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The Cross and the Lynching Tree

4.46  ·  Rating details ·  1,529 ratings  ·  295 reviews
A landmark in the conversation about race and religion in America.

"They put him to death by hanging him on a tree." Acts 10:39

The cross and the lynching tree are the two most emotionally charged symbols in the history of the African American community. In this powerful new work, theologian James H. Cone explores these symbols and their interconnection in the history and so
Hardcover, 202 pages
Published 2011 by Orbis Books
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4.46  · 
Rating details
 ·  1,529 ratings  ·  295 reviews

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Mar 12, 2012 rated it it was amazing
As one of the Associate Pastors at Rolling Hills Baptist Church in Fayetteville, Arkansas, one of my responsibilities was the bulletin boards in the hallways. I don't know that anyone gave me that job, so much as I took it on. I really enjoyed putting up various kinds of bulletin boards. I rarely was only informational. Often I put up something around a theme of the season (I did one after 9/11 with U2 songs, for instance).

My favourite bulletin board I designed, and one I hung up also at Royal
Amy Hughes
Jan 20, 2018 rated it it was amazing
As a theologian I need to be able to explain for the sake of myself, my students, and the church why white supremacy is fundamentally anti-Christ. While there are many ways to do this, I'm grateful to Cone for helping me to do this and to understand the cross better. This book is easily one of the best theology books I've read in the last 5 years.

I'm looking forward to picking it up again this semester since I'm assigning it in my Trinity and Christology class. Maybe I'll be able to get through
Andrew Marr
"They're selling postcards of the hanging
They're painting the passports brown."

White boys like me mostly didn't know what Bob Dylan was singing about when "Desolation Row" first came out on "Highway 61 Revisited." James Cone's book tells us it was about lynching. Lynching was a public spectacle where people took pictures and made postcards out of them.

Cone goes on to argue that the lynching tree was a series of grisly re-enactments of the crucifixion of Jesus. He also demonstrates on how very di
Ben De Bono
Nov 24, 2011 rated it really liked it
To say that James Cone an I are theologically far apart would be a fairly significant understatement. I am a conservative evangelical while he is one of the primary voices behind black liberation theology, standing well within the liberal theological tradition. Despite those differences, I was very excited to read this book and, after finishing it, am very glad that I did. The reason for that is simple - I came to this book not to critique Cone's answers (I knew going in we would largely disagre ...more
Levi Jones
Feb 22, 2017 rated it really liked it
James Cone's work is both brutal and beautiful. He exposes the rotting corpse of American life, exhibited most keenly in the lynching tree. America's sin of white supremacy was often perpetrated by those that were "Christians." Cone exposes the irony of such a practice, questioning how those who follow a crucified Lord can then turn around and crucify others. The parallels between the cross and the lynching tree are hard to miss. Yet, they were often missed or blatantly ignored by whites, includ ...more
Alex Stroshine
James H. Cone’s “The Cross and the Lynching Tree” is a profound reflection on black suffering at the cruel hands of white supremacy and the astonishing parallels between the Crucified One and black victims of lynching. Cone wonders why theologians have not considered the parallels between the cross and the lynching tree before; in particular, he castigates those in the liberal and mainline traditions who were vigorous in their critiques of inequality in American culture but who remained silent o ...more
Jan 14, 2012 rated it really liked it
In this book, Black Liberation Theologian James Cone explores the symbolic and historic connections between the crucifixion of Jesus and the lynching of Blacks in 19th and 20th century America. He asserts that understanding this connection is vital to the meaning of the cross and confronting it is vital to the health of Christian America.

For Cone, it is a personal struggle. How can he make sense of the awfulness of lynching - of Black suffering in America, of living under white supremacy - of b
Jan 15, 2014 rated it really liked it
A woman sitting next to me at the conference on Black and Womanist Theology at the University of Chicago in the fall of 2005 told me that James H. Cone is really more of the scholar than the preacher. But he suited me just fine that night when he preached a sermon called "The Cross and the Lynching Tree." My notebook was practically vorticist in its responsive energy. And the book that came out of it, too, is pretty scintillating.

James Cone, of course, is famous for his books Black Theology an
Porter Sprigg
This book was powerful and disconcerting. It is incredible to me how easily we forget the atrocities done in our country less than 100 years ago. It is heart-wrenching to read about the heinous acts of terror committed in the name of white supremacy, the unjust killings of black men and women. Hope is found however, in the ways that black Americans saw lynching deaths in light of Jesus' death on the cross. The sacrificial death of Jesus Christ spoke to those suffering under white supremacy. I es ...more
Adam Shields
Aug 20, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Short Review: This is a book worth reading even (maybe especially) if you are tempted to dismiss Black Liberation Theology. Cone is not attempting to say that Lynching does the exact same thing as Jesus did at the cross, but he is saying that how we understand both lynching and the cross should be influenced by the other.

