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TNS 8-5: Drew Hart

by Eric Fistler
November 24th 2020

A conversation with Rev. Dr. Drew Hart, Theology Prof... More

Welcome to the pulpit fiction Thursday Night Special, a monthly conversation with authors, speakers, artists and activists on the cutting edge of theology and culture. I am robbed McCoy, a United Methodist pastor, and I'm joined, as always by United Church of Christ Pastor Eric Whisler. Today, we're honored to have with us the Reverend Dr Drew heart Doctor Hart is a professor in theology and author and activist with over 10 years of pastoral experience. He spent a lot of his time, especially after his undergraduate studies pastoring and mentoring black and brown youth and working for an inner city after school program, working closely with Philadelphia based Non for Profits. But today, along with teaching theology, Drew continues to partner with community groups and churches across the country by facilitating anti racism training seminars as well as delivering lectures and talks for colleagues and conferences. He has a Christian Century blawg entitled Taking Jesus

Seriously. I absolutely love that name. He's also the author of Trouble. I've seen changing the way the church views racism. We're delighted to have him with us to discuss his latest book, who will be a witness igniting activism for God's justice. Love and deliverance. Dr. Hart, welcome to the pulpit fiction podcast. It's so great to have you with us. Oh, thank you. I'm so just a pleasure to be here and to be conversing with you guys. It's great. Well, and it's we just want to be clear. So we're actually, we're recording this on Veterans Day, which means it's the 11th of November, Uh, which means that we're still in the aftermath of an election in the middle of an election and everything going on. And And I thought that was interesting and made your book so poignant. So for everybody who hasn't picked up who will be a witness, uh, you definitely wanna grab because you really talk about some of the partisan divides, especially in your introduction and one of the things that stood out to me. You, you reference William Barbers call for moral imagination and talk about that need to move away from our

convictions that are based on those partisan presuppositions and to cultivate this beautiful phrase, you say, a Jesus shaped imagination. So I want to just jump in and and because I love that phrase, what does it mean to cultivate toe? Have that Jesus shaped imagination. Yeah. I mean, I think that, um if we're all honest, we recognize that we we've all been socialized in the world were all impacted and influenced by our communities by our neighborhoods by, you know, whatever cultural moment that we're in and that we were born into, um, and those things deeply shape our our imagination or sometimes restrict our imagination, right? In terms of what we think is possible our sense of values, um, morality and ethics, all of that is deeply informed by the communities that have impacted us and what is powerful about the gospel. And by that, I mean, the story of Jesus

is, um, that it's an invitation for us to immerse ourselves into the birth, life, teachings, death and resurrection of Jesus. And for that kind of reform and reshape, um, and re, uh, just, uh, renew, so to speak, just our imagination in ways that we probably couldn't fathom otherwise. And so our commitments, our values, what we think is important what kind of people we tend to write and remain attentive to in our lives, Um, that those things would be shifting and changing because we've We've embraced the Jesus story and then folded it into our own lives and such powerful ways that, um that we can't see and think the same way that we did otherwise, right? I mean, I think that that's the goal is. And

so when I I used the language. Jesus shaped, Um, because the word Christian seems to have lost all meaning in our society today. And people won't hear what I'm trying to get at if I use that word. But theoretically it means the same thing, right? Christ, like, um but But when we say Jesus shaped it, it gets us. Thinking about the particularity of Jesus is actual life and teachings, right? You're thinking about how he ministered to at least last and lost in his society. And then it opens us up to think, you know, if if we claim a story that that really focuses on the life and crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus, how might that help us see the crucified in our own world? Right? How might that, um, renew our own eyes? Thio Thio remain attentive to those most marginalizing on the edges of our own society. And so that's really what I'm getting at when I when I use that

phrase Jesus shaped imagination. I love that idea of Jesus shaped because sometimes I think you know, when I first heard that this is terrible So please forgive me, I think like, Oh, Jesus shaped like a cookie cutter like Jesus. But it's not it. Xhaferri, Jesus shape us shape my imagination and that invitation. I love that image of it, right that it's not that we're shaping Jesus and our image, which is, as you said, are too often how Christianity is but rather allowing Jesus to shape our our image of who we are and how we think. Yeah, absolutely reminds me of the pattern climb metaphor that people often forget that that's like getting reshaped, can hurt, like, be a painful process and and and be uncomfortable sometimes. You know, in the near the end of the book, you talked about what I forget, the name of the chapter. But it was about the church and politics, and and I think this question is incredibly relevant. Today is you know, you talked about

, uh, in reference to the Obama administration. There's quote. There is a greater disappointment for me was so with so many Democrats who voted for him but failed to provide a prophetic voice to the president because they thought their primary responsibility was to defend him against the nasty GOP right wing smear campaigns. And and I I wondered. Now, how great is that risk again? Because I feel like in this partisan climate, any sort of criticism sounds like, uh, failure or forfeiture and any sort of, um, you know, speaking prophetically feels so politicized. And I'm curious. I thought that that comment on you know, that stretch of eight years was an interesting one. How How much do we fear that that might happen again? Oh, yeah. I mean, I'm deeply concerned. I think that, you know, especially because of how

