Making Trouble…

Rugged Cross I was really struggling the other day and continue to do so. When I talk to a lot of Christians I feel like I am always “edgy” to some degree.  And I begin to wonder if I really ought to be so controversial.  I mean, we are the body of Christ, so why am I always stirring the pot. At times, it can seem devicive. And so I must wrestle with myself and my role I often play among the body of Christ.

On the other hand, I read about Christ according to the four gospels.  And Jesus while very much a loving person, was constantly creating moments of tension, acting out at times, and at times infuriating some of those around Him.  It seems clear that Jesus’ philosphy was comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable. The religious, political, and economically powerful of his time were always being challenged whether directly or indirectly.  Jesus preached a sermon, and afterward they were so offended they wanted to throw him off the cliff.  He went to Jerusalem (the big show) and first thing he did was go into the temple stirring up trouble.

His motto for his followers was extremely radical, “take up your cross and follow me”.  We water that down now in our time, because most of us do not relate to the threat of being crucified (similar to being lynched in post civil war times in America) because you are a Jew under the control of a larger empire. Mere subversive words, let alone action, could have you hanging on a tree. I could go on and on… my point is that Jesus was extremely controversial (especially with the powerful and comfortable).

I guess I struggle with what this calls us to in our time and context.  I know exactly what would logically be concluded as our proper response to imitating such a radical leader. I pretend like I don’t know the answer in hope of not wanting to be held accountable for not living up to that standard. Yet the call to follow Christ remains steadily before me.

Compared to many Christians I feel controversial, compared to Christ I feel Cowardly.  Freestyle with me… are you a trouble maker (and for what cause)? Or rather do you think we should all go along so that we can all get along? Finally, after mediating on Jesus’ example left for us, does that impact or shape your response?

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.

2 thoughts on “Making Trouble…

  1. Wow, Drew. I read this three times and still don’t know what to say. What questions you do ask! But that’s the reason I appreciate who you are and what you do so much–because you move us out of our comfort zones. It really is something to follow a man-God who asks us to love unconditionally while shaking us to the core. Christ says the shadows of this world are not the real world, that to see the Light we must go with Him, to the best of our abilities, whatever they may be. It’s not about the stirring up of trouble, it’s about the going with Him, and if some trouble is stirred up along the way by this devotion, He carries that for us. It’s all about the Love, Him loving humanity, us loving Him and being His hands and feet. You are His, Drew, and a man’s gotta do what a man’s gotta do!

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