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America’s ‘angriest’ theologian faces lynching tree
A crowd gathers in Marion, Indiana, in 1930 to witness a lynching. This photograph inspired the poem and song “Strange Fruit.”
April 21st, 2012
10:00 PM ET

America’s ‘angriest’ theologian faces lynching tree

By John Blake, CNN

(CNN) - When he was boy growing up in rural Arkansas, James Cone would often stand at his window at night, looking for a sign that his father was still alive.

Cone had reason to worry. He lived in a small, segregated town in the age of Jim Crow. And his father, Charlie Cone, was a marked man.

Charlie Cone wouldn’t answer to any white man who called him “boy.” He only worked for himself, he told his sons, because a black man couldn’t work for a white man and keep his manhood at the same time.

Once, when he was warned that a lynch mob was coming to run him out of his home, he grabbed a shotgun and waited, saying, “Let them come, because some of them will die with me.”

CNN’s Belief Blog: The faith angles behind the biggest stories

James Cone knew the risks his father took. So when his father didn’t come home at his usual time in the evenings, he’d stand sentry, looking for the lights from his father’s pickup truck.

“I had heard too much about white people killing black people,” Cone recalled. “When my father would finally make it home safely, I would run and jump into his arms, happy as I could be.”

Cone takes on a theological giant

Cone left his hometown of Bearden, Arkansas, and became one of the world’s most influential theologians. But the memories of his father and lynch mobs never left him. Those memories shaped his controversial theology, and they saturate his recent memoir, “The Cross and the Lynching Tree.”

Cone, who once called himself “the angriest theologian in America,” is still angry. His book is not just a memoir of growing up in the Jim Crow era; it’s a blistering takedown of white churches, and one of America’s greatest theologians, Reinhold Niebuhr - a colossal figure often cited by the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.

Today, Niebuhr’s importance is acknowledged by both liberal and conservative Christian leaders. President Obama once called him one of his favorite philosophers. Niebuhr, the author of classics such as “The Irony of American History,” died in 1971 after a lifetime of political activism.

Cone, however, said neither Niebuhr nor any other famous white pastor at the time spoke out against the most brutal manifestation of white racism in the 20th century America: lynching.

Between 1880 and 1940, Cone says, an estimated 5,000 black men and women were lynched. Their murders were often treated as festive affairs. Women and children cut off the ears of lynching victims as souvenirs. People mailed postcards of lynchings. One postcard of a charred lynching victim read, “This is the barbeque we had last night.”

But Niebuhr said nothing about lynching, little about segregation, and once turned down King’s request to sign a petition calling on the president to protect black children integrating Southern schools, Cone said.

Niebuhr’s decision not to speak out against lynching encouraged other white theologians and ministers to follow suit, Cone said, because Niebuhr was considered the nation’s greatest theologian.

“White theologians didn’t say anything about lynching,” Cone said from his office at Union Theological Seminary in New York, where he teaches a course on Niebuhr. “I tried to find a white theologian who addressed it in a sustained way. No one did it.”

Cone’s criticism of Niebuhr baffles at least one well-known Niebuhr scholar. Charles Lemert, author of “Why Niebuhr Matters,” said King often cited Niebuhr as an inspiration. He said he’d never heard that Niebuhr rejected a petition request from King. “It would be so remote from everything the man was.”

Lemert said Niebuhr had established a long record of speaking out against racism, beginning when he became a pastor in Detroit. Niebuhr may not have spoken out against lynching and other forms of racism later on because of another reason, Lemert said.

“He had a debilitating stroke in 1951,” Lemert said. “By the time the civil rights movement was full blown, he was retired and getting ill.”

Why Cone is angry

Cone has spent much of his career condemning the white church for saying little about slavery or racial justice. Yet his pugnacious reputation doesn’t jibe with his appearance. He is a slight man with a boyish face, cinnamon complexion and dimples. He has a high-pitched voice that drips with the Southern inflections of his native Arkansas.

Cone first gained attention in 1969 with the release of “Black Theology and Black Power,” a book he wrote after urban race riots and King’s assassination.

That book took theology out of academia and placed it on the still-smoldering streets. He became known as the father of “black liberation theology.” He said God was black (he meant it figuratively) because God was closest to those who were oppressed and despised - black people in America.

Cone said his passion for justice comes from growing up in the black church.

Cone blended the racial pride of the black power movement with an emphasis on social justice that had been a part of the black church since enslaved Africans first read the Bible. Jesus' primary message, he said, wasn't about getting people to heaven, but liberating people here and now from oppression - racial, economic and spiritual.

Cone said he was tired of white theologians writing about an otherworldly theology while cities burned and blacks were murdered by racists.

