Knoxville Church Shooting

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28 Responses

  1. Jeff Johnston says:

    The end of your comments pretty much colors any sympathetic remarks you have made blood red. My guess is that the guy who did the shooting feels just like you do about the UU Church, and was trying to make some kind of theological statement.

  2. Jonathan says:

    I’m sorry you feel that way. I made it fairly clear that I believe the shooting was wrong. Violence is not the answer for people who don’t believe the same way you do.

    I simply found it interesting that it is even called a church as I cannot find any single belief system that they hold to.

    If I happened to have been in the building at the time of the attack, I would’ve done everything I could to stop the attacker. I don’t care what you believe (or don’t believe), human life is sacred, and anyone trying to take it forcefully, as this thug did, doesn’t deserve to continue his or her own life.

    After further thought on your comment, maybe the shooter does feel the same way I do..or maybe he doesn’t. No one knows the motive at this point. However, I do find it amusing that you’re making guesses about what the shooter was thinking based on what I’ve said. I simply gave my opinion, and based that opinion on facts (What the UU Church says it believes) and on the Bible, which I believe to be God’s Truth. Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth and the life. No man cometh to the Father but by me.”

    Nowhere did I demand that others believe the same way that I do, nor did I condone the violence that took place yesterday morning. And if the comments I made constitute ‘hate’ speech, then this country is in sadder shape than I ever thought…

  3. Jeff Johnston says:

    Not hate speech. That is a term I do not use. Your words, rather, reflect a particular brand of popularized, ahistorical Southern religiosity which has become the majority form of Christianity in the United States. I am not a UU myself, but I have been accused of being worse. I did find a full report on the story here:

    I would add that this particular UU congregation seems to have made public statements on their beliefs quite clear. Both you and I may or may not agree on the moral and ethical correctness of their stances, but if people are being shot for their beliefs, than our country indeed is in sadder shape than most of us ever thought it might be.

    One thing that I think that you (a conservative) and me (a moderate liberal) can probably agree upon, however, is that all things like this are due to human sin. In this case the shooter’s. But sin is an endemic thing, so it is not only in human hearts, it is also in all human systems and organizations. The UU’s would probably disagree with both of us on that one. And, if they can still have a bright outlook on human nature even after yesterday’s tragedy, more power to them. Sometimes the knowledge of the depth of human depravity and sin can be too much to bear.


  4. Jonathan says:

    Ah, now we’re getting somewhere. 🙂 I’m glad things were cleared up here.

    Thanks for the link. It does show that he had specific intentions of shooting up this particular assembly, and this is the first I’ve seen of that report.

    I’ll agree with you in that anything us mortal humans set up, whether it be a government, organization, etc., it will not be perfect.

    It could be argued, however, that the shooter’s sin isn’t what caused his action, but the sin of this assembly. (None of us are perfect) Of course, this doesn’t make his actions right – two wrongs definitely do not make a right. This is all something that God will sort out in the end because we, again mortal humans, do not know the hearts or minds of those involved.

  5. Jon says:

    Very interesting ideas from both of you. I wonder what the shooter thought the outcome would be? I’ve read through the link, but his plan was to shoot until he was shot. I’ll bet he’s thrilled that he’s in the hands of the “liberal” government now.

    He hated liberals and gays… nice guy. I’m glad that killing is not as great of a sin as being a liberal or gay(sarcasm). I’d like to know what the shooter is basing his beliefs on. I believe that Bible based churches should welcome gays or anyone else they believe to be sinners (apparently liberals), but as stated, the UU mentioned may not have any beliefs based on the Bible.

    My belief, whether you asked for it or not, it is not our place to judge a man and sentence him to death. That goes for individuals or governments. Put that in your pipe.

  6. Jonathan says:

    A Bible based church will accept those who are gay or liberal. Only not as members, unless and until they are saved – at that point they’ll have a desire for right and truth according to the Bible, which is clearly against sodomy and today’s liberalism.

    Maybe in another post someday soon I’ll post about my thoughts regarding gays and liberals – but the comments on this particular post aren’t the place for it as it will turn into a discussion totally unrelated to the original post.

    At that time I’ll also probably be accused of being a ‘Bible-thumper’, which I suppose is alright because that is what I believe…

  7. Jeff Johnston says:

    Again, just more of your popularized, SOuthern ahistorical Christianism. I consider my self more a Midwestern, historically-based Christian.

    Here’s a question: Before the New Testament was completed (c. 110 AD), were there actually any “Bible-based Christians?” And don;t give me the old Old Testament argument, because if any assembly today based their beliefs and teachings upon only the OT you would not call them a church. BTW, in addressing the era of the NTs completion, we do not even begin the scratch the surface on the topic of the codification of the canon as a whole.

