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Jesus and the Disinherited por Howard…
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Jesus and the Disinherited (original 1949; edição 1996)

por Howard Thurman (Autor)

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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 empower--it decays. Only through self-love and love of one another can God's justice prevail.… (mais)
Título:Jesus and the Disinherited
Autores:Howard Thurman (Autor)
Informação:Beacon Press (1996), Edition: Reprint, 124 pages
Colecções:A sua biblioteca

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Jesus and the Disinherited por Howard Thurman (1949)

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Howard Thurman in his classic Jesus and the Disinherited addresses the challenging affront of how he can claim to be a Christian, while it was Christians who brought Africans over to the Americas and Christians that propagated slavery in the U.S. What significance does “the religion of Jesus” have for those “with their backs against the wall?”

Thurman begins by delving into the historical context of the Jews during the first century. They were in many ways similar to African-Americans in the U.S. particularly before the civil rights movement – a marginalized people living under the power of another group. Further, not only was Jesus part of the unprivileged, being a Jew, but he was also a poor Jew. How should a person respond given such circumstances? Often people assume that they can either resist, like the Zealots, or not resist, like the Pharisees. Yet, Jesus provided another way. Thurman writes that Jesus “recognized... that anyone who permits another to determine the quality of his inner life gives into the hands of the other the keys of his destiny (28).” The religion of Jesus was not what we see in the powerful and oppressive, but rather was “a technique of survival for the oppressed (29).”

This mindset is exemplified through overcoming what Thurman calls the “persistent hounds of hell that dog the footsteps of the poor, the disposed, the disinherited (36).” Fear is constant for those at the margins. Feelings of helplessness lead to a type of fear that the privileged cannot understand. “It is spawned by the perpetual threat of violence everywhere (37).” The religion of Jesus reaffirms one’s identity. Thurman retells a sermon given to black slaves where they triumphantly proclaim, “You-you are not niggers. You-you are not slaves. You are God’s children.” This affirms who they are and grounds their personal dignity where they can absorb some of the fear reaction. Further, it levels the playing field in a sense. “This new orientation” allows for “an objective, detached appraisal of other people, particularly one’s antagonists,” which can “protect one from inaccurate and exaggerated estimates of another person’s significance (52).” Furthermore, the message of Jesus builds a place for hope to blossom and grow even amidst the worst of situations. To know that God cares for you can spur one to purpose and a life without fear.

A second pervasive hound of hell for the poor is the tendency to fight their disadvantages and to protect themselves through working to deceive the strong. Thurman believes that this constant lying and deceiving tarnishes the soul. “If a man continues to call a good thing bad, he will eventually lose his sense of moral distinctions.... A man who lies habitually becomes a lie, and it is increasingly impossible for him to know when he is lying and when he is not (64-65).” How is Jesus relevant to those who (seemingly) must lie, cheat, and deceive in order to survive? Surely we cannot fault them. Acts of survival are amoral; they are simply required. Thurman exposes the folly of this logic. The end goal that propels the poor in these situations is to “not be killed” and “morality takes its meaning from that center (69).” Occasionally this center is swallowed by something larger. Patriotism for instance gives meaning beyond simple survival. Thurman argues that Jesus proclaims to center on living within God’s will. One’s purpose and moral center focuses on being a part of God’s work; therefore, there is no fear of scorn. He writes, “There must always be the confidence that the effect of truthfulness can be realized in the mind of the oppressor as well as the oppressed (70).” Such a profound challenge calls the disinherited to “an unwavering sincerity” that is honest, true, unhypocritical, and life-giving.

Thurman deals with the third hound of hell – hate – by describing the process. It “often begins”... with “contact without fellowship (75),” cordiality without genuine feelings of warmth. These situations lead to relationships lacking any sort of sympathy. He writes, “I can sympathize only when I see myself in another’s place (77).” And is this type of unsympathetic attitude that undergirds most relationships between the weak and the strong. Third, “unsympathetic understanding tends to express itself in the active functioning of ill will (77),” which leads finally to full-embodied hatred for another. Hatred is born in the mind of the oppressed through great bitterness. It can become “a source of validation for [one’s] personality (80)” by giving a sense of significance in defiance to those you hate. Similarly to deception above, Thurman believes that “hatred destroys finally the core of the life of the hater (86).” It “is death to the spirit and disintegration of ethical and moral values (88).” Thurman concludes simply that “Jesus rejected hatred.” It runs contrary to creativity of the mind, vitality of the spirit, and squelches any sort of connection to God.

