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Jesus and the Disinherited

4.45  ·  Rating details ·  1,821 ratings  ·  199 reviews
First published in 1949, Jesus and the Disinherited is a brilliant and compassionate look at God's work in our lives. As we struggle today with issues of poverty, racism, and spiritual disengagement, Howard Thurman's discerning reading of the message of renewal through self-love as exemplified in the life of Jesus resonates powerfully once again.

Challenging our submersion

Kindle Edition, 124 pages
Published January 31st 2012 by Beacon Press (first published 1949)
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Joe Cummings It's only 102 pages, and it can be a quick read. Say in an afternoon. The whole book is a worthwhile read, but only the first and fifth chapters are…moreIt's only 102 pages, and it can be a quick read. Say in an afternoon. The whole book is a worthwhile read, but only the first and fifth chapters are particularly germane nowadays.(less)
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4.45  · 
Rating details
 ·  1,821 ratings  ·  199 reviews

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Matthew Monk
May 04, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Matthew Monk Whether you consider yourself "religious" or not, this book will appeal to you, precisely because this is exactly the theme of Thurman's treatise. By detailing religion as a symptom to the root cause of greater problems, Thurman recontextualizes Jesus, taking Him out of the mandated religions that have been created in His name, and placing Him in the historical context of His day and age. In the first section, "Jesus, and Interpretation", Thurman frames his argument on the facts tha ...more
Elliot Ratzman
Mar 21, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
MLK traveled with this book in his bag; that may not be enough to recommend it, but it says much—King traveled light. Howard Thurman was a family friend of the Kings’. He was a poet, a mystic, a chaplain (at Howard and BU) and fellow traveler of Gandhian pacificism. In India, Thurman was challenged: how can blacks still abide by the religion of their oppressors? Isn’t their Christianity treason to the colonized “colored people” the world over? Thurman’s response is this powerful text. Though nur ...more
Demetri Broxton-Santiago
This book is awesome! I learned about it from a video in the Freedom Theater at the Museum of the African Diaspora in San Francisco-- there is a cameo appearance in the film by Senator Barack Obama (Note that the film was produced in 2004-- before the election announcement by Obama).

It is said that Dr. MLK, Jr. owned a copy of this book and carried it as a reference wherever he went. Many folks don't know who this great man was, and that's why you should read this amazing work by a peaceful ge
Jan 02, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I return to this book again and again. Nearly every word is highlighted or underlined. Whenever people ask me, "What should I read?" this book is the one I recommend. Written decades ago, it remains a timeless classic for anyone trying to figure out how to love people on the margins, the people who thrive on the systems that create the margins, and everyone in between.
Nancy DeValve
I picked this book up for free off a book table at a church we visited. I wasn't sure what the book was about or who Howard Thurman was, but I thought I'd give it a try. After all, the book had been free! By the second page I realized I was going to need to grab a pencil to do some serious underlining. The first thing I underlined was, "[This] reveals to what extent a religion that was born of a people acquainted with persecution and suffering has become the cornerstone of a civilization and of ...more
Pat Loughery
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 In the Name of Jesus: Reflections on Chri
Brandee Shafer
Jun 26, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I started to read Jesus and the Disinherited several times and put it down because I couldn't devote 100% of my attention to it, and it requires 100% attention. Howard Thurman wrote it in the late 40's, and his language is more formal than that of my everyday life; I had to get in a ways before it started to feel comfortable, or natural (i.e., before I stopped feeling distracted by it). But more than that, Thurman writes such depth into these 110 pages that I found myself re-reading and underlin ...more
Feb 29, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: theological
Howard Thurman wrote this book in 1949 and his words are a precursor to ML King's love ethic and James Cone's Theology of Black Liberation. Thurman write this book for the "the disinherited," with the assumption that Jesus was a member of the oppressed and that his message was a survival strategy for the oppressed. As a white male North American I found myself on the outside looking in wondering how, as Thurman points out, Christianity had become the religion of the strong. His words challenge m ...more
Jan 26, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: efm
This is an amazing book! Written in the 1940s, it's message is all-too-sadly current, especially in this election year, where hate and demagoguery are being used to manipulate our so-called Christian country. Immediately, on the first page, Thurman says, "Too often the price exacted by society for security and respectability is that the Christian movement in its formal expression must be on the side of the strong against the weak." Amen.

