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CHURCH ARSON IN ALABAMA: A STUDY OF PSYCHOLOGICAL COPING Melonee C. Tubb, William L. Ballew, Danyelle J. Brooks, Shawn E. Geron, Larry W. Bates, and Richard.

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Presentation on theme: "CHURCH ARSON IN ALABAMA: A STUDY OF PSYCHOLOGICAL COPING Melonee C. Tubb, William L. Ballew, Danyelle J. Brooks, Shawn E. Geron, Larry W. Bates, and Richard."— Presentation transcript:

1 CHURCH ARSON IN ALABAMA: A STUDY OF PSYCHOLOGICAL COPING Melonee C. Tubb, William L. Ballew, Danyelle J. Brooks, Shawn E. Geron, Larry W. Bates, and Richard A. Hudiburg University of North Alabama

2 Early in February 2006, ten rural Alabama Baptist churches were burned. It was determined that nine of the churches were burned as a result of arson. Note: The Beaverton Church fire was not the result of arson

3 Nine churches burned as a result of arson 1. Rehobeth Baptist Church in Lawley, Bibb County, Alabama. 2. Ashby Baptist Church in Brierfield, Bibb County, Alabama, 3. Antioch Baptist Church in Centerville, Bibb County, Alabama, 4. Pleasant Sabine Baptist Church in Centerville, Bibb County, Alabama, 5. Old Union Baptist Church in Brierfield, Bibb County, Alabama, 6. Dancy Baptist Church in Aliceville, Pickens County, Alabama, 7. Spring Valley Baptist Church in Gainesville, Sumter County, Alabama, 8. Galilee Baptist Church in Panola, Sumter County, Alabama, 9. Morningstar Baptist Church in Boligee, Greene County, Alabama,

4 Ashby Baptist Church – Brierfield, Bibb County Alabama

5 Rehobeth Baptist Church – Randolph, Bibb County Alabama

6 Antioch Baptist Church – Centerville, Bibb County Alabama - Damaged Old Union Baptist Church - Randolph, Bibb County Alabama - Damaged

7 Pleasant Sabine Baptist Church – Centerville, Bibb County Alabama

8 Morningstar Baptist Church – Boligee, Greene County Alabama In this community there were three churches destroyed by fires in December 1996.

9 Galilee Baptist Church – Panola, Sumter County Alabama

10 Dancy First Baptist Church – Dancy, Pickens County Alabama - Damaged Spring Valley Baptist Church – Emelle, Sumter County Alabama - Damaged

11 Purpose of Study Alabama and other southern states have had a history of church burnings. During 1995 through 1997 there were numerous burning of ethnic minority members churches. These burnings led to the National Church Arson Task Force and church burning to be classified as a federal “hate crime.” Some information from this report: –429 Investigations Launched -- The NCATF has opened 429 investigations into arsons, bombings or attempted bombings that have occurred at houses of worship between January 1, 1995, and May 27, 1997. –199 Arrested -- Federal, state and local authorities have arrested 199 suspects since January 1995, in connection with 150 of the 429 investigations. –35% Solved -- The 35% rate of arrest in NCATF cases is more than double the 16% rate of arrest for arsons in general. –110 Convicted -- Federal and state prosecutors have successfully convicted 110 individuals in connection with fires at 77 houses of worship.

12 Purpose of Study The burning of a church has a special status as a stressful event, especially if it is the result of suspected arson. Coping with this extraordinary stressor is the focus of this study. There has been little psychological research investigating coping with church burnings. Coping with stress is related to one’s religious outlook. This outlook could be conceptualized in terms of the locus of control, either internal or external. For the religious, better coping with stress has been associated with internal-locus and god-locus of control (Welton, Adkins, Ingle, & Dixon, 1996). A contrasted view is that the church building is divinely protected (external) and invoking God’s help (internal) may be met by (or with) some resistance. The purposes of the present study were to examine: –The psychological distress of the victims of the church burning. –The loci of control that lead to better coping with the stressor.

