m an MDiv student at TEDS where Divided by Faith was required reading for a social/cultural exegesis class; needless to say, it was eye-opening for many.

    Please keep pressing on in being an advocate for the voiceless blacks cut off from opportunity, dignity, and even life itself. American evangelicals need to wake up. If Jonathan Edwards’ blind spot was his tacit approval of slavery, I wonder if 100 years from now Christians will look back and wonder why American evangelicals didn’t do anything for the millions of Laquan McDonald’s left to fend for themselves.

    1. Thabiti Anyabwile says:

      Bless you, brother. Thanks for the comment and thanks for the encouragement! It’s very appreciated!

  12. Matty O'neil says:

    Laquan McDonald’s death was unjustified and horrendous. It was an abuse of power by the OFFICER (not the police as an organization) who shot him and I’m glad that officer is facing murder charges. With that stated, I am wondering why black lives only seem to matter when they are taken at the hands of police officers. Where are the protests, the movements, the riots and the outrage for the hundreds of black lives taken at the hands of other black lives on a daily basis? Especially in Chicago!

    1. Joey Phillips says:

      Amazing. Formal Logic textbooks are going to have to add ‘What about Chicago?’ to their lists of informal fallacies.

    2. Thabiti Anyabwile says:

      Dear Matt,

      Thank you for leaving a comment and joining the conversation. Thank you for also saying that an officer abused his power and horrendously murdered a man. In many conversations, some people won’t even admit that much. Personally, I find at least that much of an admission helpful.

      But if I might, let me add two things more. First, the apparent cover up of that officer’s crime was not limited to that officer. There appear to be other officers complicit and perhaps even the Mayor himself. At that level, we are talking about an organization level issue, not just a rogue officer.

      Second, there are protests against other forms of violence in Chicago and other places all the time. Here’s a link to things that have been happening in Chicago: https://www.dnainfo.com/chicago/20151201/downtown/chicagoans-actually-do-protest-violence-their-communities-all-time.

      Hope that helps. Thanks again for joining the conversation!

      Thabiti

  13. Tom says:

    I will right away grab your rss as I can’t find your email subscription link or newsletter service. Do you’ve any? Kindly let me know so that I could subscribe. Thanks.

  14. Matt says:

    Pastor, a couple of things:
    I have read many of your posts and know exactly where your perverted garbage is headed.

    1. Your demonizing of men and women in law enforcement, is supporting the tyrant in the White House and his desire for a national police force. Once local law enforcement is put away, it will prepare it for a national police force. Hitler did this with his Brownshirts taking over areas of Germany making local law enforcement powerless. That’s where Obama and the racist DOJ are taking us.
    2. Wake up look at the problems around us. Terrorism, rising healthcare costs, illegal immigration, high unemployment, and the death of free speech. These are the real problems not police shooting blacks who hate authority and feel authority is racist and part of the KKK. Maybe you should go join the nation of Islam or some other black hate group, since you sound like all the race baiters; Sharpton ,Jackson, and dozens of other gang members and criminals.

    3. Get your facts straight. Michael Brown robbed a liquor store and went for an officer’s gun. He got what he deserved. Whatever happened to seeing authority as given by God, and police as his ministers. Why do black people have such a hard time with this. Blacks are not the OT Jews. That time is passed. Submission to God=Submission to the State.

    4. Your use of scripture is perverted. You are COWARDLY for standing with the criminals, thugs and Christ hating community activists and foolish for rushing to a conclusion based on the what the media says. You don’t have the balls to put on the badge and try to enforce the law. You have no idea how difficult it really. is. Listening to you, It is obvious you are still stuck in the past nursing the wounds of racial discrimination. Someone too blind to admit that blacks play a part in this and commit horrible crimes which they are never prosecuted because witness are too afraid to come forward since they now someone in the black community will kill them for “snitching.”

  15. Curt Day says:

    Thabiti,
    Since I didn’t have your email address and it is close to the end of the year, I wanted to use this comment to thank you for all of your articles on racism. Please keep writing on this.

  16. heather says:

    The one thing everyone is missing here is this: In this and similar incidents, the person who died was absolutely refusing to cooperate with the police or follow their directions. Thus they become an unpredictible loose canon in an environment that is as dangerous as a war zone. It seems like one of the most practical solutions would be to teach young black men to cooperate with the police when stopped. If this poor man had, he would be alive today. Why can’t black ministers teach respect for the authorities? It’s always about injustices by the police, but there is never any honest talk about everyone’s obligation to respect authorities.

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Thabiti Anyabwile


Thabiti Anyabwile is a pastor for Anacostia River Church in southeast Washington, DC and a council member of The Gospel Coalition.

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