Thurman lays out the three "hounds of hell that dog the fo
Aug 06, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: religion
"In his seminal 1949 book, Jesus and the Disinherited, Thurman provided an interpretation of the New Testament gospels that laid the foundation for a nonviolent civil rights movement. Thurman presented the basic goal of Jesus' life as helping the disinherited of the world change from within so they would be empowered to survive in the face of oppression. A love rooted in the "deep river of faith," wrote Thurman, would help oppressed peoples overcome persecution. "It may twist and turn, fall back ...more
Robin Friedman
Dec 23, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Howard Thurman And The Black Social Gospel

Gary Dorrien's recent book, "Breaking White Supremacy: Martin Luther King, Jr. and the Black Social Gospel" provoked my interest in learning more about Howard Thurman (1899 -- 1981). Thurman was an African American minister, advocate for social justice, and mystic. He founded and led a racially-integrated non-denominational church in San Francisco and served as chaplain at both Howard University and Boston University. He traveled to India and was deeply
Nov 15, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
At many points throughout this book, it was hard to believe Thurman wrote it 60-plus years ago. So many passages spoke with eerie relevance to current events. For the near future, I plan to keep it in my bag for rereading and reference.
Sep 24, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: encouragement
Mr. Thurman writes with the heart of a poet, though what he writes about is anything but poetry. In a time where some blacks feel that we are no closer to justice as a people than in the revolutionary times of the Civil Rights movement, reading this book will enlighten you on what's truly behind poverty, inequality, and injustice. It was, at times, hard to read because the truth can oftentimes shine so bright that it blinds. Nonetheless, this is a book that mingles faith - NOT RELIGION - with ho ...more
John Dobbs
Feb 27, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: justice
An amazing book. I regret I did not read this as a younger man. The insights into the lives of the 'disinherited' and the life of Jesus were eye opening and challenging. The final chapter presented hope and a path. I wish it were required reading for every college freshman or even high school seniors.

As I look back through it I highlighted much of the book. I especially appreciated the viewpoint of Jesus as someone who could be viewed as one of the 'disinherited' ... living an impoverished life
Jun 27, 2016 rated it it was amazing
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 ...more
Dan Salerno
Apr 10, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Ordinarily the year of a book's publication isn't a big deal. But that's not the case with Howard Thurman's Jesus and the Disinherited.

It was first published in 1949.

Almost two decades before the Civil Rights movement and Martin Luther King Jr.'s heyday.

Thurman's book describes a very different Jesus than what many evangelicals may be used to.

Jesus was Jewish. It could be argued, writes Thurman "that God could have expressed himself as easily and effectively in a Roman. But he did not." Jews l
May 23, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Apr 17, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Sabbath book #14 for 2018.

During a visit to India, Howard Thurman, a contemporary of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr, was asked why he practiced the religion of those who had oppressed his people for so much of recorded history.

This astonishingly concise and powerful book serves as his answer. He arranges the four primary emotions related to oppression and the responses of Jesus to each emotion, drawing clear lines from Jesus's work to the America of Thurman's time.

