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. JohnQuest

    Mark from Middle River, I'd like to think that most of us (Americans, no matter the color of skin) voted for him because the alternative was worse (we choose the least of all Evils).

    April 23, 2012 at 9:15 am |
    • Mark from Middle River

      John, as an African American I would love to believe that. The problem is that when questioned, so many of my fellow African Americans could not give any reasoning on why they voted for Obama other than because he was Black. I would ask for one platform or politcal view and more often than not, I would get that just because he was Black that was enough and I was a traitor to the Black race because of my reasoning that his race alone was not enough to swing my vote.

      So, I stayed home because McCain was not worthy of my vote as a Conservative Republican and Obama's political views that I knew of in his career were not enough for me to vote for him as well.


      April 23, 2012 at 9:44 am |
    • JohnQuest

      Mark from Middle River, it seems to me since Kennedy we have not voted for someone but against the other. I too am an outcast for not drinking the Senator, now Pres. kool-aid, I want more than a sound bite from my Pres. but the alternatives then and now are far worse.

      As much as I disagreed with the last Pres. at least he got what he wanted regardless of what anyone else thought. He was bad for the country but he was effective.

      April 23, 2012 at 9:54 am |
  2. Bob

    At some point we all need to let go of the racism and move on. When it keeps getting rehashed it will never go away.

    April 23, 2012 at 9:14 am |
  3. Ahote Green

    Charlie Cone stated that from 1880 to 1940, (60 years) there have been around 5000 lynching crimes against Black men and women by racists. No one can argue that fact. Here we are in 2012, and so far this year alone, in just 8 cities, there have been 675 Black on Black shooting murders of mostly young Black adults and teens. This is an epidemic. Look at the marches, protests, the outrage and news reports on the shooting death of Mr. Martin. Are people more concerned about Trayon's death or the color of the shooter? Where are the protests? Where's the outrage? Why is the Black community silent? Their silence is telling the world that the death of hundreds of young Blacks don't matter. But Trayon, he matters. He was shot by a white guy.

    April 23, 2012 at 8:57 am |
    • Alan

      I don't know if I would call it an epidemic in the black community as much as I would call it an epidemic for the U.S. at large. When you look at the data going back as far as 40 years. Black and White murder rates in sheer numbers, is usually neck and neck, differences between 500 to 1000. Now per capita, the percentage will be higher for blacks only because they represent a smaller population in the U.S. And curiously, when the numbers are broken down even further, every year, white females out number black females in death by murder almost every year; sometimes double the number for black females. The point is this, PEOPLE are murdered every year regardless of race, and the fact that numbers for blacks are as high as they are for whites, means that everyone has a pretty equal opportunity to meet such a horrible fate.

      April 23, 2012 at 9:39 am |
    • Lee

      Personally I don't believe race really entered into the the Martin case until somewhat after the uproar begain. It's not about race,it's about a young man being killed and the acknowledged killer not even arrested, no real investigation, but simply a "well, you say it was self-defense so I guess it was." We don't have uproars about black on black killing any more than we do on white on whitel and there would have been no uproar if the police/prosecuting attorney had done their job in the beginning.

      April 23, 2012 at 9:40 am |
    • brent

      Trayvon was not shot by a white guy....gracious. Zimmerman is latino. Also, the black community has not been silent about his death...his name is on every channel, on every news show, on every talk show and every newspaper all day long. where the heck are you getting your 'information'?!?!
      im surprised your comment tied all the way back to Trayvon when the article mentioned so many good points about the need to stop the prosperity gospel thats rampant in black churches these days. Though i do disagree about suffering. God allows suffering in the world because he is big and holy enough to use it for a good purpose, one that holds the potential to grow those who seek him through it. God uses suffering because we feel it more than pleasure. Also, with all the sin in the world, there should be WAAAAY more suffering than there is at present. THAT is Gods mercy on us.