The final chapter explores the central ethic of Jesus’ message: love, and in particular love of enemy. According to Thurman, Jesus exemplified three types of enemy love. The first is to love those in your community who have become enemies. For Jesus these included the household of Israel, your personal enemies. Second, Jesus proclaimed love that stretched even to tax-collectors. These people were also sons and daughters of Abraham. But further than that – Jesus called his disciples to love even the Romans, those who marginalized and oppressed the Jewish people. This means “to recognize some deep respect and reverence for their persons (94).” Love is what frees everyone to see the other as human like themselves; it is what brings forgiveness and allows the disinherited to experience full life.

Howard Thurman’s understanding and description of Jesus was both enlightening and convicting. He brings deeply personal insight to the plight of the marginalized. Although written for African-Americans in the late 1940s, Jesus and the Disinherited applies to people today by giving hope for the disinherited and forcing empathy on the privileged.
( )
  nrt43 | Dec 29, 2020 |
"The significance of the religion of Jesus to people who stand with their backs against the wall has always seemed to me to be crucial." - Howard Thurman
  levering | May 3, 2020 |
The last half of this year I've determined to read more broadly into theologies. I've read a bit of this previously but didn't sit with the whole book, and I started reading work from brown and black men and women, inside and outside the American story.

Thurman's book is an excellent "introduction" to this work, and in fact I'm starting to think that it has made my list of "books that I think every Christian leader should read, no matter what" (alongside [b:In the Name of Jesus: Reflections on Christian Leadership|2520|In the Name of Jesus Reflections on Christian Leadership|Henri J.M. Nouwen|https://d.gr-assets.com/books/1388181760s/2520.jpg|6500], [b:The Practice of the Presence of God|498641|The Practice of the Presence of God|Brother Lawrence|https://d.gr-assets.com/books/1347467147s/498641.jpg|2133549], and a few others).

Thurman's thesis is this: The religion of Jesus was the story of God's involvement in the transformative life available to everyone, ESPECIALLY the outsiders and outcasts, those with their backs against the wall. American Christianity has mutated and become the story of comfort for those who have privilege and power. He speaks to the power of fear, deception and hate, "the three hounds of the oppressed", and then to the power of love to overcome. But the power of love is costly and difficult, requires endurance and commitment.

It's often said that Martin Luther King Jr. carried a copy of this book with him on many of his travels. I can certainly see that likelihood.

As much as I resound with Thurman's call to the good news of inclusion and the hard work of love, it horrifies me to read this book, written in 1949, against this year's high-profile violent responses by those with power against those without it, and to see that Thurman's call to commitment is as applicable now as it was 65 years ago. ( )
  patl | Feb 18, 2019 |
This is a transformative book. I found myself looking at the words "Jesus", "and", "the", and "Disinherited" in fresh interiorized ways. Yes, the conjunctions - the way we are joined. And the articles, the way a Subject is dignified and addressed, pushed away. The way I make an Object of a person. Thurman relies upon "story-telling", inviting you to experience...yourself.

Of course, Thurman did not talk about linguistics. I will try to touch upon the central claims Howard Thurman presents about the “religion of Jesus” which he modestly describes as an interpretation.

Thurman’s claims are centered around a quest: Thurman holds up the dispossessed, and asks, what does “our religion” mean for them? He says that the search for the answer to this question as perhaps the most important religious quest of modern life. [3]

In teaching this quest, one of the repeated metaphors is “the wall”. What is Christianity doing to meet the needs of the person whose back is against the wall? What does Christianity say to the poor? He asks this question in different ways. [3, 36, 42; perhaps even “My God, my God, why has thou forsaken me?” 87].

The thesis of the book is that Jesus offered the Kingdom of God, as a spiritual reality, immediately accessible and “within us”. This religion of Jesus was available to everyone—“room for all”--but Jesus preached it specifically to the poor and oppressed.

Thurman is clear about his techniques, sources and “facts” without being boring or didactic. He repeatedly points out that he looks to “the basic fact” – in text, context, and history. He is not trying to sell something or get your money.

Thurman shows that Christianity as a teaching of Jesus “appears as a technique of survival for the oppressed”. It is this “inner” understanding of religious faith which frees the poor and oppressed, now, and in the real world. The inner life is more real than the appearances of the material world. Thurman joins the revolt against the Church teaching that offered an “other-worldly religion” which institutes a double betrayal -- of the poor, and of Jesus.

From experience, he knows that a lot of what is passed off as religion is naked fraud. And it is part of oppression. His lack of rage and bitterness is...monumental.

