Trouble I’ve Seen: Church and Racism, Drew G. I. Hart, Thurs. 9/14, 7pm

by Faith D’Urbano

“Complacent while white” – I underestimated my “whiteness” more than I’d ever imagined before reading Drew Hart’s book, Trouble I’ve Seen: Changing the Way the Church Views Racism. I find this book eye-opening, enough so for me to plan heading to Lancaster Bible College to hear its author, a PhD in Theology from Lutheran Seminary, Philadelphia.

Dr. Drew Hart will speak on how the church, often naively boasting its color blindness, has ignored, participated in, and perpetuates racism. Here’s a link to more information:

Teague Learning Commons
Lancaster Bible College
901 Eden Road
Lancaster, PA 17601

Tough stuff. Stuff Jesus called out. Hmm, who says Jesus called out established religious culture as institutionalizing hierarchical advantage? Scripture? I’m embarrassed to have been caught without a deeper awareness of this then-and-now assertion.

Last month St. John’s hosted two open-to-the-public preview conversations about Trouble I’ve Seen: Changing the Way the Church of Views Racism. The discussions drew 16 participants from 5 denominations. It gave voice to a mix of participants’ personal histories and reflections on some of our home churches’ responses to racism. The topic, not an easy one, felt to me understandably uncomfortable. Yet, as individuals contributed frank pieces, more trust seemed to emerge. Useful experiences and perspectives were shared. We exchanged book titles and information about racial justice efforts in our congregations.

Still the question… to what degree did/do I “see” the book’s points regarding being white…and Christian?

Here’s a window into Dr. Drew Hart’s vantage, with paraphrase:
The majority of white people believe racism is a national problem rather than a problem in one’s own communities. Churches, he contends, rarely examine their own understandings of racism. The church, in general, like many church-goers, in fact, minimizes racism by limiting it to individual isolated acts.

Dr. Hart furthers this point. He observes that persons, generally assuming racism is only about individual racial prejudice and hatred, stay on lookout for those “bad racists” and lose sight of the larger racialized patterns of society that shape individuals’ assumptions and habits.

 Early perusing the book, I flipped to the chapter entitled “Don’t Go With Your Gut” – a clever reverse of phrase.

The chapter, I soon saw, argued for a reverse of something else. Something I personally get caught in, and that I’ll call complacency – “complacency” (Webster’s Dictionary): “a self-satisfaction accompanied by an unawareness of actual circumstances.”

Drew Hart points out that white intuition, perception, assumptions, and experience – largely because these are limited by homogeneous networks within one’s own dominant group – “see” and claim things to be one way, while non-white experience claims a different reality. He says the church has got to wrestle with the fact that so many good, well-intentioned people in the midst of racial segregation and violence could have, to their satisfaction, convinced themselves that things “on my side of the street” were already fine, with equality available for all.

What would disciples of Jesus, especially those of us who are white Christians, stand to gain by changing our lenses and actions… by witnessing to Jesus’ beloved community in this fear-based violent world?

Hart says if we dare be people of faith – surrendered to countercultural push of the Holy Spirit, as was Jesus, we must ask God to enflesh God’s “kingdom come” – in us -accompanying us through self – and corporate – reflection to a Spirit-filled transformation of our lives.

Hart’s book is available (purchase or lend) from Sue Heilman.


  1. Reply
    Fran Gouveia says:

    What would those of us who are white stand to gain? In the past 22 years I have been immersed “by marriage” in race issues. Learning to welcome people of all races has enriched my life, resulted in new friends, unexpected viewpoints, appreciation of many cultures I had previously ignored. At first I was struck at how sad it is that our institutions have been ripping us off by not fostering warm relations among us all. While still learning how deeply racism vibrates below the surface of our daily life, I would say I am welcomed as well as welcoming, even when I am one of the few whites in the room. I hope I will never get over hearing racist comments with shock and a sense of communal pain and loss.

  2. Reply
    Sue Heilman says:

    Finally getting around to looking at our website, I find this gem of a synopsis of Drew Hart’s lecture and book, ‘Trouble I’ve Seen: Changing the Way the Church Views Racism’. Thank you, Faith for your insightful reflection. May we all continue on our own journey, personally and corporately as a church to open up to what white privilege is and how we can listen better to those in our midst who live in a much different reality. Making the shalom of God more tangible for us ALL.

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