Monday, July 28, 2008

Knoxville Church Shooting and Faith

Yesterday, a gunman walked into the Tennessee Valley Unitarian Universalist Church (TVUUC) in Knoxville, Tennessee. Reports say he removed a shotgun from a guitar case and began blasting away as children were on stage to perform the musical "Annie, Jr.". Two people died. Others are fighting for their lives. Knoxville will never be the same.
On Sunday morning church bells across the country ring to call worshipers to church services. This could have been any church, in any town, but it happened here. We can never and should never be the same.
Foster father, Greg McKendry, did not hesitate to put himself between a child and a gunman’s wrath. He was the first fatality. “let people know that Greg McKendry is a hero, an absolute hero” his foster son pleads.
Some people call those actions guts or determination. I call it faith.

Ask anyone at random in Knoxville and they'll probably tell you they know someone who attends TVUUC. Or they'll tell you they have a friend of a friend who does. Personally, news reports are dotted with names I recognize from high school or community meetings. My daughter's high school teacher helped subdue the rabid gunman as did a university professor and the dad of a 2 year old.
It's easy to claim that you believe in God when life is easy. In the US we are free to believe, to gather in worship and carry a Bible. That doesn't make us Christians. Only our relationship with God can do that. Yesterday, we saw examples of Christianity under persecution that should bring us to our knees.
It's unthinkable that someone would engage in an act of violence on a church. It's a new form of home grown terrorism that rattles our senses, shakes our faith and is becoming more common. some shootings, such as the ones in Louisiana and Newport, TN a few months ago are an extension of domestic violence. Yesterday's shooting was not. Only time will reveal the motive behind the shooting. Wrestling with the aftermath will require faith and courage for the family of TVUUC and all Christians.
Are we, as Christians, up to the challenge of this latest threat to our faith? I pray so.
Thankfully, not everyone will be called to lay down our lives in the service of God. But we are all called to develop the kind of faith that will allow us to do so if required. Maybe that's what will ultimately come from this sickening display of evil? A new kind of faith may be born that's stronger, steadier and more secure. As we struggle to make sense out of senseless we can not only hope for a new faith, we can pray for it.

May God bring comfort to the people of the Tennessee Valley Unitarian Universalist Church in Knoxville. May healing come and justice be served. May the light of Christ shine on you and continue to be reflected to Knoxville and to the world at large.

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