Jordan Ogren

January 26, 2022

Jesus and the disinherited <> Book Review 04

Too many religious books are written by people who scarcely resemble Jesus. Those on top (i.e., rich pastors, celebrities like Tim Tebow) are the most frequent writers about religion.

But this book is different. Howard Thurman represents someone on the bottom, overlooked, hated for his skin color, much more similar to the Judaic Jesus.

Howard uses examples from Christ's life and his own to share a way out for those who feel at the bottom of society. It's a beautiful perspective shift for someone like me who has spent little time on the bottom.

I learned a ton from this book and hopefully gained empathy for those Jesus came to save (the sick and poor, not the rich). This book is a healthy and quick read no matter where you are (bottom, middle, or top).
The book: Jesus and the Disinherited by Howard Thurman

Why you should read: To understand how people at the bottom view the world and their main struggles in living the Christian way, using examples from Jesus who embodied the disinherited.

TL;DR: Jesus and the Disinherited provides a theoretical and practical framework to understand the "persistent hounds of hell that dog the footsteps of the poor, dispossessed, the disinherited" (i.e., fear, deception, and hate) and how to overcome them through Love and Jesus' example. 

The main points:

Point 1: Few church sermons are given by and for the person with their back against the wall 
"I can count on the fingers of one hand the number of times that I've heard a sermon on the meaning of religion, of Christianity, to the man who stands with his back against the wall."

Howard is stating that religion is not shared in the person's view with their back against the wall. Religion is dominated by people who look nothing like Jesus and focus more on reaching the disinherited—not teaching the disinherited.

Instead, Howard provides a fresh perspective on religion for the person society has counted out. He shares insights that you will be hard-pressed to find in a regular church service.

Point 2: Mastering your reactions is critical to determining your future 
The disinherited face a difficult dilemma: Responding to those that spit at them.

"Jesus 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."

How does one at the bottom not give in to the name-calling and unfairness? This is the challenge they face.

"It is a man's reaction to things that determines their ability to exercise power over him."

Point 3: The first hound of hell that the disinherited face is fear
"When the power and the tools of violence are on one side, the fact that there is no available and recognized protection from violence makes the resulting fear deeply terrifying."

Therefore fear is the first hound of hell that the disinherited face. And here is what they can do to overcome it:

"The first task (against fear) is to get the self-immunized against the most radical results of the threat of violence."

Fear plagues those who are at the bottom. The way to overcome that is to become stable in who you are and what you bring to the table (self-worth). They can throw stones at you, but only you hold the power to remain in control.

Point 4: The second hound of hell the disinherited face is deception
The second challenge is the seduction of deception. When you're at the bottom, it's easy to think lying and stealing are okay. And in certain situations, they are okay.

But… "The penalty of deception is to become a deception, with all sense of moral discrimination vitiated. A man who lies habitually becomes a lie, and it is increasingly impossible for him to know when he is lying and when he is not."

The path to overcoming deception is to strive for integrity and nobility in all things.

Point 5: The final hound of hell the disinherited face is hatred
When you are hated for your skin color or economic position, it's easy to mirror that—hating those who hate you is easy. But this is not how you live your best life as a disinherited person.

"Hatred bears deadly and bitter fruit."

Once you begin hating someone, it is challenging to confine that only to the oppressors.

"Once hatred is released, it cannot be confined to the offenders alone."

The reason you must avoid hatred is that it kills you. 

"The logic of the development of hatred is death to the spirit and disintegration of ethical and moral values. Jesus rejected hatred because he saw that hatred meant death to the mind, death to the spirit, death to communion with his Father."

So, how do you overcome hatred? Love.

Point 6: Love is the ultimate path to overcoming the hounds of hell
Through love and respect, you can reject the three hounds of hell and follow the path of Jesus (to your best life).

"The first step toward love is a common sharing of a sense of mutual worth and value."

To love, you must see your oppressors in a way they fail to see you (as a child of God). You must also practice forgiveness even when everything within you wants to hate and attack those who hurt and ridicule you.

"It is clear that before love can operate, there is the necessity for forgiveness of injury perpetuated against a person by a group. This is the issue for the disinherited."

The main quotes:

"It is the sin of pride and arrogance that has tended to vitiate the missionary impulse and to make of it and instrument of self-righteousness on the one hand in racial superiority on the other."

"The Christian Church has tended to overlook its Judaic origins, but the fact is that Jesus of Nazareth was a Jew of Palestine when he went about his father's business, announcing the acceptable year of the Lord."

"There is one over mastering problem that the socially and politically disinherited always face: Under what terms is survival possible?"

"The second basic question that must be answered by the dissent hearted: "What am I?" This question has to do, not with a sense of innate belonging, but rather with personal achievement and ability."

"Sincerity in human relations is equal to, and the same as, sincerity to God. Man's relation to man and man's relation to God are one relation."

The main question:

If you're part of the disinherited (outside), how can you avoid the three hounds of hell and practice love?

If you're part of the inside group, how can you help those on the outside (disinherited) and not perpetuate their struggles?


My favorite thing about books is how they can alter our perspective. Never could I have seen the world the way Howard and those disinherited do.

But by reading this book, my eyes are opened, and I plan to live differently by helping those at the bottom. I now understand their unique challenges and will do my best to hold a liminal space for them to work out these challenges.

🧠 + ❤️ // JO