Sometimes, fire is the appropriate response


The churches are burning in Canada.

I oppose the idea of atheists setting churches on fire. That you are offended by the absurdity of their dogma is not sufficient justification for property damage. I grew up next door to a Catholic church, and they never did me any harm, so I certainly don’t have any grounds for seeking vengeance.

Of course, I was just a white boy occupying the lands of the Coast Salish, so it wasn’t my place to get angry. Some people, on the other hand, do have justification.

If the people and government of Canada won’t impose severe sanctions on the Catholic church, and if they won’t pay reparations to the First Nations people who suffered so much and so long…

Let ’em burn.

Comments

  1. mamba says

    We can spare a few…we have thousands in the country and the Catholic church is rich enough to rebuild them all anyway.

    Should have happened decades ago.

  2. says

    No, don’t burn them, because sooner or later someone is going to get badly hurt, or killed. Or have their property destroyed. If I’m not mistaken one of the recent fires came close to setting a local senior’s residence on fire. And the indigenous people in the areas of those churches often have personal connections to them that linger.

  3. indianajones says

    @timgueguen ‘because sooner or later someone is going to get badly hurt, or killed’

    Are you for real? Hate to be obvious, but just in case, why do you think they are being burnt in the first place?

  4. says

    I don’t think people should set fires. Fire isn’t controllable and it puts humans and other animals at risk. There are enough fire problems without people deliberately adding to them.

  5. kome says

    I’m okay with violence being inflicted on institutions that have maintained their prominence and/or dominance through literally centuries of violence inflicted on the innocent and vulnerable. I would just like it constrained to eliminate the possibility of collateral damage. Fire is too unwieldy and indiscriminate. But yea, if there are no consequences to those who initiated the violence against the First Nations’ peoples in the first place, sometimes all that’s left is to burn things to ground.

  6. says

    @indianajones, yeah, I’m worried that some person who had nothing to do with the horrors of residential schools, and may be indigenous themselves, is going to be harmed by one of these fires. Those fires aren’t going to magically put themselves out.

  7. says

    @9 timgueguen
    Not to mention BC is still recovering from the recent heat wave and those fire fighters are desperately needed at fires that aren’t intentionally started.

  8. stroppy says

    Interesting to see the Duddley Doorights doing wrong.

    Fire– not to mention pollution, among the problems associated with the burnings

    Still as pointed out @6 “sometimes all that’s left is to burn things to ground.” It’s a process of elimination in regards to meaningful remedies. Not desirable, but understandable.

    Out of curiosity, were those particular churches associated with abuse and did they sit on particularly contested lands?

  9. jrkrideau says

    I believe that in some cases those churches had a mainly First Nationss congregations.

    @ 10 Ray Ceeya
    IIRC, BC has something in the neigbourhood of 150 fires at the moment.

  10. indianajones says

    @Ray Ceeya Like what? What actual thing in the last century or so? Also, while the timing is not ideal, those churches have desperately needed burning down for quite some time too.

    @timgueguen, @9 Maybe. Are you indigenous? Do you have that or some other reason for us to think you are qualified at that particular risk assessment? For mine I have none. I have evidence for harms already done though.

  11. says

    There was never going to be any justice and the colonial state’s abuse and genocide of the Indigenous people is ongoing. I’m curious where else the people saying “don’t burn down the buildings” would like the anger directed?

  12. Rob Grigjanis says

    Tabby Lavalamp @15:

    I’m curious where else the people saying “don’t burn down the buildings” would like the anger directed?

    I’m curious what your reaction to Chief Keith Crow would be. Suck it up?

    Lower Similkameen Indian Band Chief Keith Crow says he received a call at about 4 a.m. PT that the Chopaka church was on fire. By the time he arrived about 30 minutes later, it had burned to the ground.

    “I’m angry,” Crow said. “I don’t see any positive coming from this and it’s going to be tough.”

    “It’s devastating. You know, we do have a devout Catholic following here in our community,” he said Monday to Chris Walker, the host of CBC’s Daybreak South. “I really don’t want to see any separations in a community.”

    It’s so fucking easy to sit on the sidelines and cheer for something without any more thought than “Catholic Church bad. Burning churches good!”. Never mind the impact on people in the community, eh?

  13. tacitus says

    If the people and government of Canada won’t impose severe sanctions on the Catholic church…

    Wasn’t the Canadian government complicit in executing this policy?

  14. says

    Are you indigenous? Do you have that or some other reason for us to think you are qualified at that particular risk assessment?

    Congratulations, this is the stupidest thing I’ve read today.

