Three Failing Strategies Being Used to Redefine the Trinity

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This summer’s Trinitarian Debate has looked like people jumping in a boat to cross a river, but getting stuck halfway because you’re not practiced in the art of rowing, drifting and circling in the current.

(If you want to see the very real implications of this debate, see the recent series on the male-centered church planting movement in Boston.)

On a Boat: An Image of the Controversy

Amid the fourth century Arian Controversy, Christian theologians pushed off the treacherous shore of “Subordinationism” in a boat called “Nicaea” which contained a single oar. On that oar was written “homoousion”, which means “the same being” (used to affirm that the Son and Father are “of the same being” and therefore equal as God in every way). In this boat, and with this oar, the Church crossed the river to the secure docks known as the Councils of Constantinople and Ephesus, disembarking on the safe shores of “Nicene Orthodoxy”.


And for the last two decades a group of complementarian theologians have jumped into this boat called “Nicaea” and grabbed the oar of homoousia and declared their own orthodoxy. They have, however, done this even while proclaiming the eternal subordination of the Son. Rather than sitting on the bow with the shores of Nicene Orthodoxy clearly in front of them, rowing with equal power, authority, and force on both sides of the boat, they instead hang their feet off the stern and kick, merely holding the oar of homoousion uselessly in their hands while looking backward at the shores of “Subordination”.

Those on the shores of Nicene Orthodoxy bid them to come all the way across, to actually put the oar of homoousion to work, and to press on to what is before them and let go of what is behind. But these theologians claim they are orthodox because they affirm Nicaea and are grasping onto the homoousion. Meanwhile, they keep drifting in the current, exerting tremendous exegetical energy while making very little theological progress.

It is as if these evangelicals had discovered a traditional (creedal) understanding of the Trinity without knowing how to use it, leading to several malfunctions, perhaps not returning to heretical shores, but certainly not crossing over to orthodoxy.

Have evangelical discovered a creedal understanding of the Trinity without knowing how to use it? Click To Tweet

Controversy Update: 3 Failing Strategies

What then, has been learned during this summer intensive surrounding the Trinity and Subordination? Under intense pressure from critics, supporters of the Son’s functional subordination of the Son to the Father have come up with different strategies for bolstering their position (see mostly notably Denny Burk’s recent post on the debate).

1) Terms

First, many have distanced themselves from the term “subordination” and have instead opted for “submission”. They hope this will lead to less confusion with the ancient heresy of subordination (Arianism) and will focus the discussion in the right area.

But, I fear, this change of terms is mere window dressing because no one in the previously Subordinationist camp has change their arguments in any substantial way (but see below for new nuances).

For example, to say that I grew up in San Jose, CA or that I was raised in Silicon Valley are two different ways of saying the same thing. Different terms are expressing the same reality. Those previously espousing the “Eternal Subordination of the Son” (ESS) or the “Eternal Functional Subordination” (EFS) are now speaking more of the “Eternal Relations of Authority and Submission” (ERAS), but the underlying concepts, theology, and exegesis all remain the same.

This change in terms, however, is good because it more clearly aligns the Trinity and its influence of gender relations around the word “submission”. Their arguments are summarized like this: as the Son submits to the Father even while being equal to the Father, so too the wife submits to the husband even while being equal the husband.

2) A Claim to No Analogy

But in an interesting twist, we have also learned that the Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood (CBMW) is not really interested in this connection. New president Denny Burk mentioned that the relationship between the doctrine of the Trinity and our understanding of gender relationships has never been a central issue because, for him, biblical complementarianism neither stands nor falls through parallels or analogies from the Trinity.

While it might be true that Burk’s position does not fail without support from the Trinity, it is false and misleading to say the CBMW and others have not actively pursue this analogy with the Trinity.

Aimee Byrd and Rachael Miller have shown this is definitely not the case, nor has it ever been. From the earliest days to their most recent conference the CBMW has promoted books and articles connecting gender complementarianism and Trinitarians subordinationism (see these books for women’s and youth bible studies).

Burk’s denial of CBMW’s link to this issue is particularly interesting when in the Fall, 2011 issue of the “Journal for Biblical Manhood and Womanhood” (a publication of CBMW) he wrote an article on “Christ’s Functional Subordination in Philippians 2:6” (pp. 25-37) in which argues for the eternally subordinate role of the Son to the Father.

3) Eternal Covenant of Salvation

Along with a shift in terms, there has been a change in what is meant by the “eternal”. Previously “eternal” just meant everything outside of time pertaining to the nature and being of God. Burk and others claimed that the Son not only submitted to the Father in the Son’s earthly mission of salvation, but that the Son also “eternally” submits to the Father in his role as Son.

After having been pushed into a corner regarding the illegitimate reading of the economic Trinity (God’s work in salvation) into the immanent Trinity (God’s relations beyond all created understanding) (for example here), these theologians have turned to the idea of the Trinity’s eternal “covenant of salvation”, or pactum salutis, as a way of understand the “eternal” submission of the Son.

