Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Knoxville in the news

It's never a good thing when a small city like Knoxville makes the national news, unless we're talking about a UT team making the sports page. Unfortunately, it's in the former vein that the story of a shooting at the Tennessee Valley Unitarian Universalist Church made headlines Sunday morning. I would like to add my own sympathies with the public outpouring of grief and support for this congregation and express a sense of grief and loss not simply for the two fatalities but for the fallen conditions that allow for such heinous and inexcusable events.

At the risk of saying too much, I would like to add two more comments. First, as a member of a conservative faith tradition that otherwise has very little in common or agreement with the Unitarian/Universalist tradition, I would like to make explicit that these differences do not in any way diminish the grief and support I feel for this congregation and its families. From my perspective it seems the U/U tradition does not take seriously things that are vitally important to me. But these things pale in comparison with the tragedy and heartbreak that any community face when dealing with such robust and salient indicators of the sin and wickedness that have plagued creation since at least the Third Chapter.

Second, still as a member of a conservative faith tradition, I condemn the motivations that have, apparently, motivated Mr. Adkisson to such depraved behavior. By a strange twist of fate, I have close connections with people who grew up with and know personally Mr. Adkisson, and in their view (by which I mean to acknowledge that this could be wrong) he did not consider himself a Christian, neither was he reacting against liberal Christianity in some ill-conceived "defense" of conservative Christianity. Though his beef was, on the face of it, with "the liberal movement" (whatever that means), I am amazed (and offended) by some comments (such as this one) that immediately associate this tragedy with "bad (= conservative) theology." As we wrestle with our faith in God and our experiences in the world, I would hope that we could allow for the very genuinely held perspectives among us that do not necessarily or inevitably lead to violence, hatred, enmity, or strife. Could we acknowledge that evil actions are evil without respect to the theological and/or ideological beliefs that legitimate those actions? And could we lay aside just for a moment our compulsive need to label people and ideologies so that, again just for a moment, we might grieve together?

UPDATE: Mark Nelson, a friend of mine, has just commented on this tragedy here. If you follow his link to the story in the Knoxville News Sentinel, you'll see exactly the kind of opportunistic political name-calling I would have thought both sides would be interested in avoiding. We can be so pathetic . . . 

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