Nas – I Can

It’s time for us to invest in our young people! Too many young folk dropping out of school, too many young folk that don’t believe in their own gifts and talents, too many young folk with demoralized and beat down psyches. While I think we must continue to address the wealth disparities that exist, we need to do much work in the psychological and spiritual realm.

How do we begin to restore what was stripped from the black community in America through 400 years of inhumane slavery, jim crow laws, lynching, segregation, brutality, stereotypes, and hatred?

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 “Nas – I Can

  1. Charity is people giving generously to Haiti. Justice is France paying Haiti for the free slave labor it received & benefited from.

    I’ve been thinking about this allot and now I can ask for help…
    I’m going to write a book.
    Title: “How much do I owe and to whom do I make out the check?”

    I’ve owned a few businesses in my life and in my business life as well as in my private life – My God and my creditors get paid first before I do.

    So, when it comes to reparations – let’s get it down to a personal level for a change.
    Help me with a few of the questions I have:
    – My wife is of French decent on her mother’s side. How much does that effect how much she owes?
    – Since African Americans (AM) are in fact Americans, are they responsible for reparations to the Japanese who were interned during WWII in America by Americans and would that offset what is owed to them?
    – Harry Reid’s comment about Barack Obama rang true. Barack was light skinned enough to be elected. This being the case, if a light skinned AM gets a job when a darker skinned AM was more or equally qualified and denied – how much does the lighter skinned AM owe?
    – How much are lighter skinned AM’s responsible world wide when their darker skinned brothers suffer and they don’t help them?
    – I’ve been paying taxes since I started working back in 1972. Those taxes have been used to pay for the education of many in grammar and high school and college through Pell grants. My taxes have also gone for welfare, food stamps, government sponsored housing, shelters, medicaid, medicare, re-education programs, community services…. How does this affect how much I owe?
    – I’ve volunteered my time to help those less fortunate than me both here and abroad, does this affect how much I owe?
    – I’m part Irish. Am I due anything for my ancestors having suffered at the hands of the British or does the fact that I’m also part English cancel that out?
    – Do AM’s who are part white owe anything if the relationship that created them was consensual?

    I want this book to be able to provide the formula for every person to use in order to figure out how much they owe and to whom because while this argument stays on the level of “us and them” it continues forever. If I can get it to a personal level the world of individuals can know for a fact what they as individuals owe. Help me, please. I know there are some critical thinkers out there who can help me. I’m sure there are others like myself out there who actually want this to be resolved.

  2. DR,
    I wonder if the “how much do I owe” formula actually loses sight of the concept of justice. The winners and losers in contemporary American society are clearly defined, in fact, the disparity increases daily as the rich continue to get richer and the poor continue to get poorer. By trying to devise an actual number of reparations owed, one might easily forget that justice is more than just giving someone money, it’s challenging and perhaps overturning the system that allows injustice to occur.

    Let me give an example. I work in a field dominated by white males (in fact, the field is pretty much the study of dead white men). I think part of my role as a champion of justice includes (but is not limited to) promoting people groups traditionally excluded from my field. That’s more than putting a numerical value on how much I owe to women or minorities, it involves actively promoting minorities in my field and pushing for more diversity in the workplace. Might that cost me money in the long run? Sure, but that’s hardly the point.

  3. “… justice is more than just giving someone money, it’s challenging and perhaps overturning the system that allows injustice to occur. ”

    I do not disagree

    In my first note I was dealing with the original quote which was about the money issue . Now that you have expanded the issue I wonder if there are concrete proposals to be had.

    I would just like to say that I don’t agree that a “nation” is to be held responsible for the monetary reparations since nations are made up of people groups who were never responsible for the original infractions. For example: I doubt very much that the East Asian groups prevalent in the US today ever had anything to do with black slavery. It would be as unfair as the original wrong to expect them and others like them to pay.

    That being said, when it comes to challenging or overturning a national system that allows for injustice I am totally on board because it would help everyone in the end.

    So, can I ask that we keep the monetary reparations individualized and allow the policies to be nationalized ?

    1. DR, I agree with you, but I would push back just a bit regarding your final question. Your question, at least as far as I understand it, suggests that policies and money are separate entities. Unfortunately, that often isn’t the case. When we look at the disparity in opportunities for good education in this country, money plays a central role, as the middle class moves into “better” neighborhoods and leaves the poor to fend for themselves, as it were. Since the tax base of many cities is shrinking, urban schools have less money to dedicate to education and as a result minority children suffer. I don’t think the answer to this problem is to find out “who’s to blame.” Rather, I think it requires men and women of conscience to stand up and oppose systems like this. Might opposing educational injustice include higher taxes of those who “aren’t to blame”? Sure, it might. Is that unfair? I would suggest it’s unfair only in so far as one views money as the bottom line. I think humanity and justice should trump people’s pension plans.

      I didn’t read Drew’s initial question as primarily about money. He does after all write, “While I think we must continue to address the wealth disparities that exist, we need to do much work in the psychological and spiritual realm.” I’m not qualified to suggest ways to address either the psychological or spiritual needs of oppressed people groups, but I do agree with the statement.

      When it comes to these amazingly complex issues, one of the things I notice is how often the “I gave at work” mentality of justice arises. Such comments make me feel uncomfortable. I don’t think I have thought through the reasons why, but I know that’s how these comments make me feel.

  4. It is so NOT about some measurement of dollars. Keeping others down in most, if not every way, is a spiritual issue. Unless we learn to love and respect each other–to be able to see God in EVERY other person–we will remain a sick society. Changing this requires an upgrade in consciousness, an ability to share love through being kind, with encouraging thoughts and words, with bringing out the best in each other, through working to make a difference in others’ lives. We are all God’s children but we cannot truly claim this inheritance for ourselves until every child of God is respected, loved and encouraged to believe in themselves and is given the time and space to find his/her own calling.

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