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However spirited it’s been, new – and, to me, surprising – odds-on favorites have emerged in the competition for the title of “Most Guilt-Saturated Liberal of 2020.” The pace-setters? Leaders of the Episcopalian Church in the District of Columbia (D.C.). How have they forged ahead? By expressing much more outrage at President Trump for allegedly using the St. John’s Church located just across Lafayette Park from the White House as a photo op – and for his supposed insensitivity to D.C. protestors’ legitimate racial justice and police brutality concerns – than at the torching of the church on Saturday night.

Think I’m kidding? Then just check out this news wire service account. Don’t bother expecting a syllable of condemnation from these clerics at the destruction of a spiritual center of their own diocese. There weren’t any. In fact, the Rev. Mariann Budde, the bishop of the diocese, belittled this act of violence: “We can rebuild the church. We can replace the furnishings of a nursery,” she said, referring to the damaged area. “We can’t bring a man’s life back.”

I guess she doesn’t agree with her colleague from Connecticut, the Rev. Miguelina Howell, who told her congregants in November, 2015, “Our buildings are holy ground, spaces where we find a sense of community, where we are fed and nourished. It is not only a space in which to dwell, but also a space to be formed, prepared and sent out into the world to bear witness of God’s faithfulness and greatness.” Except in a Tuesday radio interview, Budde also referred to the St. John’s grounds as “our sacred space.” Because the President had the temerity to stand on them.  

Nor has Budde evidently thought about the horror that might have been had the church – and especially the nursery, suffered the greatest damage – not been empty. Or maybe she thinks that the arsonists took great care to make sure that no lives were threatened? Or were able to set a fire skillfully enough to ensure that no bystanders in the park or on H or 16th Sts. NW would eventually become victims?

And these weren’t simply Budde’s initial reactions. By this morning, presumably, she’s had time to reflect further. And here’s what she said on National Public Radio:

Look, I wasn’t happy about the fire. The violence on our streets right now is heartbreaking to me. I want to keep our focus on the precipitating causes of the events of this week and to concentrate my outrage at the wrongful death of George Floyd and the string of African Americans who have preceded him and the history of abuse and violence. I want to acknowledge the loss of property but in no way equate it with the loss of life….”

The most charitable reasonable translation of these words into plain English: “Morally speaking, I can’t walk and chew gum at the same time.”

Moreover, however valid – indeed, essential – it is to distinguish between property and human life, she – again – shouldn’t be dismissing the grounds of her own church, or any church, as just any property, especially when she’s willing to wave the “sacred space” flag when it suits Never Trumper purposes.

In case you think she’s an atypical voice for her Diocese’s leadership – don’t. Its Facebook page, which it uses actively, contains not a word of condemnation for the church arson, either.

And here’s the reaction of St. John’s rector Rev. Rob Fisher the day after the arson:

Who knows who set the fire? We have no idea. But I think it’s important to say, we know that one thing for sure is that they weren’t people who were representative of what this is all about..It’s really sad to look in and see the nursery with children’s toys and books and a crib and changing table all just completely torched. But it didn’t get beyond that.”

Not a lot of outrage there, either.

It’s also important to examine critically the references of both Budde and Fisher (and so many others, including DC Mayor Muriel Boswer) to the idea that federal authorities acted “shamefully” when they ordered the St. John’s/Lafayette Park area cleared so that Mr. Trump could walk to the church roughly half an hour before Bowser’s 7 PM widely communicated curfew set in. Their main offense, it seems, was directing federal police to move with dispatch (and, it turns out, in certain instances brusquely) against civilians who were still exercising their pre-curfew legal right to protest peacefully.

What this indictment completely overlooks:

>When you’re protesting peacefully before a curfew begins, if you’re someone with any good will and/or half a brain, you don’t wait until the last minute to leave.

>That goes double when the area is right next door to the official residence of a duly elected head of government.

>That goes triple when the area was the scene of arson and violent attacks on law enforcement just the night before.

>The bomb throwers and the looters and the vandals don’t wear “Trouble-Maker” signs readily readable by the police.

In other words, anyone still hanging around Lafayette Park when the clearing operation began should have known they were asking for trouble.

Finally, I can’t resist noting that before coming to D.C. in 2011, Budde served in…Minneapolis. For eighteen years. Fat lot of good she did there.