“I felt like I was the angriest black theologian in America,” he once wrote in his book “Risks of Faith.” “I had to speak out.”

Cone inspired some and angered others.

Critics say he developed a divisive, racist theology that describes God as black and whites as evil. They say he’s stuck in the '60s and never abandoned the bitterness of growing up in segregation.

Supporters say Cone exposed the hypocrisy of white churches and gave voice to helpless, poor and oppressed Christians in places as far away as China and Latin America.

The Rev. James Ellis III, an author who has been both critical and supportive of Cone, says before Cone, theology was interpreted through a white male perspective.

Cone has inspired not only blacks but also women and other racial minorities to enter seminaries and the pulpit, he says.

“Whether you agree with Cone or not, he’s definitely someone you need to deal with,” said Ellis, author of “OnThaGrindCuzin: The School Daze of Being ‘Incognegro’ in 1619.”

“He takes the gloves off and gets down to the nitty-gritty.”

Jonathan Walton, an assistant professor of African American Religious Studies at Harvard University, said listening to Cone is like “listening to a Hebrew prophet.”

For many people, Walton says, Cone “exposed that the God that they were worshiping was more consistent with the Pharaoh in Egypt than the Hebrew children.”

Cone said people still misunderstand his theology. He said he does not believe that whites are more sinful than others.

“God made us all as brothers and sisters,” he said. “I’m mad when people don’t treat others as brothers and sisters. I’m concerned about the suffering of all people, not just black people. If anybody is being treated unjustly, I’m with them.”

Singing about the ‘Hoochie Coochie Man’

Cone said his passion for justice comes from growing up in the black church. In his recent memoir, he describes how blacks relied on music and faith to deal with the cruelty of segregation.

On Saturday nights, he said, blacks in his hometown would go to juke joints with names like Sam’s Place to hear blues songs like “Hoochie Coochie Man.” On Sunday mornings, some of the same people would go to church to sing spirituals like “Lord, I Want to be a Christian in My Heart.”

Church comforted Cone, but it also made him ask questions.

“My thing was, if the white churches are Christian, how come they segregate us? And if God is God, why is He letting us suffer?”

The cross, he said, helped him find some answers. He said many white Christians “spiritualize” the cross, seeing it as a penalty Jesus had to pay for mankind’s sins.

But black Christians, starting with the slaves who took up the Bible, also viewed the cross as a way to cope with suffering.

Blacks looking at the images of lynching victims took heart from Jesus’ suffering on the cross and his resurrection, Cone said.

He writes:

“Black Christians believed that just knowing that Jesus went through an experience of suffering in a manner similar to theirs gave them faith that God was with them, even in suffering on lynching trees just as God was present with Jesus in suffering on the cross.”

Cone also talked about his personal suffering in his memoir.

He writes about his wife, Sandra, who died of cancer in 1983. He saw her on the night she died. He said they were joking and laughing as she chided him for not leaving her hospital room to get rest.

He finally did leave, but she died at 3 that morning. Thinking about the cross helped him grieve, he said.

“God talked me through that,” he said, his voice softening. “You look suffering right in you eye and say, ‘You may get me, but you’re not going to have the last word.’ ”

Cone also talks about his parents, Charlie and Lucy, who inspired him and his two brothers. Charlie was a woodcutter who encouraged his wife to return to school, where she eventually earned a college degree.

“I didn’t grow up with a lot of fear,” he said. “I just thought my mother and father would protect me.”

One of Cone’s fears today, though, is that the contemporary black church is losing its distinctive theology. He said there’s less talk about justice and more talk about prosperity.

“You go to almost any black church today, and you don’t hear spirituals anymore,” he said. “What you hear is this happy, ‘I’m prosperous’ kind of stuff. I’m not for that. You don’t come to church to be entertained. You come to wrestle with your spirit.”

Cone may still be angry, but he’s also mellowed. He’s tempered some of the voltage from the language he used in his earlier books. And he’s accepted criticism from some black women theologians who said he didn’t include the perspective of black women in his works.

Yet thoughts of his childhood and his parents never seem far off. In his books and lectures, he returns once again to them, especially when people compliment him for his boldness. In one essay, Cone wrote:

“At most, what I say and do are just dim reflections of what my parents taught and lived.”

