Here we are at another Wednesday. Time to turn to the People of the Second Chance's poster series, Never Beyond. If you are new to this campaign, you can read more about it and find links to all of my Never Beyond posts here.
What you are about to experience is not my finest hour in the Never Beyond campaign, but it is the complete truth about where I am at in this process. It is all I have to offer here.
In a move that I'm absolutely sure was designed to get on my last ever-lovin', grace-givin' nerve (because it is all about ME, isn't it?) POTSC chose the KKK to be on this week's poster. Yep, you read that right - the Ku Klux Klan, the cross-burning, sheet-wearing, white supremacists. Here is our lovely image of the week:
The picture alone almost makes me want to run in the other direction. Or walk up and snatch the hood off of whoever that might be. I don't usually have mild reactions when I think about the KKK.
I'm sure you are just waiting for me to tell you how I really feel, aren't you? Yep. Thought so.
Well, let me examine this for a minute. Walk with me through a few thoughts here. Historians say there have been three distinct Klans throughout history, but my thought is that they were all linked together in some way, so when I talk about the KKK, I mean all of those groups in general. All of them are known for what most outsiders would call intolerance, bigotry, and violence.
My first recollection of knowing the Klan existed was in the late 70s. The whole mess started just up the road a-ways from where I lived. Seems some Vietnamese families had moved to the Texas coast and taken up shrimping as a career. Many of the white shrimpers who had lived there for awhile weren't real happy about this. It had not been that long since the United States had finally pulled the last of our troops out of Vietnam and tensions were high. The KKK showed up in support of the white shrimpers (for all I know those shrimpers were already in the KKK) and things got REALLY TENSE.
I was still in early grade school. I would see things on the nightly news about the conflict, but I didn't really understand much. My Daddy told me a little bit about who the KKK were and why they had made it to our parts (we considered Texas to be part of the southwest US and associated the KKK mostly with the Deep South). Daddy did not like the KKK and he would have been happy if they had packed up their sheets and guns and gone on home (remember, rifles in gun racks in a car/truck were still legal and common at that point in Texas history). But Daddy wasn't that thrilled that the Vietnamese were here either - mostly because they were driving down shrimp prices and making it hard for his friends who were shrimpers to make a living. I don't think Daddy was too worried about the fact that the Vietnamese had come from the land of our recent failed military efforts, but there were plenty of folks around who took that personally.
For my part, I was confused. Were we supposed to like or dislike the Vietnamese (due to that nasty little war thing)? Didn't seem like we liked the KKK either. So a "lose-lose" situation was introduced into my black-and-white way of thinking (no pun intended). Fortunately for me, at the age of eight, nine, or ten, there were easy distractions to get my mind off of such things. I took for granted that my parents would handle it if it ended up in our front yard.
[Editors note: I love shrimp, but I have never thought the taste changed according to who caught it.]
There is only one other time (that I actually know about) that the KKK came close to affecting my own life. That came when Charles and I were dating (2006). I found out that my favorite gospel singing group, Acappella, was going to be singing in a little town about an hour or so north of Austin. It was a free concert and I wanted to go, so I told Charles about it, fully expecting him to take me (he has always had a habit of spoiling me, so it was a natural assumption for me that he would do it). Instead, he flat out told me no. No? Why would he tell me no? Well, unknown to me (since I'm not from these parts) is the fact that the little town where the concert was being held has a history of public KKK activity. Wait. What? Still? Really?
I thought that Charles was worried because Acappella had a black singer (it is a group with rotating membership but usually always has at least one black singer), but that wasn't it. I couldn't see that I would be in danger from white supremacists since my skin glows neon white (even through the freckles), but what do I know? Charles didn't care who was going to be there or what they looked like. He wasn't taking me to a town full of Klan members and he made it known that he would be extremely displeased if I decided to drive up there alone. Well crap (pardon me). I hadn't seen Acappella perform in quite some time (and I haven't had another open chance since then), but I didn't go. So I got a little resentment at the KKK for ruining my chance to sing along to some of my all-time favorite worship songs with Acappella and a room full of other people.
Now that we have all that out of the way... let's get back to this whole "second chance" deal. I'm struggling with it. I am. First, I cannot for the life of me imagine an active KKK member wanting a second chance from me or even thinking he needs one. Secondly, sharing the heart of Jesus with them would be a bit hard since most of them already think that Jesus was blonde-haired and blue-eyed (in spite of being born to a Middle-eastern looking Jewish woman) and that He only came to save white people. So they already think they own my Savior. What exactly is it in the way of grace and second chances that I have to offer these people?
Bringing the subject right into my present life, I'll say this: at work, I sit in between two black Americans. Kim and John. I happen to think that Kim and John are awesome people. I enjoy working with them. I enjoy talking to them about things other than work. They are both very interesting people and they have much to offer this world. If the KKK came along and hurt Kim, John, or one of their family members, I would be very angry. I would need a mighty "time out" to cool down after something like that.
There is a black American family that lives right across the street from me and Charles. If the KKK showed up and set a cross on fire in that family's yard, I fully expect that Charles would be out in the street with a gun to chase the KKK off or round them up for law enforcement. We don't suffer that kind of foolishness easily around here. Terrorizing people because of the color of their skin (or for any other reason, really) is a big no-no as far as we are concerned.
I wish I could say that we would respond to hatred and violence with the peace, love, and grace shown by many leaders in the Civil Rights movement of the 1960s. I wish it were true, but it is not. Not right now. I know that Charles and I aren't there yet.
But here is what else I know: Jesus is still Lord and Savior regardless of who misunderstands Him or who tries to take sole ownership of Him. He desires the heart of every man, woman, and child to willingly turn to Him. He wants His followers to represent Him well to others. He wants people to see HIM when they look at me. He freely gave grace to me and He wants me to freely give grace to others. He wants me to display His heart of grace in every situation. And I have to trust that He will show me what that looks like in each situation I come across.
So I will forgive the KKK for indirectly causing me to miss that Acappella concert. And if I should ever find myself or those I care about hurt by a KKK member, I will take the situation straight to the Savior and ask Him, "what does grace look like in this situation?" Then I will pray for the willingness to display that grace.
Lord, please make me willing.