Faith, Love, Politics, and Social Justice

Dear White People: About Botham Jean, Forgiveness, Justice, and Cheap Grace

Yesterday we watched the sentencing of a white woman, a former cop, convicted of murdering a black man named Botham Jean in his own apartment, unarmed, eating ice cream. She received the very minimal sentence of 10 years following which the brother of the murder victim gave her a big hug and said he forgave her. Many Christians applaud that hug saying it was an extraordinary act of grace on his part. Having never walked in his shoes I will not judge him. However as a white woman, also a former cop, and Christian theologian I will judge the way so many of us in the white community are so quick to applaud black people for forgiving white murderers. We did it following the Charleston nine and here we go again.

We are quick to point to the way in which Jesus forgave his own killers even as he suffered on the cross and we hold that up as the model for victims to adhere to today. But wait a minute. Is that fair? As we usually do with Bible stories we cast ourselves in the role of Jesus but really white people in the U.S. are the Romans in this story. We are the crucifiers not the crucified, the defenders of brutal empire who perhaps feel a little guilty at the scene of yet another lynching taking place in our name. As such we hear “father forgive them” as good news. Even though we have killed Jesus and brutalized his people we need not really fear hell. Even the victim himself does not hold us accountable. We are innocent. We did not know what we were doing. Good news right? Wrong.

Forgiveness without repentance is what theologian Dietrich Bonhoefer, quoting Adam Clayton Powell, called cheap grace. It lets us believe we are off the hook for our evil without demanding any real change on our part. In the case of the murder of Botham Jean cheap grace lets us white people maintain our sense of innocence and goodness without first facing up to the role we all play, knowingly or not, in maintaining systemic racism. In this case it allows us to avoid looking at the particularly brutal history of black men and white women. We don’t have to think about the thousands of lynchings, unjust crucifixions, that happened in our country due to black men being unjustly accused of raping white women. We don’t have to think about the way in which white women to this day are seen as fragile and innocent (particularly if they are or make themselves blond) while black men are perceived as threatening and dangerous even when they are in their own homes eating ice cream. In other words we do not need to see let alone repent of our sins. But is that the gospel? Is that grace?

I say no. Let’s look at the “father forgive them” scenario again. Jesus of Nazareth who lived as an oppressed Jew under Roman occupation is, like many before him, being crucified as an enemy of state. (Side note- All of you chomping at the bit to inform me that Jesus’s crucifixion/lynching was “not political” because he was “dying for our sins” need to hold off until you read some of my upcoming posts about the racist roots of Anselmian substitutionary atonement theory. All of you who likewise want to blame “the Jews” need a lesson in the history of Christian anti-Semitism. All of you who similarly want to say “we are all equally guilty as sinners regardless of race” need to read a history book. Have I covered all the loopholes? If not I will get back to them. Today we are talking history.) So Jesus has been persecuted by Romans all of his life for preaching good news for the impoverished and oppressed people of Rome now hangs on one of thousands of crosses (which Dr. James Cone rightly identified as lynching trees) designed to support Roman supremacy. Notice that in every one of the passion narratives he has very little to say to his oppressors. At this point he is done talking to them. Notice also that Jesus does not forgive them. He asks God to do so. Notice furthermore that he essentially writes them off as ignorant “for they know not what they do.”

Is that what we, as white citizens of a white supremacist nation want for ourselves? Will we be satisfied by a cheap grace that comes from being written off as ignorant? Will that restore the humanity we have lost to the false and demonic systems of racism and white supremacy? Will enforced (and it is enforced) forgiveness coming from black victims of racist violence be enough to save our souls?

I am going with no on this. I don’t know about you but I want more for myself. When I see a white woman, entrusted to “protect and serve” all people who nontheless harbored racist ideas as evidenced by her texts to co-workers, who illegally entered a black man’s castle, shot him in cold blood, told a nonsense story, played Goldilocks on the stand, and got away with the most minimum sentence, I want to do better than cling to the “but his brother forgave her bless his heart” defense.

I want to hold her and I both accountable, her for murder and me for whatever way I have, knowingly or not, contributed to the systemic racism that caused the murder. I reject cheap grace. I need justice to be done. I need the gift of true repentance for my own sins of racism. I need real soul salvation. I refuse to be written off as one of those who did not know what I was doing. I am better than that and so are you.

