Paul Buhle's Blog

‘I will never put an institution over human lives’: A black Baptist minister acts against white supremacy

CBC Radio
November 19, 2017

Lawrence Ware and son

What do you do when two of the most elemental parts of your identity feel as though they’re on a collision course?

“It brings a clash for me. It brings an existential dilemma. Honestly, it gives me anxiety,” says Lawrence Ware, an ordained minister, and philosopher of race, who is black.

Lawrence Ware
Lawrence Ware

Ware recently made headlines when he renounced his ordination in the Southern Baptist Convention. The church’s dilemma was whether or not to condemn white supremacy. Members considered the matter before eventually denouncing racial hatred, but by the time the matter was settled, Lawrence Ware had heard enough. As Ware wrote in a much-shared New York Times piece,  “I love the church. But I love black people more.”

Ware’s feature interview on Tapestry spans religion, race, and how a Marvel Comics superhero is enriching the culture.

Ware recalls the the long-ago day at a Christian summer camp when a racial slur was directed at him: “One of the things that kind of sticks with you as a black person… is the first time that you’re called the n-word. That, that sticks with you. You remember that.”

The camp counsellor’s response – a pious “Let’s pray about this” – was perhaps prophetic. It was certainly an early sign that religion and race might not always be an easy fit for Lawrence Ware.

Ware is co-director of the Center for Africana Studies at Oklahoma State University. He’s also the diversity co-ordinator for the school’s philosophy department. Although he has left the Southern Baptist Convention, Ware remains a minister in the Progressive National Baptist Convention.

As his twitter account makes abundantly clear, he is counting the days ’til the theatrical release of Marvel’s The Black Panther – for reasons including, but not limited to, the fact he is a nerd. 

 “For me that representation really really matters. It really matters. Because, culturally, black folks have been taught for so long that you have the wrong lips. You have the wrong hips. And you have the wrong skin pigmentation. And I remember being a young boy reading comic books, I’ve been a comic book nerd my entire life, and seeing characters that did not represent me,” Ware says.

Lawrence Ware
“I remember trying to be Superman and growing out my hair really long….I was never able to do it.”

“And then I tried to be those characters. And I looked in the mirror and it caused me anxiety because I would never be them. I remember trying to be Superman and growing out my hair really long. I don’t have any hair now but growing out my hair really long as an afro and trying to bring that little curl down to be like Superman.  I was never able to do it. And so for me representation matters a great deal.”

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