- CNN Writer

Filed under: Bible • Black issues • Books • Christianity • Church • Crime • Culture wars • Persecution • Prejudice • Race

soundoff (2,563 Responses)
  1. Honest Thoughts

    It seems to me that if you blame one whole race for something a few believed in then this is racism. Since the dawn of time there have been ideals, beliefs and practices that over time seemed ludicrous and way out of line. Yet they were accepted until a stop was put to it. We should rejoice in the changes made instead of wallering in pity, hate and unhappiness. If he is a true theologian and believes in a higher power then I would assume he would speak of forgiveness. Something like "not so long ago in our history.... but today we have come along way ...". This man seems to portray himself as full of hate and wanting to incite racism. For me I agree that this was a terrible part of our history and that we should be thankful for our ability to overcome the practices of yesteryear and embrace how far we have came. This seems to get lost in all the discussions and only the past as if it is today, seems to be what is talked about. I could dwell on my past, be depressed, and blame everyone for everything, but I am a bigger person then that. I try to look at the glass half full and not half empty. I have had many good things in my life along with the bad so I want the good in the forefront to make me a better person. Hopefully he can do this so that he is not remembered as a hate filled man unable to find any joy in his life but rather a great theologian who through personal tragedy rose above and helped to move the country in a positive way. It is easy to let hate overcome you, so he needs to try hard to prevent it. I am not saying he has to forget but he does need to embrace the changes and strides made instead of embracing and only seeing the past.

    April 23, 2012 at 11:19 am |
    • GodPot

      "rac·ism/ˈrāˌsizəm/Noun: The belief that all members of each race possess characteristics or abilities specific to that race, esp. so as to distinguish it as...Prejudice or discrimination directed against someone of a different race based on such a belief."

      First, if you do not look to your past and recognize the errors that were made, you are fated to repeat them. If we do not look back with horror at the actions of our ancestors then we are more inclined to have empathy for them when they deserve none. Murder, hate and the idea of a superior race are their heritage and unless we completely reject that part of our past we have not changed. To try and pervert the meaning of racism from the hateful murders to those who despise the hating murderers is to side with the evil since you never truly reject it. To claim reverse racism is the cry of the weak and pitiful.

      April 23, 2012 at 11:28 am |
    • ChuckB

      A few? I lived through the last years of the Jim Crow South, and it was more than a few.

      April 23, 2012 at 11:32 am |
    • JM

      Amen Godpot. We so often accuse others of what we ourselves (as a nation) have perpetrated (and then, conveniently, have forgotten). We like to whitewash our own history.

      April 23, 2012 at 11:33 am |
    • AB207

      I think that this man has not thought the difference between hate and anger, I think that he is angry because of that happen then and maybe the hate started with fear and anger, but still, he do not or did not have these feelings because of the color of ones skin...that's what none of you are realizing.....

      April 23, 2012 at 11:51 am |
    • Honest Thoughts

      It sounds like a lot of hate is going on. If one tries to quail the hate then they should be targeted and abused. Sound familiar. Hate causes bad errors and bad judgements. Rise above and try to help bring out the best in people not the worst.. When I die I want to be remembered as a person who tried to make the world a better place and bring calm and happiness not as a person who could not rise above and was a hate filled miserable being. I wish all the mad, depressed, haters a good life. One full of love and happiness verses hate and anger. I shall never forget the past so that I will not repeat it but I also will not consumed with in it as if it is happening now.

      April 23, 2012 at 11:52 am |
  2. TG

    Jesus never established a personal movement, such as "the black power movement", but rather established true Christianity in obedience to his Father, Jehovah God.(John 17:4) He did not place emphasis on "social justice", but on restoring genuine peace to the paradise earth (Luke 23:43), as was in the Garden of Eden, whereby "justice (is given) a place in the gate".(Amos 5:15)

    Throughout history, mankind has been oppressed, for at Ecclesiastes 4:1, king Solomon (ruled 1077 B.C.E.-998 B.C.E.) said that "I myself returned that I might see all the acts of oppression that are being done under the sun, and, look! the tears of those being oppressed, but they had no comforter; and on the side of their oppressors there was power, so that they had no comforter."

    The apostle Peter, in visiting the Gentile Cornelius, said: "For a certainty I perceive that God is not partial, but in every nation the man that fears him and works righteousness is acceptable to him."(Acts 10:34, 35) James Cone sees himself as a fighter for "social justice", but basically relegates it to blacks being oppressed (as in lynching and whites) and not to all who are oppressed worldwide. Neither does he define what God's justice is.

