Howard Thurman and his book, “Jesus and the Disinherited,” are seldom far from my thinking. For a few years now this book has been an early morning companion in my attempt to make sense out of life, faith, and the journey toward justice. My understanding is that whenever Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. traveled, he would take his Bible, the Constitution, and this unique volume. I would like to know more about that commitment to racial and economic justice and how Dr. Thurman fit into Dr. King’s journey.
Thurman’s life was deep and rich. The grandson of formerly enslaved people, he wrote prolifically and traveled extensively and shaped generations of people including lay people and ministers. His videos are available over on YouTube for people like me who are relatively uninformed. There is even a movie about the man.
Most compelling for me is how Thurman describes Jesus of Nazareth in this small volume, how Jesus navigated the perils on the left, the conservative Jewish leaders of the day and their fear of Him upsetting the proverbial apple cart of their faith traditions and their intentions to kill Him, and on the right, the Roman government that was undoubtedly aware of any potential uprising from this religious sect in Galilee.
As Jesus navigated the perils of His day, He reached out and touched and engaged and loved those who were “disinherited” of His day. As a Black man in America, Thurman knew what it was like to live in a land where he and his people were disinherited. Jesus connected with the poor, the prostitutes, sinners, tax collectors, those who were demon possessed, avoided as unclean, the blind, the disabled since birth, women, and others whom society deemed unworthy. He even had a surprising conversation with a woman at a well in the middle of the day when no one else was around. Shameful!
Just the other day, my wife and I had a rich conversation about our church, and who we think are the “disinherited” of our day, and how they are noted in public assemblies. Our church and our denomination are not the only ones who do this. No, many, many do the same.