Wednesday, January 11, 2017

The World in Flames: A Black Boyhood in a White Supremacist Doomsday Cult


Today's Nonfiction post is on The World in Flames: A Black Boyhood in a White Supremacist Doomsday Cult by Jerald Walker. It is 208 pages long and is published by Beacon Press. The cover is red with flames and a bible in the background. The intended reader is someone who is interested in cults and memoirs. There is mild foul language, drug use,  sexuality, and mild violence in this book. There Be Spoilers Ahead.

From the back of the book- A memoir of growing up with blind, African-American parents in a segregated cult preaching the imminent end of the world
When The World in Flames begins, in 1970, Jerry Walker is six years old. His consciousness revolves around being a member of a church whose beliefs he finds not only confusing but terrifying. Composed of a hodgepodge of requirements and restrictions (including a prohibition against doctors and hospitals), the underpinning tenet of Herbert W. Armstrong s Worldwide Church of God was that its members were divinely chosen and all others would soon perish in rivers of flames.
The substantial membership was ruled by fear, intimidation, and threats. Anyone who dared leave the church would endure hardship for the remainder of this life and eternal suffering in the next. The next life, according to Armstrong, would arrive in 1975, three years after the start of the Great Tribulation. Jerry would be eleven years old.
Jerry s parents were particularly vulnerable to the promise of relief from the world s hardships. When they joined the church, in 1960, they were living in a two-room apartment in a dangerous Chicago housing project with the first four of their seven children, and, most significantly, they both were blind, having lost their sight to childhood accidents. They took comfort in the belief that they had been chosen for a special afterlife, even if it meant following a religion with a white supremacist ideology and dutifully sending tithes to Armstrong, whose church boasted more than 100,000 members and more than $80 million in annual revenues at its height.
When the prophecy of the 1972 Great Tribulation does not materialize, Jerry is considerably less disappointed than relieved. When the 1975 end-time prophecy also fails, he finally begins to question his faith and imagine the possibility of choosing a destiny of his own.

Review- A riveting and well written account of a young boy growing into a young man in a frightening cult that said the world would end before he was twelve.  This was more than just a memoir surviving a cult, it is about a young man finding himself as he grows up. Walker goes from being a believer to being honest with himself about his beliefs and how he sees his family as he changes. I really enjoyed this book but I did not like the ending. It was just over. He was walking to get a fake ID then he realized that he had left the faith he was raised in and then the book was over. I wanted to see what happened after he left the faith but was still at home. How did he get from there to being a professor at Emerson College. What happened to the rest of his family. I hope that Walker writes more about his life and I would love to read about what happened after as he grew into a man, husband, and father.

I give this book a Four out of Five stars. I won this book from Library Thing to review.