Back in 1967, my father had a near miss with the KKK. He was luckier than most of the people who lived in Mississippi during that hot summer, especially people of color. But as an Irish Catholic Yankee from Philadelphia who was down South registering black voters and representing indigent clients in jails right out of “In the Heat of the Night,” he wasn’t exactly the type of fellow that made those upstanding Klan members happy. I’m thinking that the Catholic part was especially annoying to the good old boys, even though they were Christians too.
That’s right, the Klan was a Christian organization, despite what some of my Facebook friends believe. According to Randall J. Stephens in his article “The Klan, White Christianity, the Past and the Present,” the KKK was deeply tied to Protestant evangelism. He quotes a newspaper editor from Texas who, in 1928 rhapsodized that “I find the preachers of the Protestant faith almost solid for the Klan and its ideals, with here and there an isolated minister … who will line up with the Catholics in their fight on Protestantism, but that kind of preacher is persona non grata in most every congregation in Texas.”
The Klan hated black people more, but they didn’t much like us papists. So Daddy had a run-in at a roadblock one night in Hattiesburg, managed to avoid getting roughed up even though the good fellows seemed to know exactly who he was and what he was doing down there, and lived to tell the tale.
I mention this story about the Klan to explain why, even though I am a Christian, I am fully aware that violence has been committed in my name. I understand that my faith has been perverted by some very savvy ideologues to hurt and marginalize and dominate, and I’m not just talking about those malcontents with their normal grievances against Catholicism (“No female priests? Mysogyny! No right to birth control? Ditto!) I’m referring to a group that terrorized whole swaths of people in the South for over a century, and whose embers still burn quite brightly today, albeit not as obviously as the flaming crosses of the past.
And still, I am devout in my faith, which I embrace with every fiber of my being. I am a Catholic Christian, and that faith is not defined by the lowest common denominator of violence that has defiled its image and its history.
So when President Trump retweeted a video from a far-right anti-Muslim group depicting violent attacks on Christians by Muslim jihadists, I thought back to my father’s story about the Klan, and wondered if the president would be interested in reading Daddy’s journal entries. Maybe he’d be interested in tweeting them out, in the interest of fairness.
Wishful thinking. The president doesn’t seem to be focused on all of the violent people in the world. From his travel bans to his conflation of terrorism with immigration, Donald Trump has made it clear that he doesn’t agree that Islam is a religion of peace.
To be fair, it’s hard to blame him when you see the carnage being wrought in the name of Allah. Every month brings news of a different massacre of innocents, including my own people worshipping peacefully in our churches. Blood is shed while wild men and women shriek “God Is Great!” As a woman who deals with asylum cases on a regular basis, I know full well the nihilistic, vengeful acts that bear the imprint of Islam. Women have their sexual organs shredded by tribal custom in majority Muslim countries in Africa and the Middle East. Other women are forced to hide themselves behind curtains of cloth. I am representing one asylum client who was the principal of a school in Pakistan which allowed girls to study with boys (imagine that heresy) and was firebombed. I am not naive enough to believe that all Muslims are peaceful. I know that far too many are not.
But that doesn’t mean the whole religion is rotten to the core, just as I reject the suggestion that Christianity is a source of terror. Some of my Facebook friends laughed that I would even suggest Christ’s followers were vile and violent, and used the tautology that since Christ was good, the people who followed him were good.
That’s a nice and tidy delusion, but it doesn’t fit with my experience. I will admit that the vast majority of terror, statistically these days, is committed in the name of Allah. I will also agree that the Klan is not what it once was (despite antifa’s attempts to tell us they’re coming for us in invisible white sheets).
But the president of a country that has millions of Muslims who serve honorably in our armed services, who obey our laws and who honor our flag should not be tweeting out messages that make them feel unwanted.
It’s not a very Christian thing to do.
Christine M. Flowers is a lawyer and columnist for the Philadelphia Daily News.
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