The Cross and the Lynching Tree
Strange Fruit: The Cross and the Lynching Tree
(October 2006) http://www.hds.harvard.edu/news/events_online/ingersoll_2006.html
Above is a link to the Harvard Divinity School's Ingersoll Lecture, given by theologian James H. Cone, titled Strange Fruit: The Cross and the Lynching Tree
. Cone is noted for his pioneering work in Black Theology and the history of the African American Church. His work is a penetrating critique of American ideology and religion, highlighting the abuses and hypocrises of white supremacy and the liberating spirit of hope that fuels resistance in the lives of the oppressed everywhere.
Cone's lecture challenges American Christians to revaluate their understanding of the Cross through the lens of the Lynching Tree- the horrifying tool of white supremacist terror that has mutilated and tortured thousands of African Americans. The Cross and the Lynching Tree served similar purposes: to establish dominance through terror and murder, silencing dissent and fortifying martial control. Essentially, Cone argues that American Christians need to be demystified of the self-delusion that somehow America is special, unique, blessed above all others and innocent. Beginning contemplation upon the Cross with a fearless examination of the Lynching Tree is one way to begin that demystification process.
Strange Fruit from the title of the lecture is taken from the song by African American artist, Billy Holiday:
Southern trees bear strange fruit,
Blood on the leaves and blood at the root,
Black bodies swinging in the southern breeze,
Strange fruit hanging from the poplar trees.
Pastoral scene of the gallant south,
The bulging eyes and the twisted mouth,
Scent of magnolias, sweet and fresh,
Then the sudden smell of burning flesh.
Here is fruit for the crows to pluck,
For the rain to gather, for the wind to suck,
For the sun to rot, for the trees to drop,
Here is a strange and bitter crop.
An American Christianity that will not address this Lynching Tree will not understand that Cross.