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Jesus and the Disinherited

4.49  ·  Rating details ·  2,449 ratings  ·  281 reviews
In this classic theological treatise, the acclaimed theologian and religious leader Howard Thurman (1900–81) 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 de ...more
Paperback, 102 pages
Published November 30th 1996 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 p…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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Matthew Monk
May 04, 2011 rated it it was amazing
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
Jan 02, 2017 rated it it was amazing
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.
Elliot Ratzman
Mar 21, 2012 rated it really liked it
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
Apr 29, 2008 rated it it was amazing
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
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
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
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
robin friedman
Dec 23, 2018 rated it it was amazing
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
Jan 26, 2016 rated it it was amazing
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
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
Nov 15, 2016 rated it it was amazing
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.
May 23, 2014 rated it really liked it
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
Lori Neff
Jun 04, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This is a wise and important book. In depth analysis of humankind - our heart, soul, community. Just read it. You won't be sorry.
Sep 24, 2014 rated it it was amazing
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
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  ·  review of another edition
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
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
Kyle Johnson
May 04, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2019-books-read
"The disinherited will know for themselves that there is a Spirit at work in life and in the hearts of people which is committed to overcoming the world. It is universal, knowing no age, no race, no culture, no conditions. For the privileged and underprivileged alike, if the individual puts at the disposal of the Spirit the needful dedication and discipline, he can live effectively in the chaos of the present the high destiny of a son of God."

This is a true 5 star read. It's often rumored that
Jun 11, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This was one of those books I knew I needed to get around to at some point, but I'm now upset that I didn't read it twenty years ago. I feel let down; that no one explained to me that this was one of the essential books. And not just essential theologically. Essential for anyone to read.

Essential for its sophisticated understanding of how marginalized people respond to their situations. Essential for the way it clearly influenced King and others. Essential for helping to understand America.

Jan 15, 2018 rated it really liked it
"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
Apr 17, 2018 rated it it was amazing
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
James Scott
Apr 06, 2017 rated it it was amazing
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
To see all as Human. Reverence for the imago dei. An important read.
Porsche Vanderhorst
Jul 14, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This was mentally rigorous and spiritually convicting. I would like to re-read it and discuss it with some folk because this is a text that dwarves processing in a group space. Thurman is truly a spiritual mystic!!
Aug 25, 2019 rated it it was amazing
A powerful reflection on what the person of Christ can teach us about breaking through the imbalances of power that threaten to tear our society apart and threaten to separate us from our own “high destiny as sons [and daughters] of God.”
Steven Kopp
Sep 04, 2019 rated it really liked it
Soaring ethics, questionable Christology.
Johnny Serratt
Feb 25, 2020 rated it it was amazing
I understand why this book was impactful for MLK. The insistence on the salvation of both the oppressed and the oppressor comes from Dr. Thurman's loving interaction with the religion of Jesus.
May 07, 2018 rated it it was amazing
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.
Lori Chaffer
Nov 27, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Honestly one of the best books I've ever read. It's telling and a shame I didn't know about it until this year. Would recommend all humans read it regularly.
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Howard Washington Thurman was an author, philosopher, theologian, educator, and civil rights leader. As a prominent religious figure, he played a leading role in many social justice movements and organizations of the twentieth century.

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