The idea goes something like this: “Certainly the human obedience that Jesus renders to God while incarnate is not a revelation of his eternal submission as Son. However, Scripture repeatedly states that the Son was sent for this work. And if he was sent, then this decision to send the Son, and the Son’s obedience to this decision, all happened before the Son’s incarnation, and therefore happened in eternity. Hence, the Son eternally submits to the initiation and decision of the Father.”

There are two problems with this line of argument:

A) First, this argument totally obscures the really issue between the ad intra relations of the Trinity and the ad extra works of salvation.

ad intra, immanent Trinity = God in God’s self without reference to creation or redemption in any way, and of which we have only the barest comprehension because we are created being existing in time.
ad extra, economic Trinity = all the decisions and actions of God in creation and redemption which are always properly Trinitarian and yet often attributed to one member of the Trinity in some way.

Before this summer’s debate the Submissionists used “eternal” to refer to God’s ad intra relationship such that the Son had the same eternal being but a different eternal role. But to now connect “eternal” with the pactum salutis, the covenant of salvation, is to shift its use to God’s ad extra work of creation and salvation, which originates in eternity.

On both sides of the issue in the past and present, NO ONE has ever denied the Son’s submission to the Father ad extra! So either this change of mean shows that the Submissionist have conceded or renounced their position (which I doubt), or reveals they are confused about the meaning and use of these theological terms, or they are hoping people won’t notice the shift and they can still claim the “eternal submission of the son” as if nothing has changed.

B) Second, the idea of the “covenant of salvation” as a decision made by the Father which is then obeyed by the Son (and where is the Spirit in all this?) is a seriously impoverished view of corporate decision making as a process of mutuality and collaboration (I have an entire post on this in the works so I won’t say more here).

A decision made by the Father & obeyed by the Son is an impoverished view of mutuality. Click To Tweet

Of course, more could be said of the general lack of mystery that pervades these conversations (that many would rather parse every aspect of every word with utter confidence than pace or even kneel in wonder before the Trinity), and more could be said of the borders of heresy and who can even make that charge, but I should end here as this is gone long enough.

We covered the shift in terms, the introduction of new meanings in old terms, and whether or not any of this has to do with the debates concerning men and women.

And as I said above, if you want to see the very real implications of this debate, see the recent series on the male-centered church planting movement in Boston.

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0 responses to “Im with Dr Gates and You Should Be Too

  1. Good word Efrem. I think the reason white people tend to respond to events like this quite differently from African Americans is that we interpret the event through the lens of our white privilege. Like most white people, I’ve NEVER been pulled over or questioned by police for no reason. In my white world, police are always fair and safe. So, the only way white people like me can come to understand Dr. Gate’s anger toward this policeman and the anger this incident created in many African Americans is to humbly listen to your stories and learn.

    Unfortunately, this yet seems to be something many white people are unwilling to do. It’s much more convenient to stick our fingers in our ear and loudly sing “la la la la” (or better, “they’re playing the race card again!”).

    Thanks so much for sharing your story Efrem.

  2. I stand with you and Dr. Gates. Thanks for helping us white brothers and sisters understand the effects of racism in nonjudgemental ways. Your call for justice is right and strong.

  3. Sobering, thought provoking, and very true words Efrem. Thanks for your honest, humble and bold words on this issue. What in your opinion can a guy like me do in response to this? How would you advise?

  4. Race? Disorderly conduct? More likely police misconduct

    How easy to hide a misbehaving officer behind the heroes who do their job every day. Sure the officer was doing his job when he arrived at Dr. Gates home but once he was there he forgot for whom he was working. The officer is employed by the public. Which other employees are allowed to mistreat their employers? As soon as Dr. Gates identified himself, the authority was only his not the officer’s. From that moment on, the officer was speaking to his employer and owed him all the respect afforded to him. We must not forget that police officers receive their temporary authority from the public; and that authority always belongs to the public. When the officers forget that basic premise, they begin to believe that they are the law… or worse that they are above the law.

  5. This is a great post and proof that fortunate conversations can arise from unfortunate circumstances.

    Gates is one of my intellectual heroes, so it was hard to see him cuffed up on the news. Beyond my personal identification with him though, the hard part is to experience the injustice as if it happened to me.

    The reality of Christ is know that one man’s injustice is all of our injustice and the injustice of all can be felt in one man. So unless, there is recognition that the injustice that you experienced and that Dr. Gates experienced, is a pain that we all need to share in, we can’t move forward. As long as there is apathy toward injustice, justice can’t rise up. Silence is little more than the scream of ambivalence.

    I appreciate the conversation and hate that this is still the reality of our world in 2009.

  6. Efrem, you have taken the words right out of my heart and mind. This is quite important and needs to be 1) said loudly and 2) heard seriously. It is easy to cooperate with the authorities when you are one of them. Henry Louis Gates simply has experienced the backlash of his place in our stratified society. A painful but all-to-familiar reminder of what happens when those who hold the power feel uncomfortable with sharing the power. It can be re-obtained in myriad ways.

