The natural order

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One of the neat things about UU congregations is how they engage young people to participate in all manner of activities. High schoolers have weekend retreats, pre-schoolers have bake sales, drumming circles abound and more. It was on one of those weekend retreats that my daughter met three teenagers from the Knoxville church where a gunman murdered two people on Sunday.

When I talked with my daughter today about this Tennessee shooting, the only word she could find between her tears was the word "ironic." She can't understand how one of the most peaceful of all spiritual homes could be assaulted by a person who believes liberals are the source of all the world's problems. She wonders about all the other deaths that can be laid at the feet of right-wing political hate. Abraham Lincoln. Martin Luther King. John Kennedy. Robert Kennedy. Will it ever stop? she asks.

I hope so, I fear not, and I am counting on it.

Maybe the man who committed this crime is insane, which would at least make a modicum of sense. But I suspect he is not. I suspect he is a product of a hate-filled political movement led by the likes of Rush Limbaugh and John McCain, people who joke openly about murder, assassination, and genocide. And I suspect it will get worse before it gets better. The darkest day will be the last, January 19, 2009. But it won't end there. Some are already expressing hope that President Obama will be shot within hours after being sworn in. Some are no doubt plotting to bring their hopes to fruition.

Those very same people are using this tragedy to argue that you should have the right to carry whatever. Preachers, they say, need to face the harsh realities of life in these United States. They need to start packing heat behind their pulpits. Only then, in a perverse echo of mutually assured destruction, will peaceful congregations be safe from their kind.

The right to bear arms. Oh really? Why not hand grenades then? Seriously. If we're going into armed camps, I want the right to carry cluster bombs. You see, my aim isn't so good. Limiting me to assault rifles is an infringement of my god given rights.

Just what the hell did the founding white men mean by arms?

It's hard to resist linking all this madness back to the ego trip of Christian churches more than a thousand years ago. Back before earthly possessions and power trumped paradise and peace. It's deja vu all over again, the Crusades on Parade, with so many Christian soldiers armed and ready to kill at the drop of a hint.

The shooter in Tennessee isn't just another crazy conservative off his meds. This is the natural order of right-wing politics, pure and simple.

Updated with a new title and slant at 5:25 on Monday.

Comments

Armed and Ready

Our church is armed, drilled, and (heaven forbid something should happen), armed to the teeth during services. Somebody will have a lot of holes in 'em if they try that nonsense in our church.

Well.

God Bless America.

Amurica*

n/t

Which of the beatitudes is that?

Or, is that in the teachings of lucifer? Sounds more like lucifer than christ. Or, the old testament. Are you Jewish?

----insert witty remark here----coming soon----

Jesus Swept ticked me off. Too short. I loved the characters and then POOF it was over.
-me

That's called do unto others...........

before they get the chance to do unto you. It's also known as the express road to hell. No cheap grace available.



***************************
Vote Democratic, the ass you save may be your own.

My family -

My brothers, their wives and children, my spouse, and my son, spoke this weekend about moving far into the mountains, on a family compound, or commune, if you will, to get away from the craziness and distractions of daily life and be able to focus on creating peace for ourselves, and perhaps for others in a meaningful way.

It was the first time anyone beyond me and my sister-in-law had ever spoken up about it. Strange times.

Maybe not so weird

I don't see the cognitive dissonance in being a pro-2nd-amendment liberal—as I understand "liberal", that is.

To me, being liberal means opposing power aristocracies of all kinds--the authority of the church, the authority of the state, the authority of megabillion-dollar corporations.

All of these institutions can be turned, and probably started out with, benevolent intentions. But concentrations of power attract authoritarians, the very people one least wants wielding that power. So institutions corrupt, and have to be reclaimed by those who would restore their utility as servants of the community, not masters of it.

If one fears the corrupting influence of power, I don't see how one can support the notion of a privileged class of folks who are exclusively, or near-exclusively, entitled to possess and use firearms. It is because firearms have such physical and psychological power that they must remain the tools of the polity. Because what will you do when the aristocracy of the gun gets carried away? You will live in a police state. (I don't dispute that there may exist additional routes to a police state, and the USA PATRIOT act may have been one of the waypoints.)

That I think this way is why I cannot support the NRA or GOA, with all their noise about "hunter's rights" and spectacularly nasty choices of tactics in election campaigns, despite being superficially philosophically allied.

I firmly believe that gun owners should be demonstrably competent and responsible with their firearms (every military veteran I've met is). I am also suspicious of centralized licensure bureaucracies, though, so I have tensions I have not yet resolved in my views, which prevent me from offering a coherent agenda for reform.

One of these days I'll get the handgun training I desire, and join the community of gun owners. That date just got pushed back a while because I found out last week that I need to have my transmission rebuilt (or—gulp—replaced). Sigh.

But today's tragedy in Tennessee, and James's own fifteen years ago, make my petty troubles pale in comparison.

I feel fortunate that a gun has never threatened or harmed one of my loved ones. May you all share in that fortune.

--
recently transplanted from Indianapolis, IN to Durham, NC

I wouldn't recommend drugs, alcohol, violence, or insanity for everyone, but they've always worked for me. -- Hunter S. Thompson

--
Garner, NC

I wouldn't recommend drugs, alcohol, violence, or insanity for everyone, but they've always worked for me. -- Hunter S. Thompson

I think that we need to make sure....

that we call this act what it is. This is an act of Terrorism. If a Muslim had walked into a Conservative Evangelical church and opened fire, the headlines would be about the terror suspect, etc...

But because this was a white conservative male attacking a liberal church that is pro-gay, this was an act of a madman. It is in fact the end result of a concerted effort on the part of people like Rush and ThunderPig to demonize and dehumanize people like us on the left.

"Blessed are those who are persecuted for seeking righteousness theirs is the kingdom of heaven."

SCM

The Great appear great because we are on our knees – Let Us Rise!
-- “Big Jim” Larkin

The Great appear great because we are on our knees – Let Us Rise!
-- “Big Jim” Larkin

Tennessee shootings

I agree; it's terrorism. Just because the guy might have been unbalanced doesn't mean it was not terrorism. Many would agree that many who resort to terrorism are unbalanced.

I tend to think some but not all are; one man's terrorist attack is sometimes another's only perceived potentially successful method of fighting a vastly superior enemy.
I've often wondered what tactics I and others like me might resort to if our families were murdered and property taken and rights forcefully supressed for decades.
Not excusing the killing of innocents, but can we say at what point hopelessness and fear and anger will warp the moral compass?

Regardless, though, it was an act of terror, and one that, as a member of a Unitarian church, I've never feared but I've known others who have. A few UUs in our overwhelming conservative community have been fearful of outreach; some have been scared of signing letters. Some were reluctant to walk in the peace march I organized down Arendell Street in Morehead City before the Iraq War.
I've never been threatened here for church activities, but I've certainly been threatened, sometimes in my opinion seriously, for liberal columns I wrote in the Carteret News-Times.

I don't believe this will chill the desires of Unitarians to continue to speak out and work for liberal causes, though. In fact, I believe it will encourage many to take action more often.

I'm not sure how I feel about the cause-effect relationship between right-wing radio and television and newspaper hate-spewers and the action of this guy. I know too many hate-filled right-wing listeners who wouldn't dream of doing this. But the constant drum-beat of conservative bile certainly would seem to have the potential to create more of a proclivity for this type of action in someone who has, for reasons of depression or mental instability, already neared a snap-point.

It does appear interesting to me that one never hears of a "hate-filled" liberal taking a gun and going in and blowing away right-wingers. We just call 'em stupid and write letters and blogs.

bradford

bradford

Those who listen to Rush and Hannity religiously

are subscribing at the alter of hate. Whether or not a gun is used by a mentally unbalanced terrorist, the "conservative" agenda is itself a life denying tool for those who are different from its narrow views.

Progressive Democrats of North Carolina

Progressives are the true conservatives.