280 responses

  1. Wow, thank you for this reflected and Amazing Post!

    October 3, 2019 at 9:36 am

  2. Inclaire Saunders

    Thank you from my innermost mental capacity for writing this article. I can now move on knowing that some of my White brethren understand. Thank you

    October 3, 2019 at 12:36 pm

    • CYA

      I applaud your perspective and honesty. Well said.

      October 3, 2019 at 4:37 pm

    • Lee

      Just my observation,
      Where did blacks in American get Christianity?
      Was it from White Supremacists (Slave Masters).
      Did it become a tradition, given by white supremacists for blacks to pass down and make it a desired path for their children, for acceptance and the standard path for living their lives in the black community?
      Are we to always turn the other check, forgive, or ignore the oppressive obvious conditions we live in and just wait until our religious Deity receives us in our Heaven?
      If religion is an individual walk, why have there been a push to collectively judge each individual’s path to their Deity?
      Are we using religion to deal with the truth in order to make it more digestible, and looking at others that follow that religion to do the same or be judged by humankind?
      The only real issue I have is with the judge and deputy consoling a murder.

      October 3, 2019 at 5:43 pm

      • Rosalyn

        Some of us of African decent were already Christians. Coptic Christian churches were located in Africa. Some of the oldest art depicts Christians with darker skin tones.

        October 3, 2019 at 8:10 pm

      • Lee

        In America, was the question. I think.

        October 3, 2019 at 9:01 pm

      • Jenn

        Absolutely!!!! So what happens now judges are passing out Bibles???hopefully there is no appeal!!!!

        October 3, 2019 at 11:18 pm

      • sh

        So true who dies that. Console a murderer? I have never seen a black murderer consoled.

        October 4, 2019 at 1:16 am

      • C

        Christianity was already in Africa long before Europeans got lost in America. The question is then, who taught Christianity to the European?

        October 4, 2019 at 1:29 am

      • If you’re interested in more detail, a good book is “The Color of Compromise” by Jemar Tisby

        October 4, 2019 at 1:46 am

    • Linda Smith

      While I would not have been able to put it as well as you did, I believe she got off way to easily with her boo-hoo’s! Had this been a black man or woman shooting a white man/woman the sentence would have been much different!!

      October 3, 2019 at 11:01 pm

    • Minister Marsha Harris

      You are one the most genuine white people i have had pleasure of reading on the ravages of systemic racism. Only God can give that type of insight and indeed you cause me to be hopeful that not all whites are being led by blind guides full of racism clothed in christianity all the while entrenched in white supremacy. God bless you

      October 4, 2019 at 3:38 am

  3. Lancelot Thembalethu Gerald Mkhabela

    Thank you for this post; it is insightful and thought-provoking. You have done an excellent job in challenging the competency of white people in America to the culture of violence against black men and the willingness of American Christians to be content with “Cheap Grace.” I know that you do not question the right of the victims to forgive; however, I would also like to point out that sometimes victims do not forgive for the sake of the perpetrator, but they do it for themselves. They do it to let go of hate and pain, to claim wholeness, and to open a possibility for the future for themselves and their loved ones. When I was ten years old, my brother was stabbed to death by his best friend. My family went through a lot of pain because of this incident. After about two years, my mother made a conscious decision to forgive the young man who killed his son and his family. Our forgiveness was directed at him, but it was not for him, it was for us. My mother forgave so that she and us (her family) could have closer. She wanted to show us that it was possible to let go of hate and pain and to reclaim the future possibilities of hope, wholeness, and peace. I cannot speak for Botham’s brother, why he decided to forgive the policewoman who killed his brother. However, I know that forgiveness does not mean that he and his family will forget what happened, but forgiveness can open a possibility for a future for the victims. A chance to let go and to find closer. Most importantly, I am sure that Botham’s family wants to remember Botham for who he truly was, not just a number, another victim of gun violence in America.

    My man is Themba, I am the Pastor of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. I was born and raised in South Africa.

    October 3, 2019 at 1:00 pm

    • Mika

      That was definitely made clear in your article!! 💜

      October 3, 2019 at 2:00 pm

    • This is so important and right on the money. His forgiveness is beautiful. This takes nothing from it. But his act of forgiveness doesn’t let ME off the hook to fight for justice. – thank you for this post!! rev. Ginger watson

      October 3, 2019 at 2:22 pm

    • Andre Turner

      You do not that, according to the stories, largely written by Jewish writers, that Jesus died, at request of Jewish leaders right. As a black man, I’m all for justice and equality and black empowerment but to change a Biblical narrative to fit your “poor black people we whites need to do better” agenda is just as wrong as KKK justifying slavery through the Bible. Let’s let the Gospel do the work.

