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Are Christians being targeted for violence?

Mass killing in Knoxville, TN in 2008:
Comments by the public

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On 2008-JUL-27, an unemployed truck driver shot nine people at a Unitarian Universalist church in Knoxville, TN. A man and a woman died. The gunman had been stressed because he was unemployed. He hated liberal politicians and the media. He apparently decided to kill as many Unitarian Universalists as he could because the UUs most likely were among the voters who put the liberals into office, and they also treated gays and lesbians as equals.

We found comments posted to various articles in the CBC News and KNOX News web site to be fascinating reading. Unfortunately, the webmasters deleted many of the latter postings apparently because they were "unlawful, threatening, abusive, libelous, defamatory, invasive of privacy or publicity rights, vulgar, obscene, profane, pornographic, or otherwise objectionable."

These are some of the postings that survived the censor:

Comments on media reports:

One of the many comments that the article on CBC News gathered was was from "Gladman" who wrote:

"I can't say enough in praise of the courage with which Greg McKendry and the whole congregation handled the situation, limiting loss of life, even sparing the life of the killer. It says a lot for the heart of liberal religion." 1

Hundreds of comments were placed on the KNOX News web site. A few were:

  • "Akaikasa" posted:
    "The UU church faces a lot of prejudice based on its openness on many controversial issues. As it has been mentioned, we recently became more vocal on our acceptance and support of the queer community. It's just a mirror of all the controversy [the Tennessee Valley Unitarian Universalist Church] ... faced when they became one of the first interracial places of worship. Since [the perpetrator] ... was someone that no one in the church has been able to identify, I find it hard to believe it was anything but an attack on the church specifically."
  • Another comment, apparently now deleted, speculated that the shooting was related to the play "Annie" that was being performed at the time by the children of the congregation. The posting read, in part:

"Maybe God was upset because they were having a play in church that didn't come from the Bible? After all, the Lord moves in mysterious ways...."

  • "Usernameusername" posted:
    "It doesn't matter what denomination the church is! It doesn't matter if the members are Baptist, Presbyterian, Unitarian, Jewish, or Muslim. This is a tragic day for our community and ALL of our churches. Again, can we please show just a little respect??
  • "Drichards" wrote:
    "While some on this board want to state it is time to move on, there is still a process of pain and grieving many of us are working our way through. Some of the comments in the comment sections of the various KNS stories have been very hurtful."
    "I have seen attacks on my faith, I am a member of the UU Church, though not of TVUUC. ... Many appear to claim theirs is the "one true faith" yet while I reject that belief I do not respond with an attack as they have. If you do not hold the same beliefs as I do, that is fine. Each member of the UU Church is unique, and each of us have are seeking our own answers, each with our own belief system."
    "As a member of the UU Church I have grown to learn from many great books, including The Bible. I also embrace books in my beliefs, especially the writings of poet Kahlil Gibran. His book of essays 'The Prophet' is very dear to me. In trying to work through my feelings on this attack, I found this quote from one of his essays:"
    " 'I love you when you bow in your mosque, kneel in your temple, pray in your church. For you and I are sons of one religion, and it is the spirit.'
    ---Kahlil Gibran"
    "Some of you claim that you have found and know the truth, I believe you have found a truth. We are but individuals walking on a great path in the journey of life. Much of that journey is being a seeker of knowledge. Once can decide to take the path alone or one can join with others, for a time, and cherish the joy of sharing the knowledge we each have gathered along our individual paths. It is this gather of people celebrating this joy and spirit that makes a church."
    "I fail to understand why so many would express hate for those that are liberal, those that are gay, those that do not have the same religious dogma as they hold. These attacks on the UU Church and on gays, liberal and so on, are increasingly hurtful. Now is not the place nor the time for such discussion. ..."
  • "Et_vol_fan" wrote:

    "I don't believe as the Unitarian Universalists believe but it doesn't change my sadness that other human beings are hurting."
    "This isn't a discussion about religion but a discussion of lives changed forever. May God give these people peace today."
  • "Abuliam" wrote:
    "I have seen many posts today rationalizing what happened on religious or political grounds. While I was deployed with the Tennessee Army National Guard fighting the War on Terror, members of TVUUC supported my family. As a veteran and member of TVUUC, I can not express my disappointment enough for the manner in which many have approached this. Indeed, many of the comments I have seen online today remind me of the rationalizations used by the very terrorists we fight abroad to justify what happened. I can also not express enough gratitude for those gracious souls who have expressed their support for the people of TVUUC today. What happened today is not about politics or religion. It happened to all of us."
  • "Madmike19682003" wrote:
    "I don't condone vigilante justice but I lived in Saudi Arabia for a year and I can tell you from personal experience the legal system there will make you stop and think ten times before you jaywalk. Nnot that that is a society you want to live in, but ultimately self defense is your own responsibility. Call a cop and call for a pizza and see who shows up first. Let's quit being afraid of crazies, the homeless, druggies and criminals and instead lets make them fear us.
  • "DrayHoss" posted:
    "My heart aches right now for the TVUUC family, whether they be Christian, Buddhist, Pagan, atheist, or whatever. But my friends, we have to understand that they are not the random unfortunates of some 'tragedy'. No, they are victims. They are victims of a man with a gun, who purposefully strode into their most personal sanctum-- even more personal to some than their own homes-- and tried to kill them."
    "Perhaps I should beg your forgiveness for mentioning this so soon after this morning's attack, and thus offending the sensibilities of our Christian readers. Again, I'm sure the vast majority of you are wonderful, outstanding, loving people. But the fact remains there is a serious hate problem in this country, and it centers around a certain segment of our society who get each other riled in a tizzy because someone out there might not believe as they do. I'll be saddened if we learn that this hate problem contributed directly to this morning's murders, but I won't be surprised."
    "I hope, too, I can be forgiven for reluctance in bringing my family to what might be a hotbed of this hatred. Call it selfishness if you will... but to my eyes, the real selfishness lies with those who hate others because of religion."
    "Peace, y'all."
  • "CeeJayTime1968" wrote:

