The Cross and the Lynching Tree: 

A Close Psychodynamic Reading of the Book by Rev. Dr. James Cone

Instructor:  Patrick Cousins, MA

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Dates: Tuesdays, October 15, 22, 29, November 5, 12, 19, 2019

Time:  7:00 –8:30 p.m.

Location: At the Institute,  8820 Ladue Road, 3rd Floor, St. Louis, MO 63124

Fee: $75

Fee does NOT include book; can be purchased in bookstores or online: https://www.amazon.com/Cross-Lynching-Tree-James-Cone/dp/1626980055

This program, when attended in its entirety, is offered for: 9.0 Credit Hours (see below for accrediting bodies)

 

The cross and the lynching tree are separated by nearly 2,000 years. One is the universal symbol of Christian faith; the other is the quintessential symbol of black oppression in America. Though both are symbols of death, one represents a message of hope and salvation, while the other signifies the negation of that message by white supremacy. Despite the obvious similarities between Jesus’ death on a cross and the death of thousands of black men and women strung up to die on a lamppost or tree, relatively few people, apart from black poets, novelists, and other reality-seeing artists, have explored the symbolic connections.

This six-week study of The Cross and the Lynching Tree by Rev. Dr. James Cone, the founder of black liberation theology, seeks to explore with both a theological and psychodynamic eye the ways in which American culture and Christian theology reinforce and dismantle white supremacy, both historically and in contemporary context.

 

Objectives and Study Points:

cross and the lynching treeIntroduction and chapter 1 (pp xiii-29) – “Nobody Knows de Trouble I See” (October 15)

  • At the conclusion of this conversation, participants will be able to articulate the connections between the place occupied by black Americans in the lynching culture of the post-Civil War South and the paradoxical role of the cross, the spirituals, and the blues in black Christianity.
  • At the conclusion of this conversation, participants will be able to identify several of the cultural (unconscious?) dynamics which led to white America developing lynching culture as a means of enforcing white supremacy in the post-Civil War South, and speculate about the enduring difficulty among whites of discussing that culture.

Chapter 2 (pp 30-64) – “The Terrible Beauty of the Cross” (October 23)

  • At the conclusion of this conversation, participants will be able to delineate aspects of  Reinhold Niebuhr’s complex relationship to race.
  • At the conclusion of this conversation, participants will be able to outline the broad strokes of Niebuhr’s “theological realism” and evaluate its relationship to both Niebuhr’s tolerance of racism and imperialism and James Baldwin’s “faceless” Christ.

Chapter 3 (pp 65-92) – “Bearing the Cross and Staring Down the Lynching Tree” (October 30)

  • At the conclusion of this conversation, participants will be able to articulate a psychodynamic perspective to the potential and risks of talking about redemptive suffering and evaluate their own narratives of navigating and helping others navigate experiences of trauma, in particular acts of cruelty.
  • At the conclusion of this conversation, participants will be able to describe comparisons and contrasts between Martin Luther King’s relationship to the crucified Jesus (as idealized selfobject?) and the role that King plays in the collective American psyche as an idealized and contested (civil) religious figure.

Chapter 4 (pp 93-119) – “The Recrucified Christ in Black Literary Imagination” (November 6)

  • At the conclusion of this conversation, participants will be able to articulate the role gender – particularly femaleness – played in creating, maintaining, and resisting lynching culture (and, ongoingly, white supremacist culture) and examine the ways in which gender was constructed to support that effort.
  • At the conclusion of this conversation, participants will be able to describe the work of black artists in conveying the reality of lynching culture with the work in the clinical setting of uncovering silenced voices and buried narratives in the traumatic experiences of clients.

Chapter 5 (pp 120-151) – “Oh Mary, Don’t You Weep” (November 13)

  • At the conclusion of this conversation, participants will be able to articulate the role gender – particularly femaleness – played in creating, maintaining, and resisting lynching culture (and, ongoingly, white supremacist culture) and examine the ways in which gender was (re/de/)constructed to support that effort.
  • At the conclusion of this conversation, participants will be able to describe the work of anti-lynching women activists like Billie Holiday with womanist theologians’ correctives to standard white Christian theological claims about the surrogacy and atoning power of the death of Jesus.

Conclusion (pp 152-166) – “Legacies of the Cross and the Lynching Tree” (November 20)

  • At the conclusion of this conversation, participants will be able to delineate several ways in which clients’ (and therapists’) experiences of religion might foster and/or hinder their psychological and physical wellbeing and evaluate approaches that might enhance the effectiveness of the therapeutic space.
  • At the conclusion of this conversation, participants will be able to evaluate the role played by explicit and implicit theological claims which underlie cultural dynamics and public policy in enabling or hindering social change.

Course Level: Introductory

 

Continuing Education Credit details:

COUNSELORS:  The St. Louis Psychoanalytic Institute has been approved by NBCC as an Approved Continuing Education Provider, ACEP No. 5953. Programs that do not qualify for NBCC credit are clearly identified. The St. Louis Psychoanalytic Institute is solely responsible for all aspects of the programs.

SOCIAL WORKERS:  The Missouri State Committee for Social Workers (reference Code of State Regulations 2263-2.082) accepts continuing education hours approved by professional associations in the human services, such as the NBCC,  the American Psychological Association and others.