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Burning Cross

Few things are more eye-catching that a blazing symbol. Cross burning, book burning, flag burning - yes, even bra burning, are sure-fire ways to spark interest and enflame people's opinion.

Burning Cross, Fiery Cross, and Cross Lighting

Burning Cross

In 312 AD, Constantine is reputed to have seen a Fiery Cross in the sky before an important battle. (See Chi Rho Cross.)

In 1547, Scottish clansmen used the Fiery Cross (Crann Tara) as a symbol of unity and loyalty. Whenever an emergency arose, such as an attack or attempted invasion by rivals, the clan chieftain would dispatch runners carrying Fiery Crosses to assemble the warriors for the battle. The last recorded use of the Fiery Cross was during the Jacobite Rising in 1745.

(Let's hope and pray the aptly named Fiery Cross Reef controversy between China and Philippines will not degenerate into a battle.)

Like the Scots, clansmen in Sweden had a similar communications system (Buþkafle).

In the US, the Burning Cross is considered one of the hallmarks of the Ku Klux Klan (KKK). Their regalia include badges such as the Celtic Cross and St. John's Cross. As self-confessed ultra-right nationalists, they use the Burning Cross symbol to terrorise their intended victims. This is completely different from the use by ancient Scottish or Swedish clans.

Contemporary Swedish nationalists use the Yellow Cross. Coincidentally, the Scottish National Party (SNP) uses a Yellow Ribbon but the SNP is far from being 'nationalist'; it is rather a left-of-centre political party committed to Scottish independence.

The ultra-right nationalists in Scotland (NF and BNP) use the Scottish St. Andrew's Cross, the basis of the Confederate Flag, which brings us back to the KKK in the US.

In fact there are few actual recorded instances of the KKK burning a cross. This popular image is largely the result of fictional works such as the 1915 movie 'The Birth of a Nation'.

The KKK don't even refer to the act as 'burning'; rather they say Cross Lighting. But since the flames are not extinguished, the cross is burnt. Shining a spotlight on something is lighting, and setting fire to something is burning, so we'll stay with that term on this page.

Other KKK symbols

4 K's Basis of a Maltese Cross Standard KKK emblem alternative KKK emblem

The emblem of the KKK comprises four K's placed back-to-back, implying that they don't like each other very much. The four K's stand for "Knights of the Ku Klux Klan" and various KKK websites explain that they are facing outward to defend the "blood drop", representing the blood shed by Christ to save the Aryan race. This is, of course, utter nonsense, as anyone able to read the Bible will see quite clearly that Jesus shed his blood for all mankind.

In fact, the original meaning of the Vodaphone-like logo in the centre is supposed to be only half a balanced yin yang symbol, illustrating the KKK's profound unbalanced view of life.

The K's in the logo are stretched to fashion a Maltese Cross, given the sharp angles and colours favoured by Hitler's Nazis, and sometimes seen rotated by 45°, just as the Nazis did with the swastika.

Don't mock the KKK

We can giggle at people who try to look 'cool' by wearing sunglasses at night; they are silly, but do no real harm. Similarly, we can giggle at Klansmen, who:

  • are white supremacists, yet darken their skin with tattoos
  • are proud to be white, but hide under dunce-cap robes
  • wear slinky satin frocks, yet say transvestites are perverts. 
  • are proud to be 'American/White/Christian', yet Jesus Christ was not American, was probably not very white, and Jesus was Jewish

The list goes on. But rather than mock KKK members, we should pity them, since they belong to the most despised subculture in the United States.

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle described them in The Five Orange Pips thus:

"Ku Klux Klan. A name derived from the fanciful resemblance to the sound produced by cocking a rifle. This terrible secret society was formed by some ex-Confederate soldiers in the Southern states after the Civil War, and it rapidly formed local branches in different parts of the country, notably in Tennessee, Louisiana, the Carolinas, Georgia, and Florida. Its power was used for political purposes, principally for the terrorising of the negro voters and the murdering and driving from the country of those who were opposed to its views. Its outrages were usually preceded by a warning sent to the marked man in some fantastic but generally recognised shape – a sprig of oak-leaves in some parts, melon seeds or orange pips in others. On receiving this the victim might either openly abjure his former ways, or might fly from the country. If he braved the matter out, death would unfailingly come upon him, and usually in some strange and unforeseen manner. So perfect was the organisation of the society, and so systematic its methods, that there is hardly a case upon record where any man succeeded in braving it with impunity, or in which any of its outrages were traced home to the perpetrators. For some years the organisation flourished in spite of the efforts of the United States government and of the better classes of the community in the South. Eventually, in the year 1869, the movement rather suddenly collapsed, although there have been sporadic outbreaks of the same sort since that date."

Now, the KKK acts against any group they feel is causing harm to the US. About 100 years ago these were Catholic immigrants in the 1920s, then African Americans in the 1950s and 1960s, and currently their fixation is with Jews.

They still don't like Catholics, blacks, gays and anyone who supports such 'evil and dangerous elements'. They are a fraternity who believe the mid-19th century Civil War is still going on. They believe anyone who is not with them is against them. They believe in direct action, which is usually violent.

In the past, some law enforcement officers might have turned a blind eye but now such attacks are not tolerated. Lawsuits have forced the organisation to curtail its activities and go underground. Despite a modest resurgence following Bush's jingoism of the early 2000's, membership of the KKK has shrunk to an all-time low as sympathisers move to other white nationalist hate groups and patriotic armed militia.

Cross burning. A legal expression of opinion?

Although (in the US) the KKK are entitled to enjoy freedom of speech, the courts have ruled that burning a cross on public or private property with the intent to intimidate, violates the First Amendment. And the intimidation is illegal, whether the KKK call the act "burning" or "lighting", or even their "religious observance".

The function of the KKK is to either attack or drive away undesirables, through threats or terrorism. If they cannot intimidate people by burning a cross then there's no point in doing it.

Cross burning. Desecration?

The KKK see themselves as Good, Upstanding, All American Patriotic Christians and claim that lighting the cross is a symbol of their faith. The fire signifies Christ as the light of the world. Light drives away darkness and gloom. Fire cleanses and purifies.

And all that sounds pretty good. One wonders if these All American Patriots would also approve of setting fire to the American Flag or Confederate Flag.

If they love the cross, why destroy it through fire?

In 1957 Jerry Lee Lewis, to upstage Chuck Berry, set fire to his piano. Ten years later, Jimi Hendrix burned his guitar on stage. Pete Townsend of the Who smashed guitars and kicked over the drums at the end of gigs. AC/DC, Nirvana, Metallica and others followed suit. Yes folks, deliberately destroying something you love is quite normal.

To say "I'm proud to white" is as ridiculous as saying you are proud to be human. Being white is not a choice. The white person, or black person, has done nothing to attain their natural skin colour. Learn to play golf well, and be proud of that (if you wish). Study hard and gain entry to a good college, and be proud of that achievement (if you wish). Do something good, make a sad person happy, love the unloved. These are achievements. Being black or white is not an achievement and no cause for pride. ("Gay pride" is another nonsense term.)

See Flaming Cross for other crosses with flames. Note the difference: A Burning Cross is consumed and destroyed by fire; a Flaming Cross remains intact and is the original source of flames.

– as do Christian priests, of course. See pagan gowns for more about priests in women's clothing, if that sort of thing interests you.

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