      April 23, 2012 at 9:40 am |
    • closet atheist

      So long as the likes of Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton can still profit off of racism, it will not go away.

      April 23, 2012 at 9:41 am |
    • closet atheist

      @ Lee ~~ It's called due process.

      April 23, 2012 at 9:42 am |
    • babykitty

      From 1882-1968, 4,743 lynchings occurred in the United States. Of these people that were lynched 3,446 were black.

      I find it interesting that people never mention what those black people were lynched for. I guess most just assume that they were lynched for the color of their skin, but white people were lynched too. The photo at the top of the page depicts the lynching of Thomas Shipp and Abram Smith. They had been arrested the night before for robbing and shooting a man and then raping his girlfriend. A "robbery gone wrong" by two "youths", no doubt.

      April 23, 2012 at 9:44 am |
    • Joe

      First Zimmerman is not white nor dose he look white. Second we as a country still have lots of problems with race that have not been dealt with in in 2012.

      April 23, 2012 at 10:30 am |
  4. Ed

    Mr. Cone's views are as prevelant today as they were in the 1960's. Alot of racially motivated crimes against black americans happen everyday. These crimes are not reported in the news or made a priority. Therefore, we have a lot of ignorance clouding the judgement of all americans. We would love to believe this is an issue that no longer exists. But truth of the matter is that because it is not a couple of black americans hanging from a tree in front of an all white lynch mob, these "incidents" can be boiled down to nothting more than a coincidence or happening of chance. It is our desire to believe that America has grown past this dark error that blinds us from seeing Mr. Cone's point of view and Mr. Cone's haunting past that doesn't allow him to believe in ours.

    April 23, 2012 at 8:56 am |
  5. Once-I-was-blind

    As much as his story is relevant to the reality in the U.S. and the sad history of the south owning slaves and the founding fathers owning slaves, I have never heard of his theology. I'm afraid there is so much doctrine and theology being written today, that is part of the problem with the Universal Theology of the New Jerusalem by Emanuel Swedenborg being ignored and people trying to get rid of it. Everyone should know what Swedenborg claimed to have done – brought back information on heaven and hell, the marriage of good and truth, and its opposite marriage, the marriage of evil and falseness, and the language of parable that God speaks in. The New Jerusalem, which means "New Church" is very rich in doctrine and theology. U.S. needs to do its homework if they want to be the leaders of the free world.

    April 23, 2012 at 8:45 am |
    • crazypete

      He had silly hair. That is enough for Me!

      April 23, 2012 at 1:04 pm |
  6. daveinla

    CNN still stirring the racist pot decades after the Civil Rights movement. Fire up Obama's base. CNN's political motives are clear. Thety want 2012 to be about race. Axelrod must be scared that Obama will have to run on his record. Let's stir racism and Obama will get the white guilt vote again.

    April 23, 2012 at 8:43 am |
    • Primewonk

      In a poll from last April almost half of republicans in Mississippi said that interracial marriage should be illegal. Did CNN cause this?

      April 23, 2012 at 9:08 am |
    • Lee

      Simply because you are a racist doesn't mean that CNN is trying to enhance any racial differences, although I do acknowledge that racists tend to believe that.

      April 23, 2012 at 9:45 am |
    • Elliott

      It's amazing how much veiled racism there are in these posts. Then there are those who continue to believe that CNN and other networks are just "stirring the racial pot" by talking about these issues. These racial issues are still real. Racism looks different now than it used to. It's evolved so that people who are racists can hide and be a little less obvious about their racism.

      April 23, 2012 at 9:53 am |
  7. Mark from Middle River

    I wonder how many more of these stories we will see between now and Election day, on CNN?

    Romney's polls shows closer than CNN feel comfortable with, to Obama and now we are rehashing racist stories to get Whites into feeling guilty again. Then to cleanse their guilty feelings must avenge these lynched souls and vote for Obama again.