I mean it feels like. I mean, we're always a very partisan society, right? So I'm not gonna pretend like that just happened since, um, recently, but it does seem heightens right in a particular moment. Um, and I can feel that even in my own body right s So it's not like it's just out There are other people's issues. It's all of us, um, that we live in extremely partisan society and the challenges that you know, we can only have a prophetic voice, which maybe it's not a prophetic voice if it's only when when you know we're going at the other team, right, so to speak and not speaking truthfully to power when it's even the folks that we voted for. And so I think that that's really the hard work that now with Joe Biden coming into office, Um, you know, I mean, let's be honest, he's still gonna have neoliberal politics and he's I don't think I think he has a basic moral decency that

that we should all be grateful for. But I think that we need more than moral, basic moral decency, right? In our society, people are hurting. People are struggling. Um, we have schools that are deeply underfunded. We have mass incarceration. Police brutality is going on. We got serious issues, people, you know, struggling to live off of minimum wage. Um, and we're gonna need more than just basic moral decency to get by. And he's going to need to be pushed. And if we're actually gonna see change, it's not gonna be because Republicans are those leaning on the other side, more conservative leaning are pushing him. But it's gonna be those who are more justice oriented that are pushing him on, calling him to be his best self and to take some courageous moves forward for the betterment of all people, especially those who are most vulnerable. Yeah, I appreciate that. It was I was preaching. A sermon was probably about four years ago, a little bit after Trump got elected about immigration and, uh, it was reflecting, and I acknowledge that it was reflecting on the really

some of the awful policies the Obama administration had. And afterward, uh, especially some of the more blue lean and folks in the congregation came up and they said they just wanted to rant and rave about Trump. And I said, Did you hear me? Like that was about what Obama did, like granted. Like Like we also don't like. You know, I I you know, we have critiques of the current administration, but let's not forget that, uh, you know that you know, listeners will know that I've talked about this that, you know, wait. After Obama got elected, I was in a clergy group and everybody was excited and weeping and someone said, Yeah, but don't forget. There's one lord and savior and it's not Barack Obama on DSO brings me back to that piece. You know, one of the things you do in the book It right? Right toward the beginning, second chapter in there, which I found fascinating, because I've always found this story. Fascinating is Barabbas, and you dig into Barabbas in new ways. So I wanna Can you say a little bit more about that? Why is this so important for us? Thio, revisit this story and tow. Liberate our understanding of Barabbas. And how does that liberation

help ignite and fuel our ministry for deliverance? Injustice? Yeah. Yeah. I mean, one of things that a zeye began like paying more attention to perhaps And this, honestly, like this started like I was probably like right out of college when I just began to just look a little more closely at the text around rabbits in particular, I learned I was biblical studies underground, so I learned about, like, you know, thes different Jewish sex and the Jewish Roman War and all that kind of stuff. I was familiar with all of that, but I had never really heard people talk much about Barabbas. Um and so my only starting point for bravas was thinking about him in terms of how I heard about him in Sunday school class and things. And he was just talking serial killer, crazy, foaming at the mouth, All this kind of stuff. Random, You know, sinful person. Um, but when I looked at the Gospels, that's not what I was finding. So I began looking Each of them Matthew, Mark, Luke and

John Bravas shows up every single time. Every time I'm like, why? Why is this bravas figure that important? Right, that he's gonna show up every single time in the Gospels at the climax of the gospel story. Um, and so I look and I begin to realize that all the gospel writers they're saying they're consistent about who he is. Um, and it's that he participated in the uprisings. He participated in the revolution. He was an insurrectionist, right? One of them will say bandit. But even that in the first century is a word for for revolutionaries. Um and so So all of a sudden, like all right, Well, if that's the case like then How did we get so far off? Um, in terms of interpreting him. And so, you know, just thinking about the ways that we used Barabbas in Western society, in particular Western Christian society. Um, and some used

him for, you know, penal substitution of atonement for a model to kind of argue for that, um, others, you know, I think just maybe maybe they were aware of what he was. And so just demonizing and dismissing legitimacy, just making him a random murderer, maybe took out the blow of his significance. Um, but but it's pretty consistent that he was a revolutionary and the gospel of Matthew, which actually is the only one that actually doesn't use that word but does nonetheless expect that everyone knows who he is. He's a notorious prisoner. Um, but what it does do is it frames ah, longer segment where we have a choice in the oldest transcripts. Um, it actually says, basically like, who do you want? Jesus, Barabbas or Jesus? The Christ, you know, And it's just really powerful all of a sudden, you like Jesus. That's Yeshua. That's Joshua. That's that's the one who saves. That's That's the Liberator. That's the deliverer, right? Who

do you want as your deliverer? Who do you want as your Liberator? Who you gonna trust? Him. Really powerful moment. They're all of a sudden that that were provided with, um And it gives some clarity to the significance of why Barabbas shows up at the end of the of the gospel story that he's there. Precisely because we've got a choice to make ourselves in terms of what? Who are we looking to to liberate us? What kind of Liberator do we want? And it's really important that we not domesticate Jesus at this point, right? Some people might at this point, go and like, all right. Well, Barabbas, he's a you know, he wanted a a social revolution. And Jesus just wants a spirituals. One. No, no, that doesn't make any sense, right? Not in the gospel story. Doesn't make any sense. Jesus cares about the poor and those who are oppressed in his society. He says that he, um, preaching from Luke and look for preaching from Isaiah 58 61. Right? He says the spirit of God is upon me because he's annoying me to bring good news to

