One, it is a book of theology of the kingdom of the Messiah. Dr. Hart lays out the plans of God through Jesus Christ in instituting his kingdom, which is topsy-turvy: it is not power-based, it is not authority-based, it is not self-based. It is, instead, based upon love and community, honesty and commitment, risk and sacrifice and the great great reward of connection with Jesus. For that alone, you should read this book.
It is also a book about America, plainly stated, as it was, and is, and perhaps may not always be. It is a book about how we Christians have acquired a worldview of the church and society, of God and Jesus, that matches with our own estimation of the normalcy of “whiteness.” There are books which will give you much more detail about the American past, creating the concept of “whiteness” and “blackness” in order to justify power and ownership of one person over another. There are books which will give you more details about how these all worked out in society, from redlining to education to family stability to job access, even to the point of membership and participation in the church. The thesis is that we American Christians have re-created the Jesus of Scripture to be a slightly more beneficent-appearing Uncle Sam, a Jesus committed to the supremacy of America, along with its violence and authority and rulership. The Jesus of the America church, he argues, represents a Jesus we have created in our image so that we may receive approval for our actions in his name. It is not a Jesus that represents humility and service and sacrifice, but one that represents anger and exclusion and hostility to anyone who might threaten the power of America or the church–which are often confused as being the same thing.
It is also a book about wounding and healing, about the many, many millions of people who have been wounded by American, Christian values, and even in their wounding have been overlooked and dismissed. It is a book that opens up the Book; it talks about the real Kingdom and the real Jesus and how He cannot be used by anyone to advance a political or religious objective; indeed, it appears that Jesus has his own agenda and purposes, and they are not necessarily being implemented in the American church. Dr. Hart makes the argument that Christians, representing Jesus, *should* be at the forefront, all along, of restoration and healing. He provides many examples of the wounding, and provides many ideas for the healing that we, as Christians, can begin implementing.
And finally, it is a book of redemptive love. It is Jesus, after all, who has loved us and saved us, such squabbling nuisances, such angry elves, such short-sighted and individualistic believers, such unloveable and unloved humans. Above all the message of Dr. Hart is the reminder that Jesus is worth knowing and loving and serving, that Jesus is in the business of restoration and healing, that Jesus is calling us all, right now, to participate in his kingdom, that Jesus’ love is not limited by his need for power and authority, that people are always, ALWAYS more important than success or fame or accomplishment.
There are many great stories in this book. A few spoke to me more than others. One is his story (also told elsewhere) of the meeting of Dietrich Bonhoeffer and Franklin Fisher. It pulled together the life of Bonhoeffer for me–I knew he made a great sacrifice during WWII, but did not understand how he had come to be the person who could walk out his life that way. The other is the story of a women in contemporary American, a white woman, who found herself in a situation she was unprepared to handle regarding an honest, open discussion of racial actions and reactions in the American church. She was unable to handle her emotional reactions (it’s not an uncommon thing), and was honest enough to admit her anxieties. The response of Dr. Hart was perfect, meeting her at her level, actively listening, helping her stay on her journey–and yet not dismissing the importance of broaching the topic of racism just because it makes a lot of us uncomfortable.
That is the kind of discussions and interactions we need to have. Dr. Hart helpfully provides some mechanisms and actions we can take in response to his message, which are great tools.
It is a full, rich, complete book. It is challenging and hopeful and honest. It is a message of truth that can appear to be brutal because it is not softened by an attempt to be “liked.”
But it is a book worth reading and thinking about.
You can buy it from several sites, including Powells, Amazon, and indie sites.
Amazon print https://www.amazon.com/dp/1513800000
Amazon Kindle https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B01CF1TR1Y