The Cross and the Lynching Tree Hardcover – Sep 1 2011
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"No one has explored the spiritual world of African Americans with the depth or breadth of Cone. Here he turns his attention to two symbols that dominated not only the spiritual world but also the daily life of African Americans in the twentieth century. In their inextricable tie, he finds both the terror and hope that governed life under violent racism as well as potent symbols of the African American past and present in the United States.” —Henry Louis Gates, Jr., Harvard University
“Once again James Cone demonstrates why he is indispensable as an interpreter of faith, race, and the American experience.” —Bill Moyers
“James Cone is a world-historical figure in twentieth-century Christian theology. The Cross and the Lynching Tree is a powerful and painful song for hope in our dance with mortality—a song Cone courageously has led for over forty years!”—Cornel West, Union Theological Seminary --This text refers to the Paperback edition.
About the Author
James H. Cone, Charles A. Briggs Distinguished Professor of Systematic Theology at Union Theological Seminary, is widely regarded as one of the most influential theologians in America. His books include Black Theology & Black Power, A Black Theology of Liberation, The Spirituals & the Blues, God of the Oppressed, and Martin & Malcolm & America: A Dream or a Nightmare (all available from Orbis). --This text refers to the Paperback edition.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
And Lynchings done without any flinching of the Christian conscience.
It's an ugly and difficult vision to face up to. And then Cone easily makes his thesis of the actually (blatant) similarity of lynching and crucifixion--that somehow managed to escape connection "back then".
I think it is a cliche to say that we all have the capacity for evil but this is an opportunity to examine the face of evil in our time and to notice how people can be willfully blind to evil.
It is something every white person and every American should read about. While the temptation is to talk about other evils and other victimizations, it is well worthwhile to sit with the spectre of this evil and to resolve to recognize evil in the other incarnations where it still manifests.
Finally it is here. Cone's work here is a series of essays 1.) critiquing the established white American theologians and ministers for never choosing to see this connection and 2.) offering a basic view of a would-be obvious correlation between the Cross of Christ and the lynching of black Americans. He wades through the spirituals, blues songs, literature and activism of black women and men to demonstrate that they were indeed aware of the profundity of the situation even if there had never been a sustained theological reflection save that of the likes of poet Countee Cullens' The Black Christ.
After having read Cone's book I found myself disappointed. All of this was good, but I had hoped for something much more cohesive, something more systematic. In other words, "So what?" I was hoping that Cone would partner with Rene Girard's theories of mimetic desire and the scapegoating myth. To explore the existential and historical phenomenon of lynching in its American context could be to discover something distinctive and foundational in the very mythos of the nation. How might the black body be a key to understanding America's identity formation? There are all kinds of things to explore: sexuality, violence, their relationships to religion; black bodies as economic and civic scapegoats in the creation of whiteness; lynching as a mechanism of social control analogous to crucifixion.
As a Catholic Christian, all this leads me to the Eucharist, which was my initial impulse anyway. Black bodies cursed, broken and grotesquely consumed in a frenzy of socially sanctioned mob violence provided sustenance for the status quo of a southern society of white supremacy. The eucharistic overtones must be plumbed for their meaning. Black bodies were needed for the creation of the myth of America. How might these truths provide for a black theology of eucharist that liberates and sustains a very different spiritual aim?
Perhaps this is the work for a third-generation of African American theologians and their committed colleagues. Perhaps I need to let Dr. Cone off the hook for not doing my work for me. Nevertheless, I think his essential 'good start' could have gone much further down road.
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