    "To all you people commenting out there, be mindful that Greg McKendry was someone's husband, father, brother and uncle. I don't care was his beliefs were, he did not deserve to die in such a manner. As one of his family members I am appalled at the fact that the community is trying to blame it on the beliefs of his church. The fact is a person who is evil took it upon himself to take the life of a gentle, loving, generous and kind man."

  • "Salsa_shark" wrote:
    "My heart is aching for the family and friends of these people...It doesn't matter what religion you subscribe to...It doesn't matter what color, creed, sexual orientation or what color panties you decided to wear today...this stuff happens everywhere, it's just a tragic, sad thing it happened so close to home...God Bless the families of the victims...may He comfort and sustain you now."
  • "Beth1" wrote:
    "To the family of Greg McKendry:
    'Death is not life's goal, only life's terminus. The goal is to live in such a way that our lives will prove worth dying for. This is where love comes into the picture. The one thing that can't be taken from us, even by death, is the love we give away before we go.' Rev. Forrest Church, All Souls Church, NYC."
    "Peace and blessings to you all."
  • "Reform4" wrote:
    Our church believes in the rights and dignity of EVERY person- me, you, everybody. The church does not, as you put it "promote homosexuality." We simply accept congregants no matter who they are. We were on the forefront of the civil rights movement in the 1960s and integrated our church very early on. It's not an agenda, it's just consistently adhering to a simple concept that God created us all, and so we as human beings shouldn't pick and choose.

    I would invite you to join us sometime and find out more about what we're really about. In the coming days, I think you will see how strong our faith is. I saw it tonight at the vigil. We are standing strong together, shocked and upset, but not afraid, and not angry. Confident we will weather this storm because we all KNOW we have each other. It's ironic that for a faith with such widespread believes, this is something we ALL KNOW without a doubt.

    (and yes, for the record, I consider myself a Christian- being a U-U and a Christian is not mutually exclusive to me).

  • "Katren06" wrote:
    "Everyone, we should forget about being a Christian or Aathiest, black or white, pro-gun or anti-gun, notherner or sotherner, staight or gay, sane or insane, or if God did it or not. What we should focus on is that people were hurt and killed today in a very tragic event. We should be worrying about the people who's life has been changed forever today, and try to help where we can. It doesn't matter what anyone thinks, what we should be doing is praying for, or what ever you believe, for these people to get better or in some cases, be able to handle what has happened. My thoughts and prayers go out to all involved. May God bless all."
  • "LavDad2" wrote to the KNOX website staff:

    "I tried reading through the messages to get a feel for what people are thinking. Too many messages have been deleted. I assume they were hateful. In my opinion you are not doing anyone any favor by removing them. We cannot counter hatred if it is hidden. It needs the light of day for people to know it exists. Only then can we counter it."

    "If all discussion sites followed your example the result would be that the hatred would go underground and fester and then explode when and where we least expect it."

    "Perhaps that is what happened at TVUUC."

  • "Bigdnknoxville" wrote:

    "Interesting how none of the people screaming how this should be treated as a hate crime are saying that now. All the 'Christians' here have either left or now they are turning it back on the church and its followers by saying they somehow brought it on themselves. The more I read here the more I am regretting moving here. I thought I was moving my family to a safe, sane caring community. Now all I see is hate unless we believe as you do." 2,3

"TVUUC Supporter" wrote on a blog:

"I may not agree with all of TVUUC's beliefs, but I respect the members of TVUUC just as I respect anyone who is motivated by sincerely held beliefs to make the world a better place. In order to show my support, and in an effort to convey that the vast majority of Knoxvillians appreciate TVUUC's generosity toward the community, I am going to make a donation to each of the following causes which are mentioned on TVUUC's web page:

Tennessee Chapter of the ACLU
Alliance for a Better Tomorrow
Knoxville Interfaith Network
Sierra Club
Remote Area Medical
Volunteers Ministry Center

I will mention to the organizations that my donation is meant to show my support for TVUUC after this terrible event. I will also be making a donation directly to TVUUC. 4


The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.

  1. "1 killed, 8 others wounded in Tennessee church shooting," CNN.com, 2008-JU-27, at: http://www.cnn.com/
  2. Bob Fowler, et al., "Church shooting: 2nd victim dies; authorities search accused man's house," KNOX News, 2008-JUL-27, at: http://www.knoxnews.com/
  3. Hayes Hickman & Don Jacobs, "Suspect's note cites 'liberal movement' for church attack More charges expected to be filed against Adkisson," KNOX News, 2008-JUL-29, at: http://www.knoxnews.com/
  4. TVUUC Supporter, "Support TVUUC by supporting its causes," at: http://supporttvuuc.blogspot.com/

Site navigation: Home page > Religious conflicts  here

Home page > Christianity > Christian history, beliefs... > Violence > here

Copyright © 2007 & 2008 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance 
Originally posted: 2007-DEC-13 
Latest update: 2008-JUL-31
Author: B.A. Robinson

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