The Cross and the Lynching Tree.

Author:Nessan, Craig L.
Position:Book review

The Cross and the Lynching Tree. By James H. Cone. Maryknoll, N.Y.: Orbis Books, 2011. ISBN-13: 978-1-57075937-6. Cloth. $28.

This provocative book, by seminal black liberation theologian James Cone, juxtaposes the cross of Jesus Christ and the legacy of lynching in United States history. Among the demonic methods employed by white people to intimidate and control black people, our collective amnesia about the practice of lynching stands in stark contrast to the prominence of the cross as a symbol in the Christian churches. Cone appeals to the conscience by recounting the history of lynching, citing witnesses to lynching, appealing to references to lynching in black culture (especially in literature, the spirituals, and the blues), and offering prophetic testimony to the lasting effects of lynching on American society.

While it is venerated as the means of God's atonement, Christians regularly fail to acknowledge the scandalous character of the cross as an instrument of torture and execution against chose declared enemies of society. By interweaving a theology of the cross with the horrors of lynching, Cone forces the reader to face not only the consequences of lynching for the experience of black people in a previous era, but to acknowledge that the legacy of lynching continues to shape who we are today, black and white people, estranged from one another through a history that has been little acknowledged, let alone confronted. The silence of white people in response to the history...

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