Ken, 39, Florida, USA
[as told to Then God Moved editor Adira Polite]
I joined the Ku Klux Klan eight years ago, at age 31. I’d just left the Navy and was spending most of my time sitting at home with my wife. One evening, we found ourselves binge-watching the documentary series Gangland. While watching an episode on the Klan, my wife off-handedly suggested that I join.
“It’s right up your alley,” she said — and she was right. I was missing the camaraderie of the military, so I found the Klan’s brand of brotherhood very, very appealing. On top of that, I wasn’t at all fazed by the organization’s ideology. Though I grew up in an integrated environment and attended diverse schools, I had some pretty racist inclinations. And I was fine with that. I considered myself a Christian, but my theology more than allowed for white supremacy. So, I did some research and sent out a few applications.
The Loyal White Knights were the first group to call me. They asked if I’d help recruit for an upcoming rally and, without hesitation, I said yes.
I was quickly indoctrinated. The organization twisted Scripture until the “faith” not only allowed for white supremacy, but demanded a defense of it. I was deceived and I also deceived others; as a recruiter, I lied on the regular. In media interviews, I’d boast that we had 1500 regional members, when we only had four or so. It felt strange at first, but I got the hang of it and, for that, I was rewarded. Within three months, I’d been named Grand Dragon of Florida and Georgia. I was third in command.
As a leader, I became disillusioned — not by the Klan’s mission, but by the members’ rampant drug use. Almost everyone was on meth. So, in 2016, I left the Klan for the Nazis, or the National Socialist Movement. Again, I quickly moved up the ranks, eventually gaining control of Florida, Georgia, and the Carolinas. I helped organize the infamous 2017 Charlottesville rally, which really put me on the map. I was known.
Things started to shift a few months after Charlottesville. It began with an interview for the Netflix special White Right: Meeting the Enemy. I was shocked to find that I liked the filmmaker, Deeyah Khan. I remember thinking “She’s a Muslim…how can she be so smart and cool?” I was genuinely confused.
Around the same time, a black pastor named Will struck up a conversation with me at our apartment’s pool. It was obvious that he knew who I was, but he showed me nothing but kindness. I told him that I’d asked many pastors for theological arguments against white supremacy, but none could answer my questions. Pastor Will simply replied that God had come to earth in the person of Jesus Christ to extend love and salvation to His creation. I scoffed at the time, but his words stuck with me.
In the following weeks, I began questioning my Christian identity. I’d considered myself a Christian my whole life, but it was becoming clear that I was far from one. I was a “Christian” because I’d grown up in the church and believed in God…but, that was it. I wasn’t following Christ. I was following Nazism.
I was also realizing that white supremacists’ “biblical” justifications for racial hierarchy and hatred were missing from Scripture. The more I read the Bible, the more I began to see that white supremacy was a religion of its own; it was separate from and contradictory to the Word of God. As a major rally in Tennessee approached, I found myself at a crossroads. In confusion, I turned to Pastor Will. His response was simple: pray.
The night before the rally, I sat alone at my desk and prayed. Out of nowhere, I was slapped across the face by Someone unseen. This wasn’t imagined; the slap left a mark on my face — I almost bruised! I then heard the voice of the Lord say “You are not going.”
In that moment, I was set free. I’d already internally acknowledged that white supremacy was a lie, but I’d still been bound to it; finally, that night, I found the freedom that Christ died to give me. In my resignation letter, I stated that I was leaving hate to follow Christ. Some members were supportive, but many called me a “race traitor.” A few even threatened my life.
Soon after, Pastor Will invited me to his church. Of course, I was insanely nervous. I was sure that the members would judge me for my past, but when I arrived, everyone greeted me, hugged me, shook my hand and everything. It was awesome! On June 21st, 2018, Pastor Will baptized me off the coast of Jacksonville, Florida. I’m now the only white member of an all-black church — and I feel right at home.
The same God who opened the eyes of the Apostle Paul opened mine. When Paul met Jesus, he was on his way to persecute Christians in Damascus. I met Him on my way to persecute His people in Tennessee. The Holy Spirit knocked Paul down and blinded him; I was slapped. Two hateful people living thousands of years apart, same intelligent, redeeming God. That is a testament to our God’s steadfastness.
There’s no way for me to make amends with every single person I’ve harmed. This pains me. I can’t make it right, but I can speak against white supremacy and share my story of divine redemption. I can share the truth of the Cross. It’s not always easy to share, but since the moment Jesus saved me, my life has no longer belonged to me. I — and my story — exist for nothing other than His glory.