Thurman identified the central spiritual problems faced by black folks as the overwhelming stresses of poverty, racism, and a sense of spiritual disconnectedness. He then turned to the life of Jesus as a primary example of the power of love to drive the spiritual regeneration required to sustain a vision of God and self in modern society. The life of Jesus serves as a guidepost to the kind of love that is a hallmark of human spirit, success, and personal salvation. But Thurman doesn't believe that the Gospel only applies to the individual search for salvation: He also challenges our unconscious submission to the philosophies of individualism and insists that the Gospel is a manual of resistance for the poor and disenfranchised.
He interprets the life of Jesus within a context of the oppressed and offers incisive and liberating thoughts on man's most egregious of sins: fear, deception, and hate. Of fear, he says: "He who fears is literally delivered to destruction.... There are some things that are worse than death. To deny one's own integrity of personality in the presence of the human challenge is one of those things."
While Jesus and the Disinherited was influential in shaping the philosophies of the early civil rights movement, it remains topical and deeply relevant even today.