There’s nothing I can write on my little website that will put a terrorist mass-murder into perspective, but I do think it’s worth mentioning that even as basically non-religious person raised outside of any kind of faith community, the idea of targeting a church with an act of violence seems particularly… perverted?
I don’t know what the right word is, and I hope it’s obvious I don’t mean to downplay secular violence, violence against the non-religious, etc. But these are places often built and operated outside of the idea of money, power, control — they are literally safe havens from all of the cruelty and pain of the world, and in that way they are really one of the most amazing things ideas have ever put into practice. I’m not necessarily talking about organized religion or the institutions themselves, even if that’s what enables many of these places to exist. I just mean the places themselves, especially those that are truly open to everyone (which is the vast majority).
We all need places like this. We can and should build non-denominational ones — town halls, squares, even the stupid Panera I go to when I want to get out of the house. But churches are places that, without the force of anything — commerce, the state, etc. — simply provide shelter to the world because it’s there and it’s the right thing to do, and so many of them share that weirdly similar mission across different faiths.
Now, I know basic history. Nothing is truly sacrosanct among every last one of us, and nothing ever really has been. But the fact that this kind of thing — not just mass violence, but mass violence specifically targeting the very idea of sanctuary — could find a community of like-minded support online is hard for me to internalize.