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Jesus and the Disinherited

4.51  ·  Rating details ·  4,822 ratings  ·  622 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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Julie We just finished it in a study at church. We meet once a week and did a chapter a week do we could really absorb his thoughts and points. It's not, to…moreWe just finished it in a study at church. We meet once a week and did a chapter a week do we could really absorb his thoughts and points. It's not, to me anyway, a book to just breeze through if you want to get the full impact of it. There are many things in each chapter to make you think and ponder and discuss. (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. ...more
Elliot Ratzman
Mar 21, 2012 rated it it was amazing
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 pacifism. 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 nurtu ...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
Sleepless Dreamer
Review to come!

Summing up the last few days of what is not officially a war but will likely become one within the next few days as it's gonna be interesting to read this in the future and see how my thoughts change:

- My predictions: The Hamas are going to bomb Tel Aviv again tonight. If there will be serious casualties, an Israeli land invasion is not unlikely. There are going to be riots in the West Bank. Terror attacks, especially in the Jerusalem and WB area. Whether they'll be successful o
Catherine McNiel
Feb 22, 2021 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: seminary
I read this book earlier in the year while researching the book I was writing. I read it again for my theology class. I wish this was required reading for all of us. If you haven't read it, please do. If you have, read it again. ...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
Apr 14, 2022 added it
Shelves: religion
Reading this book was such a reminder to me of how the way of Jesus (the true way) can be offensive. When Thurman talks about those whose “backs against the wall”, it is so hard not to justify everything they might do. But Thurman draws from the scopes of history, literature, and psychology to compassionately point to the way of Jesus.

He addresses three specific temptations for the disinherited: fear, deception, and hate. Jesus’ prescriptions for these temptations are well-known (i.e. love your
Mar 09, 2021 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: politics
I'm still processing (and likely will be for a while to come), but Thurman's classic work was much more layered than I was expecting. And in that way, much more challenging-no one can read this and feel innocent of a need to deeply self-interrogate. To ask how I might be one who disinherits others. And how I choose the rancid balms of fear, isolation, and hatred when I am disinherited.

But this book isn't written to all people. It's written to those who are truly disinherited by the world (not j
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
Charlotte Vazquez
Jan 22, 2022 rated it it was amazing
Wow…had to read this for a class but it surpassed all my expectations. This book is incredible. I’d say must-read for Christians&non-Christians alike.
Feb 14, 2022 rated it it was amazing
Excellent book- I can see why it inspired MLK!
Carmen Imes
Mar 01, 2021 rated it really liked it
This book is a classic, but I'm not sure that I have the context to fully appreciate its genius. The insights I found most profound were his reflections on how fear takes hold of us and how we begin looking at other people as our enemies. He also offers bold words about how deception becomes a way of life for the disinherited, and how if any of us is ever to embrace full dignity we must leave deception behind. He presses for us to love not just our alienated friends but our enemies as well. Jesu ...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
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
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.
Steven Kopp
Sep 04, 2019 rated it really liked it
Soaring ethics, questionable Christology.
Cara Meredith
Feb 27, 2021 rated it it was amazing
Pretty sure I underlined every other sentence.
May 23, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: theology, race
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
Dec 23, 2021 rated it it was amazing
Are you even in seminary if you aren’t reading Howard Thurman????

This text is highly accessible, though, and could easily be influential for non-seminarians. Thurman is brilliant and thorough in his analysis of fear, deception, hate, and love. I would love (in the future, when I have more time) to put his work in conversation with MLK, Malcom X, even bell hooks & Paolo Freire.
Mar 30, 2022 rated it it was amazing
In less than 100 pages, Howard Thurman presents how the religion Christianity should be and it’s relationship with the disinherited. With searing phrases towards the complacency and racism of white Christianity, I would call this one of many essential readings to decolonize one’s faith.
Evan Hoekzema
Sep 24, 2022 rated it it was amazing
Simply incredible. Thurman gives such an in depth look into Jesus’ life and the forces of oppression and the self-doubt he must of experienced because of his existence as someone in a “lower class”. Thurman talked about the danger and anatomy of hate, once released it cannot be controlled. More than anything he calls everyone to recognize the unique humanity in another and to let love be the motivation and goal of our existence. So needed today!
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
Jan 11, 2021 rated it it was amazing
Howard Thurmans' classic is worth that title. He is a brilliant man, a gentle pastor, and a forceful prophet. In five chapters he covers so much material and tells it so eloquently. He weaves the story of Jesus with the person experience of the oppressed and it spoke to me very much. He speaks about how the oppressed must find their full humanity in Jesus but with none of the condescension that their oppressors do, but also without fear, hatred, violence, or deception.

From the introduction of th
Feb 06, 2021 rated it it was amazing
This was assigned reading for the Renovare book club this year. The two fellow readers and myself had a lot of discussion with this meaty book especially with the events that we saw taking place with the riots of 2020. So I was conflicted. If only...

Thurman's viewpoint was of non-violence that could only stem from a personal relationship with Christ. No wonder MLK found many of his beliefs in line with Thurman. Thurman depicted the different human reactions that can be taken due to being disinh
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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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“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.” 41 likes
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