The imagination of Stetson Kennedy

Stop me if you’ve heard this one.

Right after World War II, America was in a pretty volatile time in it’s history. Different philosophies competed for prominence. We had just partnered with Communist Russia to defeat the Nazi’s and then had to fight communism during the Red Scare, gender roles were more vague than ever, and racial conflict was heating up.

Enter the black and white (literally) certainty of the Klu Klux Klan. The KKK was not just a marginal hate group, they were seen as a legitimate, respectable organization by many. And they were picking up steam. They boasted a couple of presidents as members during their history, and they had all the answers to the uncertain times.

To say the least it was scary.

The bigotry and hate that we fought in the Nazi’s was now rearing it’s head in the States. Some people estimate that the KKK was close to becoming the driving philosophy. And one guy was wise enough to see what was going on.

His name was Stetson Kennedy, and he did what anyone of us would have done. He joined the KKK. He started rising in the hierarchy, and eventually got to the rank of Kleagle, whatever that means. But what no one in the organization knew, was that Kennedy was funneling information, secret information, about the KKK to the outside.

And here’s where it picks up. Who could Stetson Kennedy get the KKK’s secrets to where it would really hurt them? The answer was obvious. Superman.

He actually started passing on secret codes, secret meeting protocol’s, secret handshakes, (does this seem like a glorified boys club to anyone else?) to the radio show “The Adventures of Superman.” The plan was that Superman would fight the KKK every week on his radio show. And it worked. By revealing the inner workings of the KKK to the kiddo’s he helped to show them how bad they really were.

The KKK dad’s started coming home hearing their kids talking about how Superman had destroyed the KKK leaders, saying their fiercely guarded secret’s at the dinner table, and men started to drop like flies out of the previously vibrant movement.

I bring this up because I think it illustrates the power of imagination.

Greg Boyd has a great book called “Seeing is Believing” in which he talks about how Western civilization has basically written off imagination as being something for children. And we are paying the price. Too often things are framed in terms of us vs. them, black and white, Democrats or Republican.

We are losing the ability to find an imaginative third way. But deep in our bones I think we know that these are not the only options. As one Iraqi medical worker said, “Violence is for those who have lost all creativity.”

I think this is what Paul is tapping into in Romans 4, where he talks about the way God operates in the world. Paul says, “He is the God who gives life to the dead, and calls things that are not as though they are.”

The history of humanity has been changed by men and women who saw that what was really needed was not more bullets or missiles, but a deeper imagination. It’s how Gandhi got rid of British occupation without ever firing a gun, it’s how Dr. King won civil rights for African American’s without starting a war.

And it’s how Stetson Kennedy and Superman took down the KKK.

About jonathanstorment

My family and I love reading, traveling, daddy/daughter dates, playing hide and seek, good music, and long meals with friends. We still miss LOST, and all four of us have Superman uniforms. We are passionate about bringing Heaven to Earth and want to follow Jesus while repainting discipleship for those around us. We are followers of Jesus and I preach at the Highland Church of Christ. We participate in something called A Restoration Movement, and we've come to realize that might be larger than we thought.

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