    One of the questions not being asked is why the Cambridge police officer did not know one of its prominent citizens. A second question is which one of the busy body neighbors initiated this travesty? How is it that we don’t recognize this scholar, but we have to listen to the ramblings of Sean Hannity (who too many of us recognize)? Where were the neighbors in this situation who did not speak out for this injustice? Imagine the crowds peeking through the lace curtains! Imagine the onlookers gathering in the vicinity as this occurred. Someone knew and chose not to come to the assistance of a fellow human. Where was the Good Samaritan that failed to come to the aid of the one in need?

    We should all cry for the sorry state of polarized and innocence lost on this day.

  7. Amen Pastor Smith. I too am with Dr. Gates. I am a black woman that has not been pulled over by the police for no reason (…..not yet) but there have been SEVERAL times that I have been followed in stores as if I were going to steal something because I am black. It happens whether I am shopping at Target or Nordstroms. I have been told many times that I do not sound black when I speak because I “sound intelliegent”. That is such a slap in the face as a black woman and I still have not yet figured out how to “intelligently” reposond to my white brothers and sisters that have said that to me in the past. Yes enough is enough.

  8. Efrem,

    I can sympathize with what happened, but why do you bring into the conversation Hannity and Limbaugh? Most if not all conservatives I know don’t listen to either of them.

    I can only sympathize with what happened but as your brother said. Stay calm.

    Pastor Boyd.

    Shame shame. Who gave you white privilege?
    I’ve talked with Peter Sinclair about this and “white privilege is something that was given. I’ve never asked for nor wanted. By saying this your giving people the impression that we are “special” while they are not and that is not true at all.

    I ask all to read the actual police report.

  9. How do we move toward a country that is truly color blind? I very much want to reach that place, but I don’t know how to do it. Are there side effects to speaking out too loudly against injustice? How should the dialogue go so that the two sides do not simply become more incensed at each other?

  10. Thank you for sharing this. It is so encouraging to see leaders in my life speak up about this incident as a catalyst for conversation regarding this type of injustice. These lines really resonated with me:

    “…ll the police officer had to do was allow Dr. Gates to cry out and then he should have left. All the police officer had to do was leave the house owned by Dr. Gates, while Dr. Gates stood on his own front steps and cried not only for himself but for many African-Americans who have stayed calm too long…”

  11. I so appreciate hearing your experiences, Pastor Efrem. I am aware of the type of racial profiling you have experienced, and have much compassion. As a white woman with bi-racial children, I, too have experienced racist behaviors from both whites and blacks. However, not at the hands of police. Store security guards, yes, but I have not been pulled over for no reason other than my race or gender.

    I am trying to understand both parties in the Gates situation. I realize that emotions were high both for the police officer, responding to a possible break in call – a possibly life threatening situation, and Mr. Gates’ heightened sensitivity to racial relations – based on his own experiences, I’m sure. And forgive me if using the phrase ‘heightened sensitivity’ is offensive to anyone, for that is not my intention, but I don’t know how else to phrase my point.

    I find fault in both the behaviors of Mr. Gates and the police officers. I understand Mr. Gates’ frustration. I don’t necessarily fault him for his verbage, but I just read in an article that even he has said his reaction was over the top (my words, not his). At the same time, I appreciate his reaction, in that it has opened up more doors to discussing a huge problem in the U.S. I find fault in the officer who was first on the scene to feel that he needed to perform an arrest. If I want to stand on my porch and yell, what business is it to the police, as long as I don’t pose a threat to myself or others. I guess I don’t understand the law.

    I do have a question, though, about the arrest. The following link shows a photo, apparently snapped by a neighbor, of the arrest of Mr. Gates. There is not one, but a few police officers shown in the photo, one of whom is black. I am really confused about Mr. Gates accusations that this is purely a white police officer against black civilian issue.

    Help me understand!

    Again, I realize the big issue is not this particular incident, but injustice as a whole.

    And on a final note, not only has the police officer chosen not to apologize, but our president has chosen this same prideful attitude. He has admitted to a poor choice of words, but, at this point has not chosen to apologize for them.

    Help us all, Yeshua!

  12. Wow. This is powerful stuff. I’m a white middle-aged woman and stories like this remind me that I still have a long ways to go in looking at a fellow human….and seeing a fellow human being. (Be it race, political views, religious affiliation, etc…)
    Thank you for helping me see this through your eyes.

  13. Thank you for sharing this. I am also encouraged. I feel frustrated when Christians pretend not to notice when racial brokenness rears its ugly head in our society. We can’t keep sitting on the issues if we want healing.

  14. Efrem, I appreciate this post, which I found via Greg Boyd’s blog. I have a question that I’ve been a little hesitant to ask but I think it needs asking anyway. I’m trying hard to phrase it correctly and I don’t know if I’m succeeding,
    so forgive me please, if I come off wrong.

    I must first say that I have personal friends whose character I know to be above reproach, and who have encountered the police for no reason but their skin color, so I do not dispute for a moment that this happens. One friend in particular has been pulled over multiple times in his own (middle-class but mostly white) neighborhood, while driving home from work. This is an outrage and it makes me angry.

