Shanell T. Smith

The Rev. Dr. Shanell T. Smith is an ordained Minister of Word and Sacrament in the Presbyterian Church (USA), and the Assistant Professor of New Testament and Christian Origins at Hartford Seminary in Hartford, Conn. Her passion for teaching and preaching is fueled by her desire to inspire and challenge by bringing together faith and intellect. Her scholarly interests include Feminist and Womanist Biblical Interpretation, Gender and Sexuality in the New Testament, and the intersections of Postcolonial, African American, and New Testament Studies, particularly with regard to the Book of Revelation. Her monograph, The Woman Babylon and the Marks of Empire: Reading Revelation with a Postcolonial Womanist Hermeneutics of Ambiveilence is forthcoming from Fortress Press.

Posts By This Author

Gatekeepers of Redemption: Conservative Evangelicals Are Changing Their Mind on the Death Penalty

by Shanell T. Smith 02-02-2015
Photo via View Apart /

Photo via View Apart /

“But it was an accident! … He said it was a black-skinned boy who sort of looked like my son.”

“It’s all based on circumstantial evidence. It’s not fair!”

“We didn’t have money for a defense attorney!””

All of these assertions are regularly heard in court rooms across the country as the fate of yet another person’s life is determined in a death penalty case. “Gatekeepers of Redemption” – that is what I call them – the decision makers in capital punishment. Yet as I think about the death penalty movement and the shift that seems to be occurring within it, I am beginning to see an inkling of hope.

Years ago, it would not have been far-fetched to state that the main supporters of capital punishment were political conservatives and evangelical Christians. These groups, generally stereotyped as white men and women of the middle to upper class, are more often than not, the same persons with decision-making power with regard to capital punishment, and thus also less likely to fall victim to it.

Nevertheless, times seem to be a-changing and generalizations may soon no longer apply.

On Scripture: Whose Banquet Is It Anyway?

by Shanell T. Smith 08-23-2013

The upcoming March on Washington has been on my mind as I reflect upon this week’s Gospel reading from Luke about a banquet. I personally love banquets. You get to adorn yourself with the finest trappings, dance the night away, and if the food is good, that is an added plus! But what I find most frustrating? Knowing a banquet is occurring, and I have not been invited. “Did I do something wrong? Do I not meet a certain standard? Who did get invited?” My wondering is filled with emotion.

What if America was a banquet, and at this banquet the servings were fair wages, just trials, civil rights and liberties, but offered by invitation only? According to those who “March(ed) on Washington,” this was exactly the case. Blacks deserved the same fair treatment as whites, and they were protesting to bring about the necessary changes. Perhaps if everyone took heed of Jesus’ instructions on banquet etiquette, things would be different and better.