Among the many lessons I learned from dialoging with Bruce Chilton on his seminal book, Resurrection Logic: How Jesus; First Followers Believed God Raised Him from the Dead, is respect for diversity.  It is so clear that many people who experienced the risen Christ did so in very diverse ways.  

Cover of Howard Thurman’s classic work, “Jesus and the Disinherited”. Order a copy here.

And in many ways the history of Christianity has been very diverse also.  Different emphases, different directions, different telling of stories and choosing of stories.  Sometimes labelled Greek Orthodox or Russian Orthodox or Celtic or Roman Catholic or Coptic or Protestant (many variations there) or African or South American or Asian, diversity reigns.  Such diversity reigned from the beginning in the sharing of resurrection stories for example.

Howard Thurman summarizes the truth of this reality wonderfully in his book, Jesus and the Disinherited:

Jesus of Nazareth. To some he is the grand prototype of all the distilled longing of mankind for fulfillment, for wholeness, for perfection. 

To some he is the Eternal Presence hovering over all the myriad needs of humanity, yielding healing for the sick of body and soul, giving a lift to those whom weariness has overtaken in the long march, and calling out hidden purposes of destiny which are the common heritage. 

From the Howard Thurman and Sue Bailey Thurman Collections, Howard Gotlieb Archival Research Center at Boston University.

To some he is more than a Presence; he is the God fact, the Divine Moment in human sin and human misery. 

To still others he is a man who found the answer to life’s riddle, and out of a profound gratitude he becomes the Man most worthy of honor and praise.  

Thus interpreted, he belongs to no age, no race, no creed. 

When men look into his face, they see etched the glory of their own possibilities, and their hearts whisper, “Thank you and thank God!” 

And this statement on the prophetic side of Jesus.

What, then, is the word of the religion of Jesus to those who stand with their backs against the wall? There must be the clearest possible understanding of the anatomy of the issues facing them. They must recognize fear, deception, hatred, each for what it is. Once having done this, they must learn how to destroy these or to render themselves immune to their domination. 

Peaceful Uprising founder Tim DeChristopher and Roxbury, MA clergy lead a protest march in 2016, linking a local pipeline to a mass grave for victims of climate-caused heat in Pakistan. Photo by Peter Bowden on Flickr; referencing DeChristopher’s video, “The Age of Anticipatory Mass Graves.

Instead of fighting science, Thurman urges and celebrates our basic curiosity about cosmology. 

It is natural that man should concern himself with beginnings. This is a part of the curiosity of the mind. Without it there would be no exploration of the world and there would be no growth. . . . This is an inherent characteristic of mind; it is not unique to any particular age of man, culture, or society. Contemplation concerning origins is a part of the curiosity of the race. 

Today science is gifting us with a new story of the universe, one that is being understood around the world.  We are also learning how our ancestors all came from Africa. A rebirth of wonder follows those who keep their curiosity about origins alive.

Adapted from Matthew Fox, Christian Mystics: 365 Readings and Meditations, pp. 204, 205, 203.

Banner Image: People March at the Black Lives Matter protest in Washington DC 6/6/2020 (IG: @clay.banks). Photo by Clay Banks on Unsplash

Do you agree that Jesus does not belong to any age, race, or creed? What are the implications of that?  And that we should follow the basic curiosity of the mind?  What follows from that?

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2 thoughts on “More Wisdom from Howard Thurman”

  1. Avatar

    People through out human history seem to have sought to define a reason for our existence and the universe around us, and in the process have attempted to define the properties related to the source and reason for our existence. In English, we have named it God. In addition, we seem to look at God as a puppeteer in control of everything. We live in a universe that poses more questions than answers.
    We all seem to accept that we live in a temporal environment. Things begin and end. Life begins and ends. We speak of eternal, but nothing in our universe exists without change. We can accept eternal without an ability to understand it.
    Yet an existence of that nature would be required to cause our temporal existence. Humanity does exist and we have several theories for that beginning. The Judeo-Christian community seems to revert to the Genesis creation “image and likeness”, and Adam and Eve biblical stories. Those events could not have been eye-witness as many of our current events are, because no one was there at the time. If, as some propose, the Creator reported the events and passed on that documentation. Logic says it would then have been reported in the first person.
    Is it more likely that the “image and likeness” is to be understood as the same nature of the Creator?
    There is only one two-part (“image and likeness” and Adam and Eve) creation story recorded where the breath of life is mentioned. All other human existence is the result of the natural birthing process, even the natural birth of Jesus. Is it possible that the soul or spirit of all humanity is one, rather than each having our own separate soul. We have been taught that souls of the just spend eternity in heaven, and the dammed in hell. If that would be true, eternity as we tend to explain it has no beginning or end. If, as we ascribe, our Creator (God) is all-loving, and all knowing, why would a soul be created to eternally burn in hell? If the “image and likeness” being was created with free will to choose, and the desire of the Creator for that free will being to choose loving the Creator above all other choices, perhaps that is the reason Jesus and others throughout the ages have stressed the importance of love. The Prayer of St. Francis, “Where there is hatred, let me sow love”, is more important today than ever before. If we hate the people who are causing harm, we are only dividing the “image and likeness soul” that we all are a part of. There is a difference between the person and the action. Some actions may occur due to the lack of love. Our churches and religions have focused on individual soul destiny of heaven or hell. It is past time that we shower love rather than hatred. It is easy to love the lovable, but life is not about easy. Let’s leave dogma and ritual behind, and stress focus on ways to influence behavior by love.

    1. Richard Reich-Kuykendall
      Richard Reich-Kuykendall

      Bob, I think that we at “Daily Meditations with Matthew Fox” would agree with what you have written for the most part. And I personally would like to stress focus on love rather dogma, however, I wouldn’t want to leave ritual behind. As Matthew says, “Ritual means ‘the work of the people.'” And so we must find more ways to help people enter in to the ritual experience. Matthew has found new ways of doing this, perhaps the most impressive are his “Techno-Cosmic Masses”–I’ve been to a number of them and these are the kinds of ritual that can be very meaningful for people today! Thank you again for sharing, Bob…

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