During 2020 a group of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women in North Queensland read through Drew Hart’s book Trouble I’ve Seen together. They wanted to recommend it to the Australian church.
In the spirit of the original black spiritual “Nobody Knows the Trouble I’ve Seen”, this book is rooted in what black people have seen and in what all who have experienced the underside of white supremacy have seen. This experience from below – from literally living on the underside of America’s racial hierarchy – is not commonly known or understood within the dominant hierarchy.
– Drew Hart, Trouble I’ve Seen, page 21
Drew Hart, in his book Trouble I’ve Seen, is able to articulate exactly the issues we see in churches, and uses examples of experiences that we have all shared even though we are on the other side of the world.
Being able to read this book with a group of beautiful black women of different ages was so powerful. We laughed, we argued, we cried and were inspired, all in a safe space where we didn’t have to explain so many things or deal with white fragility. We learnt to listen, to speak and to understand the different experiences we've had due to age and skin shades. We have a bond and most of all we are so inspired to change the world and make a difference!
I have always struggled in white dominant churches and among white Christians growing up, churches that have appeared to have some of the most racist views while preaching love. I have endured encounters with Christians (even black ones in white churches) and agonised through sermons given by old white men or women who were unable to step outside their ego and who are absolutely NOT speaking from Jesus.
I thank God that He speaks to the individual and that I know Jesus. I know him like my best friend, my brother, my best cousin, my favourite uncle. I know His ways. So when members or leaders in a church act a certain way I know it's not Him. But now I think of the influence they have on our young people and the damage that is being caused.
I don't feel motivated to get in and change a church. I really wonder how a white church leader could read this book and not be totally enraged as their ego is being tested, and I am sceptical but hopeful that it would lead them to repent so they don't continue to hurt our people. That is their journey, however, not mine.
This book has challenged me to really search the ways in which we worship, to look at the things that we are already doing as advocates in our community that are totally driven by God and our love for each other. I am challenged to do more of that, to give more, to love more exactly where God has put me and to really include God more in that. He isn't in the four walls of a building, He lives inside of us.
I feel like every person who has been hurt by a church should read this book. It's so important for us to distinguish between the acts of a church that stem from white supremacy/male supremacy and even human supremacy, and the acts of Jesus.
Tearfund provides support for Australia's First Peoples through programs led by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Christian leaders. Together, we mobilise Australian Christians for a more just and equitable society for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.