    As bad as the Afrcian Americans who voted for Obama only because he was black are the White Americans who voted for him just because they were suffering from White guilt.

    April 23, 2012 at 8:39 am |
    • mandarax

      You really can't see beyond the fact that Obama is black, huh? If this group voted for him, it's because they're black, if that group did it's because they're guilty about not being black....

      Because of your obsession with race, you can't comprehend the fact that people voted for Obama because he is not a conservative, evangelical, war-mongering, barely literate, business tyc.oon like his predecessor. All of the initial fears about Bush as president (and all the unheeded warnings) came true – the economy collapsed from his simultaneous tax cuts and war spending, hundreds of thousands of people died in voluntary war efforts, the wall between church and state was further eroded, and US lost the good faith of the rest of the world. The United States is better than that – that's why Obama won in a landslide.

      April 23, 2012 at 8:55 am |
    • JomoDaMusicMan

      White Man, tell me what in the hell did Sarah Palin and the older white gentlemen have to offer America and the world. Obama, was clearly the best candidate at that time and even this time. Sarah was only placed on that ticket because she was a white woman, who the racist thought would off set Obama's blackness. The Repubs ran an Old Senile White Man and a Wacky White Woman against a man with talk of change and had great ideas about solving American & World Problems. That election should not have been close, it should have been a landslide victory

      April 23, 2012 at 8:56 am |
    • JomoDaMusicMan

      White Man, tell me what in the hell did Sarah Palin and the older white gentlemen have to offer America and the world. Obama, was clearly the best candidate at that time and even this time. Sarah was only placed on that ticket because she was a white woman, who the racist thought would off set Obama's blackness. The Repubs ran an Old Senile White Man and a Wacky White Woman against a man with talk of change and had great ideas about solving American & World Problems. That election should not have been close, it should have been a landslide victory IF I SAID THIS WHERE IN THE HELL IS MY POST

      April 23, 2012 at 8:57 am |
    • Brian

      Mark, or those whites who will only vote for Romney because of their racism

      April 23, 2012 at 9:02 am |
    • TSB8C

      Exactly. When you carry 98% of any voting block like Obama did with blacks, it is because they voted race alone.

      April 23, 2012 at 9:12 am |
    • Meritocracy is better than democracy

      Most people voted for Obama because he was clearly a thousand times smarter than the other guy.
      That's going to happen this time, too. Who cares about his skin besides his doctor? Only racists and people who obsess over that stuff.
      You wouldn't know anyone like that would you?

      April 23, 2012 at 9:26 am |
  8. Atheism is not healthy for children and other living things

    Prayer changes things,.

    April 23, 2012 at 8:38 am |
    • Jesus

      Prayer doesn’t not; you are such a LIAR. You have NO proof it changes anything! A great example of prayer proven not to work is the Christians in jail because prayer didn't work and their children died. For example: Susan Grady, who relied on prayer to heal her son. Nine-year-old Aaron Grady died and Susan Grady was arrested.

      An article in the Journal of Pediatrics examined the deaths of 172 children from families who relied upon faith healing from 1975 to 1995. They concluded that four out of five ill children, who died under the care of faith healers or being left to prayer only, would most likely have survived if they had received medical care.

      The statistical studies from the nineteenth century and the three CCU studies on prayer are quite consistent with the fact that humanity is wasting a huge amount of time on a procedure that simply doesn’t work. Nonetheless, faith in prayer is so pervasive and deeply rooted, you can be sure believers will continue to devise future studies in a desperate effort to confirm their beliefs!.!.

      April 23, 2012 at 11:00 am |
  9. Bob

    As a Caucasian male, I find nothing in this story offensive. Mr. Cone's words still need to be spoken and heard. Racism is still a viral presence in America. And, as Mr. Cone points out, America worships money, not God: "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." If you disagree with Mr. Cone, chew on his meat and throw out the gristle because he speaks much truth.

