Friday, March 10, 2006

Burning Bridges Churches

I don't think you have to pastor a church which gathers in a small wood-frame structure every Sunday to appreciate this, but the story of the church burnings is a deeply troubling one.

Where it appears across left blogistan, it mostly appears as a "gotcha" to those who opined that the perpetrators were either gay or "liberals." (Chuck Currie apparently got some of that.) The "gotcha," of course, is that it was three college kids who started a joke that started the whole world crying.

Especially the church members who lost their houses of worship. One NPR report featured some of those members, weeping for their loss and wondering how people could be so mean. I can only imagine the three boys never, ever, in their lives, have listened to NPR, nor were they listening that day. I like to think that if they were, they'd have stopped then.

But the meanness is the real focus of this story. The meanness of the boys, who apparently couldn't imagine the harm they were doing. The meanness of the people who leapt to conclusions about "whodunnit." We project meanness onto others; not onto people "like us." The Oklahoma City bombing was an act of "Arab terrorism," until it turned out it was a local white boy, upset over the Branch Davidian debacle. The Atlanta bomber at the Olympics turned out to be an anti-abortion extremist. And the burning of these churches was carried out, not by a new wave of rednecks, nor by gays or liberals, but by three stupid college boys, who should have known better to begin with.

But, as Bruce Springsteen said, "I guess there's just a meanness in this world." A meanness we are as blind to, as we are to the good in this world. More Americans think poorly of Islam today than ever before. What good will that do us? Is there not enough meanness in the world, that we have to go looking for more? Do we have to manufacture it in others, in order to make sense of the world?

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