Page 3 – The Cross and the Lynching Tree Review
So, where do these far-ranging reflections on the cross and the lynching tree take us? In the book’s conclusion, Cone minces no words in tackling this question:
As I see it, the lynching tree frees the cross from the pieties of well-meaning Christians. When we see the crucifixion as a first century lynching, we are confronted by the re-enactment of Christ’s suffering in the blood-soaked history of African Americans. Thus, the lynching tree reveals the true meaning of the cross for American Christians today. The cross needs the lynching tree to remind Americans of the reality of suffering – to keep the cross from becoming a symbol of abstract sentimental piety (161).
The Cross and the Lynching Tree is a challenging book, one that shatters the comfortable silence of the prevailing voices (like Niebuhr) in American theology. But because it does so, it is an important book, forcing us to come to grips with a violent part of our past that is all too often hidden away. Cone is right that the questions he asks here are essential ones if we are to progress toward racial reconciliation in America, and especially among our churches. I recommend reading this work in conjunction with Carter and Jennings’s books, in order to set it in a context that goes beyond the United States, but it is crucial – pardon the pun – that this book be read and discussed, in order that we might immerse ourselves deeper into God’s mission of reconciling creation.