During the Communist revolution, Bolsheviks would go out of their way -- when executing a Russian Orthodox priest -- to place him on the altar of his parish and THEN shoot and/or stab him to death.
This accomplished several goals at one time, including desecrating the altar so that it could not be used again in worship without a future visit by a bishop to perform the elaborate rites to reconsecrate a church for celebrations of the Divine Liturgy. This was hard to do, since the Bolsheviks were killing all the bishops, as well (other than a very small number who cooperated with the revolution).
I bring this up because of an interesting Religion News Service feature that has just been released with this headline: "Texas church to be demolished, like other mass killing sites before it."
We are talking, of course, about the First Baptist Church of Sutherland Springs, where gunman Devin Patrick Kelley -- apparently in a futile attempt to kill his mother-in-law -- went ahead and shot every person in the Sunday morning service, killing 26 and wounding others. Here's a key passage near the top of this story:
In what is becoming a grim American ritual, mass shooting sites from Sandy Hook to Columbine have been demolished and then rebuilt. But some churches that experienced horrific killings have sought to reclaim existing sacred spaces.
That’s not the case with First Baptist. Frank Page, president and CEO of the executive committee of the Southern Baptist Convention, and Steve Gaines, the SBC’s president, confirmed the decision to demolish the church after meeting in Sutherland Springs on Tuesday (Nov. 7) with Frank Pomeroy, its grieving pastor.
“They did say, ‘We can’t go back in there,’” said Page, referring to Pomeroy’s remaining church members. “It’s going to be a reminder of the horrific violence against innocent people.”
This is one of those stories that I am very thankful RNS took on, but I still want to raise a question or two about it.
To be blunt: It's true that religious sanctuaries are, as a rule, considered "sacred spaces." I get that. However, there are religious traditions in which some spaces -- parts of those facilities -- have literally been consecrated, in elaborate rites, as holy.