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Jesus and the Disinherited

Jesus and the Disinherited

4.5 2
by Howard Thurman

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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 empower--it decays. Only through self-love and love of one another can God's justice prevail.

From the Trade Paperback edition.

Editorial Reviews

Sacred Fire
Published in 1949, Howard Thurman's Jesus and the Disinherited delivers a masterful interpretation of how God works in our lives. Thurman was one of the foremost preachers and theologians of the twentieth century, and much of his work centered on the relevance of the Christian message to the contemporary struggles of black people. In this, Thurman's masterwork, he argues that the Gospel of Jesus Christ is not just a map for getting to the next world, but a guidebook for the empowerment of the poor and disenfranchised in this world. Thurman was one of the leading preachers of this new Social Gospel that evenually flowered in the form of the church-centered civil rights movement.

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.

From the Publisher
“[Jesus and the Disinherited] is the centerpiece of the Black prophet-mystic’s lifelong attempt to bring the harrowing beauty of the African-American experience into deep engagement with what he called ‘the religion of Jesus.’ Ultimately his goal was to offer this humanizing combination as the basis for an emancipatory way of being, moving toward a fundamentally unchained life that is available to all the women and men everywhere who hunger and thirst for righteousness, especially those ‘who stand with their backs against the wall.’”
—Vincent Harding, from the Foreword

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Beacon Press
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Penguin Random House Publisher Services
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5 MB

Meet the Author

Hailed by Life magazine as one of the great preachers of the twentieth century; a spiritual advisor to Martin Luther King, Jr., Sherwood Eddy, James Farmer, A. J. Musty, and Pauli Murray; the first black dean at a white university; cofounder of the first interracially pastored, intercultural church in the United States; Howard Thurman (1899-1981) was a man of penetrating foresight and astonishing charisma. His vision of the world was one of a democratic camaraderie born of faith, and in light of today's global community, one of particular importance.

From the Trade Paperback edition.

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Jesus and the Disinherited 4.7 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 3 reviews.
YoyoMitch More than 1 year ago
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.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago