On Sunday morning, in Knoxville, TN, a man shot 9 people at the Tennessee Valley Unitarian Universalist Church. Two of the victims have died. When I heard about this shooting while driving to a friend's house yesterday, they did not mention the name of the church, just that there had been a shooting at a Knoxville church, and one man (at the time) had died. Last night, I got an e-mail from my church, First Unitarian Universalist Church of Nashville, letting us know that this had happened, and letting us know what resources are availible to us to deal with this tragedy.
This morning, a friend e-mailed me about this, and send me this news story from the local Nashville paper. The story was followed by discussion of the tragedy and the story itself. In the discussion, several things came up that saddened me greatly.
First off. Let us acknowledge the absolute tragedy of this shooting. The children of the congregation were presenting a play that they had worked very hard to present. Their parents, relatives, and members of the congregation just there to support them because they were members of the same church family, were all there out of love. These 200 people, including the 7 injured and 2 dead, were there only to be together as a church family and support the children and youth. My thoughts and prayers are with everyone injured, those who grieve, and I hope that the members and friends of the Tennessee Valley UU congregation can find peace and healing after this.
There is no reason for this, there is no why.
Despite what people have written on the internet, this is not the fault of Barak Obama or Ann Coulter. This is, like all of these mass shooting events, the product of a deranged mind that sought someone to blame for his problems, and felt that the solution to that problem could be obtained through violence.
I would, however, defend the TVUU congregation, and other UU churches as churches. They are places where people come together to worship and share fellowship together. We come together to celebrate our victories and mourn our losses. I'm not sure how that isn't a church. I don't think a shared creed is necessary to define a church. I think a church is like a family, and is defined by those who choose to participate in it. As Unitarian Universalists, we define our church family by the deeds we share, and our common principles. We elect inclusion, which is an incredibly high standard; our very principles tell us we must respect "the inherent worth and dignity" of even those who would call us names or harm us. At a time like this, when we might want to seek revenge, our principles call on us to seek justice and compassion. Religious liberalism is not easy; without the guidance of a creed or a single text, I personally find myself having to think about moral issues much more deeply and considering them in a different way, since it is up to my own moral sense.
May we all find peace and comfort.