Jesus and the Disinheritedby Howard Thurman
Pub. Date: 11/28/1996
Publisher: Beacon Press
In this classic theological treatise, the acclaimed theologian and religious leader Howard Thurman (1900-1981) demonstrates how the gospel may be read as a manual of resistance for the poor and disenfranchised. Jesus is a partner in the pain of the oppressed and the example of His life offers a solution to ending the descent into moral nihilism. Hatred does not
In this classic theological treatise, the acclaimed theologian and religious leader Howard Thurman (1900-1981) demonstrates how the gospel may be read as a manual of resistance for the poor and disenfranchised. Jesus is a partner in the pain of the oppressed and the example of His life offers a solution to ending the descent into moral nihilism. Hatred does not empowerit decays. Only through self-love and love of one another can God's justice prevail.
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I am learning, the more birthdays I celebrate, there are so many books I needed to read when I was MUCH younger. The probable reason I did not read them then lies in the truth of the proverb, “When the student is ready, the teacher will appear.” This book is a case in point. I had to unlearn a lot of what I had thought to be true by virtue of my birth before I could be ready to read the challenges offered in this classic. Reading this Christology that informed a generation of freedom leaders (Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., to name but one) was a revelation of the arrogance of privilege that prevents others the ability to live in total freedom of choice because of an incident of birth, specifically, race. This is a book that was important when it was originally published in 1949; due to the present political atmosphere around immigration, equality, justice, etc., its importance has only increased, as it is a prophetic message has not lost any of its direction. Howard Thurman was a Theologian, philosopher and civil rights activist. This book had a large influence on Dr. King in his leadership in the struggle for racial equality and justice. The book speaks directly to Jesus being one of the disinherited in his day – denied rights in his own country, treated “as if” he not only did not matter but was treated as if he did not exist, he could own nothing that he could consider his own (anything the Roman Occupying force demanded, the native populace was required to surrender), he had no voice in the politics, policies or choosing those who ruled over him – all reflective of the African American population of the time this book was written (some would argue that not much has changed in the intervening 67 years). Those words are proving to be more prophetic as those who have experienced oppression, whose voice was silenced or ignored, are now beginning to be heard. The author uses an exegesis that casts Jesus’ teachings in the voice of the powerless. Not since reading Bonhoeffer’s The Cost of Discipleship has a biblical interpretation affected me as deeply as did Dr. Thurman’s. Both lead me to a moment of rebirth. The book is divided into five chapters, one offering an “interpretation” of Jesus, three speaking of “the hounds of hell” – fear, deception and hate – that plague the disinherited (and forces them to surrender what “power” they possess when these actions occur) and the final chapter is Love, as Jesus taught it, holds the only truly effective response to ones oppressors and the subjugation they represent. This is not an easy book to read as one is asked to consider his collusion, even if such collusion is “benign” in intent or hidden by inaction, in the oppression of a person or people. It is difficult to discover that the ease with which one has lived has been denied to others for no reason beyond their place of birth or the pigment of their skin. To have the veil that has hidden such awareness raised so effectively as does Dr. Thurman within these pages is a cause for celebration, after one has adequately recovered from the shock of finding out what is behind “that particular curtain.” The book is only 102 pages long and I could write at least half that many discussing only the first chapter. Much to ponder, question, explore to be found within the pages of this thin tome.