A Stone-Campbell “Father” on the Ku Klux Klan

Houston Chronicle (1921)

To the Editor of the Chronicle.

I desire to reply through your columns to some questions that have been propounded to me by private letter as follows:

“I read both the News and The Chronicle. Will you please state through one of these papers or both, for my information and that of some others, why you claiming to be a Christian, so bitterly hate klansmen of today? As you are a preacher you must know that the Bible teaches us to love all men, even our enemies, and condemns hatred for any man or any thing. I know it teaches this, for I, myself, am well acquainted with the Bible, as well as yourself. I have been creditably informed that you belonged to the klan in reconstruction days. Now, as the klan of that day and the klan of today were born of the same spirit and for the same purpose, how can you, as a former member of the klan, feel justified in being so inconsistent as to now oppose what you then indorsed and were? Of course you will not be so unethical with me as to have my letter published, when I ask you not to!”

But I do not consider it “unethical” to publish the interrogational part of your letter withholding your name. How else could I comply with your request in the informational way you asked for?

Please pardon me for saying, since you request that your identity be not disclosed, while asking me to step out into The Chronicle’s wide field and exhibit my identity to its multiplied thousands of readers favors of cowardice on your part. If you desire to know why I say this, I’ll tell you in advance of your asking why. Merely to gratify your curiosity you ask me to take the risk of being tarred and feathered and lashed, if not killed, for you know many klansmen will read my reply to your questions and I feel quite sure that every mother’s son of them will take offense at what I shall say, for I shall tell the truth about their klan and its principles and its lack of principles. Many men and not a few defenseless women have been tarred and feathered and whipped by klansmen, and some have been killed, for giving them less offense than the offense I feel sure they will take at my reply to your questions, though it is my sincere desire to give no offense to them or anyone in my answers, but to speak plain, unvarnished truth in the premises.

If I should answer your questions over some nome de plume instead of my correct name I’d feel that I had acted cowardly, and you would, too. But you, it seems are too shy to risk appearing before The Chronicle’s readers as a kluxer, even in a nom de plume attitude. I’m charitable enough to suppose that such cowardice on your part is not inborn, but mask-made.

I will now reply to your questions in as respectful style as my conscience will allow me, though I had decided to never again speak of the klan in any public way—not through either fear of them or favor for them, but because I know the local klans were dying out all over the country, like “sheep with the rot”—but from a worse “rot” than “sheep rot.”

In order that I may reply to your questions as briefly as possible, I answer in the following way: I do not “hate klansmen bitterly” or sourly, or in any way. Some of them are very dear friends of mine and some are my blood kin and some otherwise kin, all of whom I love. But I do “hate” the corrupt and corrupting doctrine and doings of the klan. I do so for many reasons, among which are that it tends toward making cowards out of brave men and liars out of truthful men—so positively _________ ____________ ____________ “hatred of anything.” I’ll try to set you right on this point—though I know it’s an almost impossible task to set a klansman right. The Bible teaches in many places and in various ways that even God Himself “hates sin.” And the inspired Psalmist said, “I hate all false ways.” The ways of the klan are “false ways.” “False” to Christ and Christianity, “false” to our nation and its constitution and Bill of Rights, “false” to our state and its constitution and laws, and “false” to every principle of justice, right, morality, democracy and civilization. And as David said: “Through thy precepts I get understanding, therefore I hate all false ways.” So I say, through the precepts of the Bible and the constitution and laws of our nation and state I get understanding concerning Christianity, morality, democracy and Americanism. Therefore, I hate false ways of the devil and the Ku Klux Klan.

I am an American—yes, a “hundred per cent,” one—but I do not have to write this on a Ku Klux card for it to be so—in fact If I should, I’d know I’d written what was not so.

You never made a greater mistake in your life than you did you said, “the klan of reconstruction days and the klan of today were born of the same spirit and for the same purpose.” The former was born of the spirit of patriotism and for the protection of Southern homes and firesides and womanhood against the carpetbagger vandalism that was then ruthlessly roughshodding our every sacred sentiment and constitutional right under its plundering, rapacious heel. The latter was born of the mercenary greed in the heart of an Atlanta schemer. And its purpose since such birth seems to be to wield political influence through means of intimidation in various ways as a stepping-stone to the control of elections.

As to “inconsistency” on my part because I once belonged to a klan for a the protection of home and womanhood against unconstitutional invasions, and now object to a klan that stands for the invasion of the homes in masked uniform and the dragging of defenseless women from their homes and tarring and feathering and cruelly beating them, I’m wholly unable to visualize the “no consistency” in the premises.

Austin McGary of Willis, Texas.


Thanks to Terry Gardner who supplied this text and discovered the piece. Terry wrote the encyclopedia entry for The Encyclopedia of the Stone-Campbell Movement.

2 Responses to “A Stone-Campbell “Father” on the Ku Klux Klan”

  1.   rich Says:

    john mark
    Bobby Valentine

    i guess read a book.
    ya i know go figure… 🙂

    an insteresting perspective , on the root of perpethuating bigeraty

    Stoned-Campbell Disciple
    The musings of a Stoned-Campbell disciple trying to make his way through this present age.


    “…The Aryan Jesus: Reflections Part 1: Give Me the HEBREW Bible

    I recently read Susannah Heschel’s The Aryan Jesus: Christian Theologians and the Bible in Nazi Germany. In fact when I finished reading the book I read it again in its entirety and have marked it up pretty well.

    Susannah, the daughter of the late Jewish rabbi Abraham J. Heschel, has written a very important volume that American Christians need to read and wrestle with. As I was reading, over and over I found myself distressed by the familiarity of the rhetoric employed by Nazi Christians. The attitudes toward the Old Testament/Hebrew Bible, Judaism as a whole and the merging of nationalism/patriotism with “Christianity” are disturbingly common themes in my experience. I plan on doing at least two posts in response to Heschel’s Aryan Jesus: one on the OT/Judaism and the other on nationalism.

    Early on in Heschel’s study of the German Christian sponsored “Institute for the Study and Eradication of Jewish Influence on German Religious Life” she made this, to me, shocking statement. “In the writings of the Institute’s theologians, Nazism became a symbol for Christianity, specifically for the pure and pristine original Christianity that they claimed they were recovering from the distortions of history” (p. 16). It was a “restoration” movement!! In order to restore pure Christianity as these theologians understood it, the eradication of the influence of the Old Testament with its Jewish worldview had to be curtailed. Indeed in order to separate Jesus from the Jewish people it was necessary to to separate him first from the Hebrew Bible. Nazism is, my friends, the end result of rejecting the Old Testament. …”

  2.   Ty Frost Says:

    Von Rad chose to study the Hebrew Bible because he wished to counter the influence of the Nazis, not because it was his primary passion. May each of us take courage from his example.

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