Amiri Baraka

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Analyze the political tone in Amiri Baraka's poem "When We'll Worship Jesus".

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The tone in Amiri Baraka's poem "When We'll Worship Jesus," is angry and defiant. The revolutionary political message is very clear from the outset.

We’ll worship jesus
When jesus do
When jesus blow up
the white house
or blast nixon down...

Baraka targets at least two classes of people just in these lines. The first are the wealthy conservatives who have claimed Christianity as the religion of the establishment. The second, with whom he is just as angry, are the poor and oppressed. These people passively put their faith in religion and praise Jesus even though Jesus, as the poet forcefully points out, has never done anything for them. He tells them that none of their political enemies—cops, capitalists, imperialists, racists—are afraid of Jesus. In fact, those who exploit them are delighted that they trust in Jesus rather than taking direct action.

The poem is a call to revolution. Its structure, with examples piled on examples and a complete lack of punctuation, combines with the intense invective to create a sense of urgency. Religion, the poet tells his readers, is counterrevolutionary. To worship Jesus, who has never done anything practical to help them, is merely to perpetuate the current corrupt system. If they want to worship something, the poet provides a list of suggestions:

we worship the strength in us
we worship our selves
we worship the light in us
we worship the warmth in us
we worship the world
we worship the love in us
we worship our selves
we worship nature
we worship ourselves
we worship the life in us, and science, and knowledge, and
of the visible world
but we aint gonna worship no jesus...

He ends the poem with another exhortation: they should force the world to change—and worship revolution. The poet's political purpose channels the furious anger he expresses in the poem into a positive anarchic purpose.

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