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Mailbox, Winter 2008

Knoxville shootings, Christian tolerance garner responses.
By Jane Greer
Winter 2008 11.1.08

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Of the forty-one letters we received in the past two months, the most, eight, were about the shootings at the Tennessee Valley Unitarian Universalist Church in Knoxville on July 27, in which two people were killed and six injured. Since the shootings took place just before we went to press, we were only able to include a short article about it in the Fall issue. However, we did publish eight news and two opinion pieces about it at uuworld .org. Extensive coverage appears in this issue starting on page 38.

One of the opinion pieces, “Love Can’t Fix Everything” by the Rev. Meg Barnhouse, drew three responses. Barnhouse knew the Knoxville shooter, Jim David Adkisson, personally, as well as his fifth wife—a one-time member of the Knoxville congregation. The Rev. Brent Smith, minister of All Souls Community Church of West Michigan in Grand Rapids, Mich., wrote, “You were making the distinction we UUs often times refuse to make, between the finite, limited, and flawed love we can extend to other human beings, especially those who perpetuate such evil acts; and the unconditional love of all souls that is God.”

The Rev. Robert A. Thayer, minister of the UU Church of Brockton, Mass., applied his background in prison chaplaincy to understand the killer’s motives: “Although it does appear that Adkisson ‘hated liberals,’ I do not think he would have perpetrated this act in a UU congregation based on hatred of liberals alone. It was the link between his ex-wife and the church that constitutes his sociopathic reasoning.”

The second largest number of letters, seven, reacted to UUA President William G. Sinkford’s “Our Calling” column, in which he urged tolerance of other religions, including Christianity.

“I have been a Dianic Pagan for the past twenty years, wrote Beth Hansen of Easton, Md. “If I went to an interfaith breakfast and led the prayer thanking the Goddess Demeter for our food, how would the Christians react? With love and tolerance? I suspect not.”

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