The portrait of Jesus's life and t
Jan 15, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
"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." pg. 60

"Sincerity in human relations is equal to, and the same as, sincerity to God. " pg.62

"... hatred often begins in a situation in which there is contact without fellowship. " pg.65

So much to turn over and consider and reflect upon. From my understanding, these words of Thurman's were among those which inspired the leadership and life of Martin Luther Ki
James Scott
I've been increasingly dissatisfied with church on the whole for the last few years, but was never able to really understand why. Reading this book has nailed it for me. The image of a church community that operates on the taught principles of Jesus for fellowship and breaking down of societal barriers, with a priority given to providing a space for the voice of the disinherited, is one that I could get passionate about, but so rarely see in actual execution.
Alex Fitzgerald
Jan 22, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
To see all as Human. Reverence for the imago dei. An important read.
May 07, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Thurman profoundly challenges readers to see our need to be forgiven by God and provides a picture of what human forgiveness can look like across social strata.
Marcia Chapman
Oct 05, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book is fascinating on many levels. It furthered my understanding both of people who are “disinherited” as well as my relationship with God.
Kristofer Carlson
Dec 07, 2014 rated it it was amazing
This is a difficult book to read, because it challenges so many of my presuppositions and principles. Although white, I grew up in what is euphemistically called a "racially mixed neighborhood". I assumed that growing up as the minority in my neighborhood gave me some insight into the situation of African-Americans. This is far from the truth. Even though we weren't well off, and my friends were black, my life experience was significantly different. Although I have managed to pull myself out of ...more
Leslie Nord
Feb 01, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
I wish the book had a different title as it may stop non-Christians from reading it, thinking it is about Christianity. The book is about the fundamentals of the human experience - why there is hatred in the world, why we gravitate toward it, why we find it to be useful, and how it destroys the soul. He uses Jesus as his authority on the subject as Jesus was born poor into an underclass. Jesus taught how to survive oppression without losing dignity or respect for one’s self. Thurman unpacks why ...more
Brent Roe-Hall
Jul 17, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Thurman offers a shattering shift in perspective by considering the religion of Jesus and what, if anything, it has to offer to those "with their backs against the wall." In the process, Thurman creatively and concisely re-appropriates Jesus in his religious, social, and political context and reveals that Christ does, in fact, offer an answer--a way of life--to those who are "disinherited."
While that fact is not surprising, Thurman illustrates the life of Jesus in a way that revealed my previou
Leila May
Jan 28, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I must say that it did leave me with more questions than when I started reading, but I deeply appreciated the intellectual and ethical sincerity with which he grappled such difficult issues that pervade our human consciousness and our society. In further credit to him, his writing beautifully illustrated the undefeated and courageous human spirit, not naive, but conscientious, not bitter, but compassionate.
The book was more than an intellectual quest; it was also a soulful one. He addressed mora
Dhanaraj Rajan
Sep 10, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: theology
The reflections on hate, deception, fear and love are very revealing.
What the Religion of Jesus has to offer to those people who are pushed to the wall - the disinherited?
Can it offer anything at all for the dispossessed for it had always identified itself with the dominant and oppressive group? If it can offer something to them what can it be?
With these questions Howard Thurman begins the book. And then there are some fantastic reflections. He talks having the apartheid situation present in Am
May 01, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Thurman's persistent use of male pronouns chafes in the modern ear, but that should in no way be any reason to ignore this book. A pastoral look at the role of Christianity in the lives of the subaltern which preceded Liberation Theology by over two decades, this short volume ought to be required Sunday School reading in every church.
Dec 18, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Classic. Framed the Civil Rights Movement. Thurman met Gandhi before India's liberation from the British Empire. Powerful and prophetic. MLK walked with it for years in his backpocket. A must read.
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Howard Thurman (born 1899 in Daytona Beach, Florida - April 10, 1981 in Daytona Beach, Florida) was an author, philosopher, theologian, educator and civil rights leader.
“He recognized with authentic realism that anyone who permits another to determine the quality of his inner life gives into the hands of the other the keys to his destiny.” 26 likes
“Above and beyond all else it must be borne in mind that hatred tends to dry up the springs of creative thought in the life of the hater, so that his resourcefulness becomes completely focused on the negative aspects of his environment. The urgent needs of the personality for creative expression are starved to death. A man's horizon may become so completely dominated by the intense character of his hatred that there remains no creative residue in his mind and spirit to give to great ideas, to great concepts.” 14 likes
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