THE REPENTANCE PROJECT / AN AMERICAN LENT
WEEK II / DAY VI
Saturday, February 24, 2018
Excerpt from Jesus and the Disinherited by Howard Thurman — Originally Published in 1949
“There are always primary contacts between the weak and the strong, the privileged and the underprivileged, but they are generally contacts within zones of agreement which leave the status of the individual intact. There is great intimacy between whites and Negroes, but it is usually between servant and served, between employer and employee. Once the status of each is frozen or fixed, contacts are merely truces between enemies — a kind of armistice for purposes of economic security… But, in a very tragic sense, the ultimate fate of the relationship seems to be in the hands of the wider social context" (Thurman, 1996:87).
“It is necessary, therefore, for the privileged and the underprivileged to work on the common environment for the purpose of providing normal experiences in fellowship. This is one very important reason for the insistence that segregation is a complete ethical and moral evil. Whatever it may do for those who dwell on either side of the wall, one thing is certain: it poisons all normal contacts of those persons involved. The first step toward love is a common sharing of a sense of mutual worth and value. This cannot be discovered in a vacuum or in a series of artificial or hypothetical relationships. It has to be in a real situation, natural, free" (Thurman, 1996:88).
"The religion of Jesus says to the disinherited: ‘Love your enemy. Take the initiative in seeking ways by which you can have the experience of a common sharing of mutual worth and value. It may be hazardous, but you must do it.’ For the Negro it means that he must see the individual white man in the context of a common humanity. The fact that a particular individual is white, and therefore may be regarded in some over-all sense as the racial enemy, must be faced; and opportunity must be provided, found, or created for freeing such an individual from his ‘white necessity (?).’ From this point on, the relationship becomes like any other primary one" (Thurman, 1996:90).
About the Author
Howard Washington Thurman was born in 1899 in West Palm Beach, FL. His biological father, Saul, died of illness when Howard was only seven years old. Howard and his mother Alice moved to Daytona Beach, FL where he spent the majority of his childhood. His maternal grandmother, Nancy Ambrose, played a major role in his spiritual formation. Thurman graduated from Morehouse college in 1923 as valedictorian. In 1925 he graduated from Rochester Theological Seminary also as valedictorian. He served as a Baptist pastor in Oberlin, OH for two years. Thurman served as a faculty member at Morehouse College, Spelman College, Howard University, and Boston University. What is most impressive is that some of Thurman’s spiritual formation took place under the tutelage of a noted Quaker philosopher and mystic, Rufus Jones. He spent time with Mohandas Gandhi where he converted to nonviolent social activism. His writings and friendship with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. had a significant and lasting impact on the Civil Rights Movement as we know it. Jesus and the Disinherited was reportedly the work that Dr. King read during the Montgomery bus boycott in 1955-1956. Howard Thurman died in 1981, while living in San Francisco, CA.
Thurman, Howard. (1996) Jesus and the Disinherited. Boston: Beacon Press. (Original work published in 1949)
Compiled by Demetrius Summerville