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    Howard Thurman and Oppression

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    How does the book "Jesus and the Disinherited" by Howard Thurman speak to his theology of human liberation?

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    I focused exclusively on Jesus and the Disinherited, but his arguments appear in other books as well.

    Jesus and the Disinherited: the purpose of the incarnation was to restore mankind as a whole. Man is alienated and fragmented and oppression is both the cause and the effect of this. Like St. Augustine, he argues that our sin is the cause of oppression, meaning that it is not a natural state. It is the result of our estrangement from God.

    The implication (though he does not spell it out) is that man's sin takes expression in the desire for control. Always fearful, man projects his desires on the outside world, including on other people. To force the world to follow our will is the general sin here. It is based on fear. This means further that the world does not appear to be a rational order, but, due to this drive, it appears like a mass: a flux of objects that have no meaning in themselves.

    On the other hand, Christ preached the meaning in all things in the sense that they are all connected. Brotherhood, it seems, is the opposite of domination. We are all worth the same, so our problems are the same and man, as a result, cannot be an object. He is an equal and hence, we must make room for him.

    The struggle of black America is emblematic here. It serves to remind mankind about this problem and its difficulty: we are afraid, so we seek to control. The community is a manifestation of Brotherhood: the collective is the manifestation of its opposite. The community is one of equals that serve the common good out of respect. The collective is the "crowd" a group of alienated egos forced together. Soon, this crowd becomes fragmented as the more aggressive and devious take power (12).
    Hence: oppression.

    Now, in Jesus and the Disinherited, Thurman applies theology to those groups not devious enough to control others. The fact is that Christ and his church acted solely on the grounds that the outcasts are especially chosen of God. Christ himself was poor and had no stable home. His apostles were of ...

    Solution Summary

    This article expands upon Howard Thurman's essential argument that being marginalized is not an evil if it is used in the proper way. Oppression hurts the oppressor more than the oppressed. The oppressed should use this condition to turn inward and build a moral foundation that uses its own standard of virtue rather than the one imposed by the oppressor.