the poor release to the captives, recovering of sight to the blind to let the oppressed go free to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor. And so if that's the case, then um then we And that's exactly what he does, right in his minister, especially the gospel of Luke. He does exactly that. So we see that Jesus actually does care about this world, right? Your kingdom come on Earth as it is in heaven. Um, it's just that the means by which he's going about it are different. Um, Luke, 19 Jesus looks over Jerusalem, and he laments the incoming destruction that Rome is gonna have on Jerusalem. And he says, If only they had known the things that make for peace. Right, um, for Shalom, for the thriving and flourishing of of all right, Like, what are those things? Um, and it opens us up to imagine the Jesus way, right? Um that that that it's

just a revolutionary, But I would argue a nonviolent revolution that Jesus is engaging. He's a nonviolent messiah who is committed to radical change, but just not in the same way that Barabbas is. So in many ways, when we put them up side by side. Um, they actually have so much in common. They both are first century Palestinian Jews caught up in this really powerful system. Um, incarcerated, um, and desperate for change. Right? But but where they both might hunger and thirst for to set things right. How to get set things right are are different. And so it's an invitation to actually trust Jesus in a way that sometimes might seem very counterintuitive. Um, in a world where it seems like everything runs by violence, and that's the only way to get things done. Um, Jesus

is saying you got to trust me that these aren't the actual things that are gonna make for Shalom on dso. I think that that's that's the radical invitation and the radical meaning for Jesus that, um that as we liberate our understanding of who Barabbas is, we also liberate the often domesticated, watered down, white and Westernized Jesus that we received and are invited once again to follow this first century Palestinian Jew who invites us to take up our cross and follow him. I'm always amazed at that. The you know that that that water down uh, Jesus often, right? The one who just wants a spiritual revolution. Not, and yet how often? That is also paired with, uh, like an end times exceedingly violent, like Jesus. Well, so it's like when we're talking about social Revolution. No, he's the lamb. But when we're talking about the end times, he's coming with an a r 15 and that Yeah, that, like, break I'm like, that's always confused me

. Yeah, absolutely. Because we're gonna escape from that. You won't be there, will be able to just watch it like Rambo movie on that. Really partly the joy. So, like, so the the we talked about your blawg is called taking Jesus seriously. And you shared a story about, uh, colleague friend who had had trouble in his church. You know, for for speaking about justice and for speaking about, um, you know, some of these some of these issues that that we've already brought up and and and I love that you say, I think it was your wife that had the conversation with, uh, next parishioner who thought or a person or of that church. You thought, um, that she probably you know, like we often do. We think that people that we're talking to think like us and so and was surprised that you are one of those that, like that social justice stuff, you know, you use that phrase and she said

, Well, my husband likes to call that taking Jesus seriously, and and so I'm curious, you know? How does taking Jesus seriously, uh, connect with that social justice stuff? And so when we when people are afraid to talk about social justice, is it the product of not taking Jesus? Seriously? Is it Is that you know, how are those things related? Yeah, Yeah. I mean, often said, you know, we've If I have one colleague who jokes, he says we treat Jesus like the crazy uncle right at the family meal. You know, um, we, um we you know, you have a friend over and, you know, Uncle is just staying off the wall stuff, and you're like, Oh, no, that's just uncle. So and so you know, you know, nobody takes him seriously, right? That's how we treat Jesus. He says, very radical things. Very justice oriented things, things that reorient us around, Um, the poor and the least last and lost in little ones of our world. And yet

, um, somehow Christians have been able Thio at least claim the name of Jesus. Um, while dismissing all those things as if it didn't really He didn't really mean what he said, right? He it was all just a matter of the heart, right? It can actually mean for us to do the do and follow the things that he said. I think that we do the cradle to the cross jump with Jesus quite a bit where, you know, everybody loves baby Jesus, um, and everybody you know. Then they move, and they wanna talk about the death of Jesus on. We skipped the life and teachings and ministry and the reign of God that's being inaugurated in through his life. And so I think that through a whole variety of ways, we just find ways toe water him down. Um, and Thio take the sting, right? I would say, um, you know what? Like even something as simple as, like, the phrase you know, take up your cross or talking about Jesus's crucifixion. Like, um, you know

, folks, sometimes they like, you know, yeah, I take up my cross for Jesus. And then they're like, they like first world problems that they're talking about, Like, you know, today, You know, I didn't get that close parking lot, but, you know, it's my cross to bear, you know, are or, you know, I, um, you know, woke up in the middle of the night in the winter and my electric blanket broke, you know? But it's my cross to bear for Jesus. You know, we just kind of watered down Jesus and Thio, you know, instead of thinking like, what is the equivalent of first century? Um, state executions, like crucifixion waas we we adjust that to mean whatever problems were coming through on a daily basis. Um, and these are all just fancy, clever maneuvers that we do, um, once again to domesticate to domesticate Jesus. Especially because he has, ah, lot of really challenging things to say. Prophetic things to se Teoh people in power

to the wealthy, Um, to those that are invested in the status quo, right? It's, ah, world altering message that he has for folks in those situations. And so it's so much easier to, um, to do all kinds of extreme mental gymnastics and really clever. Um, interpretations Thio dismiss and water down at the end result, then is that way turned Jesus into a mascot for the status quo. Right? Um and I think that, you know, half of the work that we have in the church half of the work that we have to do is to recover that Jesus That is first and foremost revealed in Matthew, Mark, Luke and John to rediscover, to meet Jesus again for the first time. Especially in the church effect. Sometimes more so in the church than outside. I think sometimes people outside the church of a better sense of Jesus than people inside the church