    April 23, 2012 at 8:29 am |
    • jimmy Bivins

      Bob, You are right! Also, we have a difficult time dealing facing the truth about our past. Our Jewish brothers and sisters will never forget their pain and they will make sure that everyone knows their story. America has never apologized for 400 years of oppression. My great great grandfather story is no different than Dr. Cone. Why did America stand silent? However, we have to move forward and face some very serious domestic and world challenges. Politics and prejudice aside, people are crying out for help. How are we going to respond.................Look towards the cross and back it up with serving others. JB

      April 23, 2012 at 9:04 am |
  10. Walt, one of America's Angriest Atheists

    Since anyone who is lynched is a murder victim, why haven't the members of these lynching parties been arrested?

    We see some extremely low-ball lynching statistics, and ZERO statistics for arrests, trials, and convictions of those lynching murderers.
    Some of them are still walking around free without being arrested or charged even though there is no statute of limitations on murder. Felony murder.

    We see anecdotal references in the article, but nothing that suggests anyone who committed black murder was ever pursued by law enforcement.
    I suppose some were, but what about all those prosecutors who clearly were involved in these murders? Or the sheriffs?
    Or anyone?

    One picture. Dozens of people for every lynching or maybe just one or two. Murders galore. Why aren't our prisons filled with those psychopaths? Instead we've got federal, state, and city law enforcement putting all their energies into filling our prisons with NON-VIOLENT offenders.

    Bit of a bloody giveaway, innit?

    April 23, 2012 at 8:28 am |
    • brad

      That is a good point, every person that attended those lynchins is a murderer, and should be convicted for, at the minimum, excessory to murder.

      April 23, 2012 at 8:49 am |
    • JT

      Since this photo is from 1930 I would imagine every one in the pic is now dead.

      April 23, 2012 at 8:57 am |
    • return post 3829

      Murders happen everyday, just like kidnappings, robbery, assault, treason, terrorism, etc.

      Do we arrest a cop when a poor unarmed person is clearly murdered by them? No. We watch as the police do an "internal investigation" and determine, as always, that the murdering cop did not violate anything.

      Cops get away with murder a lot. They use excessive force a lot, too. and get away with that, too.

      Internal investigations should be illegal. They are almost always used to protect criminals. LIke the Catholic Church, or police brutality and murder, like lawyers who destroy lives, like even a back-woods plumbing guild is going to be corrupt and protect its members. That's why they are together. Duh.

      I want to have respect for law enforcement, but they are too corrupt and disgusting and refuse to allow outside oversight even with massive protections. That's how thick the crap is on law enforcement in this country.
      When is it going to change? When do we get justice for actual murders, violence of every sort?
      When do wwe get to see the Catholic pedopreists dragged kicking and screaming into a jail cell?
      When will we stop tossing non-violent people in prison to the exclusion of all else?

      April 23, 2012 at 9:43 am |
  11. Shut up already blackies

    Surprise! A black person whining about the past.

    April 23, 2012 at 8:27 am |
    • 87coog

      how do they let people like you on boards? if the shoe were on the other foot, never mind you would have cut the foot off. don't believe in slaves being able to ru from masa!!

      April 23, 2012 at 8:36 am |
    • Peace Lilly

      Wow! Must stink to be you! How did your comment manage to stay? Forget about how you got here.

      April 23, 2012 at 8:42 am |
    • toad

      Suprise! A stupid white person!

      April 23, 2012 at 8:53 am |
    • Joe

      Spoken like a true coward you should be very proud of your 5th grade education.

      April 23, 2012 at 10:39 am |
  12. Andrew

    America: Your inability to grasp the Truth is the reason that racism continues in your culture.

    April 23, 2012 at 8:18 am |
    • Tengu

      Your right Andrew and that is why England and Canada are so much better and lead the way as far as having any black elected officials.. .oops wait, no you havent... Oh then it must be because Germany and other countries do not have any racism at all any longer... opps nope, Germany to this day still has skinheads... Well , look at that , I dont see what you refer to at all.

