A decided for her book club pick that we’d be reading theology, and she wanted to focus on social justice issues. James H. Cone’s The Cross and the Lynching Tree was in her TBR, and she wanted to augment our discussion from social justice and activism issues. I’m not sure this is the most accessible book for public consumption, though there were parts that were compelling and enjoyable. As an academic, it was fun to read from a discipline outside mine, especially since Dr. Cone gave a lot of literary references that were familiar or interesting to me.
Cone is a theologian and an academic, so he writes like one. The first chapter establishes the juxtaposition of the Crucifix with the American lynching tree as symbols that should coexist. The premise was interesting but needed a little development, I think. The second chapter was a mystifying (to me) analysis of Reinhold Niebuhr, and I’m not sure how it developed his thesis. The final two were the most interesting, as they discussed the legacies of Martin Luther King and Malcolm X, alongside the women who helped shape literary and theological studies in suffering and salvation.
This book was interesting and engaging, but it is not written with a general audience in mind. The academese is heavy, and while that’s probably Dr. Cone’s intent, it won’t reach a broader readership. I do not begrudge his writing choices, as a result, although if he is looking to translate this to a trade press, he’ll want to define key terms like liberation theology and really develop the cross-and-lynching-tree thesis in order to clarify his argument.
Cross-posted to my blog.