The lynching tree–so strikingly similar to the cross on Golgotha–should have a prominent place in American images of Jesus’ death. But it does not. In fact, the lynching tree has no place in American theological reflections about Jesus’ cross or in the proclamation of Christian churches about his Passion. The conspicuous absence of the lynching tree in American theological discourse and preaching is profoundly revealing, especially since the crucifixion was clearly a first-century lynching. In the “lynching era,” between 1880 to 1940, white Christians lynched nearly 5,000 black men and women in a manner with obvious echoes of the Roman crucifixion of Jesus. Yet these “Christians” did not see the irony or contradiction in their actions.
As Jesus was an innocent victim of mob hysteria and Roman imperial violence, many African-Americans were innocent victims of white mobs, thirsting for blood in the name of God and in defense of segregation, white supremacy, and the purity of the Anglo-Saxon race. Both the cross and the lynching tree were symbols of terror, instruments of torture and execution, reserved primarily for slaves, criminals, and insurrectionists—the lowest of the low in society. Both Jesus and blacks were publicly humiliated, subjected to the utmost indignity and cruelty. They were stripped, in order to be deprived of dignity, then paraded, mocked and whipped, pierced, derided and spat upon, and tortured for hours in the presence of jeering crowds for popular entertainment. In both cases, the purpose was to strike terror in the subject community. It was to let people know that the same thing would happen to them if they did not stay in their place.
The crucifixion of Jesus by the Romans and the lynching of blacks by whites in the United States are so amazingly similar that one wonders what blocks the American Christian imagination from seeing the connection.”
James H. Cone, The Cross and the Lynching Tree, 30-31
I received some help some a surprising source last week. This is a sin that affects me deeply, even if not frequently. Usually I do a good job of managing things so that I stay in control. In those circumstances where things get beyond me, I resort first to grumbling, and then Stoicism. This paragraph nailed me:
There is a critical difference here we need to note. Groaning is not grumbling. When we groan, we must learn to do it without grumbling, trusting in the faithfulness of God and his promises
Groaning and grumbling can seem similar, but biblically they are quite different. Both are responses to suffering, but their sources and their direction are different. Groaning is a response to the weight of suffering, and it is directed toward God as an honest expression of pain, grief, and sorrow. Grumbling also reflects the weight of suffering, but it springs from anger and resentment toward God. It lacks a memory of his past faithfulness. Groaning expresses an element of hope in God, despite current sufferings, but grumbling reflects a lack of hope and faith and is accompanied by a sense of doom. In the Bible, we see that God responds to groaning with mercy, but he responds to grumbling with anger and discipline. Still, even when we grumble there is hope. God is slow to anger, he does not forget his promises, and even in his discipline his goal is to draw his people to him in grace and pardon.
Benjamin Mast, Second Forgetting, 84-85