    At Isaiah 11, it says of Jesus, that "upon him the spirit of Jehovah must settle down, the spirit of wisdom and of understanding, the spirit of counsel and of mightiness, the spirit of knowledge and of the fear of Jehovah; and there will be enjoyment by him in the fear of Jehovah. And he will not judge by any mere appearance to his eyes, nor reprove simply according to the thing heard by his ears. And with righteousness he must judge the lowly ones, and with uprightness he must give reproof in behalf of the meek ones of the earth. And he must strike the earth with the rod of his mouth; and with the spirit of his lips he will put the wicked one to death. And righteousness must prove to be the belt of his hips, and faithfulness the belt of his loins."(Isa 11:2-5)

    Those who are "meek ones" will see true justice established by Jehovah God, enjoying life forever on a paradise earth, "in the abundance of peace" (Ps 37:11, 29), where "color" is seen as beautiful, whereas those who are deemed as "wicked" will be put to death, to never exist again.(Ps 37:9, 10)

    April 23, 2012 at 11:15 am |
  3. Slavery is Hate

    Middle aged White/Male. The hatred is clearly understood by this gentlemen. It disgusts me looking at the crowds faces during this visceral act agains humanity. Just look at them. Reminds me of the Holocaust! I don't believe those who Were and Are oppressed found the solution(s) within their own ranks. The closest was M. KING! All others continue to fail. Why? because it is hatred that is still taught and directed back at the very people (Whites if you like) who had absolutely nothing to do with it. Therefore, curb the hatred...(Like King did) and you will find you have many more ears that will listen. Final note. Most hatred is learned in the HOME. Look their for the first step in problem resolution. Perpetuation of hate in any form is just that. Hate!

    April 23, 2012 at 11:14 am |
    • AB207

      Great Speech! Yes racism does began at home...BUT....there is a BIG difference between racism and hate, those whites in that photo were racist and they had hate in them...Blacks had hate and fear due to the treatment toward them by whites. They were thought in there homes to understand what type of animals that they had to face when leaving there homes, but there were no reason to be taught to hate whites because of the color of their skin.....there's a big difference. So, please understand the difference....I lived in the latter years of the JIM CROW era...and saw racism and even now I can still see some of the same...such as walking into a place of business or in a certain area of a town/city, all of a sudden...the looks on whites face are as though I shouldn't be where I am....and on the other hand, I have met and have associates that I truly care about who do not appear to be racist and we can sit and discussed racial issues without being out of control or angry, but these are few and far apart. Most whites cannot accept or deal with the horrible things that occurred in that era nor things that occur even now that are wrong.. for whatever reason...and that is called denial.

      April 23, 2012 at 11:45 am |
    • Honest Thoughts

      Walking into an area filled with one race while you are another invokes the same feelings to all. Although it should not, just being the race that is not predominantly in an area causes that. In advance I want to say sorry to all those who want to jump on my thoughts and place hate upon me. I am one who is trying hard to quell hate and not promote it.

      April 23, 2012 at 12:05 pm |
  4. Dave NY USA

    I guess NOW is the time for CNN to stir up racial bullllshiiitt because of the Martin shooting in Florida?
    You people disgust me.
    Not all of us who are white are racists, so many you "journalists" could mention THAT sometime.

    April 23, 2012 at 11:13 am |
    • AB207

      Dave for you to be sooooooo upset, you must be a racist, if you weren't, why are you so angry because there are no comments that states ALL whites are racist, right? History is history, everything else in history can be discussed, so what's the difference in this case. Furtherthemore lynching is NOT BULLS$@%#&, alrighty, its reality, so get over yourself. RACISM has been in existence thru out centuries, the only difference now from back then, is that racism is more sophisticated now..so do act like its just because of Trayvon's case...what planet have you been living on? Either some of you are stupid or you are blind, you know fool well that racist still exist. Furtherthemore, again, if blacks would accept or tolerate it, some of us would be on a lynching tree everyday, please....you disgust me

      April 23, 2012 at 11:30 am |
    • JM

      Lest we forget.

      One learns from the past. One questions how/why things such as this could have been done (by so-called civilized/educated people). One questions why no one spoke up or against this. Hopefully some did.

      April 23, 2012 at 11:35 am |
  5. palintwit

    Those are the same baggers and birthers in that photo that gladly crawl a mile over broken glass just to sniff the tire tracks of the truck that took Sarah Palin's dirty underwear to the laundry.

    April 23, 2012 at 11:10 am |
    • babykitty

      Doubtful as most of those people are probably dead or infirm now.

      April 23, 2012 at 11:13 am |
    • j

      there were serious casea of injustice back then and now
      BUT MAKE NO MISTAKE , THEY HUNG RAPIST AND MURDERERS OF ALL COLORS BACK THEN.
      I IMAGINE ITS IS AS MUCH AS 5 TO 1 ON THE CAUCASIAN SIDE , DUE TO POPULATION

      WE NEED TO BRING BACK THE HANGING TREE,WE WONT HAVE TO HANG MANY BEFORE THE
      PREDATORS GET THE MESSAGE

      YOU CANT MAKE A PREDATOR A PROGRESSIVE

      April 23, 2012 at 11:23 am |
  6. blake

    Why does CNN keep playing the race card? Ever read the story of the boy who cried "wolf"?

