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Having to Prioritize: Activism or Education?

Drew Hart (from his blog at Christian Century)

On the heels of yesterday’s post about the culture-clash struggle of the poor at our institutions of higher education, I thought I’d point out another instance of this type of struggle. My friend and fellow MennoNerd Drew Hart posted about the internal struggle for those pursuing higher degrees while feeling the pull to be more intimately involved in on-the-ground activism than their educational commitments allow. Here is a taste of Drew’s reflections on the tension. In the full piece he includes a quote from Dr. James Cone revealing that Dr. Cone struggled with the same decision.

I have often been unsure about my decision to pursue a PhD in theology. Are there more practical on the ground paths that I should be taking? And things only got more complicated rather than less this summer when I was studying for my comps. I practically lived under a rock with my books, prepping for my four exams. Meanwhile, protests against the executions of unarmed black men were at an acutely raised level, especially in light of the ridiculous white supremacist responses seen in Ferguson. Where was Drew, at some coffee shop reading and taking notes. Never did I feel as torn about my current obligations as I did then. Am I using my gifts and my body in a faithful manner, given my abilities?

I, for one, have appreciated Drew’s voice and cheer on his academic pursuits, while feeling his tension as well. His work has been so helpful for me as I work to educate myself and work toward a theology that centers those on the margins (more on that in another post). I have found others to connect me to the on the ground protests, but appreciate the voice of Drew (and many others like Christena Cleveland, Austin Channing Brown, and Rod Thomas) who can combine  the ability to speak with an academic voice into the issues that underlie the many “isolated” instances with racial undertones in our country with a call to connect the dots behind the scenes which point out the wider systemic issues. Sadly, as a white, male, financially stable, Christian, it is too easy to be blind to the systemic issues. I need to hear from voices who have been on the other side of the systemic issues to which I have been blind for far too long.

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