Divine Covenant

In Christianity, the principle of living out your faith and practicing the tenets of religion in one’s daily life is highly emphasized. Even in my theology courses at ND, I have learned about the divine covenant – or the promise God made to the ancient Israelites and all of humanity to protect them as long as they kept His law and were faithful to him. This promise is a condition and relies on the premise that people remain in line with Scripture and God’s teachings to receive his salvation and grace. According to many passages of the Bible, one must carry out one religion successfully to guarantee salvation. Matthew 7:24-27 says:

“Therefore, everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, yet it did not fall because it had its foundation on the rock. But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash.” ~ Matthew 7:24-27

 One can interpret this to meant that if one does not “live out their faith” and put the principles of their faith in practice, they are foolish and are thought not to be guaranteed salvation. The scene in Go Tell it on The Mountain that depicts John’s hallucination and interaction with Gabriel exemplifies the importance of living out one’s faith in Christianity. Also, it may allude to Baldwin’s struggles with the divine covenant. 

When John sees his father in his hallucination, Gabriel did not show him any affection and did not respond to John’s profession of being saved. Baldwin writes, “He did not move to touch him, did not kiss him, did not smile,” and that Gabriel was non-responsive to John’s initial profession of salvation. Gabriel then goes on to only say, “‘It comes from your mouth… I want to see you live it. It’s more than a notion.” This articulation of wanting to see John’s faith in the way he lived goes back to the divine covenant agreement of living out your faith, and its inclusion in this passage displays how important a tenet this is in Christianity. Baldwin writes that John preceded to weep upon his father’s response, which I think represents the struggle Baldwin had with the pressure he felt to live out his faith. James Baldwin spent his whole life thinking he was a sinner because of his sexuality. As a result, he may have constantly struggled with the idea that he would never be able “to live his faith” or gain salvation (as his dad demanded of him in his hallucination). Throughout GTIOTM, John struggles to maintain his faith because he feels like a sinner and a disappointment. I think this speaks to the larger narrative in Baldwin’s life of the constant feeling of being an outsider and not being able to find a home in his family, or faith. A perspective that is reflected in his work.