    April 23, 2012 at 11:02 am |
    • Solitairedog

      Why is it when anybody starts talking about the misery of being black in America, some yahoo pops up to complain that they are playing the race card.

      April 23, 2012 at 11:05 am |
    • AB207

      YOU ARE HAVING A VERY DIFFICULT TIME AREN'T YOU! Its not about CNN playing the race card, its just reality of how things used to be and would be now...if certain people bowed down and allowed such hatred to control one race! So, take your head out of the sand!

      April 23, 2012 at 11:18 am |
    • Honest Thoughts

      I agree that part of our history as a country was very sad and tragic. The past also brought forth good things. We need to try and balance somehow the two. I am afraid this man is stuck in his past and cannot find the ability to move beyond it. He is trying to incite racism which I see from what he states is his history is justified to him. He needs to try and move on and think about how far we have came as a country. Inciting hatred of any one race is the same as what those in the past was doing to his race. On the CNN point, I am saddened that they tend to want to highlight hatred and stir the race pot. They should be trying to help calm race relations not flame the flames.

      April 23, 2012 at 11:37 am |
    • JM

      Why is it that we can discuss 'some' history but not other history?

      Wearing blinders never helped anyone see.

      It's the truth. It's fact. It's history. It's reality.

      It is unbelievable (the horrors committed in this world). It's a messed up world.

      April 23, 2012 at 11:38 am |
  7. KentuckyScience.com

    Who was the greatest man to have ever been born out of a mothers womb or the greatest man to have ever lived? Jesus is the Son of God, so the obvious answer would be Jesus. However, Jesus says that John the Baptist was the greatest. Jesus was not a liar, so why did he say the John the Baptist was greater than the Christ born of a virgin womb? John the Baptist is associated with loving God, since he prepared the way for Grace. If you are a Christian and you think that Grace is above the greatest commandment you are wrong. Don't take my word for it, read Luke 7:28. Jesus makes it clear that even those who love God the least in the Kingdom of God is greater. Talk about humility, that is remarkable humility by Jesus Christ. Jesus is associated with Grace, one can only get to heaven through the son. This fact alone should make Jesus the Greatest man to have ever come from a mothers womb, however Luke 7:28 can't be overruled. John the Baptist condemned Herod to Hell for being an adulator, since he had no desire to change his ways and Love God. (Mark 6:14-29) John the Baptist is associated with loving God, since he prepared the way for Grace. Why does this matter? John the Baptist got his head cut off for speaking the truth about consequences. It is obvious that Herod used his position as King to do whatever he wanted with complete disregard to God’s Word. That is why John rebuked King Herod! Herod was sinful and unrepentant for his actions. If a preacher tells his congregation that all they need to do is accept Jesus and be saved by Grace without informing them of the consequences of not being born again, then why should they have any regard to God's word? John the Baptist was not afraid to speak the truth about the importance of loving God. Money made Herod appear to have authority. How much authority does he have now?
    Baptism is associated with accepting Jesus and being saved by grace. Being saved by grace means you should have received a punishment for your sin which hurt other people. The problem is that Grace tends to be put above The Greatest Commandment Matthew 22:37. If Grace were above the Greatest Commandment, then the devil could be forgiven and he would be in heaven. The devil does not love God and this is the reason he is not in heaven. The purpose of following the law is to show others that we love God. Unfortunately, those that view Grace above the Greatest commandment are using the law as a means to judge others as being not good enough to follow it. This is the common argument against the Jew. Love or judge, the choice is yours! Matthew 22:37 states you are called to Love and the law tells us how. Not knowing that God loves us is associated with our inherited sin from the fall of Adam and Eve. For God so loved the world that he sent his son not to condemn the world but to save it. Christ forgives our old sinful ways, since being born again is associated with a change in behavior because we now see that God loves us and therefore we now desire to love him. If grace is infinite, then it would not be a choice to love God. If grace is infinite, there would be no reason to change our ways and become a new creation or be born again. If grace is infinite, then God would accept evil and thus be evil. To forgive and not expect any change in behavior would produce more of the same behavior that the original forgiveness required.
    How do we know Jesus was talking about the greatest commandment in the parable of the wedding banquet? The guest wearing the wrong cloths did not try to negotiate, read John 5:41-42.

    April 23, 2012 at 11:00 am |
    • Solitairedog

      Ttook one look at your long, self important, wannabe a preacher speech and moved on. Just thought you should know the effect your diatribe has on others.

