|Pop Culture Gadabout|
Tuesday, July 29, 2008 |
( 7/29/2008 12:46:00 PM ) Bill S.
"YOU JUST WINGED HIM - NOW HE'S A UNITARIAN!" Reading about the recent shooting at a Knoxville Unitarian-Universalist Church inevitably brought up remembrances of my own past experiences as a member of a UU church. Reportedly, the shooter was motivated by a desire to target Liberals, so he selected a congregation where the vile creatures were known to, err, congregate. (That his ex-wife was a one-time member of the church probably had a bit to do with it, too.) All the wire stories reporting the event have played up the political aspect of the story, which is understandable, though I'm reluctant to place too much credence on the motives of someone who is clearly mentally ill.
Back in Illinois, my wife and I were members of a local UU church - since we currently live two hours away from the closest one, our attendance these days is understandably spotty - and even served on the church board for a couple of years. If Unitarians like to describe themselves as religious liberals (fair enough), on political and cultural levels, they frequently can be much more diverse. Nowhere was this better demonstrated in our small church back in Bloomington-Normal than in a flap that occurred when we were on the board over the Welcoming Congregation.
The Welcoming Congregation was a simple enough idea. Each UU congregation, after offering up a series of workshops on the topic, would vote as to whether it was willing to declare itself welcome to gay and lesbian churchgoers: a safe haven, if you will. You'd think such a basic idea - hey, we're opening our doors to everybody! - would be an easy sell in a so-called liberal church. But it wasn't - at least not in the Heart of Illinois - and the discussions about the ramifications of being a self-advertized Welcoming Congregation brought all the fear-filled statements you'd expect. Several longstanding church members (straight and gay) wound up leaving the church in the midst of the imbroglio, and though the resolution ultimately passed, nobody knew for certain if it would until the final votes were tallied.
My point in even bringing up this recollection is to state the obvious. For all the easy mischaracterizations that get thrown around about Liberals and Conservatives, the fact is that when you throw together a group of people, the range of personal belief is much broader than the professional polarizers would have it. I knew UUs in our church who were anti-gun control and strongly pro-Bush. I don't know the demographics of that church in Knoxville, but I suspect that its membership could be just as varied as the one I remember from Central Illinois. That some broken man with a gun wound up bringing a rifle to church to smite the Liberals tells me that maybe it'd be a good time for some of us to consider toning down the more divisive rhetoric, eh?
Yeah, like that's gonna happen . . .