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


I listened to a TED Talk about Bringing Compassion Back to Religion by Karen Armstrong. It’s very interesting, thought provoking and very appropriate for this week as we look to Easter.

Karen Armstrong talks about how the Abrahamic religions — Islam, Judaism, Christianity — have been diverted from the moral purpose they share: to foster compassion. People want to be religious, she says; we should act to help make religion a force for harmony. She asks the TED community to help her build a Charter for Compassion — to help restore the Golden Rule (“Do unto others as you would have them do unto you”) as the central global religious doctrine. To brainstorm on this wish and get involved, visit >> (Recorded February 2008 in Monterey, California. Duration: 21:27.)


Viewing Roots again in its entirety reminded me once again of the fallacy of our alleged Judeo-Christian roots. From 1619 until sometime in the 19th century before the end of our own Civil War twenty-million Africans were brought to the Americas for slave trade.  Add to that fact the millions of Native American people who were murdered as the American colonies  and later the United States expanded west.  Religion was actually used to defend the institution of slavery and manifest destiny. We have a long legacy, perhaps the greatest in the history of the world, of genocide and atrocity.

Continue reading “WWJD?”

So unlike your Christ

I like your Christ. I do not like your Christians. They are so unlike your Christ.–Gandhi

Earlier in the week I wrote about an archbishop’s decision to withhold a sacramental rite from a politician got me to thinking again about some of the apparent contradictions between the prophetic church and the pathetic church. Continue reading “So unlike your Christ”