      April 23, 2012 at 11:03 am |
    • snowdogg

      Religion is a weakness, not a strength.

      April 23, 2012 at 11:37 am |
  8. CanAtheist

    There's no black in Canada or they are lynched.

    April 23, 2012 at 10:59 am |
    • AB207

      I guest you have never been to canada, considering that you made such a STU....PID remark!

      April 23, 2012 at 11:21 am |
  9. AtheismIsCrap

    Would be a magnificient view if all atheists become a lycnhing tree decoration.

    April 23, 2012 at 10:55 am |
    • JohnQuest

      AtheismIsCrap, spoken like a true Christian\Muslim, you wonder why we can't wait for the end of religion.

      April 23, 2012 at 10:59 am |
    • Primewonk

      Typical fundiot (fundamentalist îdiot) christian response. Your god must be so freaking proud of his minions like you.

      April 23, 2012 at 11:00 am |
    • AtheismIsCrap

      And we can't wait to see all of you to become a part of the lynching trees.

      April 23, 2012 at 11:01 am |
    • JohnQuest

      AtheismIsCrap, See the difference, I would fight and die to ensure that something like that never happens to you, your family, neighbors or anyone else and I am absolutely a non believer. Were does your Morals come from?

      April 23, 2012 at 11:05 am |
    • Chance

      @JohnQust

      This persons comments are crazy to say the least but religion is not the problem, its extremism. There are extreme atheist as well who execute believers ie Columbine; the fault is on both sides its not one sided. A true Christian can co exist a atheist has no guidelines to follow so some can co exist and others can't the same can be said for extremist.

      April 23, 2012 at 11:06 am |
    • C. Smith

      "If you hate your brother in your heart, you are guilty of murder." Seems we have more than a few murderers posting here.

      April 23, 2012 at 11:14 am |
    • closet atheist

      @ Chance ~~ Even though I have no statistics to back this, I'd bet my lunch money that there are many multiples more religious extremists that would kill for their beliefs than non-believers. If one more fundiot brings up Hitler as an "atheist" in response, I'm going to barf.

      April 23, 2012 at 11:16 am |
    • DavidLevinsn

      Right now Jesus is going a facepalm at AtheismIsCrap.

      April 23, 2012 at 11:17 am |
    • Chance

      @ closet atheist
      Like you said we don't have the data but the main point I wanted to make is a true Christian can co exist because of the guidelines Jesus left. A extremist is out of control, there is no defending them. A atheist has no guidelines thats not to say they are extremist and want to harm believers but when people say i cant wait for religion to end it worries me just as extreme religious people worries me. It doesn't matter if any current or previous world leader says they are believer or non believer its their actions that reveal the truth. Jesus wasn't for pushing people into believing he was son of God through force, nor should his followers.

      April 23, 2012 at 11:27 am |
    • JM

      Wow.

      That statement came straight from the pit.

      Bible: love your neighbors; love your neighbors.

      Atheists....not really "enemies". They are just people living their lives, raising their families who don't believe that there is a God. Seriously, this world is driving me nuts. I believe in God, but I'd like Him to reveal Himself to us....so we stop arguing.

      April 23, 2012 at 11:41 am |
    • ChuckB

      Atheists who are moral and obey the law do so becasue they believe that is what is best for society. Apparently many Christians, those who claim that one who doesn't beleive in God can't be moral, are moral because of the fear of a righteous God or that they will be rewarded, i.e., they aren't moral because they think it is the right thing to do. They are moral out of fear or hope of a reward, not becassue it is the right thing to do.

      April 23, 2012 at 12:28 pm |
    • AtheismIsCrap

      "I would fight and die to ensure that something like that never happens to you, your family, neighbors or anyone else"

      Really? Oh, I'm gonna cry....But wait....GGWWAARRRKKK! Pep talks really make me THROW-UP! PWEEH!!

      "Right now Jesus is going a facepalm at AtheismIsCrap."

      PAK! Was that a bug on your face? lol!

      "They are just people living their lives, raising their families who don't believe that there is a God."

      I doubt if atheist have "real" families. How can they when even street dogs couldn't stand a minute with them?

      "Atheists who are moral and obey the law do so becasue they believe that is what is best for society"

      The truth is...morality and civility are still foreign to atheists.

      "If one more fundiot brings up Hitler as an "atheist" in response, I'm going to barf."

      You gotta be ready for HELLUVAH "barfing" coz Stalin, Mao and Pot isn't in the menu yet. You might barf your colon out!

