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The Cross and the Lynching Tree Paperback – January 11, 2013

4.8 out of 5 stars 98 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Review

Once again James Cone demonstrates why he is indispensable as an interpreter of faith, race, and the American experience. --Bill Moyers

One of the Top 11 Religion Books of the Year. --Huffington Post

One of the Top 11 Religion Books of the Year. --Huffington Post

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.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Orbis Books; Reprint edition (January 11, 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1626980055
  • ISBN-13: 978-1626980051
  • Product Dimensions: 5.4 x 0.5 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 10.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (98 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #15,837 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Janet M Hanson on March 20, 2012
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
As someone born in 1956, I can still find myself with a sense of unreality that when I was a young girl, overt, frank racism reigned. Sundown laws. Seperate facilities for blacks and whites. And now, I've had to come face to face with lynching. You know those old westerns always depict lynchings as done by the riff-raff, the bad folks. But there it is. Lynchings that drew crowds and photographers. An event to take kids to! Lynchings that occurred in Missouri, a neighboring state (and in all likelihood in KS but it wasn't mentioned). Lynchings preceded by torment and torture. Lynchings of women.

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.
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Format: Hardcover
...at least for whites. I won't repeat praise from other reviewers. But I just checked the "Cotton Patch" version of Luke-Acts by Clarence Jordan (1912-1969). Sure enough, he makes the connection (10:39): "they lynched him, stringing him up on a tree." So the "great theologians" didn't make the connection, but a white one did. Jordan was the founder, in 1942, of the (in)famous interracial Koinonia Farm in Americus, Georgia. His renderings of the New Testament (done in the late 1960's) were meant to show its relevance to the world of the deep south of his time. Here is what Jordan had to say in the Preface to his "translation" of Paul's Epistles: "there just isn't any word in our vocabulary which adequately translates the Greek word for 'crucifixion.' Our crosses are so shined, so polished, so respectable that to be impaled on one of them would seem to be a blessed experience. We have thus emptied the term 'crucifixion' of its original content of terrific emotion, of violence, of indignity and stigma, of defeat. I have translated it as 'lynching,' well aware that this is not technically correct. Jesus was officially tried and legally condemned, elements generally lacking in a lynching. But having observed the operation of Southern 'justice,' and at times having been its victim, I can testify that more people have been lynched 'by judicial action' than by unofficial ropes. Pilate at least had the courage and the honesty to publicly wash his hands and disavow all legal responsibility. 'See to it yourselves,' he told the mob. And they did. They crucified him in Judea and they strung him up in Georgia, with a noose tied to a pine tree."
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Format: Hardcover
I've read most of Professor Cone's books and this is one of his most moving. He looks squarely into the evils that were lynchings and searches with those who lived through it and the fears to find theological meaning. I'm indebted to Professor Cone's work for helping me see so many angles of how race influences religion in the United States and beyond. This is a great book, is short and readable, and is a great gift for anyone who dearly loves God and human justice.
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Format: Hardcover
I came to this book with expectations that I now realize may have been unreasonable. I read/watched Dr. Cone's initial Harvard Divinity School lecture of the same title a few years ago and thought, "Finally, someone is going to take up this profoundly important inherently religious historical phenomenon and give it it's course." (That is of course is the cleaned up reflection on a not-so-eloquent impulse.) I waited ever so impatiently for the book, checking the internet regularly.

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?
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