  15. greenspine says

    We have our Prime Minister saying that people should seek real justice, not burn down Catholic churches on Indigenous land:

    Prime Minister Justin Trudeau joined the national chief and other Indigenous leaders in echoing the call for an end to the fires. “This is not the way to go. The destruction of places of worship is unacceptable and it must stop,” Trudeau said. “We must work together to right past wrongs.”
    https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/edmonton/burning-churches-unmarked-graves-1.6087602

    But meanwhile, this is the kind of justice that First Nations people can expect from the Catholic Church:
    https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/saskatoon/critics-blast-catholic-church-1.6086030
    Legal obstruction and pleading poverty, saying they can’t find the money to pay their obligations to residential school survivors, while simultaneously building a $17m monument to their own cynicism.

  16. says

    indianajones@14, what kind of special knowledge does anyone need to have to know that if something catches fire a fire department will come out to fight that fire, and that fire fighters might get hurt doing so? Or that a fire could spread beyond the targeted building and catch something else on fire?

    Most of the church fires in June were on First Nations land:

    Most of the church fires have been on First Nations land. These include:

    Penticton Indian Band, Osoyoos Indian Band, Lower Similkameen Indian Band, Upper Similkameen Indian Band, and Gitwangak First Nation in British Columbia,

    Siksika Nation in Alberta.

    Sipekne’katik First Nation in Nova Scotiia.

  17. Matt G says

    greenspine@13- That second article you linked to was absolutely infuriating. The RCC must be dissolved.

  18. Allison says

    I can’t help thinking about the inner-city riots in the USA back in the mid-1960’s.

    At the time, all the right-thinking people were (correctly) pointing out that it was mostly Black-owned businesses and Black people who were harmed by the riots. No one could figure out what good they were doing, aside from perhaps serving as a release/expression of the utter hopelessness and despair so many people in the inner cities were feeling. (Reminds me of the Palestinians in Gaza, actually.)

    However, the riots were the impulse that led to the Kerner Commission. And I remember that at the time, the white folks were expressing fear that the rioters would someday boil out of the inner cities and into their well-manicured all-white suburbs. (I remember an editorial cartoon showing a fearful LBJ painting “Soul Brother” on the gates to the White House.) If there had not been extensive riots, I do not believe that there would have been a Kerner Commission, and even if there had been, the recommendations would have simply been ignored. Up until that time, there had been nothing but lip service to improving the lot of Black (and Hispanic) USAans. It was the fear of what might happen to the well-to-do white folks that got them to do anything at all. The riots may not have led to a great amount of change, but without them, there would have been none whatsoever.

    So that is how I am inclined to see the church burnings. Yes, innocent people will suffer, and yes, the fires won’t directly cause change. But maybe they’ll scare enough of the people who can get things done to do more than wring their hands and speak empty prayers. And innocent people have been suffering for centuries; at least this way, the perpetrators will suffer a little, too.

    I’m also inclined to point out that the Canadians (First Nations and colonials) are doing more than the USA is. The USAan federal government is only just this year making a first attempt to even find out the scope of the genocide that it has perpetrated on the Native Americans. And they still only “respect” the rights of Native Americans to the extent that it doesn’t inconvenience the USA (cf. Standing Rock.)

    Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and never will.

    — Frederick Douglass

  19. says

    Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and never will.

    Indeed, the whole point of power is that it allows you to not care what other people think. Which may be related to why it proverbially corrupts.

  20. chris61 says

    @24 Allison

    Yes, innocent people will suffer, and yes, the fires won’t directly cause change. But maybe they’ll scare enough of the people who can get things done to do more than wring their hands and speak empty prayers. And innocent people have been suffering for centuries; at least this way, the perpetrators will suffer a little, too.

    I have two young relatives living near locations where two of those fires have been set. You will understand why I can’t view with quite your degree of equanimity, the notion that people I love might die but that would be okay because some good might come of it in the end.

  21. unclefrogy says

    @27
    I do not think it is OK or has ever been OK but I can tell you that from my view of history it will happen. I know of no time in the past that it did not happen, it has often been the result to tyranny .

  22. says

    Rob Grigjanis @16

    It’s so fucking easy to sit on the sidelines and cheer for something without any more thought than “Catholic Church bad. Burning churches good!”. Never mind the impact on people in the community, eh?

    Or Indigenous people aren’t a hive mind and his is one voice. There are a lot of Indigenous people whose reaction to this is wanting to break out the marshmallows. There are a lot who agree with him. I lean towards those cheering because I understand their anger. The Church has never really paid for their crimes and still work tirelessly to actively bring more harm into the world. I personally wouldn’t burn down a church but I can’t help giving a thumb up to those who can’t take it anymore.