      April 24, 2012 at 10:40 am |
  10. John TB

    "Jesus' primary message, he said, wasn't about getting people to heaven, but liberating people here and now from oppression – racial, economic and spiritual."

    Well...here's Cone's problem – he has it backwards. The Pharisees and Jews who hated Jesus were looking for social change, not spiritual salvation. Jesus never railed against the Roman authorities, but He railed against sin in all forms. He didn't say, "Rise up and take control", He said, "Repent and believe!". Jesus' message was SPIRITUAL not TEMPORAL as Cone seems to believe. Sad.

    April 23, 2012 at 10:53 am |
    • babykitty

      Most people try to twist Jesus' messages into one that suits them.

      April 23, 2012 at 11:10 am |
    • C. Smith

      Hey look, someone actually read the Book!
      ... Get'em!

      Sad to say that so many don't allow reason and logic to oppose their biased, hateful beliefs.

      April 23, 2012 at 11:17 am |
    • Bo

      Exactly. Well said.

      April 23, 2012 at 11:19 am |
  11. Judas Priest

    http://www.theonion.com/articles/god-angrily-clarifies-dont-kill-rule,222/

    April 23, 2012 at 10:52 am |
    • phoodphite

      Crap I always miss this event. And I am not that far from NY. I always learn about these things too late in something like the Weekly World News.

      April 23, 2012 at 11:28 am |
  12. B. Russell

    And most likely in the photo above a great majority of the lynchers were democrats. My how people forgot quickly!!

    April 23, 2012 at 10:50 am |
    • JTC

      Look up the Southern Strategy. Those 'democrats' (sometimes called 'Dixiecrats') left/got ousted from the party, and got folded up into the Republican party under Nixon. So, yes, it seems like some people forget... but probably not who you meant.

      April 23, 2012 at 10:59 am |
    • ChuckB

      Their descendents today are mostly Republican. Lincoln couldn't be nominated as the GOP's candidate for dog catcher today; what church was it of which he was a member? What were his views on federal government power? William Howard Taft, the 27th president of the U.S., a Republican, was a Unitarian–you know, the denomination that denies the divinity of Christ. Think the GOP would nominate him today? The ex-yellow dog Democrats that couldn't get traction as Dixiecrats started the takeover of the GOP in 1964; today's GOP is not the GOP of our grandfathers. Wherever you see a reference to the racism of the Democratic Party before 1940, think today's GOP.

      April 23, 2012 at 11:04 am |
    • Steve G

      But those Democrats you mention became Dixiecrats, the offshoots that entered the Republican party led by Strom Thurmond.

      April 23, 2012 at 11:04 am |
    • Primewonk

      And most likely in the photo above a great majority of the lynchers were fundamentalist Christians. My how people forgot quickly!!

      April 23, 2012 at 11:08 am |
    • Mark from Middle River

      ....and those who fought against such were mostly Christians... how people forget.

      April 23, 2012 at 11:12 am |
    • AB207

      Mark from the middle river....YOU sound like a complete idiot

      April 23, 2012 at 11:55 am |
    • ChuckB

      Yes, there were Christians who fought against racism from before the Civil War down to the civil rights movement in the 60s, but they were mostly liberal Christians, Unitarians and Quakers from New England and the Middle Atlantic states, e.g., John Brown (Congregationalist) and William Sloane Coffin (United Church of Christ), . Oh, and quite a few Jews put their lives on the line; at least two didn't survive the experience, i.e., Schwerner and Goodman. Do you know of any fundamentalist Christians that were abolitionists or marched?

      April 23, 2012 at 11:56 am |
  13. Daniel West

    And then white people say "it happened to some of us too!! stop ignoring that" to validate any violence committed by white people.

    April 23, 2012 at 10:49 am |
    • Nelbert

      What on Earth are you talking about?

      April 23, 2012 at 11:01 am |
  14. DrEvil

    Lynching was very commom during this time – so common that thousands of white men who were accussed but not convicted of crimes were also lynched. Somehow, the white victims are lynching are never mentioned in these discussions.

    April 23, 2012 at 10:45 am |
    • ChuckB

      You have a valid point, but your figures are greatly inflated. From 1882 to 1968 there were 4,743 victims of lynching, of which 1,297, not several thousand, were white. Unfortunately this figure wasn't broken down to detail ethnicity and religion; ispeaking of ignored facts, in the old South it was almost as dangerous to be a Catholic or Jew as to be black, e.g., Leo Frank, a Jewish factory owner lynched in Atlanta in 1915. In Florida up until the late 60s blacks were not allowed in many municipalities after dark unless escorted by their employers and Jews were forbidden to own property.

