Critiques of Christianity
James Baldwin uses this play as a vehicle to address his issues with Christianity, a religion used historically to justify the enslavement of Africans. He argues that Christianity is a type of plague that “has the power to destroy every human relationship”. Through his character Lorenzo, he denounces the religion for its ability to be used to preach passivity while endorsing violence. Lorenzo articulates the lack of empathy the religion has for the Black community, calling it “the white God” who ignores others’ suffering at the hands of the irrational. He accuses the reverend of praying to a god that only cares for those who are white and that it is that god who is responsible for the destruction of Black lives.
Baldwin challenges the common beliefs of morality between whites and Blacks. With whites as the targeted audience, he associates his Black characters with traits commonly associated with whites such as “godliness, courage and braggadocio”. His white characters possess the weaknesses stereotypically attributed to Blacks such as “lust, lack of moral strength, and violence”. By situating his characters to reflect the opposite of what was expected of his audience, Baldwin places the viewers in the position to acknowledge the complexities of human nature. His restricting of the white community to one dimension of human nature as the white community does to Blacks compels the white audience to come face to face with how humanity may be stripped by the simple act of shrinking one’s complexities.