“Claiming the center stage, just like Pharaoh and Caesar did in their time, has always been a blasphemous overreach that actually places oneself on the margins of God’s reign,” thus writes Drew G.I. Hart in Trouble I’ve Seen.
This new title focuses on “Changing the Way the Church Sees Racism,” but much of what Hart says needs equal attention in the Jewish thought. (Trouble I’ve Seen: Changing the Way the Church Sees Racism. Harrisonberg, VA: Herald Press, 2016.)
Religious Thought and Practice
Hart notes the optional or alternative status of “women’s,” “peace,” or “black” theology:
According to [teacher John Franke] white male theologians have often seen themselves as objective and neutral overseers of Christian tradition. They function as “theological referees” for everyone else, while imagining their position as neutral and unbiased in the center of all the action….Missing is that white men have a social context too.
— p. 163, Trouble I’ve Seen
A parallel situation still applies all too well in much of the Jewish world. As does his analysis of how well-intentioned attempts at diversity and inclusion often fail to create real change. Many of his recommendations for the Church are ones other faith communities should explore as well:
- “Share life together.”
- Practice solidarity. (See, e.g., Be’chol Lashon, Jewish Multi-Racial Network, and Jews of All Hues, as well as links at “Exodus from Racism”)
- “See the world from below,” by changing reading habits, for example. (See “Range of Possibilities” for some suggestions.)
- “Subvert racial hierarchy in the [religious infrastructure].”
- “Soak in scripture and the Spirit for renewed social imagination.” (Explore “Pharaoh’s Hardened Heart,” e.g. and these resources from Reform Judaism’s Religious Action Center.)
- “Seek first the kingdom of God.”
- Engage in self-examination.
— from p. 176, Trouble I’ve Seen
Current and Historical Re-Examination
Hart’s exploration of “White Jesus” and related Church history may seem irrelevant to those outside the Christian faith. This is important background for every U.S. citizen, however, and worth review for those as yet unfamiliar.
Moreover, Jewish communities would do well to consider whether our members are aware of essential demographics — such as a recent study showing white men with criminal convictions more likely to get positive job-application responses than black men without a record (see p. 145) — and the individual and cumulative effect of everyday racism experienced by the author of Trouble I’ve Seen.
Most importantly, Jews must join our Christian neighbors in examining how we “resemble this remark”:
Too many in the American Church have perpetuated the myth that this land was build on Christian principle rather than on stolen land and stolen labor.
p.145, Trouble I’ve Seen
Hart’s new volume provides important food for thought as we continue to read Exodus this winter and experience it in the upcoming Passover season.
More about “Anablacktivist” Drew G.I. Hart
Trouble I’ve Seen: Changing the Way the Church Sees Racism. Harrisonberg, VA: Herald Press, 2016.
What are you reading this Exodus season?
Please share your resources and your thinking.