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So, the KKK claimed itself to be a "Christian" organization, originally based on a lot of anti-Catholic and obviously anti-Black sentiment. Famously, one of their intimidation techniques was to burn a cross, making others aware of their presence.

This surprises me - that any organization that claimed the name of Christ, no matter how bogus the claim - would do what appears to me to be sacrilege to its most potent symbol. I have heard the claim that the KKK was 'lighting' the cross, not burning it, but that seems a bit of a stretch.

Is there any evidentiary / primary source material that corroborates this explanation, and more importantly, provides some form of theological or biblical justification for the practice?

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On the linked Wikipedia page, there is a quote from "The Clansman" (Dixon, 1905) that seems to indicate that the burning cross was a type of "call to arms," apparently used as a rallying cry to other clansmen rather than as a message the victims. Will you elaborate on why that seems to be a stretch? –  George Cummins Jul 16 '13 at 15:14
    
@GeorgeCummins: I think the question is "why the cross rather than another symbol/object?" It's sort of like a patriotic organization burning its nation's flag -- it doesn't seem to make sense. –  Ryan Frame Jul 16 '13 at 15:40

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up vote 15 down vote accepted

The Knight's Party website appears to be the official voice for the KKK today. Their FAQ contains the following question and answer:

Q. Why do you burn the cross?

A. Many have been led to believe the Klan burns the cross as an act of desecrating a Christian symbol. Nothing could be further from the truth. The lighted cross is an old symbol used on the hillsides of Scotland. Many churches today use the lighted cross as a symbol. The Methodist church uses the cross with flames at its base sweeping up and around the cross. The Lutheran church uses the symbolism. When the Klan was founded there was not electricity. They could not light up a cross the way we light up a Christmas tree. Fire was used. The fire was used to symbolize the fiery light of Christ – a metaphor often used in the Bible. The Cross obviously is a symbol of Christianity. The Cross lighting ceremony gives honor to Jesus Christ.

and

It is no more a desecration of the cross than it is for the American Legion to respectfully lay to peace an American flag by setting it on fire – which is the correct procedure.

Other references echo the sentiment that, instead of destroying, they feel that they are honoring the cross. The reasoning appears to be primarily based on tradition rather than a particular scripture passage.

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Wonderful - that is exactly what I needed. I applaud you for going to the source. –  Affable Geek Jul 16 '13 at 17:19
    
That is very interesting. Thank you for the information! –  staples Jul 8 at 17:27

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