      April 23, 2012 at 8:39 am |
    • crazypete

      I've grasped the truth about the ugliness of your face...so true!

      April 23, 2012 at 1:05 pm |
  13. scot pederson

    Yes, racism and lynching were terrible things but this man misses the point of the gospel. When he says "Jesus' primary message, he said, wasn't about getting people to heaven, but liberating people here and now from oppression" he missed the mark. Jesus message to us was to glorify him as our Savior and Redeemer and to serve, honor and worship him.

    All these awful things that happen are no different than any other injustices suffered by people in various ways. Not that God is not concerned about our suffering, but he's more concerned about our Faith and putting our focus on Jesus, not our own troubles. He said "in this world you will have trouble". The apostle Paul was beaten, imprisoned, whipped, naked and hungry, shipwrecked, etc but when he wrote to the Phillipians and Colossians from prison his focus was not on how bad the injustice of man was making his life miserable, no he encouraged Christians that the gospel of Christ was being furthered because he was able to witness to other prisoners and guards as well. It's our Eternal Soul's destiny that is more important than our momentary troubles.

    Of course this kind of doctrine doesn't get reported by CNN,but always some bitter man who is completely off on what the Bible has to say.

    April 23, 2012 at 8:10 am |
    • Alyssa

      Yes, your interpretation of your fictional book about a fictional god is certainly the correct one.

      April 23, 2012 at 8:14 am |
    • brad

      You crack me up, laughing at him because he doesn't interpret the bible the same as you. I'm an athiest, and even I got what he was saying. Yes, the bible is written to save your soul. However, all through out the bible, it talks about relying on God when things get to tough. All through out the bible he tries to provide some form of relief for his followers from persection. So the bible covered the long term and the short term for it's readers. The problem is, they should have relied on their fellow man, because they can do something. An imaginary person cannot. On a side note, do you see that man and his daughter smiling in that pic? So disgusting, I hate racist, all of them, don't care their color, their all idiots that deserve nothing but bad things.

      April 23, 2012 at 8:32 am |
    • brad

      Ughhh, sorry, should have proof read before I posted, my spelling sucks, but that was just awful!

      April 23, 2012 at 8:34 am |
    • Tengu

      Reply @ Alyssa
      AWWW Whats the matter Alysa? Did your parents not give you anytthing to hope for or a belief in a higher being (God)? So I suppose since you cant see hear, taste etc love, hope, wisdom, etc, etc that they dont exist too. You can see the affects of them but not the actual existence, same as God. Besides, for argumental sake lets say that He doesnt exist and that thousands of cultures that have a higher being and a religion are ALL wrong and you as a single person are right and there is no God, what difference does it make if it causes people to be better and treat others better? You will have the one offs like teh Westboro Baptist A__holes or the militant Muslims, same as you will have any family or other group of people that will have one or two that cause problems, but if people follow the basic doctrine ande principle of treat others as you would treat yourself then there would be no issues other than people like you that try to bring others to your level. Have fun with that.

      April 23, 2012 at 8:35 am |
    • mtomlinson

      Well said.

      April 23, 2012 at 8:38 am |
    • JudgeDB

      @Tengu, do you believe in Santa Clause and the Easter Bunny too? Just because you believe in some fictional (until you provide proof, ie. facts, it is nothing but fiction) sky fairy doesn't mean that others who actually value critical thought are defective because they don't blindly follow what some guy in a suit on a pulpit says about a book "written" over 2000 years and translated 2000 times and call it "faith". Just another typical example of your weak-mindedness, attacking anyone who questions your beliefs because they make you question yourself and chip away at this fantasy world you believe in. The pain you are feeling is called cognitive dissonance which is caused by holding conflicting cognitions simultaneously. It is only natural for you to attack those that you view as responsible for this pain, ie. those who question the blind faith your hokey religion requires and as result subconsciously lead you to question it as well. Stick it out, the ability to think critically is worth it.

