by Howard Thurman
Beacon Press, Boston. 124 pages
It’s important to return to the classics for grounding in theology and practice. That is certainly true in this turbulent time. Some pastors resist preaching their sermons multiple times, but we should not resist repeated readings of the sermons of Martin Luther King Jr., Barbara Brown Taylor, Fleming Rutledge or Augustine. We return to them for wisdom, guidance and, sometimes, sheer courage to keep on keeping on. This is why Howard Thurman’s classic is so important now. When this book was written, Thurman was no longer an academic. He had become the pastor of the intentionally interracial Church for the Fellowship of All People in San Francisco. There he developed his theology that was profoundly “inward” without sacrificing the “outward” advance of the reign of Christ in the world. One might think of him as the unsung founder of liberation theology.
In this work, he addresses the spiritual plight of the “disinherited” and the way forward. It is a profound exploration of the consequences of racism as well as the spiritual resources that are necessary to move forward. Every pastor who believes in the radical power of the gospel to address the human condition should read this book. (If you don’t believe in that power, it’s probably time to do something else.) Racism continues to be the sin that corrupts the American dream. The gospel is the antidote. Read this book to see how it is applied. The inward journey and the outward journey are always and clearly announced in Thurman’s work.