      October 3, 2019 at 2:45 pm

    • Brian

      You feel he was pressured to forgive because of race oppression?

      October 3, 2019 at 3:12 pm

    • Amecia W

      I love this ❤️

      October 3, 2019 at 4:16 pm

    • S.

      I absolutely get that concept that it support the FORGIVER, not the forgiven. But even with that logic, where were taught this? Was it also a part of the book which has seriously questionable undertones?
      Forgiveness has always been laid out as this concept that it’s “I have to forgive YOU for ME”, but why don’t we challenge this? Maybe, just maybe, the way forgiveness truly works is to forgive yourself for NOT forgiving the other person. To find peace by being honest and aware of your emotions, which can often lead you to be at peace with knowing that I can never forgive you and you are not worthy of my forgiveness. There can be peace is that level of conviction. Now, that does not mean hate, sadness, guilt, etc are not to be resolved. But an emotion can be resolved internally completely independent of the concept of “forgiveness”. Honestly, all of these concepts are so wrapped up in emotion that its hard to discern facts and facts can still stand. My forgiveness of your evil allows you peace…even just an ounce….and therefore does become “something for them” and not just for me. Forgiveness can often times piggyback with power differentials, expectations, and the esteem of being “the bigger person” which in our society holds this unseen level of reverence. But at the end of the day, when things continue on the path they do…forgiveness has to give way to healthy action. Not retaliation, not revenge, not “making them feel how I feel”, but more of “what is going on around me that allows this to happen”. Or “what am I contributing to that does not hold all accountable for their actions”. And from that notion, ACTING to resolve, reform, and realign ourselves.
      Forgiveness in itself can be weaponized…and it has been. Sometimes, straight logic and healthy actionable steps can also provide that peace we so seek. We have to stop seeking external validation for the peace we want.

      October 3, 2019 at 4:53 pm

    • @KarynC I broke my rule today. I usually pass by articles that begin “Dear white people” To hold me responsible for the actions of a Texas police officer, because of the color of my skin, is horrible. To use Jesus to justify this nonsense is yet another black eye for Jesus

      October 3, 2019 at 6:09 pm

    • Lounora Moore

      Thank you… I hope once I close this I am able to click on something that gives the option to follow. You have the information that I need.

      October 3, 2019 at 6:37 pm

    • I too am a former sheriffs deputy and police officer. I am also a retired United Methodist Pastor who served a church one block from the site of the Emanuel Nine murders. I understood clearly why some of the victims family forgave Dylan Roof and others simply could not. It is a personal decision. Some forgive because it simply makes things easier emotionally and spiritually. Honestly, others forgive because of the old slave tradition to forgive your White master. Others, bearing no ill will, just aren’t ready to forgive and may never arrive at that point. As for the young man who forgave the killer officer; I truly believe he saw repentance and remorse! We were not there. We can’t know for sure. Yet, maybe we need to give him the benefit of the doubt.

      October 3, 2019 at 9:12 pm

    • Erica Lawrence

      Where is your Church, I agree, Forgivness is for THAT PERSONS WELL BEING, if You noticed Brant Jean, was drowning, it seemed to me as He was About to Explode, Hot, and Agitated with the Ruling, in order to get That PEACE HE HAS BEEN BROUGHT UP TO BELIEVE IN, For Him HE HAD TO DO WHAT HE DID FOR HIMSELF. If that’s what it took for HIM to move FORWARD, WHO ARE WE TO SAY ANYTHING. I Pray For Him and His Family for Their Faith To Help Them Through This Process and Stay True To Who They Are In Their Faith and Beliefs. I Don’t Think I Could Have Been So Forgiving for Taking My Brother. But that would be between Me and My God.

      October 3, 2019 at 10:15 pm

  4. Sara Hardaway

    Well it is a beginning . At no time did I see it as cheap grace. For once I hoped the world had an example of God at work in a horrible situation that only God can save for us all. For once that made national news. She. Needs saving as we all do. I disagree with your remarks in restating the horrible situation and pouring skepticism on this young man’s teaching out. It disappoints me. Forgiveness is personal a d a journey. I salute God and him. I am not sure my concerns would b sermon prep at this point.

