Monday, November 8, 2010

James Baldwin: identifying with their Savior

Not to make James Baldwin about me, but, well, I copied this James Baldwin quotation into my journal in 1975. I haven't held onto all of my journals. So many were filled with emotional tedium, important at the time to get out, but not worth saving.  

Never lost is my love of James Baldwin. By love I don't mean to trivialize. Baldwin's grace and skill--he's such a good writer--are bright and shining and have helped to make me human. I copied this into my journal, no doubt because my friends weren't in the temple.

Hypocrisies among the Big Three religions of the West are gruesomely obvious. Fear is base and rampant and as Baldwin says, "in the temple." The lies are institutional and fought well every day.

As a final note, however, "the temple" isn't always the institutions, which can do good. And hanging out only with publicans and sinners has its own limitations. I don't hold Baldwin, me or you to these two paragraphs, but focus on their portion of truth this morning.

But what Christians seem not to do is identify themselves with the man they call their Savior, who, after all, was a very disreputable person when he was alive and who was put to death by Rome, helped along by the Jews in power under Rome. And everybody forgets that.

And so in my case, in order to become a moral human being, whatever that may be, I have to hang out with publicans and sinners, whores and junkies, and stay out of the temple where they told us nothing but lies anyway.

James Baldwin, Rap on Race, 1971.

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