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!)
Chapter 9 / Epilogue
Here are some quotes and questions, please use the comments below to share your own thoughts and questions.
<<<<<< Previous Conversation: Part 8
Chapter 9: Where do we go from here?
Seven Jesus-shaped practices for the antiracist church
Read Hart’s descriptions of these practice and discuss what they might look like in your context.
- Share life together
Sharing life together means intimately identifying with people who carry the stigma of varying racial meanings in their actual bodies. Most practically, this can be expressed in regularly sharing life together around the table, as well as in Christian communal disciplines like reading and interpreting Scripture and praying together. The table—and I specifically mean sharing meals together—offers an opportunity to practice hospitality and intimacy that renounce racial hierarchy and racialized social patterns. (168-169)
- Practice solidarity in the struggle
As we follow Jesus into the world, we must join with racially oppressed communities. We must so deeply identify with them that their struggle becomes our struggle. Christians do not merely watch as distanced spectators. We are dropped right into the conflicts of the world, and with Jesus we march right toward confrontation with our own Jerusalem-like establishments, where prophets are killed and power is concentrated. (169)
- See the world from below
Even in the church, we have been tempted to keep our eyes fixed on the powerful. No, it is the crucified Christ—the one crushed by worldly power—through whom we understand that God’s mission takes place most decisively on the axis of vulnerability. We would be wise, then, to turn toward Jesus and join him in the company of the oppressed. (170)
- Subvert racial hierarchy in the church
the church must subversively embrace the new humanity and the diverse gifts and varied perspectives that exist within it. It must intentionally privilege the voices and perspectives of those in society who are most neglected, forgotten, ignored, and silenced. The community that has visibly flipped things upside down will not define its life by the standards and expectations of dominant culture. (171)
- Soak in Scripture and the Spirit for renewed social imagination
When we read Scripture through the lens of Jesus, as God’s Messiah and suffering servant, Scripture is unlocked. Jesus, who was vindicated in and victorious over the cross, reveals that God has consistently chosen the socially weak and vulnerable to shame the mighty and powerful. Throughout Scripture, God takes sides. God is not neutral in the midst of human suffering and oppression. It is not by accident that the divine name of Yahweh was revealed while God delivered the Israelites from the slavery and oppression of the Egyptians. (172)
- Seek first the kingdom of God
For this reason we must never forget to seek first, before anything else, God’s kingdom. Jesus warned his listeners that they needed to repent (which means to change one’s life), because the kingdom of God was quickly approaching. He often told them that the kingdom was near or, at times, already in their midst. The future reality has sneaked into our present concrete world, even though we live within the decay of this old and sinful age. Ultimately, Jesus’ prayer, which ought to shape our own prayers, centered God’s kingdom on earth, so that God’s will would be done here as it already is being done in heaven. (174)
- Engage in self-examination
If we are to be a church that is salt and light, showing our good deeds before others as Jesus called us to do, then our first task is to take the log out of our own eye and stop fussing over the specks that we find in others’ eyes. Each of us must engage in some soul-searching and self-examination. (175)
Beyond simplistic hopes for the “multiethnic church”
My observation is that most multiethnic churches are normed by white, dominant-culture sensibilities, even when diversity is being reflected on the stage. And it is a real struggle for communities to break from that stronghold. (177)
If Multiethnic Churches aren’t the answer, what does a church that rejects racism look like?
Beyond changing how we view racism, we must live differently. We must be transformed. And we must be transformed not only for our own sake but because, every day, people are dying. Millions are dying slowly in our bloated prison system. Millions are dying while stuck in our ghettos, which are mostly death traps for poor and nonwhite people. Even our school systems play into this world of death, as they miseducate all citizens about the white American myths that run counter to what God is doing here and now. Right now justice is needed. Right now your own self-transformation is needed. Right now, your community can find deliverance by living into the birth, life, teachings, death, and resurrection of Jesus. (180)
*** Will we allow God to transform us?
Christians who live in the denial of [the realities of police and other violence directed at black persons] don’t know that their own transformation is intimately tied to coming alongside and learning from those at the bottom rung of our societal ladder. This is where Jesus has always chosen to be uniquely present. Jesus’ delivering presence has always been especially available outside of the camp, where crucifixion takes place. (183)
We must acknowledge that many of us have not just been sinners but, in this story of white supremacy, have first and foremost been sinned against. Grasping the gravity of the idolatrous violence and oppression that implicates us all, directly or indirectly, is not to cripple any of us in guilt or despair. Repentance opens up new possibilities available only through God revealed in Jesus Christ. Humbly, we can all come to the throne of grace in confidence, because we have a faithful High Priest who empathizes with our struggles. Here we can find help and deliverance in our time of need. (183)
Will we repent? And allow Jesus us to show us his way?
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
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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