Update: Unitarian-Universalist Church Shooting

Jason Pitzl-Waters —  July 29, 2008 — 1 Comment

“When I first heard the news, even before anything about the gunman’s motives were known, I couldn’t help but guess that it was because the UU *is* the sort of church it is – welcoming, and accepting of pagans, of religious diversity, of glbt, and human diversity.”Sangrail

As we continue to learn more about the tragic shooting at the Tennessee Valley Unitarian Universalist Church, the Unitarian-Universalist blogosphere, and its allies, react.

Over at Religion Dispatches, Laurie Patton remarks on growing up in a UU congregation, and how the shooting reminded her of her place in the “culture wars”.

“Sunday’s horrifying episode reminded me that as a liberal I was, and am, part of the culture wars—and that those culture wars are sometimes far more than just “culture.” They are, by now, a deeply rooted part of the split in American life, whereby those who legitimately seek inclusion and change are pitted against those who legitimately wish to conserve the best of our culture. The divide is so deep that those who are already unstable and prone to violence can draw upon those culture wars to justify violence—the same way that anti-Semitism or anti-Muslim sentiments have surfaced in violent acts perpetrated by unstable (and some alarmingly stable) people in recent memory, such as the shooting at the Jewish Community Center in Seattle and attacks on the mosques in the wake of 9-11.”

David Neiwert at the Orcinus blog notes that threatening to kill liberals is no longer ‘just a joke’.

“In Tennessee this weekend, the chickens came home to roost when a gunman named James David Adkisson walked into a Unitarian Universalist Church and began shooting. So far, two people are dead, and seven more were wounded. He was saying “hateful things,” according to all the news reports … Right-wingers love to “joke” about mowing down, rounding up, and otherwise “wiping out” all things liberal. It’s become a standard feature of conservative-movement rhetoric. And whenever anyone calls them on it, they have a standard response: “Aw, c’mon — it’s just a joke!” In reality, of course, rhetoric like this has historically played a critical role in some of the ugliest episodes in American history, as well as thousands of little acts of xenophobic brutality: functionally speaking, it gives violent — and frequently unstable — actors permission to act on these impulses.”

Transient and Permanent looks at the history of violence against UUs.

“Domestic terrorism has been an ongoing threat to Unitarian-Universalists because they tend to embody cutting edge trends that society is slowly, painfully moving toward. The issues change through the decades–integration, civil rights, women’s rights, pacificism, gay rights, environmental conservation, universal healthcare, religious pluralism, and so on–but the Unitarian-Universalists remain ahead of the pack year after year. Even though society generally catches up with them in time (by which point the UUs have typically already moved ahead once again), being on the fringe of the mainstream is a dangerous place, in America and in most any country. At various times and in their homes, churches, and out in public, UUs have been beaten, stabbed, shot, or blown up simply for their beliefs, and there is no reason to assume this will ever come to a complete end.”

Finally, Sara Robinson, also at the Orcinus blog, puts lie to the myth that UUs are “weak” or “soft”.

“Conventional wisdom says that we’re soft in all the places our society values toughness. Our refusal to adhere to any dogma must mean that we’re soft in our convictions. Our reflexive open-mindedness is often derided as evidence that we’re soft in the head. Our persistent and gentle insistence on liberal values is evidence of hearts too soft to set boundaries. And all of this together leads to a public image of a mushy gathering of feckless intellectuals that somehow lacks cohesion, backbone, focus, or purpose. You can only believe this if you don’t know either the history or the modern reality of Unitarian Universalism.”

For more reactions from the Unitarian-Universalist blogosphere, head over to the definitive UUpdates. The UUA has set up a special blog entitled Supporting Our Friends in Knoxville where you are invited to leave comments of love and support.

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Jason Pitzl-Waters