An Itch…

I must be honest, I have an ever growing itch to live truly shaped by the life of Christ and within His Kingdom. I know some think of me as radically living out my faith, and probably because of american christian complacency it may sometimes appear that way. However, when I step into reality and allow the Word of God to search me and measure me up to what we as a church have been called to, I am deeply humbled. I guess we all get to that place where we see that God is desiring much more from us in our lives. I know I am there, and have an ever growing itch that I have been ignoring for a while now. However, there are real choices to be made. Faithfulness to me, requires that I choose between the things of this world and God. Everyone is always quick to say that they have chosen God over this world, but we nonetheless make all our decisions based on consumerism, comfort, and security. Those things have enculturated our thinking so much, that we do not always recognize how impacted we are by main stream thought and culture. We are like a fish in water, that is all we know.

I have this itch… but I have been scared to scratch it. It means a complete letting go of the things I have been taught to trust. It is literally putting on a funeral for an empty system and recognizing that it is truly dead, letting it go. I think that at the point that you let go, you find a whole new freedom never experienced before. The whole system and the world and all its promises needs to be let go of. Deep down in my core I have an itch to let go completely.

I want to be able to be like the apostle Paul who said “Yet whatever gains I had, these I have come to regard as loss because of Christ. More than that, I regard everything as loss because of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things, and I regard them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but one that comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God based on faith. I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the sharing of his sufferings by becoming like him in his death, if somehow I may attain the resurrection from the dead.”

I don’t know about you, but comfortable Christianity is just not cutting it for me. It promises a lot, but in the end seems empty and watered down. I have this itch, and like any other itch, as I/you try to ignore it, it only grows in intensity. I have this itch and I believe that the time to scratch it has always been now.

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.

7 thoughts on “An Itch…

  1. Drew,

    You are a man of God–the world can never satisfy your yearning to serve Him, to truly make a difference through Christ in this world. Be who you are; I imagine God smiling gratefully at you, thanking you for your wonderful capacity to love.

  2. This is a watershed statement. If you make it, you are held up to it from this point. I’ve seen others make similar. I pray you fare better.

  3. Not sure you understood me right… I’m not putting myself on any pedestal. Rather, I am expressing my dissatisfaction with the allusions this world offers, as well as the watering down of Christianity that many of us endorse. I’m not satisfied, & I hope and pray that God give me the courage to faithfully live as a Servant of Christ. I think this is the heart of most Christians who want to live in a way that pleases our Father, yet know they have completely dropped the ball so far.

  4. Understood you perfectly. You’ve made a declaration and now the world (or at least those of us who heard you make it) will remember and be watching you… and again – I pray you fare well.

  5. Drew,
    I think DR is referring to the fact that people who long for Christ/God in their hearts often must face tests to learn how true their commitment is. I’ve been through this and spent years needlessly berating myself, only to experience God’s love this year and realize God understands us completely–not one cell is unknown to God–and that we are all loved wholly, no matter our location on ‘the path.’

  6. I hear you both, and am glad for your consistent dialogue here on this site… However, I just want to make sure I put a clear distinction between what others hear me saying, and what I believe the intent of my post was. I wouldn’t sum up my writing as a declaration. I mean it is a declaration in the most literal sense of the word, as is every other post I make because it is words being made publicly. But in function and intent, it was an expression of how I “feel” as well as a “desire” to no longer continue in that pattern.

    I guess the comment “You’ve made a declaration and now the world (or at least those of us who heard you make it) will remember and be watching you” seems to infer that I put myself up on a pedestal with a verbal declaration in which somehow I can and should now be especially judged by my readers.

    While I agree, that anytime I write, do, or say anything publicly I am subject to be judged as is everyone else. I guess however I want to make a clear distinction between someone putting me up to be judged as a model and myself doing so. I know that I am a cracked vessel just like everyone else. I fall short of my own goals and desires, I hurt others, I hurt myself, and worse of all I disappoint God. That is just a part of being human, being made in God’s image, but nonetheless broken. Given this I try as best as possible not to put myself up on any pedestal, because I know I will eventually fall. If others want to set me up for that judgment, I can’t do anything. However, in my own attempts I want to keep myself on the ground, cause it is a shorter fall. I hope at the end of my life, in some way God might look at my life and say “well done, my good and faithful servant”, but I am surely not claiming that on my life, just the desire to live that way.

    Anyways, I continue to appreciate/need your dialogue/feedback, even when we don’t always agree.

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