. Um, so, yeah. I mean, I do think that we've gotta take Jesus seriously and And also thio here. Jesus, um, through the lens of those that have lived on the underside of society. Right? What does it mean? Thio also meet Jesus, the Jesus that enslaved Africans. Mets a Z. They stole away outside the watchful eye of of masters who didn't want them to read and worship on their own, right? What does it mean to meet that Jesus? They knew, um, to meet the Jesus of folks who are, um, risking life and limb to, you know, immigrate here even against policies that are, you know, um, that are exclusive because they're trying Thio survive, right? What's who's there? Jesus. Right. Um, I think that that both the scriptural Jesus then tending to the Jesus on the margins

, that that's some of the work that we've got to do. All of us. Um, if we're going to actually take Jesus seriously in our world and in really serious ways, Yeah, you name that. You know, the church, so much of the church. You know, we like to talk and denigrate, you know, and criticized the prosperity gospel. But you talk about the reality that so many of our churches operate with a functional prosperity. Gospel is the term of years, and this idea that you know, uh, blessings, you know, wealth is blessing. And, uh, you know how much I've said this before? That a lot of people in American churches especially confused the word blessings with privilege. Um, and they think of God's blessing, and what they're really describing is often white privilege and and, you know, there's so many privileges out there, and so I'm just kind of curious, You know, when you think about this functional prosperity, gospel and this misunderstanding

of blessing, um, or in in in the chapter, you talk a lot about naming wealth as blessing, as opposed to naming wealth as theft. If you want to go that fire, how how does reframing wealth in particular, I think is one aspect, but reframing privilege. Maybe a second question. Both pretty big ones, Really. But, uh, you know, reframing wealth and privilege A supposed to, you know, God's blessing, you know, and that functional prosperity gospel that we often operate under. Yeah. I mean, I think this is vital and especially in the United States, because, I mean, so we operate out of and I say we in the most broadest expansive sense of America, but not necessary myself. But But we in that broad sense as our society operate of meritocracy, right, Um, that just this belief that, you know, people get what they deserve, right? You work hard, you do it right. You're a good person, you'll be successful and you'll thrive. And if you are lazy and you know you're dishonest or whatever

, um, a bad person you know you're going to struggle. Of course, it doesn't actually make sense in the real world, but that's the narrative that people have been told and people operate out of. And that's just been unfolded right into Christianity. Um, it's interesting, though, is that the biblical narrative wrestles with this itself, right? Um, it starts out of anything that the Douro economic you know, history. There's this kind of really simple formula rights. You obedient to God and God will bless you with material goods and disobedient and you'll be cursed, right? And it seems really clean. And then before you know it, the rest of the Bible's, like just messing that all up on disagreeing and struggling and and it climaxes with Jesus, who, I mean in some ways says the exact opposite of that formula, right? Blessed are those who are poor. It wants. You are rich, Um, and the gospel Luke in particular. I mean, there's just no nuance to it. I mean, he's just unrelenting about this, um, and so he's really challenging the kind of assumptions that

we operate of. It's so interesting that even as Jesus who supposedly is, you know, eyes preeminence in our faith and central in our faith. And yet that has had no impact in terms of how people talk or think about economics and wealth. And so um yeah, there's there's, there's that there and And I do think that the way the word blessings get used gets used is deeply tied to what many people call privilege. Right? And I think the best example was this. If I if it had happened before I had written my book, I would have unfolded it into it because it was only a few months ago, Um, and when it seemed like everybody briefly were, you know, wanting to have conversations on race and racism. And there was this video of some leaders and having conversation on race and racism and the one leader he basically said, You know, he didn't want to use the word privilege. So he said White blessings to talk about the way that

, um and it's worse than it even town. He wanted to use that phrase to talk about the things that white people gains because of slavery, and so instead of he wanted to use Christian ease. So he's so instead of saying white privilege, he said. White blessings on. Of course, everybody was like, disturbed in, horrified by him using it. But what I actually thought was interesting was on one hand, it's problematic. But in some ways it was actually an unveiling right of what he was doing there. He's actually like telling the family secrets, Right, Um, that this is that he's actually many people who are upset with him, actually use it in exactly that he does in other ways, right? It's just that normally you wouldn't want to say white blessings and tight to slavery. But how they use blessings is usually that kind of material. You know, the bigger house, the new job, the more money and we all call it blessings, and we assume its blessings. It's got to be from God, right? There's not even a hint are of doubt that it could be anything else but blessings from God divine favor

. And so I think that, um, yeah, we've got to do some serious interrogating when we actually used the word blessings exactly opposite to how Jesus used it. Um, it's that's one clue that maybe we're misunderstanding what God is up to in the world and how God is moving and acting, Um, and how we can participate in joining that work if we can't even get down to the obvious language that I think Jesus uses to reframe our imagination once again around what God is doing and what God's reign is really all about. Not centered around the powerful and the wealthy, but really around those that are at the cracks, edges and margins of society. Right? Andi, when we can begin to grasp that thin, I think we're on a better were more likely to be a tune and attentive to what the spirit is doing in our world right now. Yeah, it's interesting is, you know, horrified by that idea of of, uh, of how blessing is used

