Hate on the Rise

by Bret Kincaid

Just six miles from my house and only a mile from the White House, a man walked into my favorite DC museum, pulled out his rifle, and began shooting.  Mr. James von Brunn, a self-proclaimed anti-Semite, took the life of Stephen Jones, a well-liked African American security guard who had reportedly welcomed Mr. Brunn into the building.  Apparently a "lone wolf," Mr. von Brunn nonetheless maintains links to white supremacist organizations.  It was surely no accident that he responded to Mr. Jones' hospitality by killing him.

Unfortunately, this hate crime is only one of thousands committed each year in the US.  And there are now over 900 US hate groups, up 54% since 2000, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center, (http://www.splcenter.org/intel/intelreport/article.jsp?aid=1027) a reputable nonprofit based in Alabama that tracks hate groups and hate crime incidents.  The precipitous rise in the number of hate groups is attributed to immigration, the current economic downturn, and Barack Obama's candidacy and election in November.  A note reportedly left in Mr. von Brunn's vehicle outside the Holocaust Museum emphasized the last reason.  He wrote, "The Holocaust is a lie. Obama was created by the Jews."

Coincidentally, just days before the incident, I had watched the "Hate Nation" episode of the History Channel's series Gangland.

(http://shop.history.com/detail.php?p=84196&v=history_show_gangland&ecid=PRF-2100324&pa=PRF-2100324).  As I watched, I was particularly struck and troubled by the Christian element that infused and inspired the adherents of bigoted hatred.  In this episode, for instance, the members of the Imperial Klans of America (IKA), reportedly the second largest Ku Klux Klan faction, were filmed standing in a large circle praying a Christian prayer.   Interviewees also claimed the Bible is strictly for Whites and it supports their mission of keeping the White race pure.  This kind of abuse of the Christian faith is, of course, not unusual; the past two millennia are riddled with notorious, even bloody, examples of misinterpretation and misappropriation of the meaning of Christian discipleship.

Government can only address this cultural cancer when it violates criminal laws designed primarily to protect people from bodily harm and not so much harm done by speech.  Law enforcement, however, often falls short of its primary concern, as the thousands of hate crime victims can attest.  I wonder, given the Christian connection, if the church can do more to address this rise in hate.  Perhaps it would improve with more preaching deliberately on love of neighbors who are different and working through the hundreds of organizations addressing conflict of difference. Fortunately there are a few organizations, like the Southern Poverty Law Center, who work tirelessly to investigate, report, and use civil law courts to expose and weaken hate groups like the IKA.  Let me know if you would like to alert myself and our readers to any others that you are aware of.

Bret Kincaid is associate professor of political science at Eastern University in St. Davids, PA.


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