  23. Bruce says

    I’d like to read some historical fiction on what if the Native Americans had taken the RCMP RCC attitude from the start:
    I imagine my pilgrim ancestors land at Plymouth in 1620, and the local native government declares they are not fit parents, and takes all the kids into permanent protective custody, where no colonist’s child will ever again have to hear English, nor hear about Jesus, nor hear about individual capitalism. Everyone who comes from England can have their own religious freedom, but all their kids get raised knowing only to respect the Great Spirit, and never communicate with any Christian relatives. By the time of “King Phillip’s War”, maybe 80% of the non-UK forces are people of British descent who don’t speak English, and don’t want or need to.
    I wonder if in 1776, my Mohican-speaking pilgrim ancestors would send gift ships to King George III with disease-infested gift blankets, or was that only a whites thing?

  24. chris61 says

    @30 Tabby Lavalamp

    I lean towards those cheering because I understand their anger.

    My guess is that those cheering, including you, are not and have no friends or loved ones whose lives are being put at risk from all these church burnings.

  25. ORigel says

    If destroying church buildings is justified, which I don’t think it is, throw rocks at their windows or something.

    Fire is much more dangerous; it can burn out of control and injure/kill people.

  26. indianajones says

    @ORigel , @33 If only those (insert oppressed group here) would be more civilized and quieter, perhaps we could sit down and have a rational discussion about it. But protesting by (insert tactic here) doesn’t help anyone. Said the good guys every single time. Right? I mean, have you seen what happens when one protests by simply sitting and refusing to participate even? Has there ever been a universally accepted ‘correct’ way to fight oppression?

  27. unclefrogy says

    WTF!!!
    I like the sentiment but given the experience in the spanish “colonies” I think it would just be armed invasion and no thanksgiving day fantasy party however given guns, canon and ships and steel all driven by greed

  28. ORigel says

    @34 So it’s okay for innocents to be harmed/killed (if the fire gets out of control), for them to be sacrificed on the altar of “Justice”?

    Ransacking and vandelizing the churches is much safer for the neighbors.

  29. John Morales says

    OK, so the issue people have is that fire is dangerous, and can spread to unintended targets.

    I think that’s quite reasonable.

    So… sledgehammers?

  30. DanDare says

    John @40. Sledgehammers won’t do as you have to be there hammering and get arrested.
    Some people have talked about there being better solutions. I’m curious what they may be as no one has spelled them out.

  31. John Morales says

    DanDare, well, clearly it’s not a solution, but then, past misdeeds can’t be solved after the fact.

    It indicates anger and frustration and venting, pointless as it may be. Human instinct.

  32. says

    ORigel @ #39:

    Ransacking and vandelizing the churches is much safer for the neighbors.

    Also, there could be historical evidence in the churches!

    John Morales @ #40:

    So… sledgehammers?

    Totally an option I’d support in many circumstances. Don’t know enough about this situation to offer an opinion. By the way… (Be careful doing this, too!) Also by the way…

    (I’d just like to note that anarchists have a reputation of being wild-eyed, violent extremists, when in reality they have a long tradition of thinking about and debating the ethics and effectiveness of different tactics.)

  33. says

    @43 SC
    Pretty sure one thing all of us (except for right wing trolls pretending to be wild eyed anarchists) can agree on is that arson in the middle of fire season is NOT the way to deal with this.

  34. says

    Ray Ceeya @ #44:

    Pretty sure one thing all of us (except for right wing trolls pretending to be wild eyed anarchists) can agree on is that arson in the middle of fire season is NOT the way to deal with this.

    One would think!

  35. Jazzlet says

    @44 Ray Ceeya
    I honestly can not agree with you, and I’m not a right wing troll. This isn’t my struggle, I don’t feel I have the right to insist that the struggle must not be fought with fire. Yes I can see the dangers, but I’m an ocean away in a comfortable house that is mine in part because my country sucked up the wealth of other nations. What right do I have to condemn the tactics chosen by those who have been ignored and mistreated for so long?

  36. kome says

    @32 chris61

    So, you’re worried about the well-being of people who are now at risk of being harmed or killed simply for existing on a particular parcel of land? Hmmmmm…………………………..

    Well, convince them to move. It’ll be safer for them that way.

  37. says

    Jazzlet @ #46:

    This isn’t my struggle, I don’t feel I have the right to insist that the struggle must not be fought with fire.

    I think “don’t set fires” is a good general rule, and applicable in this case for all of the reasons noted above.

    (Do we even know who set these fires?)