Yes, it's terrorism.

It's also been revealed in the news that this particular congregation had been the shooter's ex-wife's spiritual home for some time. So there was a personal connection of sorts. Not a reason, just a connection. It was not as random as it first appeared.

Not so random

It's somewhat comforting to know that it wasn't completely out of the blue. But disturbing to see that men's violent control of women rages on and takes ever more victims...

Sigh.

Speaking for myself

I don't think framing this incident as yet another example of patriarchal oppression is very illuminating.

Adkisson's victims were evenly split between men and women. One man died, one woman died, three men and four women were injured. I would not presume, as Adkisson apparently did1, that his male victims were effete, simpering, effeminate, or somehow stand-ins for women in any way. Doing so perversely reinforces his irrational worldview.

It wasn't Adkisson's masculinity, by any reasonable definition, that drove this premeditated act of violence. It was his sociopathic personality.

This was a crime against human beings. I see no compelling reason to slice and dice his victims by race, sex, or even religion—given the UU church's unusually non-doctrinaire approach to ministry compared to virtually every other house of worship worldwide in the Abrahamic tradition.

Now, if one wants to argue that contemporary American conservatism is positively correlated with violent psychosis—well, I won't put up much of a fight.

1

Knoxville Police Department Chief Sterling Owen IV said at a press conference Monday morning that a four-page letter written by Adkisson had been found in his car. The letter described his "hatred of the liberal movement," Owen said. "Liberals in general, as well as gays." Owen also said that Adkisson blamed the liberal movement for his failure to get a job.

Given this, Adkisson might have been just as likely to shoot up a meeting of Log Cabin Republicans had he expected to find his wife there.

--
recently transplanted from Indianapolis, IN to Durham, NC

I wouldn't recommend drugs, alcohol, violence, or insanity for everyone, but they've always worked for me. -- Hunter S. Thompson

--
Garner, NC

I wouldn't recommend drugs, alcohol, violence, or insanity for everyone, but they've always worked for me. -- Hunter S. Thompson

Words from the mainline

Nice post, James. My church, which is one of the old mainline churches cattycornered to the State Capitol building, also has youth meetings and trips, etc. The UU is not the only denomination which reaches out through fellowship. One of the great benefits of this approach is the web of connections that reaches across the country that our young people develop after such experiences. But it also has its costs. The youth in our church were profoundly saddened last year by word that one of their friends from another church in Mississippi had taken his own life. Hard lessons. Bad things do happen.

So it was particularly timely that our pastor, Dr. Ed McLeod, wrote the congregation this week as we struggled with the death of some beloved older members of our congregation. I don't think he'd mind if I shared his words with you:

Dear Friends,

We have had a difficult couple of weeks as a church family, as some of our beloved members have come to the end of their earthly journeys, leaving a void that will be impossible to fill. Anyone who has ever lost a family member or friend knows that grief is one of the unavoidable consequences of having our lives intertwined with the lives of others. If we did not love one another, grief would not plague us, but because we do love one another, our hearts ache whenever death intrudes on our community.

The only way to avoid such grief is to live a life of isolation and solitude, to make no attachments, to forge no bonds. But such a life comes with its own high price, for we were made for community, the full life God intends for us is only possible in community. And so we enter into friendships and relationships, knowing that life is tenuous and fleeting, but we do so because friendships and relationships make this tenuous and fleeting life good and rich and bountiful.

Having been reminded, though, of the brevity of life, don’t take your friends and your family for granted. They are God’s gift to you (and you are God’s gift to them), and so give thanks for them and take delight in them. Cherish the days you have been given, and cherish the people who add joy and gladness to your life. And while you’re at it, why not try to be the sort of person who adds joy and gladness to the life of others?

Grace and peace,

Ed

"Man is free at the moment he wishes to be." -Voltaire

"Man is free at the moment he wishes to be." -Voltaire

Guns in church? Really?

I am honestly shocked that anyone would think the solution to this problem is to have more bullets in houses of worship. That's like putting out a fire with gasoline, or ending a war by sending more invading troops.

