James Cone, one of America’s most influential and interesting theologians, just cancelled a speech he was scheduled to make at Trinity Lutheran Seminary in Columbus, Ohio.
He has a fabulous new book–The Cross and the Lynching Tree–and all first year students were required to read it [and the whole community at Trinity had been invited to read it] in anticipation of his visit.
James Cone is also black, and the reason he cancelled his appearance is that he had received threatening letters and phone calls that made him–as well as the staff at Trinity–fearful for his safety. I don’t know the whole story yet, but I do know that race and gender continue to play a major role in terms of the kind of credibility and weight certain theological views are accorded, and whose voices are valued around the table. It’s a loss to Trinity that he was not able to come in person, but the community will be well-served by the knowledge they gained from the book. It is provocative, true, but the argument is also compelling and powerful: What does it mean for us as Christians and for our understanding of the cross to bring together the cross and the lynching tree, seeing Christ in the body of a lynched black man or woman? I would argue that this image helps us see Christ in a new light, and imagine new ways of being faithful to Christ in the 21st century.
It’s a great book–and if you haven’t already read it, now is a great time.