Friday, January 16, 2009

Rev. Buice and the people of TVUUC set an example for the world

As I was taking a dump this morning, I was flipping through this week's Newsweek, January 10 2009 edition and there in the My Turn column is Rev. Chris Buice, the pastor of the Tennesee Valley Unitarian Universalist Church in Knoxville, Tenn. where last July, 2008, two of his congregants were killed, and six injured, by a gunman who came into the church to kill liberals.

How should people respond to an act like this? How is justice served?

Rev. Buice gives part of an answer that makes me proud to be a Unitarian Universalist. You can read Rev. Buice's essay by clicking here.

It is interesting that the eyes of the world on on TVUUC and Rev. Buice is providing outstanding leadership at a time of great grief and suffering. This is UU theology at work. Watch and learn. Perhaps this whole affair is a "teachable moment" and discussion of the best way to handle tragedy like this is UU theology at its finest.

To me this is not just academic as it is not to countless others who have lost loved ones to senseless violence. How does one make sense out of the senseless in the "big picture"?

My two youngest children where killed by a three time drunk driver in 1993. Brigid was 5 and Ryan was 8. How does one deal with such things? It seems that Rev. Buice and his congregation have some good ideas that they, perhaps, can teach us all.


  1. Rev. Buice’s essay brings to mind the Amish Community's response to the horrific killing spree in Nickel Mines, Pennsylvania, in 2006. A gunman fatally shot five Amish schoolgirls, ages 6 to 13, in their one-room schoolhouse. After the shooting, before the blood had even been scrubbed from the floorboards, members of the Amish community went to the home of the gunman’s family to comfort them. To comfort THEM! Their precious children had just been executed in a brutal act of violence, and they lashed out with forgiveness and compassion. Not only did they attend the killer’s funeral, they invited his widow to attend one of the victims’ funerals.

    The Amish would have had every right to be filled with boundless rage. If they took a torch to the killer’s house, we would have understood. If they picketed his funeral chanting and waving signs reading “CHILD MURDERER!” who would blame them? But offering reconciliation was a shocker. Almost unthinkable.

    We live in a society that tends to glorify aggression and make entertainment of violence. Revenge feels like a natural right. But the Amish, frequently portrayed and backward and simple, displayed a powerful strength that’s all too rare. They, Rev. Buice, and everyone who refuses to return hatred with hatred are our real action heroes.

  2. Hi Kelly:

    Thanks for pointing this out. One of my favorite books last year was Amish Grace: How Forgiveness Transcended Tragedy, by Kraybill, et al.

    It is a remarkable story based on a solid theological base of the Amish's anabaptist beliefs.

    Thanks for your comment.

    All the best,

    David Markham

  3. I have read the article and am not overly impressed with what Rev. Chris Buice says in it. Some of what he says seems to be either naïve or outright disingenuous. Here are some point-by-point responses to some of his statements. Whether Rev. Buice is a willing participant in it or not the UUA and Unitarian*Universalists are trying to capitalize on the tragic Tennessee Valley U*U Church shootings to recruit new members to the U*U "religious community".

    :In our church, the word "liberal" is meant to describe whom we include, not whom we exclude.

    What is this U*U jargon supposed to mean? Everybody knows that U*U include "liberals". The fact of the matter however is that Unitarian*Universalist "churches" knowingly and willfully exclude all kinds of people, including no shortage of political conservatives and even some political and/or religious liberals. U*Us certainly tend to exclude Republicans and other political conservatives, or at least make them feel anything but genuinely welcome in any number of U*U "Welcoming Congregations", but some U*U "churches" can and do exclude both political and religious liberals if they are Christian oriented or otherwise theistic.

    :The children in our congregation say these words in chapel services: "Ours is the church of the loving heart, open mind and helping hands."

    Children and adults repeat that U*U "mantra" in many if not most U*U "Welcoming Congregations" including the outrageously hypocritical Unitarian Church of Montreal, but that does not mean that many Unitarian*Universalist congregations are not in fact remarkably cold-hearted, obstinately closed minded, and anything but helping handed in their rather inhuman human relations with some of their members to say nothing of non-U*Us.

    :Our understanding of liberalism speaks to a generosity of spirit that transcends partisan politics.

