Transparency

Sometimes when I look around, it seems like everyone else has it all together, and that I am the only one who struggles and has weaknesses.  But then I have a true and real conversation with a close friend, and am quickly reminded that we all struggle, we all have imperfections, we all sin, we all are broken.

Unfortunately, the church seems to a breeding ground for people who walk around with a facade, as though everyone is perfect.  Churches are not a place to be transparent and honest, rather  it seems that we teach people to put up walls, hiding the reality of their humanity and sinfulness.

Yet we are reminded of Paul’s self-pronouncement as “chief of all sinners”. Freestyle with me on this, how have you been able to share authentically and transparentally with others for mutual accountability and encouragement?

Published by Drew G. I. Hart, PhD

Drew G. I. Hart is a theology professor in the Biblical & Religious Studies department at Messiah College with ten years of pastoral experience. Hart majored in Biblical Studies at Messiah College as an undergraduate student, he attained his M.Div. with an urban concentration from Missio Seminary in Philadelphia, and he received his Ph.D. in theology and ethics from Lutheran Theological Seminary-Philadelphia. Drew was born and raised in Norristown, Pa and has lived extensively in Philadelphia and Harrisburg, PA as well. Dr. Hart’s dissertation research explored how Christian discipleship, as framed by Black theologies and contemporary Anabaptist theologies, gesture the Church towards untangling the forces of white supremacy and the inertia of western Christendom which have plagued its witness in society for too long. As two traditions that emerged from the underside of violent and oppressive western Christian societies, he found Black theology and Anabaptism each repeatedly turning to the particularity of Jesus in the gospel narratives. From that arises an ethic of solidarity with the oppressed and pursuing liberation in Black theology and an ethic of radical peacemaking and ecclesial nonconformity in the Anabaptist tradition. Each challenge the violent and oppressive logics of mainstream western Christianity and salvage the call to follow the way of Christ. Together in dialogue they deepen our analysis of the churches failures and the need for Jesus-shaped repentance. His work beyond teaching and writing has included pastoring in Harrisburg and Philadelphia, working for an inner-city afterschool program for black and brown middle school boys, delivering lectures and leading anti-racism workshops, collaborating with local faith-based organizers and activists in his city, and doing a broad range of public theology. He is also a co-leader for a local Harrisburg faith-based relational network called FREE Together which has collaborated with POWER Interfaith, MILPA, the Shut Down Berks Detention Center movement, and a little with the Poor People’s Campaign. Trouble I’ve Seen: Changing the Way the Church Views Racism by Drew Hart, has received great reviews by Publisher’s Weekly and Englewood Review of Books. Endorsing this resource, Shane Claiborne said, “This book is a gift from the heart of one of the sharpest young theologians in the United States. Hold it carefully, and allow it to transform you--and our blood-stained streets.” As a text, Trouble I’ve Seen utilizes personal and everyday stories, Jesus-shaped theological ethics, and anti-racism frameworks to transform the church’s understanding and social witness. Trouble I’ve Seen focuses on white supremacy as an overarching framework for understanding racism, with careful attention to its systemic and socializing dimensions. However, unlike sociology textbooks on the subject Dr. Hart also considers the subversive vocation of Jesus and the nonviolent yet revolutionary implications his life ought to have for his followers today. His newest book project is entitled Who Will Be a Witness?: Igniting Activism for God’s Justice, Love, and Deliverance and will be published September 1, 2020. Who Will Be A Witness? invites the church to liberate its centuries long captivity to supremacist practices, and to expand its restricted political imagination in view of Jesus’ messianic reign. The book guides disciples of Jesus into joining God’s delivering presence through scriptural reasoning, historical reflection, practical theology for congregational life, social change theory, and the Christian call to love our neighbor. It is written for congregations, leaders, and students that understand that pursuing God’s justice goes way beyond waiting around for electoral seasons to come around. It is about the ongoing vocation of the Church right now, at the grassroots level, seeking after the wellbeing of their neighbors through faithful, strategic, and concrete action. Drew recently joined the Inverse Podcast team serving as a cohost along with Australian peace activist Jarrod Mckenna. Together they interview interesting people and explore how scripture can turn our ethical imagination and the violent and unjust systems of our world upside-down, which contrasts with interpreting the Bible as a tool for the status quo. Dr. Drew Hart was the recipient of bcmPEACE’s 2017 Peacemaker Award, a 2019 W.E.B. Dubois Award from a Disciples of Christ congregation, and in October 2019, Dr. Hart was chosen as Elizabethtown College’s 2019 Peace Fellow. Each award recognized him for his local and national justice work and public theology. You can find Drew Hart on Twitter and Facebook, or you can catch him as he travels and speaks regularly across the country to colleges, conferences, and churches. Drew and Renee, and their three boys (Micah, Dietrich, and Vincent) live in Harrisburg, PA and attend Harrisburg First Church of the Brethren.

5 thoughts on “Transparency

  1. What is the purpose of this advertised transparency? We don’t generally broadcast those things for which we are ashamed, nor live a life of blatant reprobation, so are we to then begin bragging about our sinful endeavors or are you rather saying that we should confess our faults one to another that we may be healed? In which case you’re advertising a confessing and forsaking, which would then be saying that our endeavor would be to abandon all our sins. Hence you advertise that sinless perfection should indeed be our spiritual goal.

    For note, Paul was a chief sinner, but he obtained pardon and mercy and then advertised a life of sinless perfection. In fact going on to advise that we should abstain from all appearance of sin (ref. 1 Thessalonians 5:22).

  2. You are right; being authentic can be humiliating, though it can also open up hearts and minds to sharing. It is hard to be transparent–at least completely transparent–but I am trying to be open on my blog of life, love and spirituality, though my ideas are not mainstream. My personal and spiritual growth has happened through being willing to look at myself and now I am sharing about it. My best to you in all your work.

  3. Calledsoldiers,
    The purpose of transparency is true transformation rather than walking lies… and the ability for our own community to help us through accountability, encouragement, and empathy, so that our lives would truly reflect our message. I do not suggest broadcasting our shortcomings, but neither should we lie about them either. It is just being fake, and people eventually will see through it.

    Notes,
    Thanks for sharing, that type of vulnerability can be humiliating, it takes risk and courage to do so. Keep sharing, our experiences are often very encouraging for those who are coming down the same road we have just traveled.

  4. My grandfather was an elder at a church for many years and left the church because of those very reasons. My grandfather was a pious man to his death, however he chose to worship outside of the church, he never went back to the church but continued to contribute to his community as a spiritual person. Because of this and many stories, my family are not church goers, however in our household the teaching of goodliness and godliness were still taught. I consider myself now a spiritual person, maybe not a “Christian” per se. I am not perfect, I stumble, I merely try and help and respect all souls as best I can.

    I have always hoped and believed, that no matter who is right, and who happens to be upstairs, that as long as you are a good person, who tried their best, who endured, and loved, and cared. It would mean something. That it wasn’t going to be which church you belonged to, or what façade you wore.

  5. I am new to reading your blog, but I love it! I think I will add you to my Blogroll…

    I had a conversation like this today with a coworker of mine…though she is being challenged and is growing (with the help of her pastor), her church is very pretentious, and there is a lack of authenticity there. She and I are both called into ministry, and discussed the fact that God requires His ministers to live a life of transparency, for the benefit of others.

    As I move forward to begin Seminary this fall, the Lord has placed people in my life for this specific purpose, accountability. It’s good to be honest, and He has demanded this of me in my ministry thus far, even if I didn’t feel like it!

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