The paradox of the cross and American Christianity

James Cone’s powerful book, ‘The Cross and the Lynching Tree’ is the reason I’m in this course. I don’t remember who recommended it to me earlier this spring but reading became a metanoia for me. It is the reason that I enrolled in this course. I knew very little about lynchings. I read little about them in my study of American History which was my undergraduate major. I remember the power scenes in the movie,”The Great Debaters” which is one of my favorites. However I missed the paradox that is the cross and the lynching tree especially as the lived experience of American Christianity.

I grew up in Roman Catholic community which was essentially a de facto segregated group although none of us would have thought it that at the time. I attended liturgies frequently as a child and young adult. I remember the disconnect for me with the church in the 1960’s and 1970’s when little was said in support of the civil rights movement and against the war in Vietnam. That eventually led away from regular attendance and participation. In the past twenty years I’ve been reconnected to the church and a more active participation in the social gospel through my involvement with Franciscans at Mt. Irenaeus which led in time to becoming a professed Secular Franciscan. However, despite being a member of group of folks who were more active in our ministry to the marginalized I still had not grasped the powerful and prophetic voice and vision that is contained in this particular book and in the content of Julian’s lectures. 

Through this course and the materials I’ve come to believe that American Christianity whether Protestant or Catholic has been essentially “white-washed.” We need redemption and renewal in the church as whole to make it a true instrument of the gospel of Jesus Christ rather than an instrument of the status quo.  P