Books of the Month, Conversations, Volume 9

Trouble I’ve Seen – Book of the Month Conversation – Part 5

Our Book of the Month for March is…

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!)

Part 5:
Chapter 5

Here are some quotes and questions, please use the comments below to share your own thoughts and questions.

<<<<<< Previous Conversation: Part 4

Chapter 5: Whiteness Matters

Harrisburg Invasion Day (p. 98-100)

Why was this “invasion day” not a good idea?

White is the pseudoscientific and socially constructed category used to centralize power among a certain portion of humanity and at the direct harm and cost of people of color, especially Native American and black life in America. And it is not a static category. Whiteness subtly shifts and changes over time as necessary. (101)

How does this definition of whiteness (and Hart’s longer explanation of it that follows) square with your experience?

Millions of white families have benefited from the Homestead Act or even the GI Bill, both of which were often denied to African Americans who migrated all over the country for better opportunities in America. White Americans have benefited from some of the largest government handouts in history (beyond, of course, the stolen land and stolen labor). And even for those who have not directly received any of those white benefits, just being white meant access to live in, do business with, and benefit from communities that had created their wealth through such racially stratified and oppressive practices and policies. (103)

How should we respond as a church to these historical realities?

We have bought into the idea that our friendliness is evidence that we couldn’t have adopted subtle antiblack ideologies so common in dominant culture. For too long, too many have assumed that nice white people couldn’t be complicit with a white-controlled and white-dominated society, because they are so fun to be around. … I don’t question the fact that many white people are extremely nice, but I still believe that most are socialized by and participate in a white dominant culture that has become adjusted to white supremacy and racial marginalization.  (108)

What does passage teach us about following in the way of Jesus?

Missionaries often tried to make indigenous people become Western first, Christian second. (110)

Have you seen this played out in your experience of Christian missions?
According to Hart, why is our approach to missions relevant to our understanding of race?

For the church, what matters most is not whiteness but the revelation of God found in Jesus’ body, life, teaching, death, and resurrection as detailed in Scripture and encountered in Spirit. This means that white Christians must renounce the desire to control other people’s lives and must reject the innocent savior complex, which sees everyone but oneself as in need of transformation. When deliverance and intervention is needed, the church looks to God. (116)

In what ways do we find our hope and security in whiteness and not in the work of God in Christ?  How do we begin to repent of this idolatry?
In what ways are we tempted to live out the “innocent savior complex”?

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:

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Reading for the Common Good
From ERB Editor Christopher Smith

"This book will inspire, motivate and challenge anyone who cares a whit about the written word, the world of ideas, the shape of our communities and the life of the church."
-Karen Swallow Prior

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