This past Sunday, a gunman entered a Unitarian Universalist Church in Knoxville, TN, and opened fire. At last count, I believe two were dead and more were in the hospital. The gunman’s motivation, in his own words, was to “kill some liberals.”
I know a little bit about the Unitarian Universalist Church. I’ve read their seven principles and agree with them all. So my personal there-but-for-the-grace-of-Allthatis-goes-I feeling vibrates really close to my center. Loving, serving, tolerant respectful people enjoying a children’s performance. I have no doubt that a picture of the congregation just before the gunman entered would have shown smiling faces of joy and proud contentment.
I know a little bit about East Tennessee conservatives, too. Were it not for those isolated pockets of religious liberals like those found at the Tennessee Valley Unitarian Universalist Church, “East Tennessee conservatives” would be a redundant term. Just across the Cumberland Plateau from where I live in Nashville lies a conservative breeding ground second to none. I know about these folks because counted among their number is my father and his side of my family. (Before things get out of hand here, let me be absolutely clear that neither my father nor anyone in his family would walk into a church on a Sunday morning, even a liberal one, with a shotgun and intent to kill.) My only point here is that I am indeed familiar with the brand of conservativism bred in the hills of East Tennessee and because of that, sadly, I was not the least bit shocked to hear the gunman’s admission of his motive.
My only hope is that the miracle that rises out of this great tragedy, and there will be one, will be an increased understanding, a spreading tolerance, a respect for others which begins to take root in the red clay they call dirt over there. I hope the miracle of this includes recognition by a few conservative talk show hosts that the wry, bitter, edgy indictment of liberals they spew on a daily basis just really isn’t entertaining anymore. And I mostly hope the miracle of this includes reminding a few East Tennessee Baptist, Church of Christ, and Nazarene churches that someone once said, “Love your neighbor as you love yourself.”