When viewing books that have been written to share varied opinions based on life experiences, no author can be seen to be more effective in revealing these actions with passion, truth, and emotion than James Baldwin. The author broke what is viewed as literary ground with the exploration of subjects to include racial and social issues in his works in essays as well as books that related what was experienced by black people in the country of America (Biography). The works were developed from the lived experience, which is realistic as well as truthful experience that can be felt when reading the works. This document is the examination of a quote from the book "The Fire Next Time" written by Mr. Baldwin with the quote being "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." The argument is: “Can the examination of Christianity support all people or simply be used by white people to control African Americans” (Baldwin 47)? This statement is the challenge with the need for examination from the author’s viewpoint at that time and how Christianity is seen in modern society today by those who are believers.
Baldwin’s Thoughts on Religion
"The Fire Next Time" began as an essay written in the form of a letter with several different titles before the last title. In this essay, the author addressed a teenage nephew, whose name was James reminding the young man of his temperament and the need to watch it (Baldwin 5-80). As time moves forward, there is the reminder to the nephew of the need to remember that no matter the difficulties that are faced as a black man in the country of America, there must be the remembrance of walking in love while also being an honorable man.
A second essay is written with Baldwin reflecting on religion and its importance with the author turning to Christianity and the church thereby feeling fulfilled while also following in his father’s footsteps. This feeling was overwhelming while also filling Baldwin with a needed sense of purpose that he had been seeking (Baldwin 5-30). However, as he became older, some changes began to take place internally, thereby affecting him in ways that at first could not be explained. This was also a challenge since Baldwin also preached at times in the church.
How the Author Connects the Thoughts
Baldwin’s disillusionment with Christianity became a concern even for him with the belief that his assumption of the existence of God was that this God was white seeing black people as inferior with the concept of God and that if God could not bring people greater freedom as well as the expansion of their lives, then the faith of Christianity should be rejected (Baldwin 47). With this belief becoming part of his life, Baldwin began to address the Nation of Islam and its movement because this appeared to be a religion that could improve the lives of black people. The author had the opportunity to meet Elijah Muhammad and some of those who followed him; however, in having the opportunity to talk with Muhammad, Baldwin found himself disagreeing with the politics associated with the religion (Biography).
In the final part of the second essay, Baldwin analyzes the place of movement to include the Nation of Islam making the standard or necessary conclusions concerning social attitudes as well as how America can have a much brighter future. Baldwin shares that the real issue is ignorance that is exercised by white people toward black people while living in complete denial of the hurt they caused black people to experience with this ignorance also being a general denial of mortality (Baldwin 5-80).
Baldwin shares essential information via an essay that eventually becomes a book with an uncle giving a nephew valuable information in how to live his life while being a black man in a country to where the black man is seen as inferior. He also shows how the uncle (who appears to be himself) is also in search of what will bring about positive change for him as a man. The initial experience of Christianity aided in the confidence of making positive change while also sharing that change with others via the church. However, as Baldwin became older, he began to believe Christianity brought with it hypocrisy being used for perpetuating the power of whites over other races (Baldwin 5-80). The Christian God seemed to invoke the putting down of African Americans with Christianity being the white religion. If this were true, then black people should change their belief.
Today as we look at religion, people still see it as a way to define life and to have a definite purpose for living. Also, since America is a country that has within it people of every race and nationality, there is still the question concerning which religion is the right religion. In the end, it is the individual who must determine what they choose to believe and find within themselves what they need to do in order to be fulfilled based on personal religious experience. In this manner all people are accepted without regard for racism.
"James Baldwin." Biography. N.p., 2019. Web. 30 July 2019.
Baldwin, James. The Fire Next Time. New York: Vintage International Vintage Books, 1993. Print.
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