Encouragement for a lifelong journey of faith

Category: Jesus and The Disinherited (Page 1 of 2)

January 17, 2021 – Life is its own restraint

This week we are praying through Howard Thurman’s 1976 book Jesus and the Disinherited. From the introduction of the 1996 edition, written by Vincent Harding: “Not too long before [Martin Luther] King’s assassination in 1968 Stokley [Carmichael] asked with mock innocence, ‘Dr. King, why do we have to be more moral than white folks?”(Howard Thurman, Jesus and the Disinherited, Beacon Press, 1976, p. xii) Vincent will go on to suggest that Howard Thurman’s work answers this question, “the ultimate issue is not being more moral than white folks, but becoming more free than we have ever been, free to engage our fullest powers in the transformative tasks that await us at the wall” (ibid., xvi-xvii).

In his preface, Thurman asks a question many of us have asked, “Why is it that Christianity seems impotent to deal radically, and therefore effectively, with the issues of discrimination and injustice on the basis of race, religion, and national origin?” (ibid.” xix). He goes on, “I am deeply convinced that in the general area of my inquiry is to be found the answer without which there can be little hope that men [sic] find in Christianity the fulfillment which it claims for its gospel” (ibid., xix)

Today’s Bible Reading

Then Peter came up and said to Him, “Lord, how many times shall my brother sin against me and I still forgive him? Up to seven times?” Jesus *said to him, “I do not say to you, up to seven times, but up to seventy-seven times.—Matthew 18:21-22

More thoughts for meditation

“It is clear that before love can operate, there is the necessity for forgiveness of injury perpetuated against a person by a group. This is the issue for the disinherited. Once again the answer is not simple. Perhaps there is no answer that is completely satisfying from the point of view of rational reflection. Can the mouse forgive the cat for eating him? It does seem that Jesus dealt with every act of forgiveness as one who was convinced that there is in every act of injury an element that is irresponsible and irrational. No evil deed—and no good deed, either—was named by him as an expression of the total mind of the doer. Once, when someone addressed him as ‘Good Master,’ Jesus is quoted as having said, ‘Why callest thou me good? There is none good, but… God.’

“In Jesus’ insistence that we should forgive seventy times seven, there seems to be the assumption that forgiveness is mandatory for three reasons. First, God forgives us again and again for what we do intentionally and unintentionally. There is present an element that is contingent upon our attitude. Forgiveness beyond this is interpreted as the work of divine grace. Second, no evil deed represents the full intent of the doer. Third, the evildoer does not go un- punished. Life is its own restraint. In the wide sweep of the ebb and flow of moral law our deeds track us down, and doer and deed meet. “Vengeance is mine; I will repay, saith the Lord.” At the moment of injury or in the slow burning fires of resentment this may be poor comfort. This is the ultimate ground in which finally a profound, unrelieved in- jury is absorbed. When all other means have been exhausted, each in his own tongue whispers, “There is forgiveness with God” (ibid., 96-97)

Suggestions for action

“What, then, is the word of the religion of Jesus to those who stand with their backs against the wall? There must be the clearest possible understanding of the anatomy of the issues facing them. They must recognize fear, deception, hatred, each for what it is. Once having done this, they must learn how to destroy these or to render themselves immune to their domination. In so great an undertaking it will become increasingly clear that the contradictions of life are not ultimate. The disinherited will know for themselves that there is a Spirit at work in life and in the hearts of men” (ibid., 98).

The contradictions of life are not ultimate. Though it seems that to love and forgive our enemy is a contradiction, for the disinherited, it is a path to their fullness and the fullness of their enemies. Love is transformative. Pray for that courage.

It’s Anthony of Egypt Day on our sister blog, Celebrating Our Transhitorical Body. This guy almost invented monasticism and learned much directly from the Holy Spirit in the desert.

January 16, 2021 – Hatred denies life

This week we are praying through Howard Thurman’s 1976 book Jesus and the Disinherited. From the introduction of the 1996 edition, written by Vincent Harding: “Not too long before [Martin Luther] King’s assassination in 1968 Stokley [Carmichael] asked with mock innocence, ‘Dr. King, why do we have to be more moral than white folks?”(Howard Thurman, Jesus and the Disinherited, Beacon Press, 1976, p. xii) Vincent will go on to suggest that Howard Thurman’s work answers this question, “the ultimate issue is not being more moral than white folks, but becoming more free than we have ever been, free to engage our fullest powers in the transformative tasks that await us at the wall” (ibid., xvi-xvii).