    That *may*, or may not, be true of Rev. Buice's Tennessee Valley U*U church, I am prepared to give his tragedy stricken church the benefit of any doubts I may have, but. . . it is far from true of most U*U "churches". The Unitarian*Universalist "religious community" is not known as "the religious arm of the Democratic Party", to say nothing of "the Church of the Far Left", for nothing. . .

    :Sadly, though, the word "liberal" has become demonized.

    Sadly, the word "liberal" has become *devalued* by the words and actions of too many self-described "liberals" and I say that as a moderate left-leaning political liberal myself. Some Unitarian*Universalist "liberals" don't seem to know the meaning of the word "liberal" judging by their far from genuinely liberal words and actions. I invite Unitarian*Universalists to look the word "liberal" up in a good dictionary and refresh their memories as they seem to have forgotten its meaning. Open to new ideas for progress, tolerant of the ideas and behavior of others, broad-minded, free from bigotry my U*U. . .

    :The man accused of the shootings owned books by popular media personalities who vilify liberals as evil, unpatriotic, godless and treasonous.

    Quite regrettably *some* "liberals", including some U*U "liberals", say and do evil things, are questionably patriotic, and definitely are godless as in being atheists if not outright anti-theists, although being an atheist should not be a crime in and of itself.

    :I think our country needs to reclaim the word from those who defame it.

    The U*U World would be very well advised to reclaim the word "liberal" from the outrageously hypocritical Totalitarian U*Unitarians who devalue and indeed defame the word "liberal" through their own illiberal words and actions. The public image of the "Church of the Tarnished Image" is not tarnished by those people who care enough about their "church" to point out the tarnishing in the hope and expectation that the "church" will then responsibly clean up its act and repolish its tarnished image, but by those hypocritical Unitarian*Universalist U*Us whose words and actions make a total mockery of the purported principles and purposes of Unitarian*Universalism aka U*Uism and who are thus responsible for tarnishing the image of of the U*U "church".

    :Far from being evil, we liberals aspire to overcome evil with good.

    Rev. Chris Buice is badly mistaken aka naïve *if* he actually believes this brazen generalization about liberals. If he doesn't really believe it then he is being disingenuous aka lying. . . There are plenty of self-described U*U "liberals" who apparently aspire to overcome good with evil and too many other DIM Thinking U*Us who allow them to get away with their evil words and actions.

    It is time for Rev. Chris Buice and other "like-minded" naïve and/or disingenuous U*Us to wake up and smell the rancid Bridgehead coffee that to many people are being served in U*U "Welcoming Congregations".

  4. Hi Robin:

    Once again you puncture the pomposity and lay bare the shadow side of Unitarian Universalism which most UUs fear to examine and deal with.

    The idea that UUs are trying to capitalize on this incident to recruit new members bothers me and I think you are correct about this because I have observed the same behavior.

    Thank you for your analysis and comments,

    David Markham

  5. There is no question that under President Bill Sinkford's questionable leadership the UUA is trying to capitalize on the Knoxville tragedy to recruit new members as may be verified by reading what is said in the full page ad that the UUA took out in The New York Times very soon after the shootings, apparently without the knowledge and consent of the Knoxville U*U congregation if I am to believe one U*Us' online testimony.

    I am sorry to have to say so but I see no evidence of President Bill Sinkford living up to his own words about U*Us rededicating themselves to their "religious
    mission" to welcome the stranger, to love our neighbor, to work for justice, to nurture the spirits of all who seek a liberal religious home, and to help heal this wounded world in his all but non-existent human relations with me and other people who have been subjected to various injustices by U*Us. Do you?

  6. And the word verification code for this post was mergeste which, being bilingual and all, I will interpret as potentially meaning yet another noble exploit on the U*U Sea of Hypocrisy. . .