    At any rate, it is clear that the shooter is an unstable, angry man who has spent too much time reading conservative blogs, listening to talk radio and watching FoxNews, and too little time looking for and keeping a job.

  8. Jonathan says:

    I’m not sure what you mean by ‘popularized, Southern ahistorical Christianism’. My beliefs are based simply upon the Bible.

    To answer your question, first of all, the term ‘Christian’ literally means ‘Christ-like’. Without the entire Bible having been completed, obviously you couldn’t necessarily call them Bible-based Christians. Jesus started the church – there was no church in the Old Testament. The church came, again, during and after Jesus’ time here on Earth – that is why this is called the church age.

    Acts was a period of transition from the Old Testament ways of yearly sacrifices, etc., in faith that a perfect sacrifice, Jesus, would one day come, to that of a belief and faith in Jesus as the promised Messiah. Acts also describes how the church originally spread.

    When we get to the Epistles, that is the beginnings of the writings of the New Testament. These are the writings and teachings that church doctrine is based upon today.

    I hope this answered your question…

    Now one for you.. Can one be adamant and unmoved on what they believe and not want to eliminate those who don’t have the same belief system?

    Yes, this was a crazy man, and should be punished for his actions. But you sort of make it sound like beliefs similar to his inevitably end in this sort of rampage.

  9. Jeff Johnston says:

    For the mentally-ill, of which there are literally hundreds of thousands in this country, the sort of messages that can be picked up in the media will inevitable lead to such action. So not only is he guilty, but so are we all. That’s sin.

    As far as your ahistorical understanding of the Bible and it’s place in the Christian tradition, I can only ask this:

    Since there was not a completed New Testament in the lifetime of either St. Peter or St. Paul, let alone any of the other Apostles, does this mean (by your standards, that they were not entirely Christian?

    This sounds like a load of dispensational garbage to me. God’s grace is God’s grace. It always has been and always will be. Similarly, God’s judgment, which will be meted out to Scofield and the rest of the early Plymouth Brethren as surely as to you or I, is God’s judgment


    P.S. Dispensationalism is where ahistoricism and Christianism begins in the church

  10. Jonathan says:

    “Since there was not a completed New Testament in the lifetime of either St. Peter or St. Paul, let alone any of the other Apostles, does this mean (by your standards, that they were not entirely Christian?”

    That is not what I said at all. The total opposite in fact. Again, to be a Christian is literally to be Christ-like. They were Christians based on Christ Himself, and He used some of them (Paul, Peter) to write a large portion of the New Testament. And again, those are the writings and teachings that churches today base their doctrine on.

    How is this ahistorical?

  11. Jeff Johnston says:

    I misunderstood your specific statements on the early Christians. Sorry.

    But dispensationalism remains ahistorical. It is the creation of the 19th century English sect with no deeper roots in the true Christian tradition than their overactive and very ill-educated imaginations.

    Also, your assertion, earlier, that perhaps it was the UU’s sins that got them shot, makes the loony what — an avenging angel? In which case, set him free, for he has been ordained by God to bring death and destruction upon all liberals and other bugbears in the world. It seems that you have some ‘splaining to do about your theodicy.

  12. Jonathan says:

    Re: Dispensationalism. I’m not sure what I said that makes you think I hold this belief system. Some of it I do believe, but not all. –edit – Now that I look at dispensationalism more, most of it actually does line up with the way that I believe. Granted, the information I’m getting on it is from Wikipedia, so I’m unsure of its accuracy in describing it. But according to that article, I suppose that is me. My apologies for the confusion there…

    Re: The UU’s sins got them shot. I simply posed it as a possible argument. I didn’t know I had to hold that argument as my own. 🙂 I was going along the lines of something you said about how everybody has sinned..but did the sin necessarily start when the shooting started? I was merely throwing it out there for thought.

  13. Jeff Johnston says:

    Fair enough. Look as if this guy was also a self-described “Confederate” and lover of “the Old South” (see Newsvine for links). Maybe he was just trying to rid the South of Yankee influences.