      April 23, 2012 at 8:49 am |
    • mtomlinson

      Not sure if my comment went to the right place , but just want to say that I agree with you . Good one.

      April 23, 2012 at 8:55 am |
    • Bible Clown©

      Easy to sit safely up in the stands and heckle. Nobody's trying to lynch YOU.

      April 23, 2012 at 9:31 am |
  14. HeyZues

    White people are not feeling guilty anymore. Hurry!!! Remind them they're all racists.!!

    April 23, 2012 at 8:01 am |
    • JT

      We now have to call blacks the special term African-Americans. What more must we do to repent? Blacks have affirmiative action for the past 50 years, etc. When will they merge into American life as all other groups have?

      April 23, 2012 at 9:00 am |
    • Bible Clown©

      "When will they merge into American life as all other groups have?" Merge? Half the stuff white people say or listen to today came from the vigorous contributions to our culture of American black people. They are leading the way more often than not these days. Sorry if that bursts your bubble.

      April 23, 2012 at 9:33 am |
  15. dave

    Slavery in America was terrible. Jim Crow was evil. Blacks in America have lives that are ten times better than blacks in Africa. When a black man, woman or child is the victim of a crime, chances are pretty good the perpetrator was black.

    April 23, 2012 at 7:57 am |
    • Ritch

      The idea that life in america is better for blacks is ridiculous, There is great suffering in some of the nations in Africa due to white infestation take somalia first the british, then the french, then the russians, then afganistan all infiltrate the nation take all its resources leave it with nothing but debt. White people and those nations that choose to follow there examples (China and India) are the diease of this planet. Prospering due to a secondary labor market (Modern day slavery).

      April 23, 2012 at 8:54 am |
  16. Reality


    It is very disturbing that religious narrow- mindedness, intolerance, violence and hatred continues unabated due to randomness of birth. Maybe, just maybe if this fact would be published on the first page of every newspaper every day, that we would finally realize the significant stupidity of all religions.

    “John Hick, a noted British philosopher of religion, estimates that 95 percent of the people of the world owe their religious affiliation to an accident (the randomness) of birth. The faith of the vast majority of believers depends upon where they were born and when. Those born in Saudi Arabia will almost certainly be Moslems, and those born and raised in India will for the most part be Hindus. Nevertheless, the religion of millions of people can sometimes change abruptly in the face of major political and social upheavals. In the middle of the sixth century ce, virtually all the people of the Near East and Northern Africa, including Turkey, Syria, Iraq, and Egypt were Christian. By the end of the following century, the people in these lands were largely Moslem, as a result of the militant spread of Islam.

    The Situation Today

    Barring military conquest, conversion to a faith other than that of one’s birth is rare. Some Jews, Moslems, and Hindus do convert to Christianity, but not often. Similarly, it is not common for Christians to become Moslems or Jews. Most people are satisfied that their own faith is the true one or at least good enough to satisfy their religious and emotional needs. Had St. Augustine or St. Thomas Aquinas been born in Mecca at the start of the present century, the chances are that they would not have been Christians but loyal followers of the prophet Mohammed. “ J. Somerville

    April 23, 2012 at 7:54 am |
    • brad

      Yep, but these systems are set up that way. If you get kicked out of your church, you can be dis-owned by your own family and friends. In small communities, christians will herass those that are different. It's all so stupid, think for yourself, it's your life and body after all.

      April 23, 2012 at 8:37 am |
  17. Area Mann

    they just keep showing that photo, like it happened yesterday and happens everyday. It was 82 years ago, but it keeps alive the illusion that it's still going on. these old school civil rights people don't want to see it end. that puts an end to their purpose in the world, doesn't it?

