Hate groups. Raucous, loud, foul and dangerous. We’ve got a lot of ‘em out there. They come in all sizes, shapes and twisted minds. Still, I was startled the other day when finding a couple of Christian organizations on the latest lists. Yep. “Christian.” Or so they claim.
There’s a widely accepted definition of a hate group. And that’s any organization having “beliefs or practices that attack or malign an entire class of people, typically for their immutable characteristics.”
There’s no question the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) has earned the international respect it enjoys. For more than 45 years, it’s been a credible source of detailed information on hate groups, their leaders, followers, locations and activities.
Still, it was a bit of a shock to see a couple of so-called “Christian” groups listed among such low-lifes as the KKK, skinheads, “patriot” nutballs, neo-Nazis and the like. But there they were. And, upon reflection, their inclusion - at least to me - seemed justified.
Among those on the dishonor role, Alliance Defending Freedom and Liberty Counsel. More surprising were American Family Association - Don and Tim Wildmon - and Family Research Council headed by slick Tony Perkins. All four are loudly anti-LGBTQ and Muslims among others. Not only intolerant, but at times downright hostile in their public pronouncements. Both groups claim larger memberships than they can prove and say they speak for “millions of God-fearing Americans.”
They talk of branding those they see as “harmful to society” and accuse such movements as being “pedophiles” and “dangers to American families.” They advocate all this “in the name of Jesus” and claim to be living the “Christian way of life.”
Another outfit tracking such things is Guidestar, which calls itself “the world’s largest source of information on nonprofit organizations.” Though primarily interested in how groups handle their funding, who’s listed in the membership and such, Guidestar has added a category to track social - or anti-social - conduct. It was on that list that “Christian” groups first appeared.
Leading the listing of hate groups, of course, is still the KKK. Today’s Klans aren’t nearly as large and organized as they used to be. There’s been a lot of infighting, as there always is on the far right. Battles for leadership and dogma have splintered things so, today, while there are more Klans, some may have only three or four active members.
Those who track these types have found the Pacific Coast Knights in Oregon and California. Washington is the “home” of the White Knights of the KKK of America. Idaho has a “chapter” of Traditionalist Knights of America. It’s believed these groups, together, have no more than a couple dozen members.
Nationwide, authorities count no more than 3,000 KKK members and a few followers. Trying to make the public think they’re more sizeable than they really are, several small Klans will hold marches together, then disperse back under their various rocks. More than half of today’s active Klans were formed or restarted within the last three years. About the time of the beginning of a bitter national political campaign. Hmmm.
The latest effort by the KKK to appear larger than it is has been an attempt to hookup with the neo-Nazi crowd. The Pacific Coast Knights are one such. It’s likely some of the former neo-Nazi group from Hayden Lake, Idaho, are among those folk. Also an old Nazi outfit that has been in Northeast Washington for decades.
Another recent issue compounding noise and hatred from the far right fringe is the emergence of more small offshoots of the white supremacist element. Not surprisingly, SPLC lists the new “Alternative Right” or Alt-Right as part of the mix. They showed up about three years ago. About the time we had a bitter national election campaign starting. Naw, just coincidence.
At the moment, SPLC tracks some 917 hate groups across the country - most in the deep South and lower Midwest. The largest percentage claims some sort of “Christian” affiliation. About ten percent adhere to “Christian Identity,” a longstanding racist and anti-Semitic religious sect.
Still, it seemed startling to see the term “Christian” in the listing of fringe elements and organizations that represent violence and danger to our otherwise mainline society. As a Christian, I found it embarrassing.
But, on some reflection, why not? More important, maybe, what took so long? Perkins, Dobson, Robertson, Falwell (one and two), Baker and the junior Grahams have been mixing their brands of hatred for anything socially different with “Christianity” for decades. Maybe it’s time to recognize their false doctrines for what they are.
Christ’s admonition about “guilt” and “throwing the first stone” was certainly wasted on that bunch.