  14. Patience says:

    I stumbled onto your blog while searching for information about the shooting. I usually do not respond to blogs but felt compelled to do so this time. You see, I am a Unitarian Universalist. Some of you statements reflect many of the misconceptions people have of UU’s.
    “a Unitarian Universalist ‘Church’ doesn’t stand for anything.”
    It is the things that the Unitarian Universalist Church stands for that drew me to them and made me want to be become a member. On this I can speak with some authority since I was raised in a fundamental “Christian” church and spent the majority of my adult life in a fundamental church. I put Christian in quotations because the brand of spirituality I encountered bore little resemblance to the way Jesus taught his disciples to live. Jesus said his followers would be recognizable by the love they show and by the care and concern they would have for the “least” one in society (Matthew 25:40)
    The slogan on the back of the t-shirts we had printed for our congregation says “Standing on the side of love.” Every Unitarian Universalist Church I have been associated with has stood for genuine love and compassion more so than any other religious group I have been associated with. They are very active in the community looking for ways to help others. Most of us have made our life’s work either in the helping fields (social workers, counselors, nurses, doctors) or in the field of education as teachers. They do not just preach love, they turn their love into action.
    “About the only good thing they believe in is the freedom of religious expression. It is a lot of what this country was founded upon. Nothing is mentioned of the Bible at all on this particular church’s website. Come to think of it, after browsing around a couple of other Unitarian Universalist ‘Churches’, I can’t find any mention of the Bible at all.”
    Yes, we do believe in the freedom of religious expression, but that is not all we believe in. As stated on our website ( ) :
    “There are seven principles which Unitarian Universalist congregations affirm and promote:
    • The inherent worth and dignity of every person;
    • Justice, equity and compassion in human relations;
    • Acceptance of one another and encouragement to spiritual growth in our congregations;
    • A free and responsible search for truth and meaning;
    • The right of conscience and the use of the democratic process within our congregations and in society at large;
    • The goal of world community with peace, liberty, and justice for all;
    • Respect for the interdependent web of all existence of which we are a part.”
    (I don’t about you, but those sound like quite a few good things to me.)

    “Unitarian Universalism (UU) draws from many sources:
    • Direct experience of that transcending mystery and wonder, affirmed in all cultures, which moves us to a renewal of the spirit and an openness to the forces which create and uphold life;
    • Words and deeds of prophetic women and men which challenge us to confront powers and structures of evil with justice, compassion, and the transforming power of love;
    • Wisdom from the world’s religions which inspires us in our ethical and spiritual life;
    • Jewish and Christian teachings which call us to respond to God’s love by loving our neighbors as ourselves;
    • Humanist teachings which counsel us to heed the guidance of reason and the results of science, and warn us against idolatries of the mind and spirit.
    • Spiritual teachings of earth-centered traditions which celebrate the sacred circle of life and instruct us to live in harmony with the rhythms of nature.
    These principles and sources of faith are the backbone of our religious community.”
    So tell me, which of the above stated beliefs run counter to what Jesus taught was most important, that we love God and love our neighbor? (Mark 12:30, 31)
    It is true that some of my fellow UU’s do not claim to be Christian. Nor do we believe that The Bible is the only source we for our faith. That does not mean that none of us are Christian. It does not mean we do not believe in what the Bible teaches. That does not mean we are any less of a religion, any less of a spiritual community.

    I was horror struck when I saw the report of the shooting on the news last night. Today, as I read the reports from the families that were there, I am crying for people that are my family. I can’t help but fearfully imagine it happening here at my church, with my kids there with me, because I too live in a mostly rural, mostly gun touting culture here in WV. But it doesn’t shake my faith or my belief system. Yes, I want justice to take place in regards to this hateful crime. But I also do still believe in the inherent worth of every individual. I feel deep compassion for my fellow church members who went through (and are continuing to go through) a terrible ordeal. I also feel compassion for the man who did the shooting. How desperate had his life become for this to seem like the best response? I ache for them all. But what was done can not be undone. Now we must grieve our loses and look for paths towards healing.

    In one article I read, it was reported that a local Presbyterian Church offered aid and comfort to the stricken church on the day this happened. What a loving example to other Christians on how to respond to others in their time of need. Hopefully others in the faith community will follow their lead and be willing to reach out in love instead turn their backs in judgment. (Luke 6:35-37)

  15. Jonathan says:

    Honestly, what I get from all of this is that UUA picks and chooses from different religions and practices, specifically:

    • Wisdom from the world’s religions which inspires us in our ethical and spiritual life;
    • Jewish and Christian teachings which call us to respond to God’s love by loving our neighbors as ourselves;
    • Humanist teachings which counsel us to heed the guidance of reason and the results of science, and warn us against idolatries of the mind and spirit.

    This means to me, “Come as you are, believe as you will, and you’ll be just fine.” This is in direct opposition to what Jesus taught when He said, “I am the way, the truth and the life. . .” That is what I meant when I said the UUA ‘doesn’t stand for anything’.

    The more I learn of the UUA, the more humanistic it shows itself to be. You can’t have it both ways… Matthew 6:24.