    I also know a number of cops, and I know that (1) when they’re called it’s rarely a friendly encounter; and (2) after years of dealing with the less-savory elements of society, one tends to presume guilt rather than innocence in any but the friendliest of encounters. I’m not defending these things, just recognizing uncomfortable realities.

    But the other side of the coin is that everyone I have ever known in African Studies in America, has had a racial chip on their shoulder. They have been far more likely than other African-Americans I have known, to see racial overtones in any slight or inconsiderate situation, and less likely than the average human of any color to recognize that some people are just jerks without necessarily being racist jerks.

    Putting all that together, isn’t it possible that WHILE HE DIDN’T DESERVE ARREST, Prof. Gates may truly have gone over the line and been abusive to that cop? Frankly the police report reads pretty believably too, and suggests that Dr. Gates may have assumed a racial motive the moment he saw the officer’s uniform (the first reported words “What, because I’m black in America?” seem to imply a rush to judgment). Not that this justifies his arrest, but aren’t we (perhaps) being unnecessarily one-sided when we fail to acknowledge that we don’t, in fact, know if Dr. Gates behaved civilly in this situation? I also know whites who’ve been arrested for failing to back off when a policeman tells them to do so. One doesn’t have to be of color to realize that giving a police officer an earful is not the best strategy. . .

    And as followers of Jesus (I don’t know if Prof. Gates is, but you and Greg are, as am I) ought we not call people to both justice and civility?

  15. Thank you for giving me the perspective I need to have. In my 60 years I have never been pulled over by the police for any reason. Your comments give credibility and reality to the situation. Incidents like this bring learning, unfortunately at someone else’s expense. I will continue to experience through different eyes and ears.

  16. Well said Efrem. I especially appreciate and respect how you direct your words at Evangelicals and you root your words in Scripture — especially in the words and actions of Jesus.

    If you pay close attention to the “Hannity and Limbaugh” Evangelicals, you notice that JESUS is what’s missing from what they’re preaching. Why? Is it because you can’t bring Jesus into the conversation in any kind of genuine way and remain disconnected, indifferent or dishonest about this stuff?

    I have the utmost respect for Henry Louis Gates, Jr. and the right he’s supposed to have to express what he’s expressing. I hope Jeremy is right, that this unfortunate event WILL turn to fortunate conversation. How can Gates/you/we take this scenario and use it to create more awareness and acknowledgment of so many situations involving — as you said — those who don’t have the same black (or white) privilege…situations that don’t end up with the President asking y’all to come over and make peace over a beer…?

  17. Pastor Efrem –
    Thank you for speaking up about this issue. All too often many white people will look at a situation like this as “a fluke” and not realize that this kind of situation happens all too often. Thanks for being willing to share your story.

  18. While I appreciate Dr. Gates sensitivity after years of abuse, I don’t quite understand what the police officer was supposed to apologize for; responding to a possible burglary call? Would it be better if the officer entered that situation with no level of suspicion. Where I come from (Brooklyn, Queens, NYC) talking about “your Mama” gets your ass kicked. Not nice, but real. Dr. Gates was lucky to be showing off to a trained cop and not a civilian.
    Sorry, but I think this is another case of a sad old man, who is not nearly as important or picked on as he thinks.

  19. 1. When the police asked you to do something, you cooperated. Gates did not.

    2. Transcript of original call shows no mention of Gates’ color.

    3. African-American police that were actually present at the scene aren’t sympathetic to Gates.

    Would have been a nice opportunity for Obama to reach out to whites and admit that Gates overreacted and escalated the situation more than the police did.

  20. I think it is really helpful to have dialogue about the Gates’ arrest while listening carefully to the voices of others who have dealt with persecution, racial profiling, and even violence at the hands of police, and to consider Gates’ reaction in light of those realities and not see it purely within the context of this one encounter with the authorities. I wrote on my blog, as white woman, how my own encounters with the cops over the years affected my conclusions and impression about this case. (

  21. I hope I can help clarify some things for you. First I think it would’ve helped if you did a little research on police procedure before you wrote this article. Its very standard procedure for a police officer to ask to see everyone who is occupying the vehicle to present an ID. I am white and have also had to present an ID when I was pulled over with another white friend .So believe me, him askin for all your ID’s has nothing to do with you being african american. You have to understand when a cop pulls a vehicle over he has no idea who you are or the occupants of the vehicle. One ligitament reason for asking for an ID is the officer does not know if you are currently being robbed and being drove to an ATM for instance. This is one of many reasons for asking for everyones ID. Also you stated that “we didn’t have warrants for our arrest, well how would an officer know that without checking, agian all part of procedure that they have to follow becaue it helps keeps them safe he has know idea who any of you are! Also did you ask the officer why you were being pulled over???? If you read the police report you will also see that a neighbor called the police because she observed a male foring entry into the home so when the officer arrived he could have been walking into a robbery. In short I think cooler heads on both sides could have prevailed.

