Chris Hedges: The Cross and the Lynching Tree!
The Cross and the Lynching Tree are separated by nearly two thousand years. One is the universal symbol of the Christian faith, the other is the quintessential symbol of black oppression in America. Though both are symbols of death, one represents a message of hope and salvation, while the other signifies the negation of that message by white supremacy. Despite the obvious similarities between Jesus' death on the cross, and the death of thousands of black men and women strung up to die on a lamppost or tree, relatively few people, apart from black poets, novelists, and other reality seeing artists have explored the symbolic connections. Yet, I believe this is a challenge we must face. What is at stake is the credibility and the promise of the Christian gospel, and the hope that we may heal the wounds of racial violence that can continue to divide our churches and our society. So begins James Cone, perhaps the most important contemporary theologian in America, who has spent a lifetime pointing out the hypocrisy and mendacity of the white church and white-dominated society while lifting up and exalting the voices of the oppressed. He writes from his experiences as an African-American growing up in segregated Arkansas, and his close association with the Black Power movement. But what is more important is that he writes out of deep religious conviction, one I share, that the true power of the Christian gospel is its unambiguous call for liberation from forces of oppression and for a fierce and uncompromising condemnation of all who oppress. Cone, who teaches at Union Theological Seminary in New York City, writes on behalf of all those whom the Salvadoran theologian and martyr Ignacio Ellacuria called "the crucified peoples of history." He writes for the forgotten and the abused, the marginalized and the despised. He writes for those who are penniless, jobless, landless and without political or social power. He writes for gays, lesbians, bisexuals and those who are transgender. He writes for undocumented farm workers toiling in misery in the nation's agricultural fields. He writes for Muslims who live under the terror of war and empire in Iraq and Afghanistan, and he writes for us. He understands that until white Americans can see the cross and the lynching tree together, "until we can identify Christ with a 'recrucified' black body hanging from from a lynching tree, there can be no genuine understanding of Christian identity in America, and no deliverance from the brutal legacy of slavery and white supremacy.