Published by Herald Press on September 1, 2020
Genres: Non-Fiction, Christian Life, Politics, Racial Reconciliation, Theology
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Churches have begun awakening to social and political injustices, often carried out in the name of Christianity. But once awakened, how will we respond?
Who Will Be a Witness offers a vision for communities of faith to organize for deliverance and justice in their neighborhoods, states, and nation as an essential part of living out the call of Jesus.
Author Drew G. I. Hart provides incisive insights into Scripture and history, along with illuminating personal stories, to help us identify how the witness of the church has become mangled by Christendom, white supremacy, and religious nationalism. Hart provides a wide range of options for congregations seeking to give witness to Jesus’ ethic of love for and solidarity with the vulnerable.
At a time when many feel disillusioned and distressed, Hart calls the church to action, offering a way forward that is deeply rooted in the life and witness of Jesus. Dr. Hart’s testimony is powerful, personal, and profound, serving as a compass that points the church to the future and offers us a path toward meaningful social change and a more faithful witness to the way of Jesus.
Who Will Be a Witness? is one of those books I’ll come back to time and time again. Deeply theological yet deeply practical, Drew Hart offers an outright manifesto of the church’s need to be involved in the pursuit of justice. He deftly digs into American history and shows our roots of nationalism and white supremacy—not for the purposes of shame but for the purposes of removal. It is a kind, firm, bold stance that plainly tells us our problems while offering Scriptural solutions.
There’s a lot in this book. Most of the books I’ve read on this theme either tend toward the theological and are lacking in practical out-working or focus on the out-working but are lacking in theological background. In a true Amos-like fashion, Drew Hart redeems the concepts of social justice and communal responsibility and places them firmly within a biblical, God-honoring evangelical context.
The first chapter of the book is one that I’ve returned to recently. I read this book about a month ago, had Drew on my podcast program not too long after that, but am only now sitting down to pen this review and release the podcast episode. As I write, the political processes are churning almost slower than they ever have before toward 2020 election results. And through that anxiety and that tension, the first chapter of this book cut through all that to give me hope once again. “Trouble Won’t Always Last” seems like the kind of thing you’d want to end a rather sobering book with, but placing it at the front helps set the hopeful tone that’s so needed to get others to engage in the hard work of justice.
This chapter takes on the content of Mark 11 to show the sociopolitical side of Jesus who engineered particular responses from people through theatric protest. Hart begins with the Triumphal Entry, portraying it as strategic revolutionary symbolism that awakens the populace to the possibility of a different social order than the one they currently endure. It is a hope-filled and hope-fueled lesson that sets the stage for everything to follow.
The second chapter, “Liberating Barabbas,” was probably the most stunning for me. I had never looked at Barabbas in the light of the political situation. Barabbas was a political prisoner held for his participation in a Jewish insurrection. Jesus vs. Barabbas is not good vs. bad, it’s the presentation of two ways of salvation: violence and vengeance of Barabbas or the self-sacrifice of Jesus? The goals of Barabbas were not ignoble. Jesus liberates him in order to model a better path to those goals.
Insights like this are littered throughout Who Will Be A Witness? I could talk about this book for hours (and have, just ask my wife). Drew Hart is a modern-day prophet. With the boldness of Amos, the passion of Jeremiah, the lament of Habakkuk, and the grace of Daniel, Who Will Be a Witness prophetically calls believers into the work of creating justice and modeling Jesus.