Trouble I’ve Seen:
Changing the Way the Church Views Racism
Drew G.I. Hart
Paperback: Herald Press, 2016
Buy now: [ Amazon ]
We will be reading through the book this month, and posting discussion questions as we go. We hope you will read along with us, and share your thoughts and questions. (Or, even better, get a group of people at your church to read through the book together!)
Here are some quotes and questions, please use the comments below to share your own thoughts and questions.
Chapter 3: Leaving Behind the Whitened Jesus
“the gospel is much more comprehensive, subversive, dangerous, and even undermining of everything that I knew and took for granted in life.” (57)
To what extent do you: 1) understand the gospel as subversive? and 2) live as if it were subversive?
“God does not fit into our box. Our finite assumptions about God are mere projections of our own wanting. For this reason, God has been commonly thought of as an old white man in the American imagination. And Jesus also was remade through white supremacist imagination into the likeness of a white man with distinctively Anglo-Saxon features and Western culture. ” (58)
What are the effects of the ways we imagine God and Jesus? Are they are harmless as we might suppose? Why?
“As Christians, we have developed all kinds of fancy theological tricks and justifications that allow us to circumvent Jesus as recorded in Scripture. We don’t think it’s necessary to immerse ourselves in the gospel narratives so long as we call on Jesus’ name.” (59)
What are some ways that you (or your church) tries to circumvent the way and teaching of Jesus?
“[Howard] Thurman reminded his readers that Jesus was Jewish rather than a white man, poor rather than some wealthy elite, and part of an oppressed minority living under occupation rather than one domineering over others in the sociopolitical realm.” (59)
Hart will develop this image of Jesus over the remainder of the chapter.
One of the key images he uses is of Jesus as a mother hen, protecting her chicks from the fox (i.e., Herod or imperial power):
Herod, the fox:
“The fox is a predator; it is deceptive, but it is ultimately just a small figure. The fox is a puppet for greater, bigger actors. The fox’s way of life is violence. It wields death, and its end is death.” (69)
Jesus, the hen:
“The hen, in contrast, is motivated by a deep and courageous love for its children, its chicks. Out of such motherly love, it is willing to endure the brunt of the attacks of the fox in attempt to provide cover and safety for its chicks. It longs to create a life-giving space of flourishing and shalom under its wings and within its realm. But if the chicks go running in every direction except toward the hen, then they have chosen to experience the full brunt of the vicious cycle of violence and destruction outside of the hen’s wings.” (69)
Reflect on these images. How do they square with the way you imagine and talk about Jesus and about the nature of imperial power?
In what ways do you see the fox-like actions of power in your daily life?
“That Christian piety and oppression could so easily coexist should be horrifying. It can happen, though, because the Jesus being referred to in America rarely had any resemblance to the subversive life embodied in the gospel narratives of Scripture. Rather than creating a new order, the American god has too often been the sustainer of this old order, white supremacy and all. ” (72)
“For too long, the church has gone about its business as though nothing were wrong. Meanwhile, it has been a racialized organism, not only fractured relationally but actually practicing, perpetuating, or remaining silent to the racial oppression of others.” (73)
What does it look like for your church to take the biblical Jesus seriously?
How do we begin to repent of our preference for the ways of Herod over the ways of Jesus?
C. Christopher Smith is the founding editor of The Englewood Review of Books. He is also author of a number of books, including most recently How the Body of Christ Talks: Recovering the Practice of Conversation in the Church (Brazos Press, 2019). Connect with him online at: C-Christopher-Smith.com