2011-10-09

Knoxville's Legacy

Our Unitarian Universalist Story has unfolded through the centuries. Today I tell a very recent chapter of our history. Many readers will remember it well. Let us never forget.

Just over three years ago, in July 2008, Jim David Atkisson walked into a Sunday service at the Tennessee Valley Unitarian Universalist Church in Knoxville, Tennessee and began shooting. Two were killed, six others injured. Adkisson said he was motivated by hatred of liberals, African Americans, and homosexuals. (Wikipedia entry: here.)

Unitarian Universalists responded with an outpouring of support, and strengthening of resolve. The full-page ad in the New York Times, taken out by the Unitarian Universalist Association, appeared two weeks after the shooting. It said: "Our doors and our hearts will remain open." (PDF of the ad: here.)

We drew on our heritage that has for 200 years de-emphasized Jesus’ superhuman powers, de-emphasized the idea that his death atoned for us, and instead emphasized what he taught us and showed us about how to live: loving our neighbor as our self, recognizing our neighbor in the despised, in the least of these. We became and remain determined to answer Adkisson’s hate with love.

Therefore, our Unitarian Universalist Association launched the "Standing on the Side of Love" campaign: a public advocacy campaign to harness love’s power to stop oppression. ("Standing on the Side of Love" website: here.)

Seeing our communities threatened by fear and hate, seeing how fear and hate leads to exclusion, oppression, and violence, we resolve to levy compassion to influence public attitudes and policy.

The "Standing on the Side of Love" campaign focuses on public issues where hatred most exerts its distortions.

Fear and hatred distort the national discourse about LGBT people (here).

Fear and hatred distort the discourse about immigration (here).

On those two issues, and others, our "Standing on the Side of Love" campaign brings together people of faith to call for respect and inclusion. It's a relatively young campaign, yet it captures the essence of our Unitarian Universalist story through the centuries.