. And yet, as you said, that kind of like revealing of like, No, no, no. We're all supposed to think that in private, but no one's supposed to say that out loud. Um, and you know that I that idea of of owning that privilege. But I think part of that, too, is if it's a blessing from God, that I don't have to repent from it because God gave it to me, right? So it's not my fault, right? It's not. I don't have to repent of my white privilege because it's a blessing. It's a it's white blessing. God gave it to me, Andi. That's just how it is. And and it reminds me of something, you know, that that you referred to a lot in your book. You use this term comfortable, Christian and, uh, and and that you know, the idea that everything I have, um you know, I'll go so far as to say, maybe I didn't earn it. But if it's a blessing, God gave it to me and isn't Doesn't that make me comfortable? And eso I wonder, is that phrase even in of itself, a comfortable Christian? Is that an oxymoron? Um, yes and no. I mean, I'm always hasn't I mean, I used those words intention? Because I know

the visceral response, right? If I put comfortable in Christian together that most Christians are like, Oh, no, we're not supposed to be comfortable, so it's gonna create some discomforts. That's why I intentionally use that word. But who? But I guess you know, I guess it depends on what we mean by comfortable, right? Um, because I don't like I'm always worried. Like I don't want to present the Jesus way as though it's just about martyrdom and being tortured in life, right? That that's not it's actually supposed to be a good It's a good for individuals, and it's a good way Thio live in community with others, right? Um and that's precisely when we do that, there's I mean, what Jesus abundant life, right, that we can have Not this kind of selfishness kind of abundant life, you know, I got all out, but but that Everybody has all that they need, and everyone is safe and everyone can flourish. Right, Um, that that kind of vision, Um, so that kind of comfort, then rights of giving, receiving and sharing what

we need, um, in community, finding that kind of harmony with others, I think. And that interdependency, Um, that's a good uh, but of course, I think most folks, when we're thinking about comfortable in that kind of sense in the way that I used it in a more pejorative sense, right, that that's, um it's a more individualistic, selfish way of thinking about it. American dream oriented rather than God's dream oriented. And so, yeah, I think that that way we should be uncomfortable. We should be disturbed by the idea of being comfortable Christians in that kind of way. So when we think about one of the things that you talk a lot about one of the first steps, I think one of the important pieces of your book is this idea of trying to untangle white supremacy from white Christianity and and Western Christianity that is so tied to Western Europe in Western Europe expansion that, uh

, that used, you know, Christianity and t justify things like slavery and the genocide of peoples and all of this. And they're so entwined naming that history can feel very, um, can feel very powerful, can feel very It can put people very much on the defensive, but it can also, I would argue that it's also really important to do a swell. Um, but beyond naming that history is there, you know, how do we start toe disentangle? Uh, you know, white Christian white supremacy from so much of American Christianity. Yeah. And that z there's so much to that. Right? That question. Um but I think first and foremost it. It is acknowledging, right, the that western Christianity and Western civilization

got conflated with one another that Jesus was Westernized and then whitened, um, that that the church weaponized theology in the Bible and Christian practice, Um, that people all around the world, the world were turned upside down. We're devastated rights because of the church for centuries, um, acknowledging that I think it is the first step. And then out of that, saying, what does it mean to go searching in the field for the hidden treasure? Once again, um, that we don't have it right on. I say I'm using that We again. Uh, but in the broadest sense, but that, you know, those centered and been formed in western Christianity that they've got to actually go looking. And oftentimes precisely, those folks who we're on the

underside of the Western expansion project are actually the very people that will be where they will find their deliverance, Right? Um, that it was It's interesting when you think about like right in the United States is an example. As you know, Christianity and white supremacy are entangled to justify slavery and to justify genocide here in this land, you can also find, um simultaneously. Black people are being told and taught distorted Christianity, disease, Christianity are discovering for themselves. Ah, God, that is, um Ah, God, where you know is a This guy is a Liberator to them, and Jesus is ah ko sufferer and a friend in hard times. And it's present with him in the midst of what they're going through. And that's

that's the Jesus, actually that everyone needed at that moment, you know, um not just black folks need that. Jesus. White folks needed that Jesus and and so white. Many of the white people who thought they were offering Jesus but were instead projecting their own, you know, whims and desires onto Jesus, Um, actually could have found, um, their deliverance through the Jesus that these enslaved Africans new. And I think that's still true today, Um, that there's gonna be a need to decentralize actually Western Christianity in terms of its mainstream expressions. Um, not saying that we have to erase the whole tradition as though it doesn't exist. But I do think it's gonna be decentralized in mawr. Centralizing, um the very the faith and faithfulness of those who follow Jesus on the underside s. So I think that that is some serious work. Of course. You know

