Trouble I've SeenThis week we begin a discussion of Drew G.I. Hart’s book, Trouble I’ve Seen: Changing the Way the Church Views Racism (Herald Press, 2016). We will be taking the book one chapter at a time over the next nine Wednesdays, so don’t despair if you are just learning about this conversation. You are welcome to join us now and catch up with the reading along the way. You can find a reading guide created by Herald Press here; we will use some of the questions in our discussion at this blog and on Facebook.

Dr. Hart is is an assistant professor of theology at Messiah College, and he explores ethics and discipleship at his blog, Taking Jesus Seriously, hosted at Christian Century.

We invite you to answer questions in the comments below or add your own perspectives going beyond the questions. As always in RevGals space, we ask that in the case of disagreement, we use respectful language. Because we are engaged in an effort to educate ourselves about racism and white supremacy, in our wider culture and in the church particularly, some learning curve is to be expected. We expect to push one another toward deeper understanding. White participants, let’s do our best to set aside our privilege and our fragility as we learn more about the way a racist system hurts all people.

Discussion questions: 

  1. In Chapter 1,  When You “Fit the Description,” Hart lays the groundwork for the chapters to follow by calling readers to consider their own participation in systematic racism, particularly in the United States. He shares a story about his brother’s arrest on a false charge. He fit the description: “black male with a black T-shirt and blue jeans.” The ketchup stain on his t-shirt was assumed to be a blood stain until the lab declared otherwise. After FOUR MONTHS in jail, he was released; he was not the person the police were seeking. Can you recount the story of a young white man treated differently, perhaps suffering light consequences for an actual crime or misdemeanor?
  2. Were you familiar with the names of the murdered black men and women listed by Hart? Have those deaths been addressed in your church? If so, how? If not, do you know why not?
  3. Hart speaks of the church at large and tells the story of one brother in Christ in particular who operated from the assumption that simple sharing of cultural experiences would be enough to create mutual understanding. He did not realize that Hart already knew white culture in depth. What is your response to the “cup of sweet tea” analogy?
  4. Hart grounds his book on Jesus, warning that we cannot be in solidarity with the powers of the world, but must “come alongside the crucified of the world in solidarity, as Jesus himself did, so that we can have our minds renewed.” (p. 28) How would this point of view be received in your church? What might be a first step to helping people see Jesus this way, if they do not already?
  5. Are there other ideas from Chapter 1 you would like to discuss?

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About the RevGals Anti-Racism Project: As a majority white organization incorporated in the United States, the leaders of RevGalBlogPals feel called to confront systemic racism in the U.S. As a global ministry, we feel called to oppose minority oppression and racial injustice in all nations. We hope this book discussion will be a step toward awareness and away from unconscious centering of whiteness.

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9 thoughts on “RevGals Anti-Racism Project: “Trouble I’ve Seen,” Week 1

  1. Hi, as the poster, let me start the conversation here.
    1) The story of Drew Hart’s brother reminded me of my own brother, who got into some trouble as a white, blond 17-year-old, speeding in a resort town with various other complications. He spent a night in jail, but that was largely because, as he himself said, he didn’t want to call home when he was messed up. The next day, when he was able to make his one phone call, my mom was able to arrange for a vacationing family friend – a judge – to bail him out. My dad, who had been out of town, later arranged for another judge in our home state to suspend my brother’s license for a year, as a pre-emptive move – who thinks of this stuff? The bottom line was he couldn’t drive during his senior year at boarding school, where he wouldn’t have had a car anyway. The number of ways in which that story reeks of privilege astonishes me even now.
    2) I knew most of the names listed in the book, particularly all of those who died in more recent years. I started preaching about racism after Trayvon Martin’s death, in that case about both prejudice and gun violence. The churches in which I have brought these messages have reacted on the spectrum from favorable to neutral, although I expect that neutrality really masks a wish I would not talk about it again.
    3) As I read the story of the sweet tea, I scrawled “flawed analogy” in the margin of the book. It’s a great story for explaining our racial divide to people who don’t get it. We are all steeped in white culture. Over the past two years, I’ve been making a point to follow people on Twitter whose experiences are not like mine. I started with Black Lives Matter activists and expanded to journalists, commentators and even entertainers who are People of Color. I acknowledged my own ignorance. I also realized, somewhat painfully, that most of my connections through RevGals were other white women. It made my large social network seem small, and I have tried to be accountable for it.
    4) I resonate with Hart’s view of Jesus. I’m not sure how good I am at communicating it week in and week out.
    I look forward to hearing thoughts from others!

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