Amiri Baraka and Langston Hughes: “Throw jesus out yr mind” / “Goodbye, Christ”

ZP_photograph by Fundi_Billy Abernathy_from the 1970 Imamu Amiri Baraka book In Our Terribleness

ZP_photograph by Fundi_Billy Abernathy_from the 1970 Imamu Amiri Baraka book In Our Terribleness

Amiri Baraka (born 1934, Newark, New Jersey, U.S.A.)

“When We’ll Worship Jesus”

(written after 1970, published in Baraka’s poetry collection “Hard Facts”, 1975)


We’ll worship Jesus

When Jesus do


When jesus blow up

the white house

or blast nixon down

when jesus turn out congress

or bust general motors to

yard bird motors

jesus we’ll worship jesus

when jesus get down

when jesus get out his yellow lincoln

w/the built in cross stain glass

window & box w/black peoples

enemies we’ll worship jesus when

he get bad enough to at least scare

somebody – cops not afraid

of jesus

pushers not afraid

of jesus, capitalists racists

imperialists not afraid

of jesus shit they makin money

off jesus

we’ll worship jesus when mao

do, when toure does

when the cross replaces Nkrumah’s


Jesus need to hurt some a our

enemies, then we’ll check him

out, all that screaming and hollering

& wallering and moaning talkin bout

jesus, jesus, in a red

check velvet vine + 8 in.heels

jesus pinky finger

got a goose egg ruby

which actual bleeds

jesus at the Apollo

doin splits and helpin

nixon trick niggers

jesus  w/his one eyed self

tongue kissing johnny carson

up the behind

jesus need to be busted

jesus need to be thrown down and whipped

till something better happen

jesus aint did nothin for us

but kept us turned toward the

sky (him and his boy allah

too, need to be checkd out!)

we’ll worship jesus when he get a boat load of ak-47s

and some dynamite

and blow up abernathy robotin

for gulf

jesus need to be busted

we ain’t gonna worship nobody

but niggers getting up off

the ground

not gon worship jesus

unless he just a tricked up

nigger somebody named

outside his race

need to worship yo self fo

you worship jesus

need to bust jesus ( + check

out his spooky brother

allah while you heavy

on the case

cause we ain gon worship jesus

we aint gon worship


not till he do something

not till he help us

not till the world get changed

and he ain, jesus ain, he cant change the world

we can change the world

we can struggle against the forces of backwardness, we can

change the world

we can struggle against our selves, our slowness, our connection


the oppressor, the very cultural aggression which binds us to

our enemies

as their slaves.

we can change the world

we aint gonna worship jesus cause jesus dont exist

xcept in song and story except in ritual and dance, except in

slum stained

tears or trillion dollar opulence stretching back in history, the


of the oppression of the human mind

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

we aint gonna legitimize the witches and devils and spooks and


the sensuous lies of the rulers to keep us chained to fantasy and


sing about life, not jesus

sing about revolution, not no jesus

stop singing about jesus,

sing about creation, our creation, the life of the world and


nature how we struggle to transform it, but dont victimize our

selves by

distorting the world

stop moanin about jesus, stop sweatin and crying and stompin

and dyin for jesus

unless thats the name of the army we building to force the land

finally to

change hands.  And lets not call that jesus, get a quick

consensus, on that,

lets damn sure not call that black fire muscle

no invisible psychic dungeon

no gentle vision strait jacket, lets call that peoples army, or

wapenduzi or


wachanga, but we not gon call it jesus, and not gon worship

jesus, throw

jesus out yr mind.  Build the new world out of reality, and new


we come to find out what there is of the world

to understand what there is here in the world!

to visualize change, and force it.

we worship revolution


.     .     .     .     .


Langston Hughes (1902-1967)

“Goodbye, Christ” (published in “The Negro Worker” Socialist journal, Nov.-Dec. 1932)


Listen, Christ,

You did alright in your day, I reckon –

But that day’s gone now.

They ghosted you up a swell story, too,

Called it Bible –

But it’s dead now.

The popes and the preachers’ve

Made too much money from it.

They’ve sold you too many


Kings, generals, robbers, and killers –

Even to the Tzar and the Cossacks,

Even to Rockefeller’s Church,

Even to “The Saturday Evening Post”.

You ain’t no good no more.

They’ve pawned you

Till you’ve done wore out.



Christ Jesus Lord God Jehova,

Beat it on away from here now.

Make way for a new guy with no religion at all –

a real guy named

Marx Communist Lenin Peasant Stalin Worker ME

I said, ME!


Go ahead on now,

You’re getting in the way of things, Lord.

And please take Saint Gandhi with you when you go,

And Saint Pope Pius,

And Saint Aimee McPherson,

And big black Saint Becton

Of the Consecrated Dime.

And step on the gas, Christ!



Don’t be so slow about movin’!

The world is mine from now on –

And nobody’s gonna sell ME

To a king, or a general,

Or a millionaire.

ZP_Negro Worker_1938 lithograph by James Lescesne Wells

ZP_Negro Worker_1938 lithograph by James Lescesne Wells

Langston Hughes

“A Christian Country” (Feb. 1931)


God slumbers in a back alley

With a gin bottle in His hand.

Come on, God, get up and fight

Like a man.


.     .     .


Langston Hughes

“Tired” (Feb. 1931)


I am so tired of waiting,

Aren’t you?

For the world to become good

And beautiful and kind.

Let us take a knife

And cut the world in two –

And see what worms are eating

At the rind.


.     .     .


Langston Hughes

“Bitter Brew” (1967, published posthumously)


Whittle me down

To a strong thin reed

With a piercing tip

To match my need.


Spin me out

To a tensile wire

To derrick the stones

Of my problems higher.


Then simmer me slow

In the freedom cup

Till only an essence

Is left to sup.


May that essence be

The black poison of me

To give the white bellies

The third degree.


Concocted by history

Brewed by fate –

A bitter concentrate

Of hate.

.     .     .     .     .

It may seem curious to place Langston Hughes on the same page with Amiri Baraka yet these two strikingly different poets do intersect.  Both wrote passionate and angry poems about Jesus Christ – about belief in Jesus Christ – during periods when each was exploring elements of one of those other great world religions:  Socialism/Communism.


Though the life lived by Hughes appears to have been more conservative and/or Bohemian-Establishment than Baraka’s, Hughes’ conventional rhyming verse poetry shows real guts.  The poem “Goodbye, Christ” haunted Hughes, being re-printed and circulated by zealously orthodox American Christians , becoming a thorn that pierced Hughes’ side from 1940 onward when the FBI put the poet under surveillance for alleged Communist activity.  He was denounced as a communist by a U.S. senator in 1948 and was subpoena’d in 1953 to appear before Senator Joseph McCarthy’s subcommittee on subversive “un-American” activities.  It “exonerated” him because it couldn’t link him to anyone juicy to nail.  Though Hughes had been involved in Leftist politics – his “turning” came after a trip to Haiti in 1931 (followed by visits to Moscow in 1932-33 and Spain in 1937) – he was never a member of any Socialist or Communist party organization.


We have included what is believed to be one of the last poems Langston Hughes wrote before he died in 1967:  “Bitter Brew”.  In miniature it quick-sketches the emotional and psychological geography for the new-angry Black America that an up-and-coming LeRoi Jones/Amiri Baraka would map out in greater detail…

.     .     .     .     .