      April 23, 2012 at 11:15 am |
    • ChuckB

      Dr. Evil, oh, I forgot about the 11 Italian immigrants lynched in 1891 in New Orleans. Nine had been on trial for killing the police chief, but were acquitted. A mob broke into the jail before they were released and lynched them plus two other Italians who were just in the wrong place at the wrong time. In Tallulah, Louisiana in 1899 five Italians were lynched for the heinous crime of treating black customers as equal to whites; three were shopkeepers, but, as in NO, two were just collateral damage. I have been looking, but I can’t find any examples of WASP good ole boys or Sons of Confederate Veterans being lynched; do you have any?

      April 23, 2012 at 11:45 am |
    • AB207

      DR Evil, it is a difference between being lynched because you supposedly committed a crime vs lynching for sport...please, STOP MAKING EXCUSES....like I said, if some of you could get away with it now.....blacks would be getting lynched everyday. The truth hurts doesn't it! Some of you walking around with you heads in the sand as though you don't see what's going on all around you, in the work place, on the streets, on television and everywhere else....STOP WHINNING and BEING IN DENIAL! FACTS are FACTS!

      April 23, 2012 at 11:59 am |
  15. Daniel West

    White people would take the country back if they could. If racism and lynching became socially acceptable again, most white people wouldn't stand it it's way. They would embrace it. Not all white people would, but most would not speak out against it. There isn't anyone who could say this isn't true, because it has already happened this way.

    God does not exist.

    April 23, 2012 at 10:44 am |
    • Chance

      @ Daniel

      Racism is God's fault so there for He doesn't exist? Because Syrians are getting bombed by a mad president God doesn't exist? When people suggest God is non existent because of the action MAN takes on fellow MAN its a shame. God left us mankind in charge and we are responsible for our own actions. We are able to make things right without religion, with out atheism, we could co exist but here we are making a mess of everything. We are our own worst enemy because of our choices not because God doesn't exist, its our freedom that leads to these atrocities.

      April 23, 2012 at 10:59 am |
    • babykitty

      Your hypothetical supposition only informs us of YOUR views of white people, not on the truth.

      April 23, 2012 at 11:11 am |
    • Bo

      Wow, your post is more an indication of your own racism than of reality.

      April 23, 2012 at 11:24 am |
  16. Mormon Expert

    Man can it get any uglier than that pic? Its hard to imagine this America being a reality in the mid 20th

    April 23, 2012 at 10:43 am |
    • c'mon_son!

      The gun is the mid 20th rope. OVERstand this &put that imagination to good use;)

      April 23, 2012 at 10:46 am |
    • noXcuses

      If the tea party had it's way, you would definitely see attempts at this kind of stuff.

      April 23, 2012 at 11:11 am |
    • babykitty

      You can't imagine uglier? Imagine "necklacing", which still happens today in Africa for the supposed crimes of "witchcraft".

      April 23, 2012 at 11:12 am |
  17. RFBJR

    Some of Jesus' final words were "Forgive them Father for they know not what they do." The foundation for Christianity is forgiveness. Forgiveness is rooted in love, not hate. Just because someone says they are Christian, doesn't mean they are. The world is full of so-called Christians. Jesus changes your heart. He is the only One who can change your heart. Once again, He is the one and only Answer to the problem. Accept Jesus as your Saviour. The old man will die, the new man will be born again. Amen. "By their fruits, ye shall know them."

    April 23, 2012 at 10:41 am |
  18. lies from the right but mostly hate

    Was that rush limbaugh,shaun hannity, and glenn beck in the crowd

    April 23, 2012 at 10:39 am |
    • edmundburkeson

      And from the left? These men would likely have been a part of the abolitionist movement. About the time these photos were taken progressive liberals were plotting to thin minorities through birth control.

      April 23, 2012 at 10:53 am |
    • Oscar Pitchfork

      No, but it was probably their fathers...

      April 23, 2012 at 11:06 am |
  19. paul1121

    What this article does not mention is the huge number of white people who were appalled with these lynchings and the number of white people who were prosecuted over some of the lynchings. This a part of America's history that can not be ignored. Let us never forget and move on to better things.

    April 23, 2012 at 10:39 am |
  20. john smiith

    The gentleman's anger is entirely reasonable, but white against black is just one aspect of a global problem of groups using differences to spawn hatreds. Think Rwanda. The hatred here was between two black groups. Russia, Germany between two white groups. Religious, historical, social or nearly any difference seems to be a cause for abusing our fellow humans

    April 23, 2012 at 10:38 am |
    • TJ

      Oh so true. Division is the true underlying issue.

      April 23, 2012 at 11:47 am |
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About this blog

The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.