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.
The only thing better than reading this book was this hour-long conversation I had with Drew about it. Go order Who Will Be A Witness and while you wait on to arrive, enjoy this conversation with Drew and myself.
The Conversation | Drew Hart
This excerpt has been lightly edited for brevity and clarity. You can listen to the full interview by clicking the play button above or subscribing at Apple Podcasts, Stitcher, Spotify, or wherever you listen to podcasts.
Josh Olds: What do you see that we need to change in the way in which we perform our activism? Especially here in 2020, that’s been such a relevant question of how do we protest? How do we make sure that our voices are heard?
Drew Hart: Yeah, I mean, and it really in some ways, it depends on where we’re coming from, right? Because I think different communities are approaching it differently. Some of us are framing and entering into the conversation in terms of political engagement and are deeply captive to our society and the partisan fights that are going on. So for some of us, we start with the political platform of a particular political party. And then we just buy into that wholesale and then go fighting. Literally, there are some wealthy elite people who package up these platforms for us, and give it to us and then we say it represents our voice. And it seems to be backwards.
But I think if we take Jesus’s example, we’re living in solidarity with those who are vulnerable, we’re in proximity to them, and we’re experiencing and witnessing and sharing in their suffering, right? And I think that that’s the starting point for a grassroots work first, not starting with the elite first, but starting with the grassroots, and then bringing those concerns. And in that sense, like, Jesus has this confrontation with the establishment, and especially in the Gospel of Luke, it’s particularly profound and powerful because of the confrontation that he has with the establishment, willing to, in essence, shut it down on and accept the consequences of faithfulness for bearing witness in the public square…And I think that that is a really beautiful example that doesn’t leave us captive to those who are in power, but instead, it does the opposite.
One of the things in both Mark and Luke, Jesus actually says, you know, they devour—he’s talking about the religious leaders and their long prayers and all that—they can devour widows’ homes, right? He comes into the temple, and the names and identify the ways that they have gone against God’s vocation for all of us, right? And I think that that is a healthier way to go about social change work.
We’ve got to be willing to accept the consequences of following Jesus faithfully in our own society in such ways that include taking upon, accepting the risks for standing against evil and injustice…Jesus is actually very strategic about what he’s doing. He embodying the good news, literally, through his life in such a way that that is evoking something in those who are watching him. They understand exactly what this means. And it’s awakening people to the possibility and reality of God’s reign on Earth, coming here and being realized, in their own communities, in that they ought to then also strive after that.
We’ve watered down the meaning of “Take up your cross”…in the first century, it meant actually accepting