Religion and the Downmost Man
Berry Street Essay, 1922
James A. Fairley
The writer defended the thesis that Jesus, inheriting spiritually from the prophets, in pronouncing unequivocally that his gospel was primarilyfor the poor, the sick, the prisoner, the toiler, gave utterance not to a sentimental feeling of pity and sympathy but to a philosophy of history. The slave, the symbol in all ages of the victims of social injustice, hasbeen the acid test of every civilization that has countenanced slavery.
The slave has fulfilled the words of the classic prophecy of vicariousness. He has borne the griefs and carried the sorrows of his more fortunatebrethren. And wherever today others are doing the same, "with theirstripes we are healed." Thus there emerges a philosophy of solidarity; that the race must and can go forward only as a unit; or better still as a family. Instead of the weaker members being the burden-bearers, they that are strong must bear the burden of the weak.
So also is suggested a theology. Within and underneath is the titanic deity, suffering with the sick, infirm with the infirmities of the weak: "who though he was rich, yet for our sakes became poor, that we through hispoverty might be rich." And from him, and not from another, came the words, "Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me."
(Abstract of paper prepared by theauthor, Rev. James A. Fairley. May, 1922)