Tag Archives: TVUUC shootings

“Organized Love”

John Bohstedt, a member of the Tennessee Valley Unitarian Universalist Church in Knoxville, took issue with some of the media coverage of the recent shootings at his church. Bohstedt, a retired history professor from the University of Tennessee, sent an email message to Michael Paulson, religion correspondent at the Boston Globe, giving his viewpoint about what really happened:

An eyewitness who was protecting her children a few feet from the gunman said it was remarkable how everyone was doing exactly what they needed to do — subduing the gunman, calling 911, tending to the victims, and evacuating the sanctuary….

The reason I am saying all this is — Media have done much to make us a fearful people — to emphasize the danger in the world. Real life is often NOT like that, and in this case — evil was overcome efficiently by LOVE. One eyewitness said: There are a lot more good guys in the world, but the bad guys get all the press….

Above all, please do not let bi-coastal myopia cloud your judgments — for every crazed wacko with a gun, there are thousands of civilized, rational, and loving people in East Tennessee who have produced a remarkable culture. …

In closing, I have been studying the behavior of crowds for decades, in old documents and in our UT football stadium, and more often than not ‘there is METHOD in the ‘madness’ of crowds’ — the METHOD of our TVUUC church is organized Love.”[Link to Paulson’s blog post]

That’s a nice summary of what a church should be: “organized Love.”

More on TVUUC

The following information resources about the shootings at the Tennessee Valley UU Church cOme from Deb Weiner, the Director of Electronic Communications at the Unitarian Universalist Association. Deb writes:

Friends, information on Unitarian Universalist Association response to this tragedy can be found here. A new document, Making Meaning After Disaster, by Rev. Sarah Gibb Millspaugh, has been linked from this page. It can be directly accessed here.

Additional resources… as well as prayers from international and interfaith communities, will be available soon. The UUA website pages will be updated regularly.

And the following notice comes from the board of the Liberal Religious Educators Association (LREDA):

As educators, we are aware of our responsibility to aid in efforts to understand, or at least survive such an incident as emotionally intact as possible. Questions may arise in your own communities around issues of safety, or crisis management. Two books may be useful to have on hand: Trauma in the Lives of Children, by Kendall Johnson; and Children and Trauma, by Cynthia Monahon. Also, A Terrible Thing Happened, by Margaret M. Holmes addresses the need for children to find a place to speak about their experiences. An additional resource for your adult communities is available here.

Finally, Philocrites, a journalist by profession, has the best blog coverage of the shootings, especially: links to first-hand accountsmore info on the UUA Web site — links to news reports here, here, here.

Horrible news…

Yesterday, James Adkisson of Powell, Tennessee, went into the Tennessee Valley Unitarian Universalist Church (TVUUC) and opened fire, killing two people and wounding six others. He left a letter saying he hated TVUUC for its liberal views, and for its support for gays and lesbians. And apparently his ex-wife, who had a restraining order out against him because of his violence, was affiliated with TVUUC as well.

“We’ve been touched by a horrible act of violence. We are in a process of healing and we ask everyone for your prayers,” said Rev. Chris Buice (pronounced “bice”), the minister at TVUUC. If you pray, here’s some people to pray for: the families and friends of the people who died; the families and friends of the people who were wounded; everyone who was in the church at the time of the shooting; especially the kids who were putting on a play when Adkisson started shooting; people who weren’t in the building yesterday but who are associated with the church; the entire GLBTQ community of the greater Knoxville area; anyone in the Knoxville area who has liberal views; and don’t forget to pray for the family of James Adkisson. And try to pray for Adkisson himself, because he has damaged his humanity by this act, and he will find it very difficult to fully redeem his humanity.

I don’t pray, but I have been thinking about all these people. I’m a minister, so I have been thinking in particular Rev. Chris Buice — I imagine that Chris is trying to deal with his own shock and horror, while he has to appear at press conferences and minister to others. And I have been thinking about Greg McKendry, the usher who apparently lost his life when he tackled Adkisson when the shooting began, thus keeping Adkisson from shooting more people — ushers are some of my favorite volunteers in churches, and now through his bravery Greg McKendry has become one of my heroes.

And let’s acknowledge that this shooting has made me feel a little more vulnerable. The headline from the Associated Press article — “Police: Man shot churchgoers over liberal views” — sounds like a battle report from the front lines of the culture wars. R. J. Eskow, writing on the Huffington Post Web site six hours ago, points to the conservative hate mongers who have indeed advocated violence against liberals:

Jim Adkisson of Powell, Tennessee was the man with his finger on the trigger. He had mental health problems, and a hard and bitter life. He apparently left a letter explaining that he hated the church for its liberal beliefs and opinions. And the church had a sign outside indicating it welcomed gays and lesbians.

Who really killed those Unitarians? Was it the preachers who spread hatred and intolerance? The politicians who court and flatter them instead of condemning their hate speech? The media machine that attacks liberals, calls them “traitors” and suggests you speak to them “with a baseball bat”? The economic system that batters people like Jim Adkisson until they snap, then tells them their real enemies are gays and liberals and secular humanists?

If you ask me, it was all of the above.

You killed them, Pat Robertson. You killed them, Pastor Hagee. You killed them, Ann Coulter. You killed them, Dick Morris and Sean Hannity and the rest of you at Fox News. Link.

Whether or not you agree with Eskow’s words, it’s a reminder not to slip into hate as we try to make sense out of these shootings. I’m falling back on my Universalist theology. Classic Universalist theology said that all human beings will be saved and go to heaven — which in today’s Universalist theology might be stated this way: every human being is of value and is ultimately redeemable. OK, maybe only God (or whatever you want to call that which is larger than our selves) can redeem James Adkisson, but ultimately he is redeemable.

The good people of TVUUC, according to their Web site, are holding a candlelight vigil right about now. Keep them in your thoughts….

More on the Web: So far, the most complete news coverage is on the Web site of the Knoxville News Sentinel. They have video coverage too, including Rev. Chris Buice, minister of TVUUC, speaking at a press conference. The most recent story at this point (with links to previous stories) is here.

The president of the Unitarian Universalist Association has released a statement on the shootings here.