13 Study Procedures Demographic Information Questionnaire – gender, ethnicity, church membership, education, income Personal religious history with building Research Instruments –Multi-dimensional Locus of Control Scales: God Control Revision (MLOCS) (Levenson, 1974) – 24 items measures – three types of locus of control: Internal - belief that outcome is based on one’s own behaviors, Others - belief that outcome based on other people's control, Chance - belief that outcome is unordered and random and an 8-item God locus of control - belief that outcome is based on God's control –Diagnostic Inventory for Depression (DID) (Zimmerman, Sheeran, & Young, 2004) – 38 items –State-Trait Anxiety Inventory (STAI), State Form (Spielberger, Gorsuch, & Lushen, 1970) – 10 items –Perceived Stress Scale (PSS) (Cohen, Karmack, & Mermelstein, 1985) – 10 item version

14 Study Procedures Study procedure utilized the pastors of the nine affected churches. Made many efforts to contact the pastors. We were able to meet with seven of the nine church pastors. These pastors agreed to have church members participate. Pastors to distribute questionnaires to church adult members –Approximately 150 questionnaires were distributed Return of questionnaires to researchers by mail –14 completed questionnaires were returned, a very low response rate

15 Participants 14 Members of 7 Churches in Alabama Gender Age Education 3 male Mean 53.9Mean 13.4 11 female SD 16.6 SD 2.2 Race Marital Status Damage to Church 63.3% Caucasian 78.6% Married 71.4% Church Damaged 35.7% African American 7.1% Divorce 28.6% Church Completely 14.3% Widowed Destroyed

16 Results Correlation analysis State anxiety was positively related to both perceived stress (r = 0.73, p <.01) and chance locus of control (r = 0.54, p <.05). Damage to the church building was negatively related to state anxiety (r = -0.62, p <.05) and perceived stress (r = -0.76, p <.05). Gender was related to internal locus of control (r = 0.67, p <.01).

17 Results Analysis of research instruments differences Comparing the current participants to the composite normative means of the MLOCS, the respondents had lower internal locus of control, t (13) = -5.22, p.05. The respondents reported significantly higher mean (M = 17.75, SD = 7.93) perceived stress than found in normative sample of Cohen and Williamson (1988), t (13) = 2.23, p <.05. None of our participants met criteria for major depressive disorder. Participants’ subscale DIDs were significantly lower than the DID outpatient psychiatric patient standardization sample, symptom severity, t (13) = -12.72, p <.01, psychological dysfunction, t (13) = -6.35, p <.01, and quality of life, t (13) = - 6.37, p <.01. It was not possible to analyze differences between the MLOCS – God locus of control or State anxiety due to lack of normative means.

18 Summary of Results Females had higher internal locus of control Participants with higher chance-type locus of control (LOC) tended to have higher levels of anxiety, *p <.05 Higher perceived stress than norms, *p <.05 Lower depressive symptoms reported compared to outpatient psychiatric population, **p <.01 Internal and chance LOC was lower than standardization sample, **p <.01

19 Study Concerns Limitations –Very small sample size – Low response return rate Research Challenges –Loss of church & membership records –Pastors were bivocational and tended to not live in the community where churches were located –Pastors are gatekeepers to membership already overwhelmed with other issues – building concerns – press/media – salespeople/offers for assistance not all pastors are comfortable suggesting that their membership assist with research –Reading level of congregation probably varies considerably Suggestion for future research – Try to get pastors to let you pitch your study directly to the congregation – Minimize questionnaire length Use shorter forms Use fewer questionnaires (more focused studies) Use simpler version if available – Spend more time establishing rapport with pastors and congregation (multiple visits

20 References Cohen, S., Kamarck, T., & Mermelstein, R. (1985). A Global Measure of Perceived Stress. Journal of Health and Social Behavior, 24, 385-396. Dull, V. T., & Skokan, L. A. (1995). A cognitive model of religion’s influence on health. Journal of Social Issues, 51(2), 49-64. Levenson, H. (1974). Activism and powerful others: Distinctions within the concept of internal-external control. Journal of Personality Assessment, 38, 377-383. Smith, P. C., Range, L. M., & Ulmer, A, (1992). Belief in afterlife as a buffer in suicidal and other bereavement. Omega: Journal of Death and Dying, 24, 217-225. Spielberger, C. D., Gorsuch, R. L., & Lushene, R. E. (1970). The State- Trait Anxiety Inventory (STAI) test manual for Form X. Palo Alto, CA: Consulting Psychologists Press. Welton, G. L., Adkins, A. G., Ingle, S. L., & Dixon, W. A. (1996). God control: The fourth dimension. Journal of Psychology and Theology, 24, 13-25. Zimmerman, M., Sheeran, T., & Young D. (2004). Diagnostic Inventory for Depression. Journal of Clinical Psychology, 60, 87-110.

21 Acknowledgements This research was supported by a Faculty Research grant from the University of North Alabama. The authors wish to thank the pastors and members of the affected churches for their support of this research. The authors wish to thank rural Alabama for the beautiful scenery and the many food establishments for primary reinforcers.


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