Overly simply, he is saying that if our understanding of the Cross does not have any relevance to racism, lynching and other areas of injustice, then we do not actually underst
Kyle Johnson
Apr 18, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2019-books-read
"Perhaps nothing about the history of mob violence in the United States is more surprising than how quickly an understanding of the full horror of lynching has receded from the nation's collective historical memory."

"Christ crucified manifested God's loving and liberating presence in the contradictions of black life--that transcendent presence in the lives of black Christians that empowered them to believe that ultimately, in God's eschatological future, they would not be defeated, no matter how
May 21, 2018 rated it really liked it
I appreciate the concept James H. Cone brings to the forefront. This is important for all Christians to hear, especially white Christians uncomfortable (and often ignorant) with our country's racist and murderous past. Lynching is an atrocity that needs to be remembered. Comparing the suffering of lynching victims, with Christ is completely warranted. And even essential to connecting with our fellow Americans.

This is an academic theological text, and is best read if understanding the background
David Withun
Mar 10, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: religion
Cone, as in so many of his other works, offers here a powerful criticism of the failure of many white Christians in the United States to adequately grapple with historical and contemporary racial and economic injustice. Drawing on Nietzsche via Niebuhr, Cone posits that the message of the cross is a "transvaluation of all values" by which weakness becomes power. With this idea as the linchpin of his argument, Cone explores the meaning of the lynching tree as a symbol of the oppression faced by A ...more
James Calvin
Feb 05, 2018 rated it it was amazing
In 1964, I was a kid, a couple of years away from voting age, a son of my father, and like him, a Republican. I was no Bircher, but I remember my thrill when Barry Goldwater told the nation and the world that "Extremism in defense of liberty is no vice." I was old enough to know what that single sentence meant to hard-line right-wingers whose fear of commies and leftists pushed them to the "extremes" Goldwater legitimized--or tried to--with that widely anticipated and much beloved line.

I rememb
Aug 11, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Cone begins his book with a damning theological observation which he seeks to correct and address in this book: How could any theologian explain the meaning of Christian identity in America and fail to engage white supremacy,its primary negation." (p. xvii) From that point he then describes the history of lynching of African Americans (1880-1940)and links that to his reflection on the cross of Christ. He critiques the most prominent white theologian at the time, Reinhold Niebuhr, as one who saw ...more
Dec 25, 2011 rated it really liked it
This is not the easiest book for me, but it has been a beautiful thing to read. It was recommended by a friend as a way to learn more about black liberation theology, and as my spring has been all wrapped up in planning events for the 50th anniversary of desegregation at the University of Miami, now was the right time to read it.

But I am not a Christian, I dont even know the bible very well, and I'm not black. I do know liberation theology, mostly from its history in latin america. My parents we
Todd Hiestand
Apr 26, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: finished-reading
Man, what a book. Highly recommend. A stunning look into the history/theology of white christianity, white supremacy and the struggle of the black community in America.
May 02, 2012 rated it really liked it
So, here are my thoughts on the Cross and the Lynching Tree. First, I am shocked that this analogy has never been pointed out to me before. The book began with an eye opening insight into the public humiliation and shame of crucifixion. I found myself readily accepting the connection and deepening my awareness of Christ’s sacrifice as I read. However, as he moved forward, I felt a strong rejection of his scathing critique and wholesale rejection of white American Christianity. At first it offend ...more
The real scandal of the gospel is this: humanity’s salvation is revealed in the cross of the condemned criminal Jesus, and humanity’s salvation is available only through our solidarity with the crucified people in our midst.

In the “lynching era,” between 1880 to 1940, white Christians lynched nearly five thousand black men and women in a manner with obvious echoes of the Roman crucifixion of Jesus. Yet these “Christians” did not see the irony or contradiction in their actions.

