Are Christians being targeted for violence?
Mass killing in Knoxville, TN in 2008:
Comments by the
On 2008-JUL-27, an unemployed truck driver shot nine people at a
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
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
"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
Hundreds of comments were placed on the KNOX News web
site. A few were:
"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...."
"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??
"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.'
"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
"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. ..."
"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."
"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."
"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.
"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
"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
"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."
"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."
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
(and yes, for the record, I consider myself a Christian- being a U-U and
a Christian is not mutually exclusive to me).
"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
"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."
"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
Tennessee Chapter of the ACLU
Alliance for a Better Tomorrow
Knoxville Interfaith Network
Remote Area Medical
Volunteers Ministry Center
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
The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above
essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.
"1 killed, 8 others wounded in Tennessee church shooting," CNN.com,
Bob Fowler, et al., "Church shooting: 2nd victim dies;
authorities search accused man's house," KNOX News, 2008-JUL-27, at:
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:
TVUUC Supporter, "Support TVUUC by supporting its
Copyright © 2007 & 2008 by Ontario Consultants on Religious
Originally posted: 2007-DEC-13
Latest update: 2008-JUL-31
Author: B.A. Robinson