It’s 8:08 PM on Friday, December 23rd (or at least it was when I started writing this blog post). I’ve spent the past few days following the trial for Tory Lanez in the shooting of Megan Thee Stallion, reading each and every tweet and update from reporter Meghann Cuniff. Today, the verdict came out. Tory Lanez was convicted of all three charges, including assault with a firearm. Like many, I am glad that Tory Lanez will be held accountable (although conflicted on what that accountability should look like given the problems with the criminal legal system), and I hope that Megan Thee Stallion feels love and support and receives the apologies that she is due. Still, what has intrigued me most today are the words of Tory Lanez’s father following the reading of the verdict and the theology behind it.
After the verdict, Tory Lanez’s father was heard shouting, “It’s not over! God does not lose! Even though we’ve come to this juncture, trust me that you will see that God does not fail. I know that this is wickedness…” He also exclaimed, “I’m calling on the Heavens and the Earth … Roc Nation, you will crumble! I am the apostle of God, and I will be heard.” This echoes Tory Lanez’s own sentiments. On December 7, 2022, Tory Lanez tweeted: “I’m going to leave this here one more time …and watch how it ages … NO WEAPON FORMED AGAINST ME SHALL PROSPER … AND EVERY TONGUE THAT RISES AGAINST ME IN JUDGEMENT SHALL BE CONDEMNED u sit and watch now … . And don’t every question the GOD I serve again . This is my last tweet.” Both Tory Lanez and his father expect God to judge those who have wronged him and spoken against him and seem to have expected God to move in such a way that he would be found not guilty.
Now these sentiments are not unfamiliar with us. When accused of wrongdoing, it is common for people to turn to their faith. Given their public image, we often see this with celebrities (I’m not listing any right now because I would like to get this blog out as soon as possible). We see them call on a God who will prove that they are right and that everyone else is wrong. They call on a God who is for them and no one else. They call on a God who will save them from accountability and the consequences of their actions. We have seen this before, and we will see this again. While it is not always clear the nature of the relationship between these celebrities and God, we know that Tory Lanez is a preacher’s kid. His father’s statement, “I am the apostle of God,” is not just a statement but him employing his ministerial title in faith that God will move and respond in a certain way. In further searching about Tory Lanez’s father, I discovered that he is an ordained minister. One can find videos of him preaching and teaching online. In the interview I found, he talks of raising his children and teaching them right from wrong. He talks of his hope that he has raised them with “enough sense and wisdom” as preacher’s kids. For him, everything in his life develops out of his faith. It is God who introduced him to his wife. It was God who inspired him to write his book. It was God who would move on his son’s behalf in this case, responding to the faith of both the apostle and his celebrity son.
One of my Twitter friends justly noted that it recalls Paula White commanding the African angels. This is a theology that we saw again and again with white, and black, Christian nationalist evangelicals during the 2020 presidential election. They made claims that Trump was sent by God and prophesied that he would be reelected. They felt that this would happen because it was the will of God. But them stating it was the will of God did not make it so.
The theological belief that God will do whatever you ask just because you asked is bad and harmful, yet it is quite common in church spaces. It is likely common in the apostolic spaces in which Tory Lanez grew up and in which his father preaches and teaches, and it is common in white evangelical spaces such as those led by Paula White, Sean Feutch, and others.
Now, what makes this belief bad and harmful? First, it misrepresents God. It presents a God who works like a genie. If I ask God to make me a millionaire, God will. If I ask God to make this person get elected, God will. If I ask God to make this situation work out for me, God will. It renders God to the will of humans and makes a mockery of God. Additionally, it fails to recognize that God doesn’t work this way. Thus, it also sets people up for disappointment and possibly, a crisis of faith. Our prayers are not always answered, no matter how hard we pray and no matter how faithful we may perceive ourselves to be. What happens then when those prayers aren’t answered? What does that say about who we claim God to be? Another person on Twitter noted that there was “a complete negation of Meg’s relationship with God!” This theology is often selfish. It expects God to move on someone’s behalf, sometimes at the expense of other people. I don’t care what happens to you, as long as I get mine. As long as God does what I want God to do, I’m good; I’m happy. Moreover, this belief is harmful because it’s often used to justify violence and oppression. With Tory Lanez, the jury found that there was enough evidence to find him guilty. The evidence proved that Megan Thee Stallion was shot and that Tory Lanez was likely the shooter. Yet, he and his family seemed to expect that their prayers would dismiss him of being held accountable for his actions. God becomes a weapon of the powerful and the one who has caused harm. This theology allows God to be used as a tool for violence and oppression, which is often reported in pieces on white evangelical Christian nationalism. At some point in time, everyone loses with a theology that claims that God will do whatever you ask God to.
So, where does that leave us? What should we believe about God? As a womanist minister and scholar, I choose to believe in a God that cares for survivors of violence and the oppressed. God cares about the lives of Black women, who face misogynoir and the intersections of racism, sexism, classism, sexual orientation, gender identity, and more. God is with Megan Thee Stallion as she has faced attacks against her personhood and character for telling her truth. Furthermore, God is free to move as God desires. We pray to God in faith that God will move while knowing that God’s ways are not our ways. We pray for God to move in the face of grief, loss, and injustice, and we join our actions with our prayers in moving toward a better world. Prayers and faith are not to be manipulated in favor of the interests of those who would wield power to harm but should reflect Jesus’s own commitment to the marginalized and oppressed. We need a more expansive vision of who God is.
2 thoughts on “Theology, Harm, and the Megan Thee Stallion Shooting Trial”
The authoritarian beliefs of protecting leaders (usually men) at the expense of victims (often women) is the very opposite of God’s principles in scripture. This is a religious spirit of the enemy that has been allowed to run rampant in the institutional. Church.
Thank you Min. Jonese for offering a thoughtful, liberative, and theologically sound response to this public and divisive court battle between Meg TS and T. Lanez. You analyzed public responses to the trial and verdict right at the intersections of public theologies, politics and popular culture. We need more public theologians like you to offer counter narratives to the more popular conservative, dominionist, and nationalist pronouncements coming out of Black Christian spaces that mimic/mirror the theologies of their White Christian Nationalist co-religionists. Keep making it plain. Salaam!