It will take me a l
Fr. River

James Cone talks of the lynching tree in the history of black people. He criticizes the white church for its indifference, and its taking part in the lynching of black people, and its support of racism or its indifference from liberal supporters. It is a book that brings home to me the same indictment today in both racism and homophobia. The Church either actively takes part in its condemnation of queers or it is indifferent. Elbert Hubbard describ
Elizabeth Gaucher
Feb 21, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I read this as part of a book study in a small, church group. It prompted highly emotional and intellectual responses. Cone reveals deep wells and wounds of agony in US history, at times it is difficult to keep reading. Keep reading anyway. Depending on who you are, this book will make a difference in your life. You may be lifted up and affirmed. You may have some hard self-reflection. Either way, it will change you for the better. Cone wants us to sit down and LISTEN. Don't debate, or make it a ...more
Aug 30, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Trying to fully understand someone's perspective of the world is a difficult task. Empathy is a truly human quality, but that empathy can turn to shame when I realize my complicity with oppression.
James Cone has written a book that provoked me. Not because I disagreed or any other reaction of an antagonistic nature. It moves me because he drew a picture that I cannot remove from my mind's eye. And he made it clear to me that any attempt to exempt myself from the horrors visited on black people
Randall Wallace
Nov 27, 2018 rated it it was amazing
The lynching tree is our American cross. There will be “no deliverance from the brutal legacy of slavery and white supremacy” until we “see the cross and the lynching tree together”. Faith became the one thing the white man could neither control nor take away. James gives lots of great connections of cross to the lynching tree starting by calling The Crucifixion the first lynching because Jesus was innocent and killed by mob hysteria. More importantly, crucifixions, like lynchings, were messages ...more
Neal Montgomery
Jan 15, 2018 rated it liked it
In The Cross and the Lynching Tree Cone argues that the lynching tree (and essentially the suffering of the "least of these" anywhere) and the cross are mirrors that help to the explain one another. The lynching tree reminds us of Jesus's suffering and also his association with and love for the oppressed and how that should impact our relationship to those who are oppressed in our society. And the cross reminds us that through the blood of Christ there is hope and redemption even in things as te ...more
Alyssa Foll
Apr 30, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This book could not be more timely. Dr. Cone weaves together the Cross of Christ, an object of humiliation, but ultimately redemption with the "lynching tree" --the site of countless brutal murders of African-American men and women. This is liberation theology and theological reflection at its finest.
I've been meaning to read this book for a while, but I'm grateful to have read in light of the #BlackLivesMatter movement, the KKK marching in Charlottesville (and many other places), and the open
Heidi Archer
Jun 29, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I have never, ever linked (or had the chance to link) lynching of Black Americans with the lynching death of Christ. Fascinating and hard read. Would read again. This is my first exposure to Black liberation theology, and I found it rich, engaging, painful, and hard to grasp. I am so glad I read this book because of its richness and hope - and brave honesty in the face of brutality. I have never read anything like this, and I would recommend to white Christians specifically so they can hear a di ...more
Feb 24, 2018 rated it it was amazing
“The cross and the lynching tree interpret each other. Both were public spectacles, shameful events, instruments of punishment reserved for the most despised people of society. Any genuine theology and any genuine preaching of the Christian gospel must be measured against the test of the scandal of the cross and the lynching tree.”
Jun 12, 2018 rated it it was amazing
A powerful and often painful exploration of the hypocrisy of “White Christianity” in the 20th century. Cone’s book is an important reminder of the horror of lynching as a means of racial oppression; and like the Holocaust, we must always “remember.” It saddens me profoundly that as “C/christians” we continually fail to model Christ’s example of love and justice. And that by our failure, we help perpetuate “racial lynching” in its many forms today.
Carol Watt
Jul 18, 2018 rated it it was amazing
A brilliant, powerful, and terrible book. The profoundly difficult job of trying to reconcile the reality of these truly awful Christian White Suprematist hate crimes is well nigh impossible. In this context, Cone’s text is a work of sophistication.
Feb 26, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I’m not very familar with black theology, which is something I am trying to remedy and I think this was an excellent start. Very accessible, clearly well written and well researched and incredibly powerful (I gasped a loud several times and was moved to tears more than once)
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James Hal Cone was an advocate of Black liberation theology, a theology grounded in the experience of African Americans, and related to other Christian liberation theologies. In 1969, his book Black Theology and Black Power provided a new way to articulate the distinctiveness of theology in the black Church. James Cone’s work was influential and political from the time of his first publication, an ...more
“In the “lynching era,” between 1880 to 1940, white Christians lynched nearly five thousand black men and women in a manner with obvious echoes of the Roman crucifixion of Jesus. Yet these “Christians” did not see the irony or contradiction in their actions.” 10 likes
“The cross can heal and hurt; it can be empowering and liberating but also enslaving and oppressive. There is no one way in which the cross can be interpreted. I offer my reflections because I believe that the cross placed alongside the lynching tree can help us to see Jesus in America in a new light, and thereby empower people who claim to follow him to take a stand against white supremacy and every kind of injustice.” 7 likes
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