, my first book, trouble I've seen, gets more and more into, um, just, um, more anti racist discipleship to Jesus And how we can begin to think through all those things that I don't get to that level in this newer book. But more the broad narratives right, that we've got to become aware of this narrative on the legacy of Christianity because it's a strange thing. But in the West, you know, many white people think they have a copyright on Jesus. A copyright on biblical interpretation, a copyright on theology. Um, rather than as Willie Jennings suggests, right that you know, they're gentiles and that they've been in grafted into somebody else's story. Right? Um, and maybe that that starting point is really meaningful and helpful. One as the beginning of disorienting and decentralizing one's own narrative that has been so distorted. Yeah, one of the metaphors you use. And I think you said you borrowed it from Ah, mentor. Is that the idea of passing the remote and

and suggest you suggested, you know, you know, can some of the leaders of our congregations, but also of our denominations. I think it works on both levels on institutional. You know, both of, you know, from bottom up, um, you know, past the remote. And I think one of specifically you're talking about worship. Um, but I'm curious, you know, where do you see that working, Um, again in local churches, Uh, specifically local church. Because that's what most of our listeners, you know, we've got, uh I think we've got a pretty much a sympathetic audience that that is, you know, agreeing with us and thinking, Yes, this is something we want to do. What are some of the ways that you envision? You know, the passing of the remote and trying to decentralize? Uh, some of that, uh, you know, white supremacist, uh, values. Even if you know, we don't hold them necessary in our lives, it's still there's There's lingering. Uh, you know, vestiges of it. How do we

start doing? What are some of those things about passing the remote that we could dio? Yeah. I mean, so the passing the remote was when I use it is really thinking about power dynamics right on decision making power even in the life of the congregation. And so in that sense, a starting point would be is to dio easy analysis of who has all the decision making power in our congregations and denominations. Um, I think that, you know, there's some of our congregations are allergic to being honest about power dynamics in the congregation is precisely by not talking about it that it continues to live on without any challenge. And so I think that that would be something I would encourage folks to dio. But beyond that, I would suggest, you know, just looking at throughout the whole church, our worship practices or discipleship practices

the ways that we engage the community. Um, the theology, the curriculum, Um, you know, everything. I think that we've got Thio. Uh, I think the dangerous to think that all we've got to do is, um, affirm particular justice topics and then think that were good and not evaluate the deeper theological underpinnings that actually allowed slavery and Jim Crow and mass incarceration and all these other things toe go um, without any resistance from the church. Like I think that there's deep theological issues at stake in terms of how we see Jesus, how we talk about, I mean, even something as simple as you know. And this is maybe not all churches, but but some churches that split body and soul, right, you know, and put them against each other. But that has roots in in terms of Christianity during slavery, where black

people were either Sina's bodiless souls or soulless bodies. Right, Um, and treated as such as, uh, justification for not worrying about how their bodies were gonna be treated in this world. Right? Um, like, what? What are these deeper theological things that we've got? Thio interrogate. Um, and again, um, it's precisely at that point that we're churches that are rooted in kind of mainstream Western Christianity are going to need the eyes and the ears and the voice of those outside of it to be to become students to not only the black church Latino church in Asian American Church here in the United States, but the global churches. Well, right. And as well as I would say, the historic churches. Well, I think we've all got Thio kind of be mawr aware of the broader church in the insights that especially indigenous communities offer for what it means to be followers of Jesus in our world today. Yeah

, it's been an interesting thing is we've been, you know, doing things in the podcast. One of the pieces we've been talking about that you know, a Z you talk about, you know, the passing the remote and in seeing where power is. We've seen that in in publishing, even in in quote unquote progressive publishing houses. Um, but seeing that that the vast majority of biblical commentary that that people that a lot of pastors are reading and doing, it's it's white. It's predominantly white men, or at least white men and women. And, uh and we've seen that just as ah has a huge growing edge in our own biblical scholarship in trying to do that. But But hearing those those other voices, um, because otherwise we're you know, you've said something, something earlier about the fact that everybody needs this right. You need that That, uh, that broadening of our view of who Jesus is and that challenge of who Jesus is. And so, um, so I just I just wanted to say I really appreciate that, but at the same time. Also lament, because I worry

that are I. I am both grateful for for the accessibility for the diversification of voices. Uh, especially in terms of biblical scholarship that we can access. Now, that kind of the gatekeepers of publishing houses aren't necessarily there. I don't know if I'm being clear on that, but it concerns me. It's still really concerns me. Is as you know, trying Thio. It was one of those of I wasn't aware of how limited, Uh, those published works were until I started actively looking for them and thought, This is on. This is ridiculous. Yeah, So that so the need for that and finding it. And then also, as other people have asked us, which has been really helpful for us to look at that and say, like, How have I not? How have I never thought, You know, I'm picking up my commentary and I'm reading and doing MAXjet ical work and not thinking Who's the voice behind this commentary? Right? Right. We got to know

some ways we should get a whole biography of the commentator, right? Um, it's really important to have understanding where they're coming from because otherwise you get the perspective. Which Western Christianity has often tried to dio in Scholarship certainly is this impression that is just objective. Universal right commentary on the text. No, it's not just object. It's not just this neutral, it's There's an invested reader, an interpreter, um, and scholar behind there, and it's really actually important to understand where they're coming from. You know, there wasn't a thing that happened a couple of years ago. That was a small thing. That and I only observed it. But Otis Moss, the third, uh, passed in Chicago you familiar with? He took a trip. He brought his church on the trip and so many churches go on Holy land chips, right. They go toe to go to Jerusalem. They go to Israel and and study ancient Christianity