    October 3, 2019 at 1:50 pm

    • JLM

      The authors remarks were tailored to you… but you maybe in denial about the role you play in Christian white supremacy.

      October 3, 2019 at 10:45 pm

  5. Mika

    I ABSOLUTELY applaud your candor!! Thank you!!

    I had to share this!

    October 3, 2019 at 1:57 pm

  6. Jennifer Marshall-Nealy

    I am unapologetically BLACK and I am also involved in the political arena in my town. I thank you for stating what I know is truth. First- Never would I have hugged her nor given her the impression that she is forgiven.
    I am “not” Christ, nor do I profess to be…that position has already been filled. Next – I was not in South Carolina when the massacre took place, however the injustice that I saw in that documentary was abhorrent. I was outraged! Black people – WAKE UP!! You are giving the white racist establishment a “pass” on injustices. DO NOT BE FOOLED.

    October 3, 2019 at 2:18 pm

    • Robert L Coleman

      I agree , thanks

      October 3, 2019 at 4:31 pm

    • Share

      I am unapologetically Black and politically active. I am a Christian and continually strive to be like Christ as scripture enjoins, “ Be ye perfect, even as your Father in heaven is perfect.” Mat 5:48. That’s a lot to ask, even as the action of Mr. Jean’s brother is a lot to ask. We are not all able to be so grace-filled in the face of terrible loss. But I suggest those who are can claim to be the ones who are truly awake. Isaiah (55:8-9) says, “ My thoughts are not your thoughts neither are your ways my ways. For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so My ways are higher than your ways and My thoughts than your thoughts.” We don’t all have the same thoughts about injustice, but we are all invited to strive for a mark that transcends the cruelty of this pitifully existence. Botham Jean has achieved that mark in paradise, in spite of the ridiculousness of his death. I believe his brother approaches that mark here on earth.

      October 3, 2019 at 5:18 pm

    • Claudette Nash

      I agree %.

      October 3, 2019 at 7:49 pm

  7. Linda Rogers


    October 3, 2019 at 2:29 pm

  8. Ryan Bennett

    I offer this as a slightly different perspective, not in disagreement, just a different thought, coming from the father of a 10 year old bi-racial son who is scared about the world his sone will become a man in. It still doesn’t negate the power of forgiveness offered, or what he says is the “best” for her. The forgiveness he offers is not being spoken on behalf of God or on behalf of the legal system. Guyger still has consequences in both of those arenas to tend to. It does free Brandt from drinking the poison of unforgiveness. Blessings!

    October 3, 2019 at 2:32 pm

  9. Thank you for naming these truths. I felt all kinds of feelings seeking Botham Jean’s brother hug Amber Geiger, and while I respect his one personal faith, I wanted others to say that we need to ensure that this never happens again. Forgiving her, praying for her, releases him from a lifetime of anger, bitterness and resentment. But is does not release her, or the rest of us, from responsibility and the hard and important work of repentance, justice and reconciliation.

    October 3, 2019 at 2:35 pm

  10. Rev. Lydia Kenlaw

    Thank you for putting into words what has given my soul angst with Guyger’s sentence and the forgiveness Botham’s brother gave. This tears at my heart and soul, but your message of cheap grace is on point.

    October 3, 2019 at 2:36 pm

  11. Thank you for this. Throughout this entire ridiculous drama in which we all knew the white police officer who cried on the stand would be given a soft sentence (if any sentence at all), I just kept thinking of the false rape in To Kill A Mockingbird and how our nation is so afraid of black men touching white women that even a man in his own home eating ice cream is allowed to be murdered by a white woman claiming self defense. I’ve attempted to enter another person’s apartment by mistake three times, living in NYC. Twice, my key not working in the lock was the clue that made me look at he door and realize I was on the wrong floor. The third time, the door was unlocked and I went in. And guess what… IMMEDIATELY I knew it wasn’t my apartment by the subtle differences in smell, the different carpet or flooring beneath my feet. I BACKED UP BEFORE SETTING A SECOND FOOT in the apartment, acrid I would be in trouble for disturbing and/or frightening the person whose apartment it was. It was massively disorienting, but at no point did I feel the fault was anything other than my own. I’ve also had a neighbor put their key in my lock a few times and never did I think it was an intruder. I just bought, “Oh… I’m not the only tired New Yorker who gets off on the wrong floor after work and doesn’t notice.” Once, someone walked into my apartment and we laughed. That’s how it’s supposed to go. You’re not supposed to draw a gun, then purposefully walk into the apartment and shoot someone. That’s goes so far beyond what this common situation calls for. It is absolutely racism and perceived fear that allowed her to kill Botham Jean and essentially get away with it. Ten years is a lot of time to be away from the world, but if this situation was reversed, Botham Jean as a black man with an usual (to many Americans) name would be rotting in prison for life. This whole trial was just another message to our non-white citizens and neighbors that they are basically screwed, even in their own homes. This is why I speak up every single time someone makes a racist comment or assumption and have a conversation with them about race, asking them to rethink what they’re saying and why they’re saying it. I don’t care if it makes people uncomfortable. No one is more uncomfortable than Botham Jean. And I hope if I say or do something unwittingly unfair that people will call me on it so I can change. Thank you for this article. Keep standing up.

