Why is the church and the fact that it burned down important
As churches are universally known as places to worship God and reflect upon a person's sins, churches also serve as places of refuge. For Pony and Johnny, their stay in the abandoned church on Jay Mountain serve both purposes. They are able to regroup and think about the terrible night in the park, and the two boys are soon crying. Johnny is overwhelmed by his actions of the night before. "I killed a kid last night... How'd you like to live with that?" But after the boys are "all cried out," they settle down to reflecting upon their lives, readingGone With the Wind and discussing the gallantry of the Southern soldiers; and trying to interpret the Robert Frost poem, "Nothing Gold Can Stay." The church eventually serves as the place for the boys to display their own gallantry after their lit cigarettes start a fire with a group of young children inside. Their heroic actions to save the children from the fire serve as an act of atonement for killing Bob Sheldon and for their own careless use of their cigarettes; and shows how the three boys--Dallas, Pony and Johnny--revert from fallen angels to heroes "sent straight from heaven."
While Ponyboy and Johnny are reading Gone With the Wind, Johnny makes a remark about how the men are gallant, riding in to fight even though they know that they're going to die. He compares Dally to the men. When the church is burning and Johnny realizes that there are children still inside, he rushes to help even though he knows he may not make it out alive. Gone With the Wind helped influence his choice to do this. Johnny's choice to save the children from the burning church led to his death.