‘Low in the Well’: A Mystic’s Creative Message of Hope in Jesus and the Disinherited

In: Journal for the Study of the Historical Jesus

2019 marks the 70th anniversary of Howard Thurman’s Jesus and the Disinherited (1949). Thurman’s classic was not a work of dogma nor a variation on the so-called “Quest for the Historical Jesus.” Instead, Thurman’s classic primarily offered a mystic’s message of hope to many marginalized persons in the first half of the twentieth century. In part, Jesus and the Disinherited reveals Jesus’s insight about the importance of personal dignity for dispossessed persons in any age. In part, Jesus and the Disinherited also frames the mystic’s message of hope as a defense of Thurman’s affinity for a religion that reputedly was linked to a long history of oppression, colonization, violence, and exploitation. Thus, in Jesus and the Disinherited, Thurman avers that there is a distinction between the religion of Jesus (which Thurman put on the side of the marginalized) and institutional Christianity (which Thurman saw as aligned with dominant societal structures).