Updated: Oct 15, 2020
On the evening of Monday, October 12th, 2020, religious warfare came to Marin. Quite frankly I wasn't surprised. But I was heartbroken.
If you follow non-mainstream news (the Catholic News of San Francisco, and other local stuff by local people) the fact that the church is literally and figuratively under attack isn't news to you. In 2020 faith in general is under attack in America. Freedom of religion is under attack. Our fundamental First Amendment freedoms are all under attack.
Sadly a lot of people seem to be unaware that the mob is coming for the church. The mob is probably also coming for the Synagogues and the Temples and everywhere else people gather in peace together to seek comfort in their faith.
Religious warfare is NOT what America is about. In fact our country was founded by people with a distinct and unique desire to both allow religious freedom --in many places in the world religions are controlled by the state and people who follow an alternative faith are persecuted-- and ensure a largely peaceful existence of people of different faiths.
I've been thinking a lot about what faith means in America lately. In fact I've been working on a series of articles about the City of San Francisco attempting to nullify the Constitution by ordering churches closed because of the pandemic. But this is breaking news... This is heartbreaking news. So this will be the first of a series of posts about where we are in 2020, where faith is in 2020. Over the next two weeks I will be trying to explain how our inherent freedoms and rights are under attack when the church --or any institution of faith-- is under attack. Because our rights are under attack.
And yesterday a local church was literally under attack.
If you don't live in Marin I should probably tell you about San Rafael. It is a typical sleepy mid sized city. Technically it is a "city" but I have always thought of it as a town. The main drag of Fourth St. still has some Victorian buildings built in the 1890s from old growth redwoods. The houses in the hills are mainly stucco. Back in the day it was a working man's town. Around World War II the greengrocers downtown --because before supermarkets people went to storefront grocers, mom and pop shops-- were mainly Italian emigrants. Someone told me there were 22 Italian-American grocers and one Jewish grocer who had come from Lithuania when it was still part of the Tsarist Empire. (I don't know if the numbers are entirely accurate, but it seems close enough to me.) There is a restored old Art Deco movie house downtown. Pre shut-down there were dozens of narrow little restaurants... An El Salvadorean place, a Puerto Rican place (Puerto Ricans are exotic in California, we don't have a lot of islanders here), a bagel shop, a burger place, Johnny's Donuts. (You can get a sugar rush just walking past Johnny's Donuts on a weekend.) There is a Russian woman with a narrow storefront where she does alterations and wedding gowns, a vacuum cleaner and sewing machine shop, a health food store, a bookstore, a corner grocery store where on the weekend you can buy homemade empanadas. There were some jewelers, but most have gone out of business. This is a basic American town. A basic California town.
San Rafael also has more history than you would expect if you only know the suburban version of California you see on television. It was part of the far northern fringes of the Mission system. Mission San Rafael Arcangel isn't as antique as some of the Mission churches in California. The original buildings were severely damaged in an earthquake over a hundred years ago. The buildings you see today are still beautiful though... I've seen tourists stop on the sidewalk in awe in the early evening in late summer as the light hits the tower just right and creamy stucco walls turn as gold as the yellow-brown grass on the drought stricken hills. Mission San Rafael Arcangel is still an active Catholic church. A friend was married there. Kids have their first Communion there. It is one of those gentle jewel like churches that sometimes you don't really look at if you see it every day.
It is a place of peace as every church or place of worship should be. Yesterday it wasn't. Yesterday the mob came for Mission San Rafael Arcangel. With red paint, ropes, Fedoras (apparently being a woke protestor in Marin involves wearing a hat I've only seen in old black and white photographs of my grandfather) and cameras.... It was an act of political theatre. It was Christopher Columbus Day you see.... (I don't actually see the links.... but the privileged protestors of Marin decided they needed to deface and attack a place of peace to make a statement about whatever....)
A place of peace was attacked by the mob.... And we should not talk about their feelings or their ideology. The mob deserves no respect. We need to talk about what it means when faith is under attack. Because the mob is coming for EVERY place of faith. They are coming for every place of peace. And if we believe in the First Amendment --regardless of whether you are a person of faith or not, as Americans we should ALL believe in and defend the freedom of religion in the First Amendment-- we can not afford to negotiate. We can not give an inch. Yesterday the mob splashed red paint and toppled a statue. Next week they may torch the altar. Next month they may come for YOUR place of peace.
(My apologies for the bad language... But maybe you need to hear what the mob sounds like... They will scream in joy as a statue falls, dance maniacally up and down on the public sidewalks giving the finger to passing cars. Shriek.... "MOTHER-FUCKER!!!!!!!!!" It is the howl of angry, privileged protestors who face down people who are frightened to stand up to them. For the record... I showed the video to my father. Two old nuns from the old neighborhood could have shut them down. One patrol car could have saved the church. This is what happens when civil authorities tell the police to stand down.)