Comparing historical phenomena, sometimes a particular dimension for comparison might occur, through which these phenomena can be assessed in perspective, different than the one initially apparent. In that regard, analyzing such historical phenomena as the Crusade and Ku Klux Klan, it can be seen that there are dimensions for comparison other than the apparent, i.e. opposition based on a particular ground, e.g. religious, social, racial, etc. In the light of the aforementioned context, this paper presents a comparison of the Crusade and Ku Klux Klan stating that despite occurring in different epochs, the Crusade and Ku Klux Klan had many similarities.
The Crusade was initially a military-religious campaign in the territory of Romania [the Greek empire] as far west as the shore of the Mediterranean and the Hellespont, as a reaction to Turks and Arabs attacking Christians, to “to carry aid promptly to those Christians [living at that land] (Internet Medieval Sourcebook 2007). Ku Klux Klan can be also described initially as a reaction, where the reaction was to the reconstruction in the South of the United States, which took the form of a secret organization with the main purpose of opposing “the Reconstruction policies of the radical Republican Congress and to maintain “white supremacy”” (Ku Klux Klan 2007). In that regard, it can be stated that the first commonality between these phenomena can be established through their origin, as a certain reaction to particular historical events.
A form of assessment can be viewed through the way the initial purpose of both events gradually changed through time, taking forms that contrasted with the initial establishment of both phenomena. Both started as a reaction to a disorder and destabilization of the situation in corresponding areas of the world, where the launch of the Crusades was driven by a formal and authorized call from the Pope Urban II, with the destabilizing factors being the competition between Christians East and West, conflicts between iconoclasm and filioque, the attacks on the Byzantine Church, and the overall decline in Christian Europe (Mullin 2008). Ku Klux Klan, on the other hand, started as a secret organization, where the destabilizing factors being the after war period, the fear of black outrages, and the political influence of the North (Ku Klux Klan 2007).
Although the Crusades and the Klan differed in their message, with the Crusade having an obvious religious purpose, as opposed to the Klan’s social, both shared ecclesiastical aspects. The Crusades had the direct blessings of God, as stated by the Pope “Every one that hath forsaken houses, or brethren, or sisters, or father, or mother, or wife, or children, or lands, for my name’s sake, shall receive an hundredfold, and shall inherit everlasting life” (Internet Medieval Sourcebook 2007). The emphasis on the religious aspects was emphasized through “the moral authority of the papacy that called forth the crusade” (Mullin 2008), and the symbolical meaning of the carrying the cross spreading Christianity and preaching; “he that taketh not his cross, and followeth after me, is not worthy of me” (Internet Medieval Sourcebook 2007). Ku Klux Klan did not have such an obvious religious message, although there was always a connection between the religion and the traditional values that the Klan urged to hold on, although preaching did not take place solely in the religious sense, but rather in a sense of revitalizing social and civic unity and “uphold traditional and moral values”. The second wave of the Ku Klux Klan, “founded in 1915 by William J. Simmons” (Ku Klux Klan 2007), had more religious tones, where religious bigotry was among the ideals of the Klan, in addition to racism and hidebound patriotism” (Moore 1991). In that regard, the Klan message at the time coincided in its zealous Protestantism and anti-Catholicism with Protestant Churches, even taking position against the clan. In that regard, the Klan acknowledging the importance of religious education proposed a bill “that would allow early release from public schools for the purpose of religious instruction” (Moore 1991). Paralleling the Klan after World War II, with its overall decline and the reliance merely on violence not supported by any message, other than hatred, to the Fourth Crusade, it can be seen the same pattern happening in medieval Europe. The fourth Crusade also abandoned its message, where the troops were redirected by the son of a deposed Byzantine emperor (Alexius Angelus) for a large payment, in exchange for a help to regain his throne. The religious message turned, despite the Pope’s forbiddance, into a financial-political campaign.
Sharing a military approach, the Klan and the Crusade nevertheless, differed in implementation. The Klan, despite acting on a local level through violence and separate attacks was organized in a hierarchy, with dividing the Klan into states, where “[e]ach state constituted a Realm under a Grand Dragon with eight Hydras as a staff; several counties formed a Dominion controlled by a Grand Titan and six Furies; a county was a Province ruled by a Grand Giant and four Night Hawks; the local Den was governed by a Grand Cyclops with two Night Hawks as aides” (Ku Klux Klan 2007). The Crusade showed hierarchies through their orders, although knighthood would be a more appropriate word, the order included Military orders, such as the Knights Templar, Military/Hospitaller orders such as Knights of Malta and the Teutonic Knights, and Hospitaller orders, such as St. Lazarus of Jerusalem and of the Holy Spirit of Montpellier (Internet Medieval Sourcebook 2007). These orders of Knighthood combined the characteristics of knighthood and the privileges of monks. In that regard, it can be stated that such orders in both historical phenomena, were organizational aspects, where in the Crusade, such organization were based on distinguishing the purposes and outlining distinct function, in the Klan such military orders can be seen initially as the influence of personal fascination with military hierarchy and organization (Moore 1991).
Another common attribute of can be seen through the extension of influence with the expansion of recognition. Such influence included political aspects, with the difference that in the Klan the politics was first a purpose, through “keeping black men away from the polls” and lessening the presence of Republican policies. The acknowledgement of their success, make the elite see “Klan’s potential as a political force by 1867” (Parsons 2005), which later transformed in the second wave into self-sufficient political power (Moore 1991), and at the present time, merely reflected through hate crimes occurring at the local level, with the only political aspects being “effigies of President Obama hanging from nooses “(Doyle 2009). The Crusade, on the other hand, had a wider political influence, shaping the political presence in the region at that time. The Crusades uniting Europe in as sense, forced a disruption in the relationship between the Eastern churches. It should be mentioned that a wider influence can be explained through the integration of religion and politics at that time.
In that regard, it can be concluded that the main ground of comparing the Klan and the Crusade can be seen through their foundation as a response to certain events caused by factors destabilizing the order in the society. Such foundation resulted in that despite distinct differences in message both phenomena were similar n many aspects.
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Moore, Leonard Joseph. 1991. Citizen klansmen : the Ku Klux Klan in Indiana, 1921-1928. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press.
Mullin, Robert Bruce. 2008. A short world history of Christianity. 1st ed. Louisville, Ky.: Westminster John Knox Press.
Parsons, Elaine Frantz. 2005. Midnight Rangers: Costume and Performance in the Reconstruction-Era Ku Klux Klan. Journal of American History 92 (3):811-836.