. Or they go to Turkey and and walk the footsteps of Paul or something like that. He took his church on this ancient Christianity trip to Ethiopia. That's right. Yep. And I just remember thinking at first being like what? And then thinking, Oh, that Z that's right. Like, ah, lot of ancient Christianity was African. So many of our, you know, fought the early thinkers and theologians were African and just sort of how important you think is that aspect of it just rediscovering, not just our our modern, you know, people of color and voices on the margin theologians. But rediscovering that sort of that ancient history that is much bigger than Western Europe as well. Yeah. I mean, in many ways, um, you know, when you look at how many African theologian shaped the early church, it's very clear that, you know, they had a head

start in terms of established Christian leadership and that way more than Europe did at the early stages. Um, and I think that that will change again. The narratives of how people like I think it's just so deeply ingrained as I mentioned. Like you know, the idea of many Western European folks thinking that that somehow they have a copyright on Christianity, Right? Um, that will disrupt the whole storyline. And then all of a sudden, um, and there's there's something actually healthy about feeling the distance with the text, right? Feeling that distance that, um you know, especially for Americans of all like, you know, the these texts weren't written to us. They weren't written to our context, to our world, to our issues. Um, and it can hopefully provide a little more humility in terms of interpretation. That's why I always say, like, I've have ah

, uh, mixed feelings about really good translations. I mean, they're really needed on one hands, but in some ways, like we're actually not helpful to forget the distance and time in geography and culture, right? That that actually is it's actually harmful to forget those things. So a good translation has its benefits. But it also is dangerous when you can't remember that. You know, we are gentiles grafted into somebody else's story. And then certainly to remember that the Afro Asiatic movement that's taking place, um and that the very people that now would be, you know, marked by empire as other in our society. Um, that that's Jesus. These Afro Asiatic, Jewish, 1st, 1st century Palestinian, you know, Jew living under Roman occupation. Um, and

I think that if we can't remember that and that maybe there's something about indigenous African religions and customs and traditions that actually helpful just in and of themselves. Oh, oh, dear. We lost you for a little bit there, which was great. It was so good. But way got a little bit. It got a little choppy there, but yeah, I, uh you know, it's it's interesting as we're talking about, you know, trying to trying to know that, and understand kind of where it came from. I love that idea that were gentiles brought into the text. Reminds me of, uh, of studying with Naima Teak, who is a Palestinian liberation theologian. And he would say, You know, when people would ask him When did you can When did you convert to Christianity? And he'd always say, Pentecost my family goes back to Pentecost like and having that, um, But I also kind of want, you know, you know, learning, learning who are commentators are, um it was interesting. I'd love to know a little bit more about you because

there's, uh there's There's some aspects of geek culture that I appreciated that filter into the book. You know, comparing good Friday to the Empire strikes back. Uh, you know, Jesus doesn't solve poverty with quote with a fan. Oh, snap. Um and and you know, as a fellow nerd myself, I greatly appreciated that, but I wanna ask, You know, what are their good socially relevant pop culture pieces that you're consuming right now that you find, uh, really speak to what you're talking about, You know, I've been I've been telling me because I someone else also asked me this question not too long ago. And I was like, you know, this has been the most, um, overwhelming season of my life right now. So, um, I'm not keeping up with all the cool pop culture and all the movies and TV is the things that people are referencing on Twitter and something like, Oh, come January, I'm gonna go check out that syriza or this or that, you know, witchcraft, eso There's so many

things that I want to check out that I haven't been so I don't know. Is there anything recently that's been I'm not sure. Yeah, nothing's coming to mind at the moment, but I have not been watching as much, and obviously there's not as many new movies coming out right now, anyway. But yeah, so I'm although I mean, I guess I I sometimes I mean, most of those references air more superficial, right? The ones that I use here and there. There's nothing like deeply profound about I'm just drawing from different things actually will share. Um, this is old, so this is very dated, but my I have a friend of mine who he was talking about the church and just the kind of sense of triumphalism in the church and eso he gave an analogy of. Now this is going old school. But thinking Tobey Maguire, Spider Man three. Right? And in this scene where he's walking down, you know, um

, you know, he's got this edge to him, and he's like, dancing and grooving, and he thinks he's the hottest stuff in the world. But at the same time, like everyone, that's looking at him like you like, what's wrong with this guy? You know? And he was like, That's the church. That's it. I was like, Yeah, that's it. That's perfect. So anyway, so I can appreciate a good analogy every now and then, um, for connecting theology and pop culture. Yeah, as somebody who is also pretty behind on things I know exactly the senior talking about for that looks like Yes, I know exactly that. Well, you know, you said this is a busy season. Right now, we have some questions. Were always interested in asking the folks we talked to. One is, you know, for great authors like yourself. What's on your night stand? What are you reading? It can be something religion oriented, profession oriented. Could just be something that, you know, you're just reading for fun. But what's on your night stand right now? Yeah. Recently read. The half has never been told. Um, really important texts on slavery and the making of American capitalism. Really powerful texts highly

recommend that the book that I want to get into very soon is Willie Jennings has a new book out. What is it after Whiteness? Um, yeah, anything by Jennings I'm reading. You know, I'm wishing I was already reading. If I wasn't so busy this semester, I would have already started it. But but But yeah, that's my next and what's beautiful about that text? I did peek a little bit and cheat a little bit, but it's poetic. There's poetry story. It's a way more accessible than I think. His first book. I loved his first book, The Christian Imagination, but it was a book I felt like I could never, um, encourage other people to read. It's just not that accessible, right? I mean, I think that this one will be way more accessible, so I'm excited about that. To be able to talk to more people with Jennings. Um, yeah. I mean, there's other stuff. I guess that's the book that that's on my mind right now