  22. I know this happens often and yet I forget about it until it happens to someone I care about. Keep reminding us there is much to pray about yet.

  23. I have been there and done that with the police, for no reason other then been black. And it hurts even more when the police officer is black,when I asked him why he was pulling me over, he said I could not see your license plate sticker. This was last winter! I said to him then you will be stopping people all night then. He gave me back my ID after checking them and told me to have a good night. I was not happy!

  24. Racial profiling? How is this racial profiling? An officer responds to call of a break-in in progress, finds someone inside the house and asks to see id. HOW IS THIS RACIAL PROFILING?!?!?!

    Discrimination exists in this country. Racism exists in this country. Turning every single incident into one of “racism” dilutes the actual instances of it.

    Sloppy, sloppy work here. You’ve completely and utterly ignored the known facts of the case and instead decided to get on a soapbox and give a lecture. Shame on you.

  25. It amazes me that some people have a hard time believing that someone in a position of authority could be deceptive, have an axe to grind, or flat out lie. These are facts and not delusions: Blacks get pulled over for no reason and followed in stores. Obviously everyone is not innocent, but a group that represents only 14% of the population cannot be responsible for all the ills of the world. Sometimes people that we respect (i.e. policemen, politicians, even pastors) do the wrong thing. Exposing the issue and discussing it in a civil manner is the key to addressing and overcoming the issue.

  26. The question is not whether racial profiling happens. Of course it does and it has happened by blacks towards whites in some situations as well. The question is did racial profiling occur in the Gates case. Like Steve said, calling everything racism dilutes the real instances of racism. The best way to continue to combat the problem is to not boil over, but to peacefully and respectfully work towards change. I loved in the article how the men controlled their anger and treated the officer with respect. The more African Americans treat officers with respect, the less likely they will do racial profiling in the future. Gates, did not operate with respect toward the officer and therefore has done African Americans a disservice, because the example he has shown is that African Americans don’t respect authority, they can’t control their anger, and they are not able to objectively see the actions of others apart from skin color. Now I don’t judge all African Americans based on the actions of Mr. Gates, but Gates should consider the example he sets.

  27. Efrem, if you feel you are the victim of racial profiling (which it sounds like you are) then please report that to the authorities. Maybe it will fall on deaf ears but please report that for the sake of government accountability but also your own sake. It sounds like you are bottling up some frustration. Is that one of the reasons why you were emotional in the car when the officers pulled you over? Racial profiling is wrong and it needs to be dealt with… not bottled up where it can lead to more negative emotions. God’s strength be with you!

  28. Thanks for sharing Efrem. Glad i found your blog. Always appreciate your opinions and insights and look forward to reading more from you.
    It’s really a shame to read some of the comments here of people who really have no idea about the world we live in. May God continue to lead us into all truth.

  29. I have been through the sam experience as Pr. Efrem and can relate. Mine was having to work on the opposite side of the river where the whites lived, and where decent jobs were. It was a known fact my parents ingrained into us to avoid, being on “that side of the river” late because you could be pulled over and made suspect by the area police at any given time for no reason except that you are Black. The night it happened my brother and I both worked the same shift,got off around midnight, headed to across the river to ‘our side’ of the shore when for no reason the cops pull us over. It took everything in me and my brother to restrain the anger and frustration of that cop disturbing us. I too felt like the Professor, like screaming. When you do and say everything just right it seems it still isn’t enough because you simply are browner than another. From that point on, I lost a sense of respect for what I was taught the law enforcement stood for. They no longer could be seen as one to protect but one to fear, if you are too dark.
    Regarding Professor Gates, if he was irate as they reported why did it still merit being arrested and humiliated? Wouldn’t a sincere apology from the parties involved helped to resolve the conflict?
    In your experience with being pulled over, Pr Efrem wasn’t protocol for the officer to state the purpose he pulled you over? If anything he did was in question, don’t you have the right to ask for his badge# and file a complaint? Lastly regarding the local case where a police officer gunned down an Asian teen, who was unarmed,how is it he can remain in his position without consequences or accountability? I am wondering is there a checks-n-balances system in effect for ‘bad cops”?

  30. A couple weeks back I was talking with some of my friends during dinner. Where I live we don’t have any significant black community, and it’s only started to grow since Katrina brought them here. My point being, my white friends with their white, suburban perspectives (and indeed myself) don’t understand the subtle racism of our society.

    We talked about race for a little bit, and they said that racism doesn’t really exist anymore (systemically). I disagreed. Your personal story here is exactly why we still have a systemic racist society.

    We have comments here on your blog that “you stayed quiet” while gates did not. This is a typical white response because we haven’t had to deal with this. Nobody should have to sit silently while their rights are being trampled, or punished for speaking out when they are!

    Whether or not the Gates incident was racially motivated, the least my white counterparts can do is recognize that the black community has been historically and contemporaneously targeted unfairly by law enforcement. This is a point Mr. Obama brought up (when he unfortunately said “stupidly”) but was missed by so many.

