I am in the process of reading and reviewing the late Dr. James H. Cone’s book, The Cross and the Lynching Tree. Cone paints a powerful picture using these two symbols of hate and violence to remind the reader that we have always known racist violence fueled by the hands of white supremacists. Yet, the cross and the lynching tree can be transformative symbols of “the triumphant beauty of the divine.” Those who initiate the sin of racism must forever be convicted and those who despise and experience racism must protest against at every level.
Recently, we have become enraged by the act of violence perpetrated against Emanti (EJ) Bradford, Jr., a young man viciously killed by a Hoover Police Officer. Although our hearts are grieving again at the senseless death of another African American young man, the cross and the lynching tree reminds us that racism has always displayed itself in despicable violence against the oppressed.
For Jesus, it was the Roman government who despised all those who were different from them, especially the people of Israel, our Jewish brothers and sisters. Equally so, for African Americans, white supremacists despised all things Black by enslaving our ancestors, carting them to various parts of the world, forcing them to engage in free labor that built the infrastructure of our nation, especially the southeastern United States.
There is a connection between the cross, the lynching tree, and the season of Advent, our four-Sunday journey to celebrating the birth of Jesus. The connection lies in one word: HOPE. Whenever there is blatant inhumanity against humanity, people of faith stand at the vanguard of hope while demanding justice.
Both Mary and Joseph had received messages from God informing them of what was happening in and through them. God was preparing to ignite hope in an ultimate way, the giving of His Son, our Savior, Jesus for the salvation of the world.
Whenever we see negative situations that impact our world in divisive ways, we must hold on to hope. Equally so, the hope we have must be anchored in the God who always stood on the side of and with those who are oppressed, marginalized, stigmatized, ostracized, and even crucified and lynched.