Trouble I’ve Seen: Changing the Way the Church Views Racism
Authors: Drew G.I. Hart
Why I picked up this book:
I have been following Drew Hart online for a while. His voice and perspective is a relevant, prophetic, and informed one that the church needs to hear. I was pleased to receive a copy of this book which so eloquently outlines the problems of race and racism—or the denial of such— particularly among evangelicals in the church.
Who Should Read Trouble I’ve Seen:
This book is an invaluable resource tool for church pastors and small group leaders in these troubled times. I do believe that any white brother or sister who has not wrestled deeply with the issue of race and how it impacts every part of our society needs to read this book from a humble posture of listening and learning. Throughout it, Hart speaks a deeply personal, historical, and theological truth.
What’s in Store for You:
Drew Hart—a theologically-educated seminary professor and African American male— opens the book with a real life story of his anxiety and fear for DWB (Driving While Black), and being pulled over by police. Because I know, love, and have relationships with black men, I understand that this is not an uncommon occurrence. I know about the mental races—the uncertainties, the internal questions about what to do with your hands, or the regular reminders of not making any sudden movements. I know about the immediate fear that sits in your gut if this one encounter goes wrong, and it can go very wrong, very quickly because we are DWB. This is our world of trouble as a historically oppressed people group in America. At the beginning of the book, the author asks the readers:
So what are Christians who participate in dominant society to do when their racial intuitions and racialized experiences contradict the experiences and concerns of historically oppressed groups? Are Christians in dominant culture prepared to listen to groups of people where we can talk about the trouble we’ve seen?
These are the two questions that I believe readers must ask as they contemplate every word on the pages of this book. This is a book that I highly recommend reading!
My personal take-aways:
There are some issues and challenges that Drew Hart tackles head on in this book, and I am thankful for it. By now we know that “race” is a social construct to determine whose life and rights are valued. Of course, this understanding has theological, political, relational, and financial implications. Hart writes:
Race is a social construct that not only shapes how we perceive particular people groups but also justifies oppressive hierarchy and European domination over nonwhite people.
The theological conversation: Race is the factor designed by white males to exercise their power to dominate or rule over other non-white people. The practice of race as a hierarchy of human beings leads to the sinful practice of racism. Racism is the sin that directly works against God’s truth that all human beings are created in His image (Gen 1:27) and have power to exercise dominion—or accept the responsibility of their ordained power to represent God himself—as agents that cause all of creation to flourish and glorify God (Gen 1:28-31).
I found his presentation of “The Race Card and the Racialized Deck” spot on when addressing some of the media and political rhetoric particularly when a person of color attempts to point out the sin of racism. According to Hart, “Reverse racism is the term developed by white dominant culture to suggest that the real problem of racism today is that white people experience prejudice and discrimination by people of color…Typically, dominant society has been consumed by a single card while most people in the African American community have been working with the entire racialized deck. And what we have always known is that the deck is stacked against us.”
So the problem with race and racism is not only about people groups, it is also about God (how we view God and how we believe God calls us to interact with other people) and it is also about the gospel of Jesus. The God-man Jesus was born in a Jewish body, as a vulnerable baby, to a people group that was suffering under the political pressure of the Roman Empire. Hart writes, “Jesus’ entire way of life reveals him consistently clashing with the status quo establishment in such a provocative way that various powerful and well-connected people were always wanting to kill him.”
By the time he begins preaching and his earthly ministry is underway, he makes it very clear that the kingdom of God is now among the people, and the kingdom of God is not like the kingdom of this world. “Jesus has started a kingdom rebellion in which his citizens love their enemies, redistribute their resources justly, forgive one another, treat the poor with dignity, live in solidarity with the vulnerable, and liberate the oppressed, all because they worship and praise the God of Jubilee who has been revealed.”
“Jesus can help us transform how we understand and resist racism in our society. Through the Holy Spirit, Jesus can help us participate in God’s presence in the world rather than perpetuate racism unknowingly. We must consider how American Christianity’s common sense has failed to understand the world form the perspective of the crucified Christ.”
“It is our task to explore and pursue Jesus-shaped ways of knowing our world.” @DruHart
“In America, the white dominate cultural way is often assumed to be the right way.” @DruHart
“There is one person who is a champion for the poor and oppressed, and his name is Jesus.” @DruHart
“The loss of black life is rarely worth grieving. Black bodies are presumed guilty. Black experience and testimony are assumed to be lies. And experiencing and learning from the range of people and perspectives within the black community is not desirable or needed. Loving black people has never been normative in America (pg. 26).”
“That God has been revealed as a crucified liberator from Galilee should dismantle our earthly conceptions of divine wisdom and power…This God dwells among the socially vulnerable and marginalized, who have always been discounted by the dominating and controlling group in society.”
“America has a long, horrific, four-hundred-year history of white-dominated, racialized practices including slavery, white terrorism, lynching, Jim Crow segregation, humiliation, police brutality, mass incarceration, inequitable educational and economic opportunities, and much more.”
Next Up on this Topic:
Welcoming Justice: God’s Movement Toward Beloved Community by Charles Marsh & John Perkins
© Natasha Sistrunk Robinson 2016