    My brother is a police officer. I want to clear something up here. It is NOT common practice to ask for the ID of everyone in a vehicle. However, there is no point in arguing when asked because we are obligated to show our state issued ID when asked by law enforcement.

  31. Efrem,

    As always, your position is timely and straight-to-the point. I appreciate your willingness to speak candidly without being outright condemning. we both know too well that DWB is alive and well. Apparently, there are even times when Harvard can’t save you…

  32. You clearly need to do more research on the facts. The character of the officer in question, it has been shown, is beyond reproach. Over his entire career he has received nothing but accolades and was even chosen to teach classes regarding racial profiling. Minority officers on the scene stand with him 100%. With each piece of information that is released, from eye witness testimony, to recorded calls, to written reports, it becomes increasingly clear that the officer was doing his duty and Gates was out of line. I encourage you to go back and look at the facts objectively. I think you’ll find you are mistaken in calling this a case of racial profiling. It’s too bad that, like Obama, you’ve chosen to be divisive by racially charging a situation that clearly was not.

  33. Pastor Smith

    I’m a bit concerned about your conclusions related to the Gates situation. Your personal story of racial profiling is a clear illustration of injustice that should be denounced.

    However, it’s a bit of a leap to presume racial profiling was a factor in the Gates arrest without all the facts and an x-ray into the hearts of those involved. You could be right, they may have made their decision based on race, but what if your wrong?. If the facts do not support racial profiling for Dr Gates, would you be guilty of slander against the arresting officers? Or worse yet, as a noted local Christian leader, would you be of contributing to the very racial tension that I assume you want to reduce?

    I certainly respect the point that injustice in our society exists and all Christians should search their hearts and ask “do I judge other because of their race”, and if so repent. But we must also be mindful that false accusation are unjust as well, and we would do well to take that into consideration when we don’t have all the facts.

    May God Continue to Bless Your Ministry

    Saul Selby

  34. Wow I don’t know where to start…I agree with the coment if everything is racists than nothing is racists. If you state everything whites do is racists and blacks or other minorties never do anything wrong then whites will never belive when there is a problem. I am not white and I am asian but look hispanic and have been stoped by cops and searched I just behave and they let me go. Yes there are going to be bad cops and yes there are going to be dumb people but thats always going to be there and will not change, but in this case no responsibilty goes to Dr. Efrem. As a Christian you and Greg Boyd should have been much more careful on this. Yes Black people and other minorities can do wrong things and more you don’t report that more white people will say, they always say its raceism. If white people would hear more often by people like you or other high powered minorites that yes the person was wrong then may be more whites will listen when they hear raciest. Look you have a lot of responsibility look at the comments on this board some just follow you without thinking so you have to be more careful. Not everything that bad happends to black people is white people fault. I hear all the time no matter what person did that black will say because he is racest, not I did someting wrong no its always he is racest. Like I said if you would condem more minorities when they do something wrong and not always say its because they are racest then I think it can change some, then white people will listen more but when everything is racism then they quit listing. Their are always going to be dumb people thats not going to change there is always going to be racism and has been from start of time to many different people, but don’t lighten it by stating that everyting is racism. I am sorry this is messy but I am on vacation and did it quickly.

    Thank you

    Andrew Mobeck

  35. I am sorry that we have to experience any kind of ignorant treatment, but this is still where we as Human beings in America are in 2009. “There is good, bad and ugly people in every race, and every profession, we all have free will.”

    If we as a country cannot face “Racism’s ugly head” clean out its poisons and let the wounds heal, we will always have waves of infectious hate, mistrust and fear that will blind side us and remind us we haven’t cleaned out our Racism infection.

    It has long spread into our school systems; the School to Prison Pipeline came to my attention in the year 2000; at the Harvard Civil Rights Project’ Symposium “Over Identifying and Under Servicing Minorities in Special Education”

  36. Pastor, I feel that you experienced an injustice and I agree with you on that. But from what even the MSM said about the Dr. Gates incident, the police officer did his job and I commend him. The apology should come from Dr. Gates. From what I heard in the news, he refused to show his ID, refusing to identify who he was and spoke out of line to the police officer who was trying to protect Dr. Gates’ own home. Why you want identify yourself with with Dr. Gates is a mystery to me. You responded in a civil and polite manner, Dr. Gates did not. A applaud you for your calmness and am sorry that you have to go through that kind of treatment. But again, Dr. Gates and Mr. Obama both owe apologies to the police that they have maligned, and Mr. Obama even without knowing the facts. Mike

  37. Pastor Smith, I wish you would have done your homework in regard to this specific incident regarding professor Gates rather than making the assumption that this was a racially motivated incident . This has been shown to be a disorderly conduct aberration by the professor,before making the same mistake that the president made by commenting 1st and then finding out the evidence afterward. Also this would have been more credible if you didn’t have the endorsement of the pandering anti American clergy Greg Boyd. Stick to the real message that only Jesus Christ can really change things from the white house to the police house. Sincerely Alex G.

