Summer Book Read: The Cross and the Lynching Tree
Our summer book read for 2020 at Emmanuel is The Cross and The Lynching Tree by the revered theologian James Cone. In this 2018 winner of the Grawemeyer Award in Religion, Cone powerfully brings together the Biblical image of the Cross of Christ with the historical image of the lynching tree.
Episcopal preacher Fleming Rutledge commented that Cone’s book contains “the most arresting and moving insights into the nature of Christ’s crucifixion that I’ve read in quite a while. Moreover, the book serves as an invitation not only into the acute suffering but also into the redemptive nature of the black church. . . . I rarely weep when I read books, but I have just finished this one, and it has affected me deeply.”
Leading us through the history of lynching and showing how it led the Black community into a powerful relationship with Jesus on the Cross, Cone supports his story with music and literature that inspired Black Americans’ determination to fight for change. Along the way, you will learn more about Martin Luther King, Jr.’s faith and hope in the Cross, as well as about heroes Iike Ida B. Wells and Fannie Lou Hamer.
While several of the testimonies Cone unearths from this rarely told part of American history are painful to read, his ultimate conclusion is that such violence, division, and despair will not have the last word—just as the true meaning of Good Friday is revealed only on Easter. In the end, Cone writes, “No gulf between blacks and whites is too great to overcome, for our beauty is more enduring than our brutality.”
Our pastoral staff is blogging through the book beginning mid-July. We will offer opportunities for conversation later in the summer.
Emmanuel provides you with a reading and discussion guide, as we have before for summer books, that can be downloaded below.