    October 3, 2019 at 2:38 pm

    • Please forgive the many typos. I hope my statement was clear. Usual should’ve been “unusual” and the other typos are pretty self explanatory. The main thing is that we need to stop seeing black men as dangerous. They’re not. In my life, I have not been harmed by a single black man. I have, however, been systematically harmed and pushed down by white men. Raped, molested, belittled, shamed, controlled, silenced… But the black males in my life? They’ve done nothing but be my friends and coworkers, neighbors and nice boyfriends. Let’s rethink who’s really dangerous in this country.

      October 3, 2019 at 2:46 pm

  12. Ryan Bennett
    I offer my blog as a different perspective, not necessarily in disagreement with yours but simply a different way to look at it. As a dad of a 10 year old bi-racial son, I worry about the world he will become a man in, but that does not negate the power in Brandt’s words and actions. His statement did not release Guyger from the consequences of her actions in the eyes of God or the law. She will still have to deal with those in each of those arenas. What it did do, though, is allow him to not have to drink the poison of unforgiveness. It freed him. His greatest offering to her was not a hug, it was Jesus. I hope she receives it.

    October 3, 2019 at 2:38 pm

  13. A Differing View

    The thing is, what’s going to happen next to Amber Guyger is not going to solve the problem.
    The United States is an infamously punitive society. Generations upon generations of people have been brought up with the idea that justice means throwing criminals in the prison system, where they’ll live in subpar conditions (and perhaps endure their own horrors) for x number of years until they’re released (if even) into a world that still doesn’t want them.
    But does that really “fix” the person? It makes them suffer, sure. But will Amber’s racial attitudes really have changed by the time she’s out of there? Especially when we know what U.S. prisons often make criminals worse?
    Sometimes it works… but most research has shown that extrinsic motivators like punishment (as well as reward) aren’t enough. Our prison system’s recitivism rate– a whopping 80 percent– seems to prove that. If you look at Northern European countries, whose prisons focus more on rehabilitation, the rate is much lower: in Norway, it’s 20 percent. By treating inmates like human beings and focusing on changing them, rather than making them suffer, these prisons actually turn these criminals into better human beings.
    What Amber likely needs most right now in prison is a counselor. Somebody she can work with for the next few years in overcoming her internal biases. That hug she received from Brandt Jean is a big first step. It reminded me of the actions of Daryl Davis, a black musician who’s been convincing members of the Klan to leave the organization since the 1980s by befriending them. His reasoning is that by treating them with the same courtesy he’d give anyone else, he’s challenging their racial preconceptions. It’s worked well for him: he’s directly gotten two dozen people to quit.
    With that hug alone, Brandt has probably already started flipping Amber’s own preconceptions on her head. A man whose brother was murdered and yet can still forgive and hug the perpetrator (who, despite her biases, already deeply regrets her actions) has probably done more to challenge Amber’s biases than all her years in a U.S. prison ever will. And frankly, I’d feel uncomfortable condemning Brand’s actions: Botham was his brother, not ours. I’m not sure it’s anyone’s place to judge him.

    October 3, 2019 at 2:40 pm

  14. A Differing View

    Ah, I must point out a typo: I meant to write, “Especially when we know that U.S. prisons often make criminals worse?”

    October 3, 2019 at 2:44 pm

  15. Jay

    Were you there when we crucified our lord?

    October 3, 2019 at 2:45 pm

  16. Dan Lee

    Thank u for this beautiful reflection. I agree. With that said, I have found my penal substituionary atonement friends talk about the justice as retributive and I find myself pushing against this arguing restoratove justice which goes hand in hand with forgiveness and repentance. I am pretty clear that I am not saying to victims MUST forgive rather I am saying perpetrators can be retored if offered forgiveness. Isn’t there nuance here? I wonder how I can explain this. Thank u for ur writing!

