I was coming back into the church office when our secretary spoke up: “I want to show you something.”
I followed her to the workroom and saw a cardboard box labeled “Amazon” on the side. I assumed a good book was inside.
Then our secretary tilted the box toward my gaze. On the top, I saw three identical letters: K K K. I gave her a puzzled glance, and she began to explain.
A fellow in town had acquired a ledger of the local KKK chapter’s minutes from the early 1900s. He had noticed in it the name of a deceased relative of our secretary and had brought it by for her to borrow and look through.
The binding was broken, the cover well-worn. Some pages were loose, and still others missing.
I held the book. For a moment I wondered if I really wanted to see what was between the covers. But curiosity got the best of me. I opened it up and began turning back through history.
The earliest date was from the 1920s. There was an order form for a Klan robe, complete with a diagram for the placement of patches and various insignia. Who knew there was a formal process for ordering your Klan robe?
There were various directions and explanations for rituals and gatherings. Other pieces of information were handwritten nearly illegibly.
The regular notes from the meetings were the most interesting parts, and one note from 1925 caught my eye.
At the top of the list of money collected during the meeting was a mark for 75 cents for blasting caps and fuses. Those are for dynamite, in case you didn’t know.
Directly under that mark was another: $10 had been received for Bibles.
I’ll let you decide what the blasting caps and the fuses may have been used for, but is there any question about the Bibles?
I wasn’t sure whether I should feel better that $10 (a lot of money in 1925) was collected for Bibles at a Klan meeting, or that they only collected 75 cents for explosive ingredients.
What really struck me, though, was their juxtaposition.
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I wondered if the Klansman taking the minutes called himself a Christian. Did he flinch when he typed those two notes next to each other?
I wondered if those taking up the money or handing it out felt a tremor in their conscience when they went from talking about death to gathering money for the “good book.”
It certainly affirmed the remark that “the Bibles always follow the guns.” In other words, religion never seems too far away from those in power.
I turned a few more pages, hoping I wouldn’t see any names I recognized. Our secretary found her relative’s name, and then we closed the ledger and put it back in the box.
I reflected on what I had just experienced. I thought of those victimized by the Klan – the pain, separation and even loss of life.
Bigotry toward and hatred of the “other” is inexcusable on a human level, but even more so as followers of Jesus. As followers of Jesus, we shouldn’t just try to not be a bigot or racist or homophobe or Islamaphobe and so on.
We are called to something higher – to love the other and work for justice and peace in this world, even if it means loving our enemies.
I shook my head at the reminder of hatred and evil we humans are capable of, and then I looked down at my hands. Moments before, they had held a ledger recording activities, energies and resources of a group so full of hate and destruction.
And those pages were yellowed, crumbling at the edges, falling apart. Like so many things of this world, they are becoming dust.
And then I focused again on my hands – still moving, still open, still full of life. I’m not sure I saw any scars, but I swear, just as clear as day, I saw hope.
This Lenten season, may we give thanks for the things that turn to dust and are becoming no more, and may we trust our lives into the One who is calling us toward a future with hope.
Matt DuVall is pastor of First Baptist Church in Middlesboro, Ky.