From age fourteen to seventeen, James Baldwin served as a Pentecostal preacher at a small church located in Central Harlem. Following his abrupt departure from the pulpit due to ideological differences and familial trauma, he never again associated himself with any institutionalized religion. But, while outspoken in his criticism of Christian doctrine, many of his works of fiction are deeply inspired by his experiences growing up in the church. By reading many of his most famous texts in order, readers can see how his thoughts on religion and spirituality evolved as he aged. Common themes in his novels, such as gospel music, spiritual alienation, and love, thus become much easier to comprehend. Love to Baldwin is not defined as the cushy surface-level emotion typically associated with the word today but a force that induces empathy and compassion. Baldwin believes that the root of white supremacy and all worldly oppression results from an underappreciation of the importance of love and the skewing of its definition. The following essay analyzes the themes listed above and the important role that faith plays in many of his most famous works.
Weiner, Benjamin and Suazo, Matthew, "An Examination of James Baldwin's Faith" (2022). Kenyon Summer Science Scholars Program. Paper 595.