It seems that the goal for most Christians is to separate themselves as much as possible from the world around them. The thought process goes like this… “I am supposed to be sanctified and holy. I cannot allow the world to corrupt me from living in righteousness and drawing me away from having a clean and pure heart. Therefore, I will only listen to Christian music, read Christian books, have Christian friends, see Christian movies, talk to other Christians, and go to Christian gatherings.” And it is usually the case that each of those Christian things that people are engaging in, only encourage them to even more continue separating themselves more and more.
For me, I think the mere labeling of everything being either “Christian” or “secular” is a false dualism that has perverted the church and allowed it to lose its saltiness and effectiveness in our communities. We have been hoodwinked and bamboozled by main stream Christian culture into believing that the Christian bubble lifestyle is somehow a faithful attempt to bear one’s cross daily just as our Lord did. I disagree terribly. In fact, more and more I find some aspects in “secular” culture to line up more with the teachings of Jesus than many of our so called Christian products that we sell in the Christian Marketplace. While I am amazed at the enormous consumer power of those who call themselves Christians, could that consumer power be put to better use? And while it’s nice that we consume ourselves trying to be more holy, have we neglected our moral responsibility to engage and serve a world that is broken and in need of the love of Jesus? Can it be that in attempting to be more spiritual and faithful, that we have actually become more like the Pharisees and Sadducees described in the Gospels, and have actually departed away from the life of Jesus who engaged the people, becoming like them in such a way that he could empathize with them.
This is not a challenge to lose our distinction as the people of God, nor to stop pursuing God through Christian interaction, reflection, and community. Yet the unbiblical approach that has become a standard way of thinking in American Christianity continues to erode the very core values Jesus taught. I think the time is now for us to get out of the pews and onto the corners, what do you think, freestyle with me?
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.
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10 thoughts on “The Christian Bubble”
Very good post homie, me and my girl recently started goin to church and ive been a christian ever since my father taught me about the Bible. However, after attending this church numerous times, me and my girlfriend started to feel a bit uncomfortable at the “pushiness” of many of the members of the church. It was like, anything that didnt have anything to do with church was somehow evil and not worth the time. Everything from school to our new dog to visiting family to having non christian friends to voting for Obama was frowned upon. The pastors wife even went as far as saying to my GF that doing school work wasnt important because being close to God is far more important than being able to find a career! On top of all this, we feel uncomfortable going to church to hear the word of God because after every service we’re being swarmed with invitations to dinner at this one’s house and christian party’s at that one’s house. While im not against associating with the other members of the church, i tend to be a more private person and would rather NOT “hang out” with them. (not that i have anything against them its just im 23, my GF is 22 and they’re over 35 in most cases, making hangin out with them sort of uncomfortable.) Anyway, all of this has sort of turned us against going to church which makes us sort feel bad. I definetly feel that christians should do more to not be considered secular because this is sort of y new members are turned away so quickly.
Yo Family, sadly that is the common experience for many Christians. There is an unbalanced as well as unbiblical “pushiness” that consumes church life, which focuses on sucking people into a black hole, and guilt tripping those who do not conform. Again, I do believe that we should fellowship “some” with other believers, but we can not consume all our time with them. That is just not the example Christ gave us.
Brother, I pray that you can find a community of believers that are not so internally focused, but rather people that encourage you to engage God’s world and the people that live within it!
very true my friend. However we must be a light in darkness and not just be in the darkness. I don’t believe in doing everything “christian” however we must have a balance of being in the world but maintaining practices that allow us to continue to display a changed life. For example this year God asked me to just listen to music that puts my mind on him and his heart towards people. because it was hindering me from focusing on the on God and the needs of the world. It was putting the focus on me. But what God has had me listening to is not even traditional “christian” for example I have been listening to the entire album of marvin gaye’s what’s going on. One line in the main song what’s going on says, “picket lines and picket signs don’t punish me with brutality talk to me so you can see what’s going on.”
One concern I have about the church is that we are so pro-holiness that we are not pro-people. We fight for the rights of the unborn child and shun the needs of the mother considering an abortion. James 2 informs us that such partiality is a sin. We cannot choose who is worthy of the gospel and 1 peter 5 lets us know that we are stewards of God’s grace. We cannot keep the grace and gospel of God in our four walls for fear of it’s being tainted. rather we must let the perfect love of God flow through us and turn that fear to a faith that the truth of God in us is greater than the world and it’s goodness will overcome the evil of the world. good post man
Hey thanks for stopping through… I definitely agree with ya. We must continue to be a light in the darkness, the hope in the midst of doubt, the love that overshadows hate, the peace that contrasts this worlds violence and chaos, and the forgiveness and grace for a world that only knows retribution, revenge, and punishment. I didn’t highlight that end of things, because I wanted to focus on the Church’s role of demanding and pulling people into the bubble. But as far as what you said, we definitely need to find balance… being in the world but not of it. Peace fam!
Thanks of commenting on my wife and my blog and thanks for your post.
We usually get caught up being religious separatist or assimilated religious folk. Christ asks us to be much more. To be something that interacts, contacts, and engages with this world, but something of a different, a renewed DNA.
“I am coming to you now, but I say these things while I am still in the world, so that they may have the full measure of my joy within them. I have given them your word and the world has hated them, for they are not of the world any more than I am of the world. My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one. They are not of the world, even as I am not of it. Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth. As you sent me into the world, I have sent them into the world. 19For them I sanctify myself, that they too may be truly sanctified.
Here is my blog, which I write on more than the JACANADA blog (www.blackwasp19.wordpress.com)
I totally agree with you on this one, Dru!! Lately I find myself NOT wanting to be associated with the “christians” b/c to be me the world sees Christians as something we really aren’t- not all of us, at least!! Especially during this past election….so many Christians went on and on about issues like abortion and saying we need a president to back up laws that line up with the christian point of view. I hate that. Jesus, from what I’ve read, didn’t push the Law, but love. When has passing a law or making a rule ever been successful in changing anyone??? NEVER. I’m all about loving and not judging. Thanks for your thoughts.
I didn’t really want to post a long comment. I just wanted to say “amen”. Is that ok?
Hey Donna, I feel ya, sometimes Christians are so opposite of the biblical Jesus in some areas, that it leaves us in a place of tension, and those tensions seems to only increase in political discussions amongst those who call themselves Christians. Some of my early posts are reflecting on some of those issues, you might want to check them out.
Yo Adria, good to know ya vibe with what I’m saying.
The reader will remember, as regards our drawing nigh to God, the position of the Christian is entirely changed from that of the Jew. Reece Christian
Well, I understand what you’re saying. We must be in the world. On the other hand one reason that we have so few opportunities to “witness” is that our lives are so similar to the secular world that there is no witness. Same divorce rate or higher. Same ideas about sexuality. Same levels of hypocrisy. Same, same, same. Why are our lives similar? If you’ve ever read Philippians 4:8 you would know that what we read, listen to and watch has a HUGE impact on how we live. Yet we have people, Christians who actually encourage us to BE the same in what we read, listen to and watch. Because we live almost exactly like our unsaved neighbours, well, again, what witness do we have?