    October 3, 2019 at 3:03 pm

  17. Ruth Vincent

    Thank you for helping me as a Black woman understand why I was so incensed by the sentence and the brother forgiving her and people being so moved.

    October 3, 2019 at 3:06 pm

  18. THANK YOU!!!!

    October 3, 2019 at 3:11 pm

  19. Caxton

    Hatred is drinking poison hoping the hated person would die. As a practicing physician for almost three decades, I have seen firsthand the ravaging effects of bitterness and hostility physically, mentally and emotionally as well as the spiritual consequences as a former pastor. It’s wrong to push the aggrieved to forgive the aggressor, but the aggrieved has to come terms with the reality of their pain and how best to get rid of it. We must understand that no one gets away with anything even if at the surface it seems so. Vengeance or harvest is always inevitable. What must be avoided is been a victim twice; of the aggressor and then as a self-induced consequence of anger and hostility which invariably double the risk of multiple medical disorders as shown in several clinical trials.

    October 3, 2019 at 3:17 pm

    • Eva

      Thank you for so eloquently putting into words what I feel, about this above post!! Forgiveness will set you free to LIVE!! I am a witness to that!! When I forgave someone close to me; I felt like a heavy weight left my mental and physical Self!! I refuse to hate the person, I detest the Deed!!!

      October 3, 2019 at 3:47 pm

  20. Ms Q

    Excellent article. Rev. Carlo you thank you for your wisdom and willingness to speak the unbiased truth.

    October 3, 2019 at 3:21 pm

  21. Ms Q

    Excellent article. Rev. Carlo thank you for your wisdom and willingness to speak the unbiased truth.

    October 3, 2019 at 3:21 pm

  22. veritas2711

    I get angry about this too…so what is it you want?
    If 10 years is cheap grace, if a man hugging the killer of his brother isn’t salvation…
    What is this soul salvation you talk about? The gift of true repentance? Did you really know what you were doing and if so, what was it and how did you know and why didn’t you stop?

    October 3, 2019 at 3:22 pm

  23. Janet Levinson

    Wow, you are one bitter Broad. Burying your personal bitterness behind bible scripture is what I consider to be the height of misusing God’s message of freedom through Christ Jesus. I also think it’s ministers such as yourself that divide the church rather than unite it. I will pray for you to be lifted from your anger and to use your voice for unity and the grace of Christ, which is available to all.

    October 3, 2019 at 3:29 pm

  24. Miriam Liggett

    This is exactly what I was feeling but you stated it all so clearly and eloquently. Thank you.

    October 3, 2019 at 3:35 pm

  25. MDM

    Thank you for this 100 times over. When we watch all of this outpouring of sympathy for Amber Guyger it further traumatizes so many of us in this community. Thank you for putting into words exactly how I feel.

    October 3, 2019 at 3:38 pm

  26. Taina Bonita

    There are no words to accurately describe the gratitude I feel for your sharing this most necessary post! THANK YOU for speaking unadulterated TRUTH!!! God bless you & your ministry.

    October 3, 2019 at 3:47 pm

  27. Eva

    My above comment was in reply to Caxton.. Thanks…

    October 3, 2019 at 3:51 pm

  28. letjusticerolldown

    Let’s accept the demonstration of forgiveness as an open door to repentance.
    There are black people and white people that are all over the map in our perceptions and life journies. The act of forgiveness MIGHT have been a fleeting moment in the midst of tragedy in which two people attempt to find a glimpse of light and hope. Maybe in a torn nation people respond positively to a glimpse of hope. I don’t know if it works to say, “You sorry fools. Look how dirty you are. Why are you finding any hope in this?”
    Just as it is faulty to not see all the variables that contribute to systems of racism–it is also a mistake to work every tragedy backwords as proof of our view of systemic oppression. Every officer, every teacher, every clergy carries their “good, bad and ugly” into their work–and it CAN be to tragic consequences. But likewise every avoidable hospital death, miseducated student, or shooting by a police officer is not the outworking of their “ugly.”

    October 3, 2019 at 3:52 pm

    • Miriam Levering

      Thank you for your excellent comments, letjusticerolldown. Karyn Karlo’s post and your comments taken together make a whole picture.