I loved how he preached what Jesus taught by starting with context: (1) “Jesus was a Jew”, (2) “Jesus was poor”, (3) “His mother was poor”, and (4) he was a member of a minority group in a poor place in the midst of a dominant and controlling group. (5) At the expense of the vitals of the people, an apostate Herod was building temples in honor of “Emperor Augustus”.

He shows how spiritual life is connected to our highest power--"awareness"--and that Jesus taught the neo-platonic message about a spiritual life, a vital kingdom within, which eventually overthrew the materialist power of Rome.

Because this alternative power was “within”; it could not be destroyed by the oppressors. And the question, which all disinherited and “overmastered” people face, is survival. Into this the salvific message of Jesus was preached. Again and again, Jesus "came back to the inner life of the individual”.

Describing Jesus’ teachings, Thurman says, at Page 2:
“With increasing insight and startling accuracy he placed his finger on the ‘inward center’ as the crucial arena where the issues would determine the destiny of his people.”

Armed resistance against the Roman Empire was demonstrably futile. Thurman notes, that violence “has an appeal because it provides a form of expression, of activity, that releases tension and frees the oppressed from a disintegrating sense of complete impotency and hopelessness.” In his own poem, Thurman boldly overthrows the White Man’s old chestnut back at him: “Better to die free than as a slave.” And suggests that this was the attitude of the Zealots of Jesus’ day.

Credit is given to the scholarship of Vladimir G. Simkhovitch for the beginning of his brief. In the face of the alternatives in ancient Palestine, which were few and bloody, Thurman notes that Simkhovitch "makes a profound contribution to the understanding of the psychology of Jesus." He reminds us that Jesus expressed an alternative: "The Kingdom of Heaven is in us”. That is the formula -- and Thurman shows the power of this as theology.

This theology is not slave-obedience as taught by the Church. He was greatly-influenced by his grandmother’s testimony of the White ministers who preached to the slaves from the Scripture written by Paul– “Slaves, be obedient to them that are your masters…”.

Thurman's “law” is less the deontology of Aquinas and more the transcendent laws of interior autonomy of Kant, although strongly associated with Wells’ notions of habitus and interiority. Thurman clearly takes a Liberationist stance with a massive helping of Integrity as a Christian.
He walks this inner kingdom past the dogs of Fear, Deception, and Hate—those Hounds of Hell. Thurman points to the vertical vector of the cross, to the infinity of the dark matter in our souls. The book provides a description of exactly what the technique is and why it works, often in the most difficult social, emotional, and economic circumstances.
It is Synergistic in that it reasons around public consensus from the times of Jesus through Slavery to the present. It also draws upon Aquinas’ natural law and congruence between religion and civic life, Thurman relies on that interplay. The Christic “technique for survival” is both intersectional and universal.

Thurman clearly shares with Hauerwas, a suspicion of entanglements in dogma, government, and even “Christians” who cannot be trusted with scripture. Thurman also asserts a Realism stance. He offers a practical path for salvation for the oppressed. He is not exactly a Niebuhr, the theologian associated with Realism, because Thurman is not skeptical of transformation, and is confident about the power of interiority. He does share a view of the serious reality of Sin and of power which never gives way voluntarily. As for the related stance of consequentialism, Thurman is not saying that outcome is the only thing that matters. He values unrelenting patience, and seeks a good outcome, but in view of the infinities of interiority and pursued by the hounds of heaven (fear, deception, hate) he clearly rejects sinful means to the Good.

Finally, Thurman is clearly Liberationist. He may be the preacher on the horizon of time in 1947 who fathered the themes of Liberation. Candid about his subjective location, he uses personal anecdotes to empower the uses of story. Critical of the false universals in the mainstream church, seeking to transform society.

Using social analysis and dynamics—compassion, guilt, even solemnities and kindness—to transform, he started a unitarian universalist church in San Francisco which is still growing. His lifetime of emulation of Christ is a theological justification. ( )
  keylawk | Oct 21, 2018 |
This is a profound book by one of the prominent the civil rights leaders of the 20th century. It provides a much needed prescription for the ways that the Bible and Jesus have been used by the powerful to oppress the weak and disinherited. Thurman shows very clearly how Jesus identifies with the disinherited in multiple ways and he outlines moral ways that the disinherited can respond to oppression. The central point is that Jesus is on the side of, was in fact, one of the disinherited and it is through Jesus' moral teachings that the path for the disinherited lies. ( )
  bness2 | May 23, 2017 |
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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 empower--it decays. Only through self-love and love of one another can God's justice prevail.

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