After we discard the white, elite, Western Jesus, a human construct used for sociopolitical domination, we open ourselves up to the divine revelation of the poor, oppressed, Jewish, and ultimately crucified Messiah. And in a life of disciple ship, we will find the way that can dismantle and dis-align the racial hierarchy and order upon which our lives are built. Drew G.I. Hart, Trouble I’ve Seen: Changing the Way the Church Views Racism, p. 59
In Chapter 3, “Leaving Behind the Whitened Jesus,” Dr. Hart opens a door not to a Victorian image of a gentle white man who would be non-threatening to the pious establishment, but rather to a subversive force whose life, teachings, death and resurrection upended the authority not only of temporal power structures but of death itself. This chapter may present a new concept of Jesus to the reader, although to our community of clergy, it may resonate with things we learned during our theological education, particularly in reading liberation theology. Hart points out the contrast between the Jesus of the Bible, a poor person in an oppressed community, with our American use of Jesus and Christianity as a reinforcer of hierarchical systems that privilege white people.
...the life of Jesus was so subversive and radical that he repeatedly undermined and clashed with the status quo establishment. p. 65
Hart takes us through a study of Luke’s gospel and particularly Jesus’ remarks about Jerusalem and Herod. The city that should have been an ideal was instead an example of earthly kingdom power. Those who ran it would execute Jesus because he posed a threat to the status quo. Hart asks the reader to consider what power truly is; do we consider God to be a “super-sized” Caesar? If so, we are missing the point of Christ crucified.
The American god of dominant culture seems foolish and weak once we realize that God has chosen to especially restore, liberate, reconcile, and transform our world from below. p. 71
A decade ago, I brought to church a dozen different art images of Jesus, portrayed in different cultures, with different skin tones, and shared them in worship. Adults expressed surprise, and a few were offended, but most children accepted the images with a matter-of-fact curiosity. What images of Jesus did you see as a child? What images do the children see in your church?
- If Jesus had been born in the twenty- first century, what would the story have been like? Where might he have been born? Who might his parents have been? Where would they have stayed the night? Who may have come to visit them?*
- We are living in a time of ongoing protests against and clashes with the “status quo establishment,” from athletes taking a knee during the National Anthem to silent protests to more physical encounters between citizens and law enforcement that include violence. Are you talking about this in the life of your church? Can you see the subversive energy of Jesus Christ in the movement?
- Is any of the thinking Hart shares about Jesus in this chapter new to you?
Take a look at this image of Jesus as a Black man, then do a Google image search for “Black Jesus.” Does a different image of Jesus change your thoughts about him? How does it feel to leave Jesus’ whiteness behind, even for a few minutes?
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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*Some questions will be taken from Herald Press’s study guide for Hart’s book.