The pastor of the now too-well-known Tennessee Valley Unitarian Universalist Church occasionally wrote columns for the local newspaper, the Knoxville News-Sentinel. Last March, he wrote one entitled “Tolerance,” in which he compared past intolerance of interracial couples to today’s intolerance of gay couples.
“In the movie ‘Hairspray,'” Rev. Chris Buice wrote, “the character Mabelle warns a newly formed interracial couple, ‘You two better brace yourselves for a whole lotta ugly comin’ at you from a never-ending parade of stupid.’ We forget that it was not that long ago that the law forbade such relationships, even while some prominent segregationist politicians engaged in them. Today, a gay couple might encounter harassment and derision for simply holding hands in a public park.”
Sunday morning, a whole lotta ugly entered the church’s sanctuary in the form of a man who was angry about “the liberal movement” and its tolerance for gay couples, among other things. The man started firing a shotgun he bought from a pawnshop. He killed two people and injured seven others before he was wrestled to the floor and later arrested and charged with first-degree murder.
So now we can add liberals to the list of enemy combatants in America’s culture war.
According to the News-Sentinel, Knoxville police department investigator Steve Still wrote in the search warrant that Jim David Adkisson, the man who was arrested in the rampage, went to the church “because of its liberal teachings and his belief that all liberals should be killed because they were ruining the country, and that he felt that the Democrats had tied his country’s hands in the war on terror and they had ruined every institution in America with the aid of major media outlets.”
Adkisson, who had served in the military, said “that because he could not get to the leaders of the liberal movement he would then target those that had voted them in office,” the search warrant states. Among the items seized from Adkisson’s house were three books: “The O’Reilly Factor,” by television commentator Bill O’Reilly; “Liberalism is a Mental Disorder,” by radio personality Michael Savage; and “Let Freedom Ring,” by political pundit Sean Hannity.
The Unitarian Universalist Association might be the most liberal denomination in the country. Most members consider themselves part of a post-Christian religion that draws wisdom from all religions and philosophies. There is no central creed, but the denomination promotes a set of principles that includes a belief in “the inherent worth and dignity of every person.”
David Gushee and Rachel Laser used a similar phrase earlier this month when they called on Barack Obama and John McCain “to bring a just end” to the culture wars.
“Gay and lesbian issues, like abortion, have also been tearing the nation apart,” Gushee, an evangelical and professor at Mercer University, and Laser, a program director for the progressive think tank called Third Way, wrote in a guest column for On Faith.
“But on these issues too we can find a shared common value and shared path forward. That shared value is human dignity. We can all agree that all human beings are created in God’s image and have and deserve an innate human dignity – even those with whom one differs or disagrees. We can all agree that honoring this human dignity is a high moral and religious calling.”
“Senators McCain and Obama,” they concluded, “each of you has great potential to model a new type of leadership. Each of you has the power to heal the country and carve a new path forward through our shared common values. We humbly submit our joint prayer that you, Senators McCain and Obama, help bring a just end to the culture wars.”
That would help, but it’s not their job to end the culture war. We all started it. We’re all responsible for what we say, write and do that increases hostility towards liberals or conservatives or any group of people whose beliefs differ from ours.
Obviously, there was a lot more going on inside the Knoxville shooter’s head, heart and soul than hatred of liberals. Police said his ex-wife once was a member of that church, that he was having trouble finding a job, and that his food stamps had been cut.
Angry, hateful and deranged people kill Amish school girls and Virginia college students and shoppers at a Nebraska mall. They kill Christians, Jews and Muslims, atheists and humanists, conservative and liberals, Republicans and Democrats, unitarians and trinitarians.
But there’s a whole lotta ugly out there, coming at us from a never-ending parade of stupid. It doesn’t need any encouragement.