The Fire Next Time by James Baldwin is not a "story" in the conventional way we are used to a story with a main character, a plot and so forth. This book is more of a diary entry of Baldwin's experiences with certain topics, mainly racism and religion. Baldwin examines his relationship with the church in his youth, the events surrounding him that lead him to that relationship. During his meeting with the Honorable Elijah Muhammad, he compares the feelings of his past relationship with God, to the Nation of Islam.
Baldwin, like myself and many other Americans, was pushed into church as a child. Not attending for the enlightenment that God is supposed to bring us, nor the divine revelation that we experience when we are "saved", he attended church because it was the right thing to do. "I supposed that God and safety were synonymous" (Baldwin 16). He walked the streets of my current neighborhood, and saw the things that I witnessed as a child attending school in lower Manhattan. Hookers, pimps, gamblers, addicts, and an assortment of other things made a "bad" neighborhood. Witnessing this, he felt that the only safe place from this was church. He was eventually "saved". He explains in the book that the church was a racket, and that "It was good luck that I found my self in the church racket instead of some other, and surrendered to a spiritual seduction long before I came to any carnal knowledge" (Baldwin 28). His knowledge of the structure of the church, not to be mistaken with religion, founded the idea of the church being a racket. "I knew how to work on a congregation until the last dime was surrendered-it was not very hard to do-and I knew where the money for "the lord's work" went (Baldwin 38). He stated that "being in the pulpit was like being in the theatre; I was behind the scenes and knew how the illusion was worked" (Baldwin 37). That is the primary reason that I do not attend church, not out of disrespect for God, or religion, but out of dislike of those that use the word of God as a game.