Friday, May 6, 2016

Love Letter to the KKK

Several years ago, I got this million dollar idea for a best-selling book, a controversial essay collection called Love Letter to the KKK. As a creative person who has many more ideas in his head at any given time than actual time in hand, the idea never really got off the ground.

But I still have a decade's worth of unparalleled research to show for it.

As such, the idea is always hovering there, a few feet away from the drawing board, should I ever chance to win the lottery, or strike it rich in the stock market.

Or maybe a brilliant editor at a book publishing company will happen across this peculiar post and say: Whoa, Nellie! Nobody in America has ever published anything like this before! The title alone screams ,"New York Times Best-Seller!!!" I'd better pony up mah pennies and offer this guy a million dollar book deal!

And then I can throw myself feet first into its development.

Stranger things have happened, right?

Love Letter to the KKK was envisioned as essay collection on the history of Christianity where it intersects with the history of racism in America--and well, Europe, too. But the Christian-based white supremacist group known as the Ku Klux Klan offered a crazy lens through which several remarkable, interesting ironies could be examined. So I make them the focal point.

The foundation of the story lies in Europe, a few centuries before people began their mass migrations from Ye Olde World™ in pursuit of religious freedom–which is basically a load of crap. Sure, there were some groups that came for that-most-popularly-given-reason-printed-in-school-textbooks. But groups like the Quakers then--as is true to this day--are a tiny minority in relation to their peers who sailed from Europe. And the driving force for those folks wasn't religious freedom.

History teaches us that the first Europeans to colonize this part of the world were the Spanish. Colonists from Spain had a 100-year head start on the rest of Europe's peoples--a great many of whom were convinced that the world was flat. But they finally figured out that the world was indeed round and, as a result of embracing the learning curve, joined the Spanish in colonizing this part of the world.

Along with these various groups of people from Europe came various incarnations of their Christian religious faith, Catholicism being the very first and oldest of them. Before the Christian Reformation, which led to various factions breaking away and "reforming" Christianity with a 'back to basics' approach, the Catholic Church held sway across the continental face of Europe.

Without giving too much away (gotta keep the publishers who are going to be in a million dollar bidding war for this book salivating), it should be said that one of the most significant problems cited by those protesting factions that broke from the Catholic Church was its use of images in places of worship.

Protestant or Reformed Christians cited amongst their grievances with the Catholic Church its failure to adhere to the God of Moses' commandment to not make for themselves "a carved image--any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth; you shall not bow down to them nor serve them."

If you were raised Catholic, you couldn't walk into a place of worship without bowing. That's just what you did. You walked into the Church, looked up at the image of the Crucified Christ, or Baby Jesus in the lap of the Holy Mother, and you bowed. It was expected, as Christ was the "King of Kings" and the "Lord of Lords," and it needed to be shown that he was revered by worshippers as such.

Moreover, people in Europe, like the citizens of other nations around the world, had an established practice of bowing before authority, even representations of authority. Heck, if you didn't, you could quite literally lose your head.

Now, at this point, I'm going to advance ahead in my super-oversimplified summary to make a unique point about an unspoken aspect of the problem some protestants had with religious iconography in the Church. It's so unspoken that across America today--even having the internet--people are mostly ignorant about it.

The problem was that these images of Jesus and Mary in churches across Europe, particularly Catholic churches, represented these figures as black folks. That's right, boys and girls. Paintings of Baby Jesus on the lap of his mother and the adult Christ on the Cross represented were represented in glorious color as darkies. (See later post)

The irony of this is so deep that it leaves one speechless, which is partly why those who do know never, EVER talk about it. Any acknowledgement would throw the whole Conservative Christian mindset out of wack if they understood that images of the Son of God in human form represented him as a negro in the Churches found throughout the countries of their ancestors.

So, what was the historical response in Europe and subsequently America?

Well, they did one of at least three things:

1. Made images of Jesus, Mary and everyone else in the biblical story look like Europeans. Many of these artists and artisans had never been the Middle East. What did they know?

2. Kept going to Church with these images of a black Jesus on the wall and literally. did. not. talk about it--because the truth was just too confounding. And ignorance is bliss, as they say, so they chose bliss.

3. Separated from the Catholic Church, they removed all images from their worship practices, citing that passage in the Ten Commandments; meanwhile the other nine commandments that require folks to not covet, or bear false witness against their neighbor, or steal, or commit adultery?

Well, let's just say that nobody's perfect.

Come to think of it, the only real success story in any of this was making Jesus white (yes, sarcasm). And that had much less to do with the teachings of the Bible, and more do with the teachings of white supremacy, which gives us a nice segue to a very cursory overview of that terrorist organization known as the Ku Klux Klan, aka the White Brotherhood. [Cue visual aid]

The Klan, originally founded in Tennessee 1866, describes itself as a "law abiding," Christian organization whose main purpose is to "protect our family, race and nation" and "restore America to a White, Christian nation founded on God's word." (See: Trump voter)

What the KKK is and always was is an organization of hood wearing terrorists whose poor, rank and file members have only two things in common with its wealthy, higher ranking members: European descent, and a near complete ignorance of history.

"Aren't you afraid of the Klan?" a lady friend asked out concern for my well-being after I shared with her some thoughts now contained in this post.

"Hell, fawkin' no," I replied.

"An incalculable number of our people have been terrorized and murdered in this county for doing absolutely nothing but being black the presence of racist idiots. As recently as 1989--when I was twenty years-old--young man named Michael Donald was lynched on a neighborhood street in Texas by two asshole "Klansmen." He was an innocent kid who did nothing but walk down the block within the sight of two hateful, murderous, predators.

"If they come after me," I warned, "it'll be because I completely scarred their minds."

Love Letter to the KKK © Paco D. Taylor, 2007

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