The Fire Next Time by James Baldwin

Start Your Free Trial

What is the significance of Christianity in The Fire Next Time?

Expert Answers info

Kimberly Coates, Ph.D. eNotes educator | Certified Educator

briefcaseCollege Professor

bookPh.D. from Stony Brook University


calendarEducator since 2019

write28 answers

starTop subject is Literature

In James Baldwin's essay “Down At The Cross,” which is the second essay of his book The Fire Next Time, Christianity is a major theme. Baldwin explains that he was raised poor in Harlem, New York City. As a young man he became aware that many of his peers and "role models" around him were criminals, drug addicts, or pimps. Not wanting this fate, he threw himself into greater involvement with the Christian Church. In fact, he eventually became a preacher.

While Baldwin remains grateful to Christianity for helping him avoid the fates of the streets, he explains that the more he learned and saw of Christianity he understood that it was an institution built on inequality and oppression of others. It was not an untarnished entity from the rest of the inequalities and hierarchies of American society but rather just another iteration of it. In making this realization, Baldwin left the Christian Church and suggests America must also abandon Christian teachings to ever truly accept the past...

(The entire section contains 4 answers and 929 words.)

Unlock This Answer Now


check Approved by eNotes Editorial

Pamela Mead eNotes educator | Certified Educator

bookB.A. from UC Berkeley


calendarEducator since 2018

write164 answers

starTop subjects are Literature, Social Sciences, and History

check Approved by eNotes Editorial

e-tdc eNotes educator | Certified Educator

calendarEducator since 2017

write10 answers

starTop subject is Literature

check Approved by eNotes Editorial

accessteacher eNotes educator | Certified Educator

calendarEducator since 2009

write13,728 answers

starTop subjects are Literature, Social Sciences, and History

check Approved by eNotes Editorial