Racism is still alive and continues to be a sinful, destructive element in our society today, says theologian and professor James H. Cone.
A renowned scholar of black theology, Cone will lecture on his latest book, The Cross and the Lynching Tree, at St. Peter’s Episcopal Church in Morristown as part of the Christine Mary and John Shelby Spong Lecture Series on April 26, 2014.
Cone is Charles A. Briggs distinguished professor of systematic theology at Union Seminary in Manhattan. His life’s work has been interpreting the Christian faith so that it will make sense to black Christians.
Cone’s message is clear, passionate and didactic.
White Christian churches must acknowledge the enslavement by white supremacists that continues in other forms, he said in a recent interview. “There are more African Americans in prison or jail, on parole or on probation today then there were slaves in 1850,” he said.
According to the US Prison Culture Blog, one in 15 black men is behind bars. One in 13 African Americans is unable to vote due to laws that deny ex-felons the right to vote.
These are modern day forms of oppression and slavery of black people by our society’s white supremacists, Cone said. He draws a parallel between the way some Germans ignore the existence of the Holocaust and the way some white Christian churches ignore racism in America today.
In The Cross and the Lynching Tree, Cone says he cannot understand how the analogy between the crucifixion of Jesus and the lynching tree eluded white Christians. “If you don’t find evil in your society, then you are just like the people who put Jesus on the cross.”
If you don’t go back in history and acknowledge the humiliation, indignity, oppression and violence of 246 years of slavery and the ensuing hatred and brutal violence of torturing, burning and lynching of black people that existed after the Civil War, racism will continue to exist in its worst forms, hidden under the guise of justice and perhaps even lurking behind Christianity, he said.
“The Civil Rights Movement lasted only 12 years. You can’t eradicate something that lasted for nearly three centuries in 12 years.”
White Christians must form groups to forcefully oppose white supremacist racist groups, he said. “Violence against people is not Christian. You are not going to bring people around without serious confrontation.”
Cone is the author of 12 books and more than 150 articles and has lectured at more than 1,000 universities and community organizations throughout the United States, Europe, Africa, Asia, Latin America and the Caribbean.
His books include Black Theology & Black Power (1969), A Black Theology of Liberation (1970), God of the Oppressed (1975) and Martin & Malcolm & America: A Dream or a Nightmare? (1991). The Cross and the Lynching Tree, was published in September 2011.
Cone’s lecture will be held from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. at St. Peter’s, located at the corner of Miller Road and South Street. A question-and-answer period will follow the lecture. Cost is $20 for adults, $10 or students with ID. Tickets are available at the church website or by calling 973-538-0555.