  38. Thank you for sharing your story. We need to hear these truths that occur every day but that many of us remain completely ignorant of. It’s going to take hearing the truth from the other side over and over and over before my race truly begins to perceive. I apologize for all that we as ignorant, closed-minded people have put you through. I pray and will work toward racial awareness and reconciliation for my race (and myself further).

  39. No, I shouldn’t be with Gates. He was in the wrong in many ways. He automatically accused the officer of being racist. Why? The officer was white. What if the officer had been black? Then what would Gates have accused him of?

    Gates acted like a bitter man with a huge “chip on his shoulder.” He was not grateful that an officer was there to make sure his house was not being broken into. He was beligerent and rude and not cooperative. Any person, white or black or any other color, should expect repurcusions when they do not comply with police.

    The police have a job to do. No, they are not always moral and some are corrupt. But they are there to uphold the law. And anyone who “talks back” to them while they are trying to do their job is probably going to only get into “worse” trouble.

    Gates acted very arrogantly, and the officer did not deserve to be chastised by Obama. He did not deserve to be accused of being a racist. Many whites are often accused of racism simply because someone didn’t like something they did and because they are white, they must then be racist.

    That is just as wrong as racism because it is “reverse racism” and I wish Obama and others would address this more often. I personally feel that the officer was a victim of Gates’ own racism towards white people.

  40. Clint Van Zant – When Cambridge, MA, police sergeant James Crowley responded to an otherwise routine breaking and entering call last Thursday (7/16/09), he had no idea of the firestorm that call would ignite. In the aftermath, there is no doubt that racism is alive and well in America, and it cuts both ways.

    Sgt. Crowley, who teaches other police officers how not to racially profile another person, now stands accused of such behavior himself, and every official from the President of the United States, to the Governor of Mass., to the Mayor of Cambridge have labeled Crowley as either stupid, racist, or both, most without the slightest sense of what really happened that summer afternoon.

    According to police reports and witnesses at the scene, a neighbor saw two men attempting to force their way into a residence, one that had recently been burglarized. Responding to the report, Sgt. Crowley (who is white) spoke to the woman (who has olive colored skin and is of Portuguese descent) reporting the break-in and determined that the man she saw had by then entered the house. Crowley, in uniform, then saw a man inside of the rental house and asked him to step outside. The man, later identified as Harvard Professor Henry Gates (who is black), head of the University’s African American Studies Department, refused to come out, indicating “all the hairs stood up on the back of my neck, and I realized I was in danger, and I said ‘no’ out of instinct.” Gates, who once said “he knew every incident of racism from slavery to Jim Crow segregation,” then demanded, and was told Sgt. Crowley’s identity for the first of three occasions.

    According to the report Gates was also told the police were responding to the report of a break-in and that the reporting witness was just outside. Gates then yelled that the reason the police were really there was “because he was a black man in America.” (Enter the ever present, often played race card.) Crowley, meanwhile, said, as the first responding officer on the scene, that his request for Gates to come out was for Crowley’s safety, because, as he would later say, he had three beautiful children and a wife who depend on him and he had to go home each night. Both Professor Gates and Sgt. Crowley state they were in fear for their own individual safety, and the lines were drawn. Gates was not going to be told what to do by a white cop and Crowley was going to find out who the mysterious black man was in the house with the broken front door. They both saw something; something that was entirely different based upon their own life experiences and their individual perception of what the presence of the other man could mean.

    Shouting that Crowley “had no idea who he was messing with,” Gates attempted to call Crowley’s Chief and told the police dispatcher “he was dealing with a racist police officer at his home.” When Gates finally relented and provided Crowley with a college ID, the Harvard University police were called to assist. Gates continued to yell at Crowley, and when asked by Crowley to step outside allegedly said, “ya, I’ll speak with your mama outside.” Gates then followed Crowley, who he would later describe as a “rogue cop” outside yelling at him, calling him a racist, and telling him he had not heard the last of this. After being repeatedly asked by Crowley and other officers to stop his disorderly behavior, noting that a number of citizens had now gathered in front of the house, Gates refused and continued to yell, “This is what happens to black men in America!” He was then arrested, handcuffed, and taken to the police department.

    Prosecutors have subsequently dismissed the charges against Gates, who said he was considering a law suit against police. Massachusetts’ black governor called the incident “every black man’s nightmare and a reality for many black men,” while President Obama said the Cambridge police had “acted stupidly.” The White House Press Secretary subsequently amended the President’s comments to reflect that “both sides” were to blame. All of this, of course, has become the fodder for radio and TV commentators, with most blacks lining up to support Gates, no matter the facts, and whites seeing this as just another incident of reverse racism.

    The truth, perhaps like that suggested by the Presidential Press Secretary, is that while the police acted properly in their initial response to the crime report, and while Gates may have been spoiling for a fight, the police appeared to have overacted to his provocations. After all, police have wide latitude in whom they arrest and who they let go. Who among you has not welcomed a warning instead of a ticket when you were speeding?

