Sunday, January 30, 2005

Hate Leftovers

Last week I had heard about a unique auction happening at an auction house in Howell, Michigan. It was the theme of the sale which brought a ton of controversy. The auction, which was held on Saturday, was of Ku Klux Klan memorabilia. Old pamphlets, buttons, robes, books, swords and patches proclaimed the superiority of the white race and the demonization of Jews, Catholics and especially, blacks. These symbols of hatred were auctioned off to the highest bidder. In essence, they were selling off "hate leftovers."

Reports from after the sale say that among the items sold were a KKK knife for $400 and robes ranging from $700 to $1425. In all $24,000 was taken in for the memorabilia. Some items went to people whose views were in direct conflict with the Klan, like the robe which will be housed in the Jim Crow Museum of Racist Memoribilia at Ferris State University. But many items were purchased by the heirs of hatred. One man said he felt like the auction made him feel like he was at a Klan rally.

It's hard to believe that there are people who still align themselves with this group. These days, being in the KKK is not exactly a badge of honor. Eighty years ago that was not the case. The midwest was thick with hooded knights. The governor of Indiana was a Klansman and over a million of his compatriots lived in Indiana, Ohio and Michigan. Mind you, this was the North, not the South. In those days, the propaganda appealed to the patriotism of the prospective recruit. The Klan stood for America, they claimed - albeit their own vision of America. The Klan also stood for Christianity, they said. However the incredible twisting of Christian doctrine completely subverted the message of the Gospel. The image of a "lighted cross" being used as a tactic of intimidation is so amazingly contradictory, but so many of that era didn't see it that way. Or else they didn't allow themselves to see it that way.

It is that contradiction which has drawn my interest over the years. How could a Christian accept such hatred? How could this way of life be supported from the pulpits of mainline Protestant churches in the South during the 1960's? I saw a Moslem imam on television last night who was raised in the midst of the segregationist Christian church of the deep south. The contradiction and hatred caused him to abandon his faith and years later he converted to Islam. What an incredible legacy of supposed "Christian" hatred!

The tragedy today is that these attitudes still exist. Some, like the rabid bidders at the KKK auction, still carry the same unchecked hatred. In others the hatred has faded somewhat, but the same anti-Christian attitude remains. It's sad to say, but there are still neighborhoods near me where an African-American would not be welcome to live. There are still people who carry the same ignorance as their grandparents in regard to racial differences. And somehow some of these people claim to be Christians.

In the Roaring Twenties, Christian doctrine did not get in the way of ingrained fear and hatred. Even today the teachings of Jesus Christ can be ignored in favor of our own feelings, prejudices and preferences. In many "Christian" churches, a man with long hair and a leather jacket would not be treated in a "Christian" manner. And that is a heinous distortion of Scripture. It seems we are willing to serve Christ in any way -- provided it doesn't make us uncomfortable. When Jesus went into the Temple and literally turned over the comfortable system which was set up, He gave us an obvious clue about God's feelings on hypocrisy. And when He took the Pharisees to task about honoring their traditions over honoring God, it should have given us difinitive proof that the principles of Christianity aren't to be fudged to allow us to remain in our comfortable, sinful attitudes.

But until we look to Christ instead of looking to our comfort zone, we will continue to dine on hate leftovers as vile as a KKK robe.

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