The weather is getting warmer, the COVID mandates are ending and life seems to be slowly getting back to normal in various ways. For some people in New York City, that apparently means returning to their “hobby” of vandalizing churches and destroying religious iconography. Yet another sickening display of this fashion was reported in the Big Apple on Thursday night. Someone toppled and defaced a statue of Jesus Christ at St. Athanasius Church on Bay Parkway in Bensonhurst. In case attacking symbols of a religious nature wasn’t enough to get their point across, they also set fire to an American flag hanging outside the rectory. That brings up the same question I always have when crimes like these are reported. Even if you’re not a believer in any type of organized religion, wouldn’t you get a bit of a chill down your spine when doing this and considering what might happen in the afterlife? (NY Post)
A statue of Jesus was smashed and an American flag burned outside a Catholic church in Brooklyn — in what cops are calling a possible hate crime.
The incident occurred around 10 p.m. Thursday when an unknown person hopped the fence at St. Athanasius Church on Bay Parkway at 61st Street in Bensonhurst, police said.
The vandal pushed over a statue of Jesus’s crucifixion, breaking it into pieces, and torched an American flag hanging outside the rectory, according to cops.
This brief video report from the local CBS outlet provides a tour of the damage.
Msgr. David Cassato, the church’s pastor, described the attack as “an act of hatred,” while urging love and forgiveness upon the congregation.
The “hatred” angle is an interesting one. The NYPD Hate Crime Task Force is investigating the attack as a possible hate crime. That’s a refreshing change, Generally, hate crime investigations seem to be reserved for vandalism against mosques and synagogues rather than Christian institutions. It’s not that I’ve ever been a fan of hate crime laws, which are essentially just thought crimes, but if we have to have them then I suppose they should be applied equally to all.
This isn’t an isolated incident in the region. Back before the pandemic began, a 69-year-old woman was arrested for causing $10,000 worth of damage to a Catholic church in the Hollis area. Earlier that year, a man smashed a statue of Saint Jude at St. Francis of Assissi in Brooklyn. The previous year, a different man was arrested for vandalizing no less than five African-American churches across the river in Morris County, New Jersey.
What is wrong with these people? No one is forcing anyone else to go to church against their will. (Well, at least not as adults, anyway.) Where does this anger and hatred come from? One study from last summer concluded that we are living in a time of increasing religious intolerance and even violence.
There’s no denying it. Shocking events in recent weeks are undeniable proof that religious hostility is rising at an alarming pace in America. From governors deeming houses of worship as “non-essential,” banning singing in church, suspending religious services, to churches and religious statues being burnt to the ground and vandalized, we are clearly living during one of the most tumultuous periods in our nation’s history.
That’s an interesting interpretation that hadn’t crossed my mind previously. In all the states (including New York) where churches were deemed to be “non-essential operations” during the shutdowns last summer, were the governors setting a bad example and sending the wrong message to those who might consider such crimes? No matter what’s causing this, it’s certainly a disturbing sign of what’s happening to our society today.