  7. puadur was the word verification code for the above follow-up comment which, being a bilingual Anglo in Quebec, I will interpret as a slightly slurred reference to "pur et dur". ;-)

  8. Having said all that, it is *possible* that the Tennessee Valley Unitarian*Universalist Church is a truly exemplary U*U congregation and that Rev. Chris Buice is sincere, albeit naïvely sincere, in his Newsweek essay. I did see some signs that this may be so, but this does not change the fact that the UUA, and apparently even Rev. Chris Buice himself, have attempted to capitalize on the tragedy in order to recruit new members of the "Uncommon Denomination" aka "The Tiny, Declining, Fringe Religion" and I personally find that distasteful to say the least. I could have capitalized on all the publicity surrounding the Tennessee Valley Church shootings by weighing in on it on The Emerson Avenger blog and creating some blog posts that would have ranked highly in Google searches for information about the shooting. I did no such thing out of respect for both the dead and the survivors, especially since I did see signs that TVUUC was responding to the tragedy in an exemplary manner very early in its response to it. Still, I believe that the questions that I have posed here and the counterpoint to some of Rev. Chris Buice's questionable assertions are valid and need to be stated.

  9. Here is the reworked version of the above commentary that I submitted to Newsweek as a letter to the editor several days ago. It seems that they do not want to publish it -

    Rev. Chris Buice's 'Everyone welcome, Even Now'

    Tuesday, January 20, 2009 11:26 AM

    From: "Robin Edgar"


    Robin Edgar
    4755 rue St. Hubert
    Montreal, Quebec
    Canada H2J 2X6

    Tel. (514) XXX-XXXX or (514) XXX-XXXX cellphone

    Dear Newsweek editors,

    The following letter to the editor is in counterpoint response to Unitarian*Universalist minister Rev. Chris Buice's 'My Turn' essay titled 'Everyone welcome, Even Now' published in the January 19, 2008 (dated) edition of Newsweek.

    It is currently 330 words long, which I expect is on the long side for a Newsweek letter to the editor, but I am having trouble shortening it while still making all of the counter-points that I believe need to be made to Rev. Chris Buice's naïve and/or disingenuous assertions about Unitarian*Universalism in his opinion editorial. I could easily expand it into a longer 'My Turn' type opinion editorial if you are prepared to publish it as such. If it is too long for a letter to the editor please edit it yourselves (sentences enclosed within brackets may be deleted) or suggest how I might rewrite it and resubmit it to you. I hope that you will agree to publish it because Unitarian*Universalist hypocrisy should be exposed to public view.

    Thank you,

    Robin Edgar

    "Excommunicated" Unitarian

    Dear Editors,

    Some of Rev. Chris Buice's claims about Unitarian*Universalism are either incredibly naïve or outright disingenuous. Unitarian*Universalist liberalism by no means transcends partisan politics in many U*U "churches". The so-called "Church of the Far Left" is not known as "the religious arm of the Democratic Party" for nothing. . . Many U*U "churches" include political liberals to the exclusion of political conservatives who are bona fide religious liberals yet find themselves "less than welcome" in many U*U "Welcoming Congregations". Even political liberals are excluded by some "Humanist" dominated U*U "churches" if they are Christian Unitarians or Universalists, or otherwise believe in God. (Some U*U "churches" can be remarkably cold-hearted, obstinately closed minded, and anything but helping handed in their human relations non-U*Us and even some U*U "church" members.)

    Sadly, the word "liberal" has become *devalued* by the words and actions of too many self-described "liberals" and I say that as both a political and religious liberal myself. Some U*U "liberals" defame the word "liberal" with their far from genuinely liberal words and actions. I invite U*Us to look the word "liberal" up in a good dictionary since they seem to have forgotten its core meanings -

    Open to new ideas for progress, tolerant of the ideas and behavior of others, broad-minded, free from bigotry.

    Unitarian*Universalists of good faith would be very well advised to reclaim the word "liberal" from the hypocritical "liberal" U*Us of bad faith who devalue, and indeed defame, the word "liberal" through their far from genuinely liberal words and actions.

    Rev. Chris Buice is naïve *if* he actually believes that liberals always "aspire to overcome evil with good". There are many U*U "liberals" who do the exact opposite, and too many sheepish and sheep-like U*Us who allow these hypocrites to "get away with murder". It is time for Rev. Chris Buice and other "like-minded" (naïve, if not outright disingenuous,) U*Us to wake up and smell the spoiled Bridgehead coffee that too many people are being served in too many U*U "churches".


    Robin Edgar

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