Loving All Our Neighbors (Part 4)

MortonGroveIL

The Morton Grove IncidentReltavism

The Our Common Ministry (OCM) article led with the following sentence.

Screen Shot 2015-10-28 at 5.25.12 AMAs Presbyterians, standing in solidarity with persecuted people is part of our mission. Churches in our Chicago Presbytery have been reaching out to people of all faiths in the face of recent violence against religious communities.

Thus, it is reasonable to assume that the specific incidents discussed fall under the category of “recent violence against religious communities.” The first violent incident discussed by the article is the Oak Creek mass murder at a Sikh temple.

Screen Shot 2015-10-28 at 5.25.12 AMOn August 4th, the Sikh temple in Oak Creek, WI suffered gun violence that left seven dead.

The Morton Grove incident was described in the paragraph immediately following the Sikh temple paragraph.

Screen Shot 2015-10-28 at 5.25.12 AMOn August 10, the Muslim Education Center (Mosque) in Morton Grove was shot at with a “high-velocity pellet gun” by an enraged neighbor while 500 persons were praying within the building. Fortunately, no one was injured. In collaboration with Winnetka Presbyterian, the ISN organized a visit of six churches … . They greeted worshippers as they arrived for prayers with words of support and encouragement.

Two Chicago Tribune articles (August 12 and 13, 2012) yielded the following information:

  • The conflict between the Mosque and neighborhood centered on the loss of a local park to the Mosque grounds
  • A single suspect was quickly identified and arrested for this serious crime
  • Neighbors voiced surprise and shock at this incident
  • The perpetrator could have easily shot a person with the air rifle had they so desired. However, they actually shot a wall (the second Chicago Tribune story backs off on the security guard’s proximity to the wall hit).

Clearly, shooting a pellet from an air rifle at any inhabited building is a serious offense. However, the detailed information from the Chicago Tribune articles speaks to the actions of an isolated, likely troubled individual. Additional perspective can be gained by acknowledging that there are also sometimes bitter, disputes between neighbors and Christian churches over noise, land use, traffic/parking, etc.

It would be comforting to assume that the ISN viewed this incident as an isolated but deplorable situation between the Mosque and a single individual. However, a quote from the Morton Grove Champion (original article on August 19, 2012) suggests otherwise.

“We just want to let them know we’re here to support them, and show that our community embraces their community” said Kathy McNair, a minister at Winnetka Presbyterian Church. “For this to happen is chilling, and we’re fearful that this is part of a new pattern of violence that cannot continue.”

Note the emotionally charged statements that “this is chilling” and “we’re fearful that this is part of a new pattern of violence that cannot continue.” My thoughts on the use of these phrases are that:

  • One dictionary definition of the word “chilling” is “making you feel suddenly very frightened or worried.” This phrase by itself could be appropriate to the situation.
  • However, the second phrase clearly ties the fright/worry to a “new pattern of violence that cannot continue.” Thus, the incident is placed into the context of a “pattern of violence” that is currently in progress, because it “cannot continue.”
  • So, she is implying that this violence may well continue even after the perpetrator of this particular incident is dealt with.
  • Therefore, the implication is that in and around Morton Grove there are additional threats of violence that would like to become real, but that the Presbytery’s actions are attempting to prevent.

The OCM article is clearly attempting to tie together a number of incidents into a pattern of violence. However, the first incident discussed, the August 4, 2012 Sikh temple mass murder in Oak Creek, is clearly different in both kind and degree from a couple of air rifle pellets hitting a Mosque wall in Morton Grove.

An article in the April 23, 2014 edition of the Chicago Tribune described how this incident ended.

On April 18, Conrad pleaded guilty at the Skokie courthouse and was sentenced by Cook County Circuit Court Judge Garrett Howard to 30 months probation and ordered to pay fines and fees of $799, court records show.

Thus, it appears that the local police and courts worked effectively to apprehend, try and convict the responsible individual.

What primarily interests me in the Presbytery of Chicago response is the substitution of subjective emotion for objective analysis.  That is, when the Rev. Kathy McNair said “For this to happen is chilling, and we’re fearful that this is part of a new pattern of violence that cannot continue” she was claiming that this incident was part of “a new pattern of violence” based only on her “fears.”  The Rev. Kathy McNair must have had a pretty low opinion of Morton Grove, its citizens and government, in order for such “fears” to be so powerful.  I wonder how the residents of Morton Grove felt about their community being tied to a “new pattern of violence” that had as its origin a massacre in Wisconsin.  If you doubt that this connection was being made by the Presbytery of Chicago, then reread the phrase used in the OCM article that tied all of these incidents into a single, cohesive narrative (emphasis added).

Screen Shot 2015-10-28 at 5.25.12 AMAs Presbyterians, standing in solidarity with persecuted people is part of our mission. Churches in our Chicago Presbytery have been reaching out to people of all faiths in the face of recent violence against religious communities.

Were this situation understood as an isolated incident caused by a single troubled person, I doubt that so intense a response would have been contemplated.  However, if, against all the objective evidence to the contrary, you believe that a BB gun shot into a Mosque’s wall is just the visible tip of an iceberg of hate and violence, then the actions taken would make sense.

Is this simple irrationality, or is it irrationality with a definite purpose?

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