Lenten Conversations on Race – “The Cross and the Lynching Tree” study

We will utilize “The Cross and the Lynching Tree” (Dr. James Cone) to guide us through Holy Week and into Easter. This landmark conversation about race and religion in America will take us on an exploration of the two emotionally charged symbols and the connection to history. This natural pivot is in line with the four-step process (attached) of healing and growth that we know is necessary.

Both the cross and the lynching tree represent the worst in human beings and at the same time a thirst for life that refuses to let the worst determine our final meaning. While the lynching tree symbolized white power and Black death, the cross symbolizes divine power and Black life, God overcoming the power of sin and death. In “The Cross and the Lynching Tree,” Cone contemplates the greatest challenge of any Christian theology to explain how life can be made meaningful in the face of death and injustice.

We will be utilizing a formal study guide to direct us through the next five weeks and we will prayerfully seek guidance for a clearer understanding of the “action” we will take upon “resurrection.” We have adapted our Wednesdays to be preceded by a 6:15pm Compline followed by weekly discussion of the book (see schedule below).

Complementary copies of the book have been purchased and will be available to pick up at our next 7pm meeting scheduled for March 15 at the House. During the March 15 kickoff, we will view Dr. Comer’s sermon on “The Cross and the Lynching Tree” http://www.generalconference2012.org/james-cone-sermon.html

A study guide can be found here.

Below is a brief on the book and a reading schedule to guide us through the next five weeks:

The Cross and the Lynching Tree by Dr. James Cone

“They put him to death by hanging him on a tree.”  (Acts 10:39)

The Cross and the Lynching Tree provides a provocative and relevant Lenten study for small groups in church congregations.  Not only is the book a timely reflection on racism in this time of Black Lives Matter and tragedies like those of the Charleston church massacre, but also this theological work provides deep insights into what our primary Christian symbol really means and how the paradox of the cross informs our faith and contemporary experience. This “powerful and painful song for hope” is a perfect fit for Lent!

Schedule of Reading/Discussion Assignments

Date                Assigned Readings

March 15        Books will be distributed and a video Dr. Comer’s sermon on the Cross and The Lynching Tree http://www.generalconference2012.org/james-cone-sermon.html

March 22        Discuss Introduction and Chapters One and Two (“Nobody Knows de Trouble I See”) “The Terrible Beauty of the Cross”)

March 29        Discuss Chapters Three and Four (Bearing the Cross and Staring Down the Lynching Tree and The Recrucified Christ in Black Literary Imagination)

April 5             Discuss Chapter Five (“Oh Mary, Don’t You Weep”)

April 12           Discuss Conclusion:  Legacies of the Cross and the Lynching Tree


1) Awareness/recognition/acknowledgement

This step is an increasing awareness of the existence of racism in our individual and collective lives, a recognition that it has been one of the most difficult topics to address as evidenced by its continued presence and evolution, and an acknowledgement of the the devastating impact that it continues to have on ourselves and others.

2) Listen/immerse

This phase allows us to explore racism and it’s influence through mutual sharing of stories and experiences. We will sit through the discomfort while we immerse ourselves in telling and hearing the truth. We will each be story-tellers and listeners throughout this process.

3) Risk/relate/behavior

Through courageous dialogue and action, we will risk comfort and loss as we change our behavior and begin to challenge to our own thoughts, words, beliefs, and values.

4) Mental/spiritual change

Behavioral change will be followed by increased mental and emotional capacity to navigate the murky waters of race. Honest and prayerful intentional diligence for change will lead to spiritual growth.

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