. Even before I've read it. It's on my mind, e I know how that is. Yeah. So this is the question we've been asking, people, uh, since day one of our interviews. And this is, you know, just put simply, what's your favorite part of worship? My favorite part of worship, huh? That's an interesting question. Um, it probably depends. I mean, so I'm I'm a weird, quirky person in terms of like, my Christian formation. And so I've been formed by, like, black Church, more like Black Baptist, this church and also, um, multiracial Anabaptist congregations. Right? Z and I've been multiple of each, Um, just and that's a long story, but and so probably different things. Um, have impacted me in terms of worship, experience, communal worship, experience. Um

, I think the in black church space. Um there's, ah full bodied worship that goes on in that moment, right? Um, it's not just an intellectual experience. It's just not a matter of the minds, but your whole self onda kind of, Yeah, I don't even know. I still you'd think that's That's my most formative. And you think I thought better language to describe what I appreciate about that. Um, but but you bring your whole self to in worship and surrender your whole self to God, Um, and that kind of awareness and attentiveness to God and God's magnificence in that moment can be really powerful. A Z you worship with others? Um, yeah, and then, I think with in thes multiracial Anabaptist spaces

that I've been a part of its Usually, I guess it's precisely that it's a hybrid of different traditions all coming together. Um, that keeps me on my toes. And so, like the church that I'm at right now in Harrisburg. So I'm back in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, and attends this Harrisburg First Church of the Brethren and multiracial, socioeconomically diverse congregation in the hood. And okay, you know there's aspects. You'll have folks in the aisles with their hands up worshiping and you've got, you know, other folks, you know, um, mawr contemplative. I guess you could say it. Western. Contemplative, I should say. And I don't know, there's something beautiful about all of that. It feels a little chaotic in its opposite nous of what's going on in that space, but in a way that I really appreciate, Um, this space for everyone to both were worshiping

collectively. And also it's almost like jazz where they talk about, you know, everybody kinds of finds their little moments right. There's some jazz going on. It's all coming together, But but we're all finding our way to worship God together and distinctly together. Um, yeah, I don't That's what came to mind right now. I also do, and I do talk about this in the book, Um, that some Anabaptist, um, congregations dio create space after the sermon for conversation afterwards. And I've always loved that so much Q and a conversation, even wrestling like you know. Hey, preacher, you said X Y z, But I see. You know, I just I just love that so much. I think it's this beautiful and eso I've always appreciate that as well. That's great. So um, who will be witnessed just came out beginning of September. Uh, do you have something? Another project that's already in the offing. You already have something planned. Next, I'm

wrestling with two different directions. Um, yeah. Let me see if how much I want to share. Um, yeah. So 1 may one direction is to do something around reparations. Um, yeah. So that's been on my mind. And yeah, um, the other one is ISMM or, um, probably even more theological than I've done before, because I feel like I'm a theologian. That avoids writing pure regular theology. Um, but and and even still, it's still related. Thio our world right in how we but But I do think, um, the way that because we see Jesus so often in our society as a mascot for the status quo, I wanted to kind of disrupt that. Um, and I think that there's really really powerful imagery and language in the Bible

That just helps us see the subversiveness of Jesus. Like, for example, um, you know Jesus's own little mini parable in the Gospel of Mark, where he gives an analogy of, ah, someone breaking into a house binding the strongman and plundering his goods. And he's the thief, right? E Just very radical and subversive to think about that e means even interesting. That three idea when people talk about Jesus returned that they use the phrase like a thief in the night. Right? Just fascinating. This is, um, you know, illegal activity that Jesus is being described with. It's just interesting that anyway, so that there's so much more to it. That's the teaser, I guess, of just thinking about how we can disrupt the way that we see Jesus as kind of the good citizen, right? That's how I think many Christians think of themselves were supposed to be good citizens, um, to the nation

. And I think on Ben, therefore then do really bad interpretations of Romans 13 and other things that have justified all kinds of injustice and oppression in our society today. So So there's some interesting stuff that I'm thinking about in that direction. Um, that would yeah, could potentially be a project man. There's so many follow up questions. I wanna ask, but we wanna e I love that idea of the Roman 13 stuff in the sometimes being a good Christian means you have to be a bad citizen or bad American. I've heard. Yeah. Anyway, uh, looking forward to it, looking forward to your work and to all of that, Um, we've been speaking with the Reverend Dr Drew heart. He's a theology professor, church, anti racism leader, social change practitioner. You confined more about him at his website. Uh, Drew g i heart dot com and that's heart H A r t. Uh, follow him on Twitter

at Drew heart. And that's d r u h a r t. Follow him on Facebook. Dr. Hart, thank you so much for joining us today. And, uh, it's really been a pleasure chatting with you about your amazing book and and all your work. So thank you so much for being on the show. Oh, thank you. This has been a pleasure. Thank you. Thank you. Things has been the Thursday night special from the pulpit fiction podcast. For more pulpit fiction, head over to our home at pulpit fiction dot com, where you can catch other interviews or our weekly show in which we discuss the luxury readings for the week. All of that more at pulpit fiction dot com

TNS 8-5: Drew Hart
TNS 8-5: Drew Hart
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