      October 4, 2019 at 12:03 am

  29. Pastor Edwin Moore

    Very well stated! Thank you. I will be challenging others, especially my Caucasian associates to read this.

    October 3, 2019 at 3:54 pm

  30. Thank you so very much for this post and the ongoing work I know you are doing. I appreciate you.

    October 3, 2019 at 4:01 pm

  31. Resse

    Awesome, and thank you my sister. I wanted to say the same thing you are saying but folk would have called me racist.

    October 3, 2019 at 4:05 pm

  32. Misty Irby

    Had to share. Thank you for speaking Truth to Power!

    October 3, 2019 at 4:16 pm

  33. Tshaka Armstrong

    American Evangelical Christianity sickens me quite often. It feels like White Supremacist dogma with a sprinkling of Yeshuah, in practice. Thank you for this write up of the case. People like you (and fortunately, I know a few) give me hope that one day we as a nation will cast off the psychological chains of the horrible ideology/theology/barbarism this country was founded upon and achieve what the Founding Fathers penned but in many cases were unable to live.

    October 3, 2019 at 4:18 pm

  34. Giselle Miller

    FINALLY!!! It has to be said and shouted from the rooftops. Having grown up a “PTK”, logic and understanding often clashed with “forgiveness”. CHEAP GRACE. Hooo AHHH! I love it. THANK YOU!!!!!

    October 3, 2019 at 4:24 pm

  35. mia

    So Jesus got it wrong. He forgave when his murderers never repented. They even stabbed him to make sure he was dead after he claimed they didn’t know what they were doing. I will pray about this and decide if I am going to believe God forgives the worst no matter if they repent or if I will follow your very logical argument. I will pray about whether overcoming evil with good instead of repaying evil really works, or if we should continue eye for an eye. I think I will need to fast – this is a tough decision to believe Jesus’ way will change the world or if I should go with something else.

    October 3, 2019 at 4:33 pm

  36. mia

    I think Jesus was exactly like the black man who forgave his oppressors. Jews were unbelievably discriminated against and Jesus was put to death by his oppressors. I cannot see how what Jesus did is any different whatsoever from what this man did for the killer of his brother. I am horrified that Jesus maybe perpetuated this type of injustice by letting the soldiers off the hook entirely.

    October 3, 2019 at 4:36 pm

  37. Meg Moore

    Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! 🙏

    October 3, 2019 at 4:36 pm

  38. D sax

    I am just heartened to hear that you and other white people recognize the unequal nature of our country.
    I am so torn about the forgiveness
    It is the Christian thing to do but as a Christian I would have to work on that in this situation. I hope Amber knows most forgiving is more for the forgive. There’s freedom when you are there but yeah keep working out the other parts of this.

    October 3, 2019 at 4:45 pm


    October 3, 2019 at 4:45 pm

  40. D Sax

    Forgiveness is for the forgiver

    October 3, 2019 at 4:47 pm

  41. Allison Smith

    Thanks so much for sharing! GOD Bless You! As A Black Woman, Mother and Child Of God!. It literally made me sick to see the brother hug her. I pray everyday for a better future for children and our grandchildren. This Racsim Has to STOP! Starts at the TOP! #WeMustVote!!

    October 3, 2019 at 5:00 pm

  42. S.

    PS – Great article!!!

    October 3, 2019 at 5:02 pm

  43. Tony

    Wow!!! Truly profound insight and honest! Many are circulating that “forgiveness” video with a passion, but were never around sharing anything about what she has done, and many others like her have done. They will remain extremely silent for the reasons that you mentioned.

    October 3, 2019 at 5:16 pm

  44. I can’t remember the last time I read something so truthful and brilliant. If you were preaching at my local church, I would be in the front row every Sunday, and that is saying a lot.
    I have shared this on FB and will continue to share. I can’t thank you enough for speaking what was in my heart so succinctly.
    You are truly a woman of God (The One Life Force Being All That Is)

    October 3, 2019 at 5:33 pm

  45. I can’t remember the last time I read something so brilliant. Sharing widely. Thank you!

    October 3, 2019 at 5:35 pm

  46. Joe Shelton

    Forgiveness, a confusing process indeed. I have never felt forced to forgive anyone. Nor did I forgive them because I felt they were ignorant. I find it difficult to believe the officer purposely went to the wrong apartment to murder anyone, regardless of their color. At best she should’ve been charged with manslaughter.

