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Hallo again to all.

Reports of violent attacks are increasing worldwide. Many attacks are expressions of political or racist terrorism. We generally assume that the reports are becoming more frequent because the attacks are becoming more frequent. Whatever the reason, we are more aware of violence than we have been in the past. We often call this increasing violence 'senseless' or 'incomprehensible' because we don't comprehend it, because it makes no sense to us. We do assume that it makes sense to someone. And we aren't sure whether our attempting to understand the violence will help to stop it or will just keep us occupied.

It isn't just the USA. Recently a priest in France was stabbed to death in the midst of a Mass. Patients in a Japanese medical care facility were killed with a knife by an attacker who was presumably unable to acquire a gun. Politically-motivated violence and assassination is disturbingly common in countries that are far away from here (but quite local to the people who live there). Although reports of violence are increasing, we believe that we only hear about the unusually macabre or frightening episodes. At least 100 people were murdered in Paris in 2015, but only the Charlie Hebdo murders were front page news in other countries. Yet when a priest is killed in a church, the world hears about it.

There is something about crime in or against a church that grabs attention. It is rare to read of library bombings or supermarket bombings or even courtroom bombings. Church murders or bombings or burnings have almost achieved the dubious status of being commonplace. Churches are satisfying targets for the unhinged.

The only remaining Anglican church in Iraq, St George, has been attacked and bombed more times than we can count. To the bombers, that church is a symbol, conveniently nearby. Bombing it is so much more convenient than traveling to another city to wreak destruction. If you are bursting with anger, and you feel a need to act on that anger, it is helpful to have some thing rather than some person upon which to vent your rage. However tragic the bombing of a church, it is less tragic than killing church people. Churches can always be rebuilt, or their ruins can become symbolic monuments.

Not all rage leads to physical violence, of course. Once, many decades ago, we were in a church in a second-tier US city, on a weekday, just for the feeling of being there, and an angry man shouting violent words barged in looking for someone to be the focus of his anger. Whatever he was angry about, it led only to him shouting and throwing books. It was never reported in the news. We're glad that he didn't look to us to be the person who needed to receive his rage; he ignored us and kept looking. It rather ruined our afternoon, but the priest quickly got back to work. He had seen it before.

During the era of the Vietnam war, American men over 18 and Australian men over 20 were issued 'draft cards' giving them an identity by which they could be conscripted into their country's army to fight in that war. Anti-war protests famously included draft candidates standing on a podium and setting fire to their draft cards.* One of our friends was opposed to the war, but told us that he was only angry enough to boil his draft card, not burn it. He is probably the same sort who would have run into a church to shout at the priest rather than kill him, and he went on to become a successful tax accountant.

The church evolves; expressions of religious identity evolve. Churches now have websites and Facebook pages and Twitter accounts. Church staff exchange email with people who once had to visit in order to talk. So protests, violent or not, need to evolve to continue to be able to attract attention. You can't bomb websites or Facebook pages. We note with a mixture of amusement and annoyance that a person who is very angry at the theology of the Anglican Communion has been sending periodic day-long blasts of tens of millions of emails to non-existent people inside Anglican organizations, presumably hoping to swamp and disrupt the church email servers. He reminds us of the man who boiled his draft card. We are very glad that to him, 'fulminate' is still a verb and not a noun. With help from a top-flight computer security company, we've found out who is doing it and have concluded that he is not a danger. We hope he keeps up the intense email attacks as a means of venting his anger rather than ramping up his behaviour to include physical violence. And we hope he doesn't read Anglicans Online.

See you next week.

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All of us at Anglicans Online

31 July 2016

*The burning of draft cards as an antiwar protest was common enough to have been documented in Wikipedia.

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