The Christmas Prayers of God


W.E.B. Du Bois


June 1, 1914

Name of God’s Name!

Red murder reigns;

All Hell is loose;

On gold autumnal air

Walk grinning devils barbed and hoofed,

While high on hills of hate,

Black-blossomed, crimson sky’d,

Thou sittest, dumb.

Father Almighty!

This earth is mad!

Palsied, our cunning hands;

Rotten, our gold;

Our argosies reel and stagger

Over empty seas;

All the long aisles

Of Thy great temples, God,

Stink with the entrails

Of our souls.

And Thou art dumb.

Above the thunder of Thy thunders, Lord,

Lightening Thy lightnings,

Rings and roars

The dark damnation

Of this Hell of war.

Red piles the pulp of hearts and heads,

And little children’s hands.



Death is here!

Dead are the living, deep dead the dead.

Dying are earth’s unborn—

The babes’ wide eyes of genius and of joy;

Poems and prayers, sun-glows and earth-songs;

Great pictured dreams,

En-marbled phantasies,

Hymns of high Heaven,

All fade, in this dread night,

This long ghost night—

While Thou art dumb.

Have Mercy!

Have mercy upon us, miserable sinners!

Stand forth, unveil Thy face,

Pour down the light

That seethes above Thy throne,

And blaze this devil’s dance to darkness!



In Christ’s great name—

I hear.

Forgive me, God.

Above the thunder I hearkened;

Beneath the silence, now,

I hear.

(Wait, God, a little space.

It is so strange to talk with Thee—


This gold?

I took it.

Is it Thine?

Forgive; I did not know.

Blood? Is it wet with blood?

’Tis from my brother’s hands.

(I know; his hands are mine.)

It flowed for Thee, O Lord.

War? Not so, not war:

Dominion, Lord, and over black, not white.

Black, brown and fawn,

And not Thy chosen brood, O God,

We murdered.

To build Thy kingdom,

To drape our wives and little ones,

And set their souls a’ glitter—

For this we killed these lesser breeds

And civilized their dead,

Raping red rubber, diamonds, cocoa, gold.

For this, too, once, and in Thy name

I lynched a Nigger—

(He raved and writhed,

I heard him cry,

I felt the life light leap and lie,

I watched him crackle there, on high,

I saw him wither!)



I lynched Thee?

Awake me, God, I sleep!

What was that awful word Thou saidst?

That black and riven Thing–was. it Thee?

That gasp—was it Thine?

This pain—is it Thine?

Are then these bullets piercing Thee?

Have all the wars of all the world,

Down all dim time, drawn blood from Thee?

Have all the lies, and thefts, and hates—

Is this Thy crucifixion, God,

And not that funny little cross,

With vinegar and thorns?


I sense that low and awful cry—

Who cries?

Who weeps

With silent sob that rends and tears—

Can God sob?

Who prays?

I hear strong prayers throng by,

Like mighty winds on dusky moors—

Can God pray?

Prayest Thou, Lord, and to me?

Thou needest me?

Thou needest me?

Thou needest me?

Poor wounded Soul!

Of this I never dreamed. I thought—

Courage, God,

I come!


For attribution, please cite this work as:
Du Bois, W.E.B. 1914. “The Christmas Prayers of God.” The Crisis 9 (2): 83–84.