Saturday, September 10, 2011

Church fires and Christian privilege

St. Mary’s Ethiopian Orthodox Church in Ladera Heights caught fire early this morning. I saw a story about it on the morning news today. The reported ended the segment by saying, “Because it is a church, police are investigating it as a possible hate crime.” It bothered me to hear this. There are so many other possible causes for a fire. I’d think accidental ignition, negligence, and insurance fraud are all likely candidates. Why start with the assumption that it could be a hate crime? Perhaps saying that the cause of fire is under investigation would be a reasonable closing statement. If there is an indication of foul play, then the  reporter should state that the cause of the fire  is suspicious. Launching a hate crime investigation makes it sound as if the authorities are giving the possibility of a hate crime greater importance because it occurred at a religious institution. Statistics do not support this. The vast majority of church fires are accidental. Assuming otherwise makes this just another example of wrongheaded Christian privilege.

It is a small thing. I know this. We must speak up.