Church burnings case resolved


There have been three arrests in the case of nine church burnings in Alabama. So far it looks like it's the work of college kids who started it for thrills, burning five churches in two days; then they burned four more in another part of the state in an attempt to distract the police.

These crimes may provide a case study in how evil operates. It wasn't about race: half the churches were white. It may have been about the denomination: they were all Baptist -- but then, that's the main denomination in rural Alabama.

These were all small parishes, compared to what we're used to: congregations of a hundred or so -- in one case as few as 30 -- with aged buildings whose doors couldn't withstand a kick: probably not wealthy churches.

They were burned down by a pre-med student, son of a doctor; a theater major on scholarship, and a campus actor-rocker who had been student president at his high school.

If they're found guilty -- one has confessed already -- 90-to-135-year sentences should be adequate.

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A case study in how evil operates, indeed. One can't help thinking there is something more to this than 'a joke that went wrong',as most media outlets are describing it. You might be able to imagine, say, a drunken moment of madness by some young men that resulted in one church being burned. But nine churches suggests a degree of premeditation that points to something much deeper and more troubling.

Perhaps the first was a crime done out of sheer rebellion, and four more done for excitement.

But the remaining four were the most clearly calculated.

I wonder whether they continued to enjoy the fires or thought they "had to" set the last four to protect themselves. It may have been a short trip from rebellion to slavery.

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This page contains a single entry by Richard Chonak published on March 9, 2006 11:54 AM.

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