Sunday, August 03, 2008

May nothing evil cross this door

It's been a week since a man walked into a Unitarian-Universalist church in Knoxville, Tennessee, pulled a gun out of a guitar case, and shot and killed two people.

It's been a week of realizing that religious hatred and violence are not just things that happen in places like Bosnia, Africa, Palestine or Iraq; they're alive and well in the United States of America...and sometimes they're directed at people like me. It's been an unsettling realization.

I'm a Unitarian Universalist. For about five years in the mid-'90s, I lived in Knoxville. I attended some Sunday services at that UU church, though I never became a member.

This morning at my UU church, we sang May Nothing Evil Cross This Door. The words carried a new layer of meaning. My eyes teared, at times my voice faltered.

In her sermon, our minister spoke about the Tennessee killings. She spoke of the usher who put himself between the shooter and the rest of the congregation, and was shot and killed. She spoke of those who made sure the children got out safely, and of the brave souls who tackled the gunman and held him down until police arrived. And of the woman interviewed outside the church shortly after the shootings, who was asked what the killer had said as he shot at them. She told the reporter the man said hateful things, but declined to elaborate. She told the reporter, "The hate ends here."

I've been thinking about that. Would I have had the presence of mind, or the "control of mouth," to have stopped myself from repeating -- and perpetuating -- those words of hate. Honestly, I doubt it. I even talk back to the TV sometimes.

As a former reporter, I understand why journalists asked what the killer said. But I'm glad she didn't tell them. If she had, those hateful words would have become lurid headlines, fodder for breathless newscasts and talk radio hatemongers nationwide. Some things are better left unsaid.

The day before the shooting, at the BlogHer conference, I attended a session on "Beautiful Blogging." One speaker defined it as staying open to the positive in spite of difficulties. Another put it more bluntly. Alyssa Royse of said, "Do I want to put my crap in the world, or do I want to put out something that will make people feel better and be better?" She said she chooses to focus on the positive.

And I guess that's what we did in church this Sunday. All the money in today's collection plates, along with notes of support and caring, will go to the Knoxville Relief Fund to help those affected by the shooting.

The final verse of May Nothing Evil Cross This Door:
With laughter drown the raucous shout,
and, though these sheltering walls are thin,
may they be strong to keep hate out
and hold love in.
The hate stops here.

Link to a story on the rededication of the Tennessee Valley Unitarian Universalist Church.


deejbrown said...

This is a beautiful post. I also attended the session about positive messages, which (there are no coincidences in this world) I met you.
Please continue your very succinct writing about the important things and the small moments when people make big decisions, like the woman you described who refused to pass on words of evil.

Anonymous said...

Thank you, from Knoxville