    April 23, 2012 at 7:41 am |
    • JomoDaMusicMan

      Why don't u tell the Israeli Jews that Hilter and the Nazi's were 80 yrs or so ago. They are still talking, remembering, and searching for Nazi's. so you have some nerve telling Blacks to forget about our history & mistreatment. We should never forget. And I mean never forget about slavery and the Lynching and the mistreatment of our fathers and mothers so we can say. NEVER, NEVER AGAIN

      April 23, 2012 at 8:41 am |
    • brad

      What do you care? I mean, really, I'm not trying to be rude to you, I'm just asking, what do you care? I use to get angry about it to, but now, I just don't care. Bad things happen to everyone, and it should be mentioned. I see no problem bringing this up, I mean, they replay WWII clips all the time, and people don't complain. Not only that, but people are alive today who's parents, brothers, sisters and so on were killed back then. Losing a loved one, especially to murder, is just devistating, you never fully recover from something like that. Seeing that pic, hearing about what happened back then, just makes me sick and angers me that our country was like that at one time. That pic also gives me hope, believe it or not. When was the last time you saw a lynching? Exactly, you and I haven't, and that is good, that means this country is heading in the right direction. Doesn't mean I'm gonna go out and hug a black person, unless she really hot anyway.

      April 23, 2012 at 8:45 am |
    • Bible Clown©

      The last lynching happened in my hometown. We drive past the spot all the time, and some of us look over there and know what we are seeing. Yesterday wasn't so long ago.

      April 23, 2012 at 9:36 am |
    • melvinslizard

      Area Mann-
      No, they're not showing the same photo over and over, there are MANY MANY PHOTOS

      April 23, 2012 at 10:09 am |
  18. Mike

    This man is just as stuck in a racist past as the white theologians that he hates so much were in the 1950's. America is has moved beyond these divisive ideologies.

    April 23, 2012 at 7:40 am |
    • wol

      Close but no cigar.

      What do we have for our winner?

      April 23, 2012 at 7:47 am |
    • brad

      Close, it should have read, "America is moving past these things."

      April 23, 2012 at 8:47 am |
    • Primewonk

      " America is has moved beyond these divisive ideologies."

      Then perhaps you can explain why, in a scientifically valid poll from last April, 50% of republicans in Mississippi said that interracial marriage should be illegal.

      April 23, 2012 at 8:48 am |
    • Bible Clown©

      Less people today have weird ideas about black people, that's for sure.

      April 23, 2012 at 9:37 am |
  19. Randy O

    Cone speaks a very deep and spiritual truth. The lynching tree IS the Cross; each lynching was as much a crucificion as the one suffered by Christ. And the Pharisess of today are no different at all from the pharisees of today.

    April 23, 2012 at 7:32 am |
    • dave

      as I said Slavery in America was terrible. Jim Crow was evil. Blacks in America have lives that are ten times better than blacks in Africa. When a black man, woman or child is the victim of a crime, chances are pretty good the perpetrator was black.

      April 23, 2012 at 7:57 am |
  20. jose

    I am waiting to see any black person to come as strong as Mr. Cone is being on white criminals and say something about what black on black crimes are today, it is an astrocity what is going on with the black community and no one is being vocal, not to mention what is going on in Africa with blacks kiliing blacks and the black "leaders" in the US are also silent on this. If aroud 5000 black people were killed by white racists, then what can we say about the thousand up on thousands young black men and women who are killed every year in our cities by black men and women. The black on black ration of crimes and deaths are much higher and no one is saying anything. would it be that it is racism? I am that black people are racists in their views on crimes and death of a person? wasn't it the purpose of the black people not to be killed by white or robbed of their desency, and why is it happening now and then if seems as if a black person kills a black person is just a death, but killed by a white person is a horrendous crime. I believe a death is a death and we should act on the criminals with the same actions no matter what color the criminal is, but Mr. Cone is not a fair person in his views on crime

    April 23, 2012 at 7:25 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.