Inhumanity Worth Dying For
Even before I read this AP article breaking the news that Jim D. Adkisson had opened fire on a Tennessee Unitarian Universalist Church yesterday, murdering two people, I knew what the motive was. We have a Unitarian church in my hometown of Hudson, Massachusetts. Those who read my last blog may recall my doing a short photo essay last May about the more than 4600 American flags that they’d planted on their property to memorialize those troops killed in Iraq and Afghanistan.
The poet and arch-liberal Percy Bysshe Shelley once complained to a friend that there wasn’t a single religion based on charity rather than faith. The Unitarian church comes the closest to realizing Shelley’s ideal of a religion based on charity. Unitarians welcome everybody into their houses of worship, including gays. The sign outside my local Unitarian church even features the multicolored flag indicating their longstanding invitation to the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered community. I’m not religious, to say the very least. Yet their liberal, secular humanitarianism has earned my neverending admiration and fiercest respect.
Over the decades, they have fought effectively for women’s and gay rights, sheltered the homeless, fed the hungry. Yet this admirable body of work was considered too liberal by an unemployed man, such as the kind they would've gone out of their way to help, who’d taken two lives yesterday, including a church usher who’d bravely put his own body in the way to shield the others.
A signed, four page letter was found in the SUV of the miscreant explaining his intentions to kill as many people as possible then himself during a children’s production of Annie. The church’s views and biases were too liberal for Jim D. Adkisson.
Yes. To some people (think Conservatives), helping the downtrodden, helpless and disadvantaged is a sin worth dying for, a sin worthy of Old Testament vengeance. Murder is a lesser sin than fighting for gay rights or equal rights for women.
It would be tempting to excoriate the conservative movement for this but it would be unfair. Adkisson doesn’t speak for conservatives any more than Michael Moore or George Clooney speaks for me. At worst, the most vicious and hateful conservatives, people such as Hal Turner, Ann Coulter, Pat Robertson, Melanie Morgan, Michael Reagan and others of their ideological, odious ilk, will call upon others to visit death and destruction on individuals, whole communities, even entire religions because they’re nonetheless smart enough to know that carrying out such actions will likely get them the death penalty. Which is a whole different thing than compassionate conservatism.
People like Jim Adkisson are, thankfully, a rare anomaly but one that still exists among us. Once in a while they rear their ugly head when they see their own twisted ideology challenged, or perceive it as being challenged. Once in a while, an Amish school will get shot up and children will die. Other times, Baptist churches in Alabama will get bombed and children will die. Unitarian churches in Tennessee will be attacked and, if we’re relatively lucky, as with yesterday, children will not die.
But two elderly people did die for having committed the unpardonable sin of worshipping in a church that is based not on religious dogmatism but secular charity and justice. Because, unfortunately, some people out there think that their ideology is worth killing for.