In his preface, Thurman asks a question many of us have asked, “Why is it that Christianity seems impotent to deal radically, and therefore effectively, with the issues of discrimination and injustice on the basis of race, religion, and national origin?” (ibid.” xix). He goes on, “I am deeply convinced that in the general area of my inquiry is to be found the answer without which there can be little hope that men [sic] find in Christianity the fulfillment which it claims for its gospel” (ibid., xix)

Today’s Bible Reading

“You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.”—Matthew 5:43-46

More thoughts for meditation

“Thus hatred becomes a device by which an individual seeks to protect himself against moral disintegration He does to other human beings what he could not ordinarily do to them without losing his self-respect. This is an aspect of hatred that has almost universal application during a time of war and national crisis. Doubtless you will recall that during the last war a very interesting defense of hatred appeared in America. The reasoning ran something like this: American boys have grown up in a culture and a civilization in which they have absorbed certain broad attitudes of respect for human personality, and other traits characteristic of gentlemen of refinement and dignity. Therefore they are not prepared psychologically or emotionally to become human war machines, to make themselves conscious instruments of death. Something radical has to happen to their personality and their over-all outlook to render them more effective tools of destruction. The most effective way by which this transformation can be brought about is through discipline in hatred; for if they hate the enemy, then that hatred will immunize them from a loss of moral self-respect as they do to the enemy what is demanded of them in the successful prosecution of the war” (ibid., 72-73).

“What thoughts raced through his mind when Judas of Galilee raised his rallying banner of defiance, sucking into the tempest of his embittered spirit many of the sons of Judah? Is it reasonable to assume that Jesus did not understand the anatomy of hatred? In the face of the obvious facts of his environment he counseled against hatred, and his word is, ‘Love your enemies…that ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven: for he taketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and senders rain on the just and the unjust.’ Despite all the positive psychological attributes of hatred we have outlined, hatred destroys finally the core of the life of the hater. While it lasts, burns in white heat, its effect seems positive and dynamic. But at last it turns to ash, for it guarantees a final isolation from one’s fellows. It blinds the individual to all values of worth, even as they apply to himself and to his fellows. Hatred bears deadly and bitter fruit. It is blind and nondiscrimination. True, it begins by exercising specific discrimination. This it does by centering upon the persons responsible for the situations which create the reaction of resentment, bitterness, and hatred. But once hatred is released, it cannot be confined to the offenders alone” (ibid., 75-76).

Suggestions for action

“Jesus rejected hatred because he saw that hatred meant death to the mind, death to the spirit, death to communion with his Father. He affirmed life; and hatred was the great denial” (ibid., 77-78).

Thurman is careful when he addresses hatred; he argues that it has a specific utility, but that it’s too dangerous to use because it overtakes the one who is using it. You may think you hate one thing, but soon you will hate everything, and yourself. Hatred can’t be contained and it will overwhelm you. This is why Jesus instructs us to love our enemies, because if we start to hate them, we will soon hate our neighbors too. Pray that you can see the ones whom you target with specific hatred, and consider them today. Pray that you might turn to truth and love.

January 15, 2021 – Sincerity as the death blow to hypocrisy

This week we are praying through Howard Thurman’s 1976 book Jesus and the Disinherited. From the introduction of the 1996 edition, written by Vincent Harding: “Not too long before [Martin Luther] King’s assassination in 1968 Stokley [Carmichael] asked with mock innocence, ‘Dr. King, why do we have to be more moral than white folks?”(Howard Thurman, Jesus and the Disinherited, Beacon Press, 1976, p. xii) Vincent will go on to suggest that Howard Thurman’s work answers this question, “the ultimate issue is not being more moral than white folks, but becoming more free than we have ever been, free to engage our fullest powers in the transformative tasks that await us at the wall” (ibid., xvi-xvii).

In his preface, Thurman asks a question many of us have asked, “Why is it that Christianity seems impotent to deal radically, and therefore effectively, with the issues of discrimination and injustice on the basis of race, religion, and national origin?” (ibid.” xix). He goes on, “I am deeply convinced that in the general area of my inquiry is to be found the answer without which there can be little hope that men [sic] find in Christianity the fulfillment which it claims for its gospel” (ibid., xix)

Today’s Bible Reading

Read Matthew 25:31-46

“The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’”—Matthew 25:40

More thoughts for meditation

“Deception is perhaps the oldest of all the techniques by which the weak have protected themselves against the strong. Through the ages, at all stages of sentient activity, the weak have survived by fooling the strong” (ibid., 48)

“The underprivileged may decide to jungle the various areas of compromise, on the assumption that the moral quality of compromise operates in an ascending-descending scale” (ibid., 56).

“Sincerity in human relations is equal to, and the same as, sincerity to God. If we accept this explanation as a clue to Jesus’ meaning, we come upon the stark fact that the insistence of Jesus upon genuineness is absolute; man’s relation to man and man’s relation to God are one relation.

