No struggles here. Just tragedy. Yesterday, an apparently deranged gunman entered the Tennessee Valley Unitarian Universalist Church in Knoxville and opened fire. He killed two people and wounded several others. The UU Church is one of many beautiful old churches in a row along Kingston Pike, one of the main thoroughfares of the city, just west of the University and Alcoa Highway (one of the two ways to get from the city to where my parents live, south of the river).
The killer’s derangement seems to have been a combination of too much inflammatory right-wing agitprop and frustration at Knoxville’s notoriously bad job market. The fact that he was a right-winger is not, itself, enough to have classified him as dangerous and there seems to have been little indication that whatever dislike of political liberals he had, it would turn bloody. But the fact that he was a right-winger does seem to have had an impact on his choice of victims. It could be that people just plain figured out “This dude’s kinda weird,” and nobody would hire him.
Some members of Rationalists of East Tennessee who The Wife and I knew back when we lived there were also members of the UU church. It’s a good fit — the UU church does not particularly demand belief in divinity so much as challenge its members to share fellowship and community and to do good works and to be moral people. Many UU members identify their religious beliefs as being “spiritual.” So these are friends of friends who have died. And the guy could have easily targeted RET itself, because those godless atheists are also all a bunch of godless liberals (actually, as I recall, RET had a good mix of people of many different political stripes and debate was — and still is — lively on a variety of issues of the day).
I’ve little doubt that the authorities will throw the book at the guy. Shooting people in a church. That’s going to fly like a lead balloon with an East Tennessee jury.
A closing thought, from a UU hymnal:
Spirit of Life, come unto me.
Sing in my heart all the stirrings of compassion.
Blow in the wind, rise in the sea;
Move in the hand, giving life the shape of justice.
Roots hold me close; wings set me free;
Spirit of Life, come to me, come to me.