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Historic Church building set on fire north of Edmonton. Photo thestar.org

It’s not just the unprecedented heat wave or the out of control forest fires, it’s the fires of rage let go to burn down churches as more bodies of Indigenous children are searched for and found at former residential school sites.

This Summer is on Fire

One article states:

About a dozen churches have been set on fire, some simply damaged, others burned right to the ground. Even more Christian churches — mostly Catholic but not exclusively — have been vandalized over the past several weeks.

There has been a range of churches vandalized and/or burned including several Catholic churches, a number of Anglican parishes, and Evangelical churches serving African and Vietnamese immigrant communities. If there were attacks like these taking place at other places of worship, there would have been an outcry to rightly denounced the attacks as hate crimes.

In my own city when a Jewish Synagogue or a Moslem Mosque is vandalized with a swastika, there is a public response of disgust and a desire to protect people from the fear vandalism creates. Meanwhile churches across the nation (including my own) have been increasingly vandalized with satanic and anarchistic symbols, or hate messages.

I am not even suggesting that these churches have been ignited by Indigenous people, but I get it – these are the days we are in: there appears to be a kind of social licence to act out on-line or incognito with violence. Even if aggression is the lowest form of expression, it gets our attention.

A late and muted response

Unfortunately it took weeks after this spate of attacks on churches started before the Prime Minister [finally] said that the burning and destruction of churches is “unacceptable and wrong.”  But then he noted that it is also “understandable” – almost as if to suggest we should expect this as the natural consequence of finding the bodies of indigenous children on the sites of former residential schools.

To be fair, our Prime Minister isn’t exactly a Rhodes Scholar, and he means well most of the time; I think. But would he have been so cavalier and accepting if angry people started burning down Federal buildings, since – to be communally responsible – the residential school system was a Federal Government program? Would he not have tweeted as fast as the little fingers on those hands that have never worked for a living would have allowed – as he is apt to do in his performative falseness – if a Synagogue or Mosque were burned down?

Incendiary Words for Chaotic Times

For those of you who target all your disdain on Christians, do you not recognize your own responsibility as “settlers”?  Would you think it “fair” if someone burned your house down because your ancestors did this wicked evil?  Instead we have people like Harsha Walia, Executive Director for BC Civil Liberties Association, who pushed the chaos further by posting “Burn it all down” – and then tried to walk back these reckless words by saying she’s just using this as an expression in relation to all forms of colonization. Her thoughtlessness reminds me of the Proverb:

Like a maniac shooting
    flaming arrows of death
 is one who deceives their neighbor
    and says, ‘I was only joking!’

Notice who comes to Walia’s defence and how they pile on:

Social activist Naomi Klein is among her defenders, along with Indigenous lawyer Naomi Sayers, who tweeted, “I would help her burn it all down. And also, I would help defend anyone charged with arson if they actually did burn things.

It would be better if Sayers was consistent with the code of ethics for lawyers and her own “values statement.” It is a breathtaking foolishness to add fuel to this fire, but there was one of many notable detractors:

… Former BCCLA president Craig Jones called Walia’s statement “a new height of stupidity for the Perrier-provocateur set.

It should be noted that it has been First Nations leaders who have spoken up: Chief Clarence Louie, of the Osoyoos Indian Band, stated clearly in interviews that he doesn’t follow the church, but didn’t want people mincing words by calling four churches being burned down “simply suspicious”.

I wouldn’t call it suspicious, I’d call it what it is, it’s a criminal act, it’s vandalism. It’s arson.” Chief Clarence Louie.

“To burn things down is not our way.” Perry Bellegarde, national chief of the Assembly of First Nations.

Meanwhile it is not lost on me that Catholic officials said they could only fundraise a total of $3.9 million for residential school survivors, but managed to raise some $300 million for Catholic cathedrals and other buildings across Canada. Imbalances like this beg for justice.

The New Theses Painted on the Doors

As a kind of modern-day nailing of the 95 Theses on the Wittenberg Door, the new reformation is to splatter red paint as was recently done to Grace Presbyterian Church in Calgary. The church decided to leave the red paint there for now. These are the words of their pastor:

Sure, we can be upset over red paint. But can we also be upset and grieve and lament what that red paint stands for, and listen to that voice, and be present with that voice?

What it means to be “Present with that Voice”

This is not a “woe is me” victim story. Edifices like statues and buildings are being toppled in this age of anger; and if we’re wise we will understand the misplaced values set upon them – and be more “upset and grieve and lament” what the toppling stands for.

I write this as a call for actual Christ followers to take up our cross and follow Jesus all the way to the death of self interest and self justification.

This is a call for actual Christ followers to take the long walk of doing and undoing – to be ambassadors of reconciliation – to do the work of absorbing the pent up anger that cannot land on the culprits, but can be aimed at those who are here now to listen and restore.

First Nations peoples and all Canadians can be rightly furious with what happened to Indigenous children – as I am both angered and grieved that so much was done as a wicked evil under the guise of Christian faith, endorsed by the successive governments of the day.

Christ followers need to know we are made for such a time as this – for truth and reconciliation.

This is more enigma than dogma.