“A death blow is struck to hypocrisy. One of the major defense mechanisms of the disinherited is take away from them. What does Jesus give them in its place? What does he substitute for hypocrisy? Sincerity. But is sincerity a mechanism of defense against the strong? The answer is No. Something more significant takes place. In the presence of an overwhelming sincerity on the part of the disinherited, the dominant themselves are caught with no defense, with the edge taken away from the sense of prerogative and from the status upon which the impregnability of their position rests. They are thrown back upon themselves for their rating. The experience of power has no meaning aside from the other-than-self reference which sustains it. If the position of ascendancy is not acknowledged tacitly and actively by those over whom the ascendancy is exercised, then it falls flat. Hypocrisy on the part of the disinherited in dealing with the dominant group is a tribute yielded by those who are weak. But if this attitude is lacking, or is supplanted by a simple sincerity and genuineness, then it follows that advantage due to the accident of both or position is reduced to zero. Instead of relation between the weak and the strong there is merely a relationship between human beings. A man is a man, no more, no less. The awareness of this fact marks the supreme moment of human dignity” (ibid., 62-63)

Suggestions for action

In this chapter, Thurman discusses techniques that the disenfranchised use to survive. He begins with deception, or fooling the strong. Then compromise, which he names as even less authentic as deception (but it is one that is more commonly used in this day-and-age). But finally, he offers sincerity as the ultimate weapon against oppression. But it doesn’t defeat the oppressor, it transforms them. Sincerity allows us to be seen as our full selves; Thurman argues that allowing God to assign us our humanity allows us to fully human in other relationships. Today pray to see yourself fully, knowing that the sharing of your full self is in fact transformative.

January 14, 2021 – And he cares for me!

This week we are praying through Howard Thurman’s 1976 book Jesus and the Disinherited. From the introduction of the 1996 edition, written by Vincent Harding: “Not too long before [Martin Luther] King’s assassination in 1968 Stokley [Carmichael] asked with mock innocence, ‘Dr. King, why do we have to be more moral than white folks?”(Howard Thurman, Jesus and the Disinherited, Beacon Press, 1976, p. xii) Vincent will go on to suggest that Howard Thurman’s work answers this question, “the ultimate issue is not being more moral than white folks, but becoming more free than we have ever been, free to engage our fullest powers in the transformative tasks that await us at the wall” (ibid., xvi-xvii).

In his preface, Thurman asks a question many of us have asked, “Why is it that Christianity seems impotent to deal radically, and therefore effectively, with the issues of discrimination and injustice on the basis of race, religion, and national origin?” (ibid.” xix). He goes on, “I am deeply convinced that in the general area of my inquiry is to be found the answer without which there can be little hope that men [sic] find in Christianity the fulfillment which it claims for its gospel” (ibid., xix)

Today’s Bible Reading

“Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”—Matthew 11:28-30

More thoughts for meditation

“There is something more to be said about the inner equipment growing out of the great affirmation of Jesus that [one] is a child of God. If a man’s ego has been stabilized, resulting in a sure grounding of his sense of personal worth and dignity, then his is in a position to appraise his own intrinsic powers, gifts, talents, and abilities. He no longer views his equipment through the darkened lenses of those who are largely responsible for his social predicament. He can think of himself with some measure of detachment from the shackles of his immediate world.” (ibid., 43)

“In communities that were completely barren, with no apparent growing edge, without any point to provide light for the disadvantaged, I have seen children grow up without fear, with quiet dignity and such high purpose that the mark they set for themselves has even been transcended.

“The charge that such thinking is merely rationalizing cannot be made with easy or accepted grace by the man of basic advantage. It ill behooves the man who is not forced to live in a ghetto to tell those who must how to transcend its limitations. The awareness that a man is a child of God, who is at one and the same time the God of life, creates a profound faith in life that nothing can destroy.

“Nothing less than a great daring in the face of overwhelming odds can achieve the inner security in which fear cannot possibly survive. It is true that a man cannot be serene unless he possesses something about which to be serene. Here we reach the high water market of prophetic religion, and it is of the essence of the religion of Jesus of Nazareth. Of course God cares for the grass of the field, which lives a day and is no more, or the sparrow that falls unnoticed by the wayside. He also holds the stars in their appointed places, leaves his mark in every living thing. And he cares for me! To be assured of this becomes the answer to the threat of violence—yea, to violence itself. To the degree that a man knows this, he is unconquerable from within and without” (ibid., 45-46).

Suggestions for action

Thurman threads a delicate needle here. He is speaking about how oppression kills you on the inside, and submission to that death is allowing the oppressor victory over you. While he clearly believes that oppression is a material condition, it is also a psychological condition, or an interior condition, that can begin healing by understanding that one is a child of God. But he masterfully suggests that this is something for a victim of oppression to share with another victim of oppression as a matter of discipleship. Once again, “It ill behooves the man who is not forced to live in a ghetto to tell those who must how to transcend its limitations.” Thurman ends by using the passage from the Sermon on the Mount about. “And he cares for me!” Pray today that you see yourself as a child of god, “unconquerable from within and without.”

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