    October 3, 2019 at 5:35 pm

    • Jerry Cooper


      October 3, 2019 at 7:24 pm

  47. Katy McFall

    As a white person, I agree with you that white people need to be held accountable for the sins we have committed against our brothers and sisters of color. But I think you should be more careful in your post not to characterize what the victim’s brother offered as cheap grace. It was rather costly.
    If the criterion for grace to not be considered cheap is repentance, I think it’s tough to know whether the former officer has repented. She expressed remorse and even self-hatred.
    But whether or not *she* had met the requirements to be forgiven, Brandt Jean offered an extravagant embrace of grace. Who am I to question that?
    My first job out of divinity school was the director of a very small nonprofit org, the Victim Offender Reconciliation Program, or VORP. The VORP in my community was started by the Mennonite church there and worked to further restorative justice by offering mediation between juvenile offenders and victims. We piloted a program for adult offenders.
    It’s true that the meditations between offenders and victims that were most effective involved a contrite offender. That really was key in having a good outcome.
    In this case, however, the Jean family may not have an opportunity to have such a meeting with Guyger.
    I believe that embrace was powerful. I believe that was possibly the most effective means of changing Guyger’s heart toward repentance if it wasn’t already there. Knowing that grace has been given makes it easier to turn oneself around.
    And, of course, offering forgiveness does a lot for the one offering. I imagine Brandt’s heart felt lighter after the embrace.
    And because I do not see where to send a private comment, I will say this here: white text on dark backgrounds is known to be very difficult for people to read as they age. In my 50s, I found it very difficult to get through the blog post without risking a migraine (I had to read it in chunks, taking a break between segments).

    October 3, 2019 at 6:17 pm

  48. John David

    I have to say, I sincerely do not understand the point of this post. I hear your concern for America’s history of racist oppression, and that we not gloss over it, but saying that is not enlightening, is it? To be clear, I don’t think I disagree with you. If anyone is saying that, since this black kid forgave his brother’s killer, who happened to be white, then we are “off the hook for our evil”, I think that would be crazy, but I don’t hear anyone saying that. You say, “However as a white woman, also a former cop, and Christian theologian I will judge the way so many of us in the white community are so quick to applaud black people for forgiving white murderers.” Is that what people, (not only white people), are applauding? Then you speak of “forgiveness without repentance”, but anyone who followed the trial knows that the woman is very repentant. You use the Roman soldier/Jesus analogy, but are you supposing that, if a Roman accidentally killed a Jew and was contrite, Jesus would not advocate for forgiveness? Lastly, you talk about “enforced forgiveness”, and I have no idea what that means in this context. Both the brother and the judge forgave of their own volition, risking something in order to do it. Bottom line, I can’t tell what, specifically, you are against OR for, except that you are against racism. After all, for you personally, DO you applaud the show of compassion from the black boy and the black judge? If not, why? If so, why does you feel justified in applauding?

    October 3, 2019 at 6:18 pm

  49. 1. Jesus wasn’t persecuted by the Romans all his life. He didn’t begin his ministry until he was 30. Even though all Jews were living under Roman dominion, Jesus’ true persecution came not from the Romans but from the Jewish religious establishment (Pharisees and Sadducees). Once he began preaching, the Jewish leaders began plotting how to kill him. The only reason Pilate ordered Jesus’ crucifixion was to appease the Jews. Pilate was going to scourge him and let him go. Doesn’t sound like persecution.
    2. Are you saying God the Son on the cross asked God the Father to forgive those who crucified him while he himself withheld his own forgiveness?
    3. Grace is never cheap. It is extremely costly – to the giver. Grace is always offensive to those of us who aren’t guilty of THAT sin (whatever it is). Earning one’s forgiveness is so much more palatable to the self-righteous.
    4. I will confess, it is much easier for me to repeat the Lord’s Prayer (forgive me of my sins in the same way I forgive those who sin against me) than it is to live it.
    5. Brandt Jean points Guyger to seek forgiveness from Jesus and submit herself to his Lordship. and in forgiving her sins against him, Brandt becomes free himself. “Not forgiving is like drinking rat poison and then waiting for the rat to die.”
    Brandt Jean is a great man.

    October 3, 2019 at 6:26 pm

  50. and the church said Amen…by the way, where is your church. this is true religion right here.

    October 3, 2019 at 6:34 pm

    • Jerry Cooper

      How is only forgive if one repents “true religion?” SMH

      October 3, 2019 at 7:23 pm

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