To break the cycle of ignorance to racism and faulty intuition, members of the dominant groups must learn to not trust their own gut, as they have been socialized outside of the life experiences of marginalized groups. Instead, they must follow our Lord, Jesus Christ, who in his own day stood in solidarity with Samaritan outcasts, vulnerable women, the hungry, poor, and the socially rejected. Drew G.I. Hart, Trouble I’ve Seen: Changing the Way the Church Views Racism (p. 77)
How was your way of thinking formed? Who influenced your world view? Whether it was your church, your town, your parents and grandparents, some community first taught you how to perceive the world. In Chapter 4, Dr. Hart asks us to stop trusting the intuitions we unconsciously base on those first, often informal or subliminal, teachings. He encourages us to “explore and pursue Jesus-shaped ways of knowing our world.” (p. 77) By a careful exploration of important eras in U.S. history, he makes the case that the popular views of the dominant culture during slavery, after the Civil War and into the Civil Rights movement have favored that very dominant culture. Even Supreme Court Decisions such as Dred Scott and Plessy vs. Ferguson reflected the understandings of dominant white culture. If we no longer trust as correct the gut feelings of our white ancestors who lived through those times, Hart asks us to apply the same hermeneutic of suspicion to dominant white culture’s attitudes and beliefs now.
White American Christians in our society must do something seemingly absurd and unnatural, yet very Christian in orientation: they must move decisively toward a counterintuitive solidarity with those on the margins. They must allow the eyes of the violated of the land to lead and guide them, seeding to have renewed minds no longer conformed to the patterns of the world. (p. 87)
Hart describes Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s experience at and around Union Theological Seminary as a model for moving away from the dominant church culture and toward Jesus. He crossed the line into Harlem and the black church, leading to a “life-changing, reorienting encounter with Jesus and with the black community that worshiped and followed him.” (p. 89) His relationship with the black church formed him for his still-to-come work against Hitler, his eyes opened to the harm of racial prejudice and the relationship of Jesus to the oppressed.
Hart also takes the reader through a short history of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s life, emphasizing the times King took the counterintuitive path, not content to rest on desegregation in the South but determined to take on the racism in Northern cities, to condemn economic oppression, and to speak out against the Vietnam War. King had the choice to do as other black pastors did in his era, to remain safe and middle class and not make trouble. Instead he embraced solidarity with the oppressed.
I believe that Jesus’ own emptying of himself and taking on the form of a slave models for us the way forward (Philippians 2:5-8). We are called to imitate the same Jesus who who is alive and still leading his followers alongside the oppressed of our day. (p. 96)
All of this week’s questions are taken from Herald Press’s excellent discussion guide.
- In what ways do you notice “white default” socialization in your life?
- Hart notices that throughout U.S. history, “white socialization claimed equality and justice at every stage, while also shielding itself from its own oppressive practices and the perspective of oppressed groups” (p. 81). How does this continue to manifest today?
- In what ways does being in a dominant culture hinder one’s understanding of God’s character?
- Reflect on the story of Dr. Martin Luther King and his decision to move from “theory and propositions” to “an active faith in God” (p. 92). What might his example inspire in us today?
- Going forward, in what ways can you challenge yourself not to go with your gut?
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.