Perichoretically Baldwin

I get asked all the time, “Why do you quote James Baldwin so much?” My answer oftentimes, “Why don’t you quote him at all?” Baldwin is the epitome of what art should resemble. His writings are piercing critiques of an (a)merican system that refuses to honor a morality that it proclaims on paper. Baldwin requires that the system do a self-examination, however painful and uncomfortable, he places a mirror before the (a)merican power structure and says, “LOOK!!!”

James Baldwin is a paradox as El Kornegay so aptly states in his book The Queering of Black Theology. G.K. Chesterton describes a paradox as truth standing on its head screaming to get everyone’s attention. Baldwin becomes this paradox not by shameful antics for attention but by mere activation of a love that drives his compassion for humanity. He is driven by this insane love for humanity.( I reference his love as insane because it would appear that the work of getting others to understand humanity and the treatment of humanity is an impossible task.) The hatred that revolves around this country is unfathomable to most and ignored by many unless you are considered a minority. Baldwin’s daunting attempt to reconcile people to truth is what makes people uncomfortable with his art. This sacred beauty that invites us to grapple with injustice and explore a world of diversity. His ability to perichoretically improvise life, gives us a sense of what a true community in God might resemble –the ability to be honest, authentic, in/with love filled with compassion.


10 Quotes from James Baldwin’s “Notes of a Native Son”

  1. “A force of circumstance is not poverty merely but color. ” (pg.31)
  2. “Whenever we encounter him in the flesh, our faith is made perfect and his necessary and bloody end is executed with a mystical ferocity of joy.” (pg. 37)
  3. “Negro life is in fact as debased and impoverished as our theology claims.” (pg. 41)
  4. “It is really quite impossible to be affirmative about anything one refused to question.”
  5. “To smash something is the ghetto’s chronic need.” (pg.111)
  6. “The alienation  causes the Negro to recognize that he is a hybrid.”(pg.123)
  7. “An American Attribute is the inability to believe that time is real” (.pg.135)
  8. “No people come into possession of a culture without paying a heavy price for it.” (pg.140)
  9. ” Whenever the Negro face appears a tension is created, the tension of a  silence filled with things unutterable.” (pg. 29)
  10. ” People are trapped in history and history is trapped in them.” (pg. 163)