As some of you know, I work for the nation's oldest and largest interfaith peace organization, the Fellowship of Reconciliation. We've been working against violence and for social justice since 1915. I blogged about this shooting and referenced James' post at http://FORpeace.net/blog/ruby-sinreich/intolerance-and-fear-rear-their-u...

Here's the jist of it:

The repercussions of last week's shooting at Tennessee Valley Unitarian Universalist Church in Knoxville are echoing around the country. Is this the inevitable conclusion of decades of intolerance preached from conservative pulpits (both literal and figurative)? And do open-minded people of faith now need to live in fear - as many abortion providers already do - of the one so-called Christian seeking vengeance for our sins?

Upon hearing the news, I immediately became concerned for my mother's UU congregation. They are located in a small beach town on the coast of North Carolina, surrounded by rural communities in Down East NC - not especially known for modern social ideas, but quite likely to have access to hunting rifles. As we observe Americans trending toward living more in safe, homogeneous communities, we can see both the cause and effect of this increased ideological segregation.

My friend James Protzman blogged about his teenage daughter's reaction to the shooting. She had met several teenagers from the Tennessee Valley congregation at a UU retreat and was grief-stricken at the irony of a house of peace being attacked so violently. "She wonders about all the other deaths that can be laid at the feet of right-wing political hate. Abraham Lincoln. Martin Luther King. John Kennedy. Robert Kennedy. Will it ever stop? she asks."

James came away from this experience feeling pretty cynical about the threat of further violence against progressive Christians. But the Reverend Bill Sinkford, head of the Universalist Unitarian Association, responded to this tragedy with the open-hearted love and understanding for which UUs are known...

Interesting analogy

I am honestly shocked that anyone would think the solution to this problem is to have more bullets in houses of worship. That's like putting out a fire with gasoline, or ending a war by sending more invading troops.

That's an interesting analogy.

Do you think people in a house of worship are more likely to use a weapon in anger? Is there something about religious services generally that lead people to put aside their reason and act rashly, with passion, and with disregard for consequences?

I'm not playing devil's advocate here (so to speak). I am deeply skeptical of all religious, superstitious, and supernatural beliefs. I am in sympathy with the things Richard Dawkins and Christopher Hitchens say about religion that get them unanimously rejected by "both the Left and Right" on television panel shows.

Nevertheless, I think this analogy ascribes too much power to religious belief. Plenty of people attend church services without troubling themselves with pious beliefs. Moreover, there are houses of worship that one can expect to be populated by people with a dim view of private firearm ownership. Do you submit that we couldn't even trust a congregation of Unitarian Universalists or Mennonites to not shoot the place up if we handed everyone a loaded weapon on their way in?

Now, again, if you intended to limit the scope of your remarks to churches whose congregations correlated very highly with Bush voters (say, 80 to 90 percent)—and there are plenty of them—I think that's a more defensible thesis.

On the other hand it wouldn't be very novel. The notion that two-time Bush voters are a bunch of violence-prone, self-loathing yet narcissistic nitwits constantly dancing on the precipice of a psychotic break is hardly one that demands more empirical support.

Just you wait—if Adkisson goes to trial (instead of pleading out), you'll find the Right suddenly and startlingly discovering the hard-nosed good sense it makes to have insanity defenses to criminal behavior. Why, sentencing him to six months of house arrest seems a fair sentence. I mean, you can see how provoked he was, with queers being able to get married on both coasts, and a you-know-what poised to take up residence in the WHITE House. What self-respecting Michael Savage listener can't see himself in Adkisson's shoes? It's only Christian to forgive him.

--
recently transplanted from Indianapolis, IN to Durham, NC

I wouldn't recommend drugs, alcohol, violence, or insanity for everyone, but they've always worked for me. -- Hunter S. Thompson

--
Garner, NC

I wouldn't recommend drugs, alcohol, violence, or insanity for everyone, but they've always worked for me. -- Hunter S. Thompson