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The state murder of Tyre Nichols
Co-authored with David Gushee for Baptist News
Immediately the king sent a soldier of the guard with orders to bring John’s head. He went and beheaded him in the prison. — Mark 6:27
On the day we write this post, during the week Tyre Nichols was buried after being murdered by Memphis police officers, the Gospel reading is Mark 6:14-29. It is acutely appropriate.
Mark is the most concise Gospel account, and the author rarely tells long stories. But he does so here. We get the entire story and backstory to the murder of the prophet John the Baptist. It offers an illuminating, horrifying example of arbitrary state power over life and death. The kind of arbitrary state power that was visited upon Tyre Nichols.
John is put in prison because he has criticized the illicit marriage between Herod and his new wife Herodias. Herodias wants John dead for this criticism. But Herod holds back from killing John, not due to any legal constraint on his power, but because — in an interesting turn of phrase — he “feared John, knowing that he was a righteous and holy man.” The text goes on to say that Herod found John both perplexing and interesting.
It was a thin basis for a man’s survival, but it sufficed for a while.
President and founder of FreedomRoad.us, Lisa Sharon Harper is a writer, podcaster and public theologian. Lisa is author of critically acclaimed book, Fortune: How Race Broke My Family And The World—And How To Repair It All.
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