  38. indianajones says

    re:Jazzlet @46 You put it better than I have managed to. Whilst I can agree that fire in terms of timing and potential splash damage is not ideal, after more than a century of nothing at all? I can understand that sometimes ya just gotta toss a match and damn the hand wringing from the side lines about not doin’ it right. I’m not gonna condemn these tactics and I hope someone is handing out marshmallows and foil wrapped potatoes (bit of sour cream, butter, cheese mmm, hungry now) too.

  39. Tethys says

    I find fire very cleansing and would be happy if the pedophile Catholic Church across the street from my childhood home was burned to the ground. I don’t think there are any murdered children buried on its grounds, but there are plenty of them in the cemetery’s after they killed themselves because they were molested by priests.

    I can see how fire season might make arson a danger to the community, but there is much to be said for the symbolic act of burning the literal structure of abuse to the ground. Perhaps they could wait until winter to avoid burning more than the church.

  40. consciousness razor says

    This thread is batshit.

    I would’ve gone with “cursed,” but that’s appropriate too.

    It sort of reminds me of how Hitchens (for example) decided that hating Muslims is reason enough to support the so-called “war on terror,” and how lots of other belligerent atheists fell in line.

  41. Tethys says

    Endangering communities that have a fire season is not justified, but it is entirely understandable that those victimized for generations might seek to eliminate the source of the violent criminals.

    Property crime and civil disobedience is occasionally the appropriate response to toppling a deeply entrenched systemic oppression. I don’t see burning a building as a violent act, anymore than removing the statues of confederate generals from public spaces is violent or vandalism.

    Was tearing down the Berlin Wall violence, or an act of catharsis?

  42. John Morales says

    Tethys, it feeds the persecution narrative the Church uses.
    Also, it cedes the moral high ground.

    Thankfully, no one has been injured or killed in these fires. But they could have been.

    It would be an understatement to say that these appear to be serious hate crimes. It appears that Catholic churches are being targeted.

    When it comes to international data, Christianity is currently the most persecuted religion in the world. This thankfully is not playing out in North America, rather in other parts of the world. But let’s work to keep it that way.

    (https://torontosun.com/opinion/editorials/editorial-we-must-condemn-the-burning-of-catholic-churches)

  43. Tethys says

    Vampires and the murderous missionaries who currently run things don’t get to claim moral high ground, or victim status. The thousands of indigenous children in unmarked cemeteries are the moral outrage.

  44. says

    Fuck the archbishop. That’s straight up bullshit. The church is not the victim.

    In the meantime, I have an OP on Pervert Justice about all this, with necessary extensions in the comments.

    To put it short, I condemn the arson as a bad tactic and one I can’t support morally. I do not condemn the indigenous activists as bad people. I further clarify that it’s not destroying churches per se that bothers me, but the use of fire, which is a dangerous, lethal, and unpredictable weapon, making this specific tactic unjustifiable in my moral framework.

    As a contrasting thought experiment, I say that if indigenous activists were to bash a church to the same level of destruction using sledgehammers I would not only fail to condemn such a protest, but I would stand between the indigenous activists and the police and activists to give them time to do their work.

  45. Rob Grigjanis says

    Crip Dyke @62:

    I would stand between the indigenous activists and the police and activists to give them time to do their work.

    Would you stand between the indigenous activists bashing the church and local indigenous folk trying to stop them?

  46. says

    @Rob

    The easy answer is “no”, but of course things get messy on the ground. What if an indigenous activist shows up after the lines have been drawn? How exactly do I let that person through without letting the police through? How do I even know I’m faced with an indigenous activist?

    To some extent what I’m saying is abstracted from practical details so that I can talk about the moral calculus I’m making. If the moral calculus that I would make is what’s under discussion, then the easy answer suffices. A productive conversation about moral calculus could then proceed with others saying how they would respond to conflict over whether to sledgehammer a church that is (apparently) between two indigenous persons. To me, that’s not my fight. But what actions the government takes while representing me (to the extent that it represents anyone with permanent residency in Canada) are my business.

    I have a stake in the confrontation between the government and the indigenous people wielding sledgehammers in my hypothetical. In your hypothetical I have no stake in how indigenous people work through disagreements about tactics or targets (unless they ultimately settle on a target that gives me a new stake in the disagreement). There might be some morally laudatory action available to me in the details of such a hypothetical (and probably would be in the complexities of real life, should such a thing ever occur in my presence), but to the extent that we have together characterized this hypothetical there’s nothing there for me to identify some brilliant or complex thing which I could or should do.

    In this hypothetical, I stand aside.

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