Today’s book is short and powerful, so this post will be short and sweet.
(Well, truthfully, I will probably get carried away, and it won’t be all that short.)
The Fire Next Time by James Baldwin is just 106 pages long with about 200 words per page. So, pretty much like three of my wordier blog posts.
I just bought his Notes of a Native Son for a friend to bring me in December, and I’m going to check out some of his other books from the digital online library.
He is just flat-out brilliant and so insightful, and I walk away from his words feeling smart and pensive and a little bit sad and somehow also hopeful.
And, if you’d rather watch than read, check out this trailer from the Netflix film, I Am Not Your Negro, based on his books.
It is so so good. And it’s hard to watch. And it’s searing and true and convicting and powerful.
The Fire Next Time begins with a letter James is writing to his nephew (also named James), and I’m so glad he let us read it. Because I feel like it’s for us, even more than for young James.
“This is the crime of which I accuse my country and my countrymen,” he writes, “and for which neither I nor time nor history will ever forgive them, that they have destroyed and are destroying hundreds of thousands of lives and do not know it and do not want to know it.” (5)
We can change this friends, we can want to know it, and we can know it, and we can help open other people’s eyes too.
“The details and symbols of your life have been deliberately constructed to make you believe what white people say about you. Please try to remember that what they believe, as well as what they do and cause you to endure, does not testify to your inferiority but to their inhumanity and fear… You must accept them and accept them with love. For these innocent people have no other hope. They are, in effect, still trapped in a history which they do not understand: and until they understand it, they cannot be released from it.” (8)
He also has some words for the church and the principles he saw growing up.
“The principles were Blindness, Loneliness, and Terror, the first principle necessarily and actively cultivated in order to deny the two others. I would love to believe that the principles were Faith, Hope, and Charity, but this is clearly not so for most Christians, or for what we call the Christian world.” (31)
And LAST quote before I type up the whole dang book.
“It is not too much to say that whoever wishes to become a truly moral human being… must first divorce himself from all the prohibitions, crimes, and hypocrisies of the Christian church. If the concept of God has any validity or any use, it can only be to make us larger, freer, and more loving. If God cannot do this, then it is time we got rid of Him.” (47)
As someone who believes in God and loves him very very much, I agree 1000%. If we aren’t loving people, we’ve got the wrong idea of God.
Go watch I’m Not Your Negro. Go get one of his books. If you’ve already read some, which one was your fave?
Day 1: Introduction
Day 2: Books by/about refugees.
Day 3: Books about race & faith.
Day 4: Books about race & faith, cont’d.
Day 5: Book about a family with a transgender child.
Day 6: Just Mercy.
Day 7: The New Jim Crow.
Day 8: Rescuing Jesus.
Day 9: The Very Good Gospel.
(All links are Amazon Associate links.)