Friday, February 12, 2010

Religion, sola fide and the second Klan

I had a pretty free upbringing when it came to religion. My mother was raised in a strict Catholic home, and vowed to not subject her kids to that. Rather, she encouraged us to attend church with various friends, learning about different denominations, to determine if anything felt right.

My dad, on the other hand, was completely turned off to religion. When asked, he referred to himself as Protestant. Protestant basically refers to a Christian denomination (Baptist, Methodist, Lutheran, etc.) that isn't Catholic. Unlike Catholics, Protestants believe that salvation comes from faith alone (sola fide). Surely, salvation by faith alone isn't all that bad when you want to run amok raping and pillaging, discriminating or terrorizing. That might explain why so much harm and bad things seem to happen in the name of God. That might also explain my grandmother Lola's behavior. Considering so many denominations fall under the "category" of Protestant, I may never know what "house of worship" Lola was a member of.

At some point when my dad was young, Lola aligned herself with what my dad called, "the holy rollers". She was a bible-thumping fundamentalist and would chase her young son around, hitting him with the bible while yelling unsavory things at him. Surely such behavior leaves a bad impression of religion on a young person. My dad was the youngest of two boys. His older brother (by about 2 years) drowned when he was very young. Lola never quite got over that loss. One of the things my dad told me she would yell at him while chasing him with her bible, was how she wished it would have been him that drowned. This would usually happen when he did something she didn't approve of.

When I consider that many people may call themselves Christian or Protestant, I do realize that doesn't always mean an active participating member of a church. Whether Lola went to church or not, I have no clue. I do know that she had a bible (and surely most households did or still do). I do know that many people will justify horrific behavior, claiming it is "the will of God" or "in the bible".

Lola was married to Red. No doubt Red was Protestant, too. Whether Red actually went to church or had a bible, I don't know. Red and Lola started their family life in the Midwest, welcoming their first born son around 1915. My dad came along two years later. Something else they apparently welcomed into their early life also happened in 1915 - the second Ku Klux Klan.

Red was of an age that required he not only register for the draft during WWI, but also WWII. As far as I can tell, he was not a war veteran. Post-war times are hard and many fears arise, especially when it comes to immigration and livelihood. The fear of job loss when one has a family to feed is scary. Post WWI, was no exception, especially in the Midwest where many freed slaves began to move, along with an influx of Catholic and Jewish immigrants from Europe. During that time, there was no such thing as Social Security, so many men joined fraternal organizations such as the Elks in order to provide for their families in the event they died or were unable to work.

The Klan promoted itself as a fraternal organization, hiding the violence many of it's members exhibited. Klan members were white, protestant males. My dad told us stories of being a young child walking with his parents and brother in Klan marches. These two little boys (pictured above), holding their mother's hands and marching in something they were completely oblivious to was a part of my dad's life he hated and felt remorseful about. I guess he struggled with accepting the fact that participating in those marches was not of his free will - he was a very young child when that happened.

History has the ability to teach us lessons. Unfortunately, I'm not sure we always learn from them. Justification of hate in the name of religion still burdens society today. Will we ever get past that? Probably not in my lifetime.

At this point in my research, I do not know how long the affiliation between my grandparents and Klan lasted. This was not something my dad talked about in great detail. Actually, he didn't talk about many things in great detail, making this search for Lola both interesting and frustrating. So the search goes on.

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