“When we miss the central message of God’s love, the sacred cross can get twisted into something profane, even evil. Some of the most horrifying things in history have happened at the hands of Christians with poisonous theology, divorced from grace. It’s what happened with Hitler and the Holocaust. It was the case with slavery and the lynching of black folks in the United States. It’s the story of the Ku Klux Klan. It’s behind the abortion bombers, and the Inquisition, and the Crusades. And it’s bad theology that is being used to justify white supremacy today…
Bad theology is dangerous. Bad theology gets people killed.
As a Christian who worships the loving, forgiving Savior on a cross, I find it particularly troubling when the cross is used as a weapon to justify racism, hatred and violence — the very stuff I’m convinced Jesus came to heal the world of. And as one who worships a browned-skinned Arab Jew from Palestine who spoke Aramaic and died with love on his lips … I am sickened when I see neo-Nazis try to baptize their bigotry.
After the KKK threatened protestors in Ferguson following the fatal police shooting of Michael Brown, I was in Ferguson, and I went on the KKK’s website. I was disturbed, not just by the overt hatred spewed there, but by the theology that backed it up. They were invoking Christ in their threats — and so I did a little snooping. Not only did their threats in Ferguson invoke God’s blessing, but their entire website was sprinkled with how God blessed their activities. One part in particular caught my attention: Under the heading “Tradition,” I found one of the most disturbing things I’ve ever seen — a theological explanation of why KKK members set the cross on fire in those iconic images of lynchings and hate-filled mobs.
This is the statement from the KKK website:
The lighted cross of The Knights is no different than the average church that has a lighted cross either on top or in front of their church building. The light of the cross symbolizes the Light of Christ dispelling darkness and ignorance. It is the fire of the cross that reminds us of the cleansing “fire” of Christ that cleanses evil from our land. The fiery cross is a symbol that has long been popular with the Christian faith. … We don’t burn the cross, we light the cross. We recognize that Christ is the light of the world. The lighted cross is a symbol of freedom — freedom from sin — freedom from tyranny. When a Klansman or Klanswoman participates in a cross lighting ceremony they are making a public declaration to Jesus Christ of their continued commitment to the Christian faith.
But that’s the KKK. Most bad theology is more subtle than that. White supremacy doesn’t always wear a hood and carry a Confederate flag. Most twisted theology is much sneakier. It creeps in when church choirs stop singing “On Christ the solid rock I stand, all other ground is sinking sand” and begins singing hymns about making America great again, as they did in First Baptist Dallas. It comes out of the closet when white evangelicals like Jerry Falwell call President Trump the “dream president” or as televangelist Paula White put it: “Trump has been raised up by God” for such a time as this. This too, is dangerous theology that’s more distinctively white than it is Christ-like. So we have to keep our sniffers on…”
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