Wednesday, 17 December 2008

The Cross & the Lynching Tree

Well, your editor-in-chief has been back to the cutting room floor to edit another video! Unfortunately, I need to give the same caveat to this film I gave to my last - there are some grim scenes/themes in it! I'm going to get a reputation if I'm not careful!

I wanted to get away from the some of the abstract ways in which the cross is understood and wanted to express the idea of the cross as it really was - a violent lynching. How do you do that without making people think about violence? But I have tried hard to limit the number violent images and certainly avoided at all costs the kind of gratuitous violence of the Mel Gibson variety - a morbid fascination with violence does not interest me, but an interest in understanding the cross for what it really is, is important to me.

I would like to have used Billie Holliday's version of 'Strange Fruit' because there is nothing quite like the haunting brilliance of her performance, sung by someone who knew first hand what lynching was all about. Unfortunately her style just wouldn't allow me to dub over it. You can see her performance here.

I have dubbed over an interview with James Cone. The full interview is worth listening to. You can see it here.

I am still very much aware of the limitations of my film making skills, so please forgive this.

James Cone has said, “The crucifixion of Jesus was a 1st century lynching and it was very violent. Jesus was lynched. Well, America has a tradition of lynching. America lynched more than 5,000 black people in this land. lf we understand the cross correctly we will see it as Jesus being a victim of lynching, a victim of violence… At the heart of the Christian faith is God taking upon God’s self the suffering of the victim. So, Christians in this society want to understand what the cross was all about they have to see it through the lynching experience… When you see a lynched black body that’s who God is. God is present in that body just like God was present in Jesus’ cross. So the cross is very violent in which God is taking the violence of sin and the world upon God’s self… We have to become identified with lynched black victims. If we can’t do that we can’t be identified with the crucifixion of Jesus…The cross is God taking the side of the victim…If the powerful in our society… want to become Christians they have to give up that power and become identified with the powerless,"


DS said...

Man...don't apologise for that! Great work mate. Really provocative stuff and a powerful reminder for me just how degraded God became (its hard not be shocked at the horrific subhumanity of the hanging victim compared to the 'civilised' white society watching on) to lift us up out of the darkness and violence of our hearts/world

mark said...

Thanks Schof. I guess it has become increasingly crystalised in my mind that the cross is not about atoning for sins, but about God identifying himself with the most degrading and subhuman. It means that we must now do the same - read the Bible from the perspective of the oppressed, act on behalf of the oppressed etc.