Christianity as “a technique of survival for the oppressed”

I continue to toss around Adam Clark’s words in my head: Christianity is “an invitation to see ‘from below’”. Now, as someone who teaches religious studies, I’m aware that there’s no essentialist definition of Christianity. There are liberating forms of Christianity, like those mentioned by Clark, and there are other forms, like the white supremacist, nationalistic versions that have become increasingly empowered over the past half-decade. But if the word “Christianity” is going to remain a meaningful word for me, then I need definitions that make Christianity a concept worth pondering.

I’ve come across another statement that helps me think. I found it this morning in Howard Thurman’s Jesus and the Disinherited (p. 18) this morning:

“The basic fact is that Christianity as it was born in the mind of this Jewish teacher and thinker appears as a technique of survival for the oppressed.”

I’ve noticed, thus far, that in admiring Jesus it appears that Thurman avoids the anti-Judaism found in many hagiographical writings about Jesus. This is meaningful to me and I hope that when I finish the book this has remained a consistent theme. For now, the thought of Jesus’ teachings and way of life being a method or a technique is a valuable lens.


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