    Where the story seems to break down is what both the police and Professor Gates could have done to reduce the mounting tensions at the house. Many commentators have stated your first response to police should be to do what you’re told. Black, white, Hispanic and other races can attest to the trouble you get into when you don’t obey the police. If the cops are wrong, if your rights have been violated, taken them to court and sue. That should be the American way. And no one white will ever know what it’s like to be black, especially to be challenged in your own home. And if you’ve never been a cop you will never know what it’s like to face what a cop does every day of his or her career, this for little money and, as this incident once again proves, many times little respect, something Gates also felt was missing from the equation.

    When will we ever learn, as a nation, that we must all work together and that our first response in such a situation should be to try to resolve it by peaceful dialogue, and not shouts concerning someone’s race or their “mama.” Perhaps the female witness was the real racist, mistaking the men she saw forcing open the door for burglars; but what should she, or Sgt. Crowley have done? Bill Cosby, suggesting this story should not take off like it had racially, said of the President’s statement, “If I’m the President of the United States, I don’t care how much pressure people want to put on it about race. I’m keeping my mouth shut,” thereby suggesting the need to get all the facts before you form an opinion. Are we becoming a country where only a black police officer can confront a black suspect, and so on across the racial spectrum, without someone playing the racial trump card? One of the black police officers at the scene, while suggesting that had he been the first responding officer things might indeed have gone differently, still supports Sgt. Crowley’s version of the incident; something that has cause other blacks to call him an “Uncle Tom.” And on it goes…

    Well, once again it appears the venerable “Dr. Huxtable” was right all along. Lines are being drawn, and they’re black and white. If this country is to ever make it through the 21stcentury, we need somehow, as Rodney King said while witnessing the 1992 LA riots, “to all just get along.” Maybe if they can somehow work this out in Cambridge, circa 1630, it will begin right there. And the “teachable incident” that Prof Gates, according to some media reports, appears ready to lecture us all on should be one that both he and Sgt. Crowley sit on the student side for a change and both learn from the incident. There is, after all, much to be learned and much to be understood, this from all sides of this issue. Perhaps we should all try to wear another man’s glasses on occasion, this in an attempt to understand what he believes he sees when he looks at us and we at him.

  41. Thanks Pastor Efrem, I’ve been following this and feel i need to weigh in…

    Only about 10 – 15 years ago I always felt a check in my spirit every time I heard an African-American complain about police harassment. I mean, we all know, “the police are our friends” and we have no reason to fear them unless we “did something wrong”.

    I used to believe this, and felt it deep in my soul, until my soul became co-mingled with non-whites. I have experienced and observed first hand the kinds of police abuse both Pastor Efrem and Dr. Gates have experienced, only because of being with African – Americans (and others) and because we share community and live in solidarity.

    It is racial, it is class, it is unjust. I have been cuffed, and put in the back of a police car for no reason – and later given no apology, (even after my car had been riffled through). I have been victimized by police who stopped a friend and I (again for no reason). They yelled in our face and threatened “GET BACK IN YOUR CAR, BEFORE I PUT IN THE BACK OF MY CAR” – when I was just going to work with my black co-worker.

    Police do play an important role in society, I usually appreciate their sacrifice and service. I do not excuse everything Dr. Gates did, but I can easily understand loosing one’s cool when you see SO many officers misuse their power So frequently. If I were in the wrong situation, on the wrong day, I could be the one being arrested. A few weeks ago in one of the situations described above I said to myself, “If they think they can tow this car on an illegal stop, they will have to take me with it.” They didn’t tow it. I didn’t get arrested. But I serve a Jesus who overturned tables in the temple to point out injustice.

    Part of the problem is that many police officers do not normally see minorities (and their communities) in a positive light. I served for over 13 years as a police chaplain, I was constantly shocked at how well the police knew of the evil in my community, but seldom knew about all the good neighbors and great places. They always claimed to know where drugs were served, but did not seem have a clue who watched out for neighbor kids in trouble. Finally, just because Officer Crowley teaches diversity training does not mean that he couldn’t fall into prejudice anymore than a pastor who preaches against adultery could not wind up cheating on his wife.

    Many of us euro-americans cannot believe police would be anything but fair as they represent the values of a country based on fairness and justice. But then, has America always represented fairness and justice to all? No? Perhaps this is the deeper reason many can NOT, (on emotional and philosophical grounds) accept that the police could be unjust: If police can display a lack of fairness and justice, then perhaps the myth of a perfectly fair and just America begins to disintegrate.

    Perhaps, as Christians we need to trust in a just GOD and not in a just society. Perhaps we need to be, as the body of Christ, a reflection of justice and not an extension of the political rhetoric we absorb.

  42. So many of the comments here are on the order of “your feelings (of experiencing racism) are wrong”. It’s pointless to argue with people about their feelings. If we were truly post-racial, the fact of the President’s race wouldn’t loom over our politics as it does. Even if you feel you are not racist–and those are your feelings, so inarguable–there is racism in our society. To deny that is to inhibit solutions to it.

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