  16. Jeff Johnston says:

    That is specifically in a much longer passage of Matthew that deals with money and possessions. But I would say it is true, you cannot have it both ways –i.e. you cannot be both a biblical literalist and a proof-texter as one way will always cut against the grain of the other way.

  17. Jonathan says:

    Jeff, do you go around looking for trouble all over the internet? It appears that you thrive on controversy and arguments… If you’re going to make accusations, know what you’re talking about and back them up. Otherwise I have no time for your foolishness.

    I’m fully aware of the context of Matthew 6:24. Humanism and materialism can and do go hand in hand.

  18. Andrew says:

    “It could be argued, however, that the shooter’s sin isn’t what caused his action, but the sin of this assembly.”

    This is an astoundingly idiotic assertion. It speaks more to your ideological beliefs than anything you have posted in this entry. Hiding behind “just throwing it out there” is cowardly at best. Perhaps a better understanding in causation and a little less Fox news would do you some good. As a southern Christian I am embarrassed that those seeking news about this terrible event will stumble upon this web page.
    Keep up the good work!

  19. Jonathan says:


    Ah, now the cat’s out of the bag. I’m a coward.

    You obviously have no idea who I am or what I’m all about. Sometimes I do throw things out there to get people to think about what they’re saying, or maybe to get them to reason in a bit of a different way.

    Did I assert that statement as fact? No. Did I even go so far as to say that is what I believed? No.

    In case I haven’t made it clear enough to this point, the shooting was wrong. It shouldn’t have happened. It was a terrible, terrible thing. If you look at it all from a secular point of view, the cause is that this man was a wack-job and obviously didn’t have a ‘coping mechanism’ for those around him that he believed to be wrong. Did God have a hand in it? I can’t say, because I don’t know the mind of God. Could He have caused this man to go on a shooting rampage? Sure – He’s God. But I highly doubt it.

    So, some of my ‘astoundingly idiotic’ statements weren’t necessarily ones that I hold to. They were made to generate discussion, because that’s a part of what I’m all about on this blog.

    A sincere thanks for your point of view, and if you’d like to give a few words to help us all get an understanding in causation (since that’s obviously what I need), it would be more than welcome.

    Oh, and for the record..I’m not even 100% sure I get Fox News. It’s amusing how accusations are blindly made about someone when the accuser has the luxury of hiding behind the computer screen. I just forget that I have to explain myself in great detail why I say what I say, because people on the great mighty internet will invariably take it the way they want to so they can argue over it.

  20. Job says:

    You sick ************. A similar attack on whatever ************ snakehandling backwater church you attend would be seen as an affront to your god and your people. But when innocent individuals at a Unitarian Church (whether or not you recognize it at a church is inconsequential) are slaughtered by an armed madman you are game to debate whether or not they deserved it. Shame. Shame on you and all your kind. As a southern Christian who is an actual Christian, you are part of the problem and you are right for holing yourself away on a mountaintop because you obviously cannot mix with the rational, thinking, accepting society below. For shame. May God have mercy on you, because the Prince of Darkness will not.

  21. Jonathan says:

    Wow, thanks for the thoughtful comment. If you read carefully, I never debated whether or not the people deserved it. I did throw out a statement (which could imply that, I’ll agree) for thought-provoking conversation about sin, but never did I claim to hold that argument as my own. I never even elaborated on that argument.

    Also, if you were to have read carefully, you will have seen that I have said the shooting was wrong, and a terrible, terrible thing.

    The discussions that transpired in this comments section about the UUC beliefs have nothing to do with whether or not I believed they deserved being shot at. I’ll say again, it was an awful thing that happened, and I truly wish it hadn’t.

    It’s people like you that take a single statement out of context, blow it up, then go on a rant. I say you’re part of the problem.

  22. Richard says:


    Seems like you’re getting a lot of flak for not really doing much. 🙂 I just stumbled across your blog here and wanted to say I thought your article was thoughtful and dead-on. I’m looking forward to reading some other articles on your blog and hope to correspond with you in the future.

    I’d also like to throw my two bits in in regard to one or two of the basic tenants of the Universal Unitarian Church. Patience, I believe, asked which of their tenants were contrary to what Christ taught.

    Quote: “Wisdom from the world’s religions which inspires us in our ethical and spiritual life…”

    So one of the sources for their doctrine is this so-called “wisdom” gathered from other world religions. What says the Scripture?

    That the wisdom of the world is foolishness — 1 Corinthians 1:20
    That Christ is the only way to God, and therefore, all other “paths” of man’s devising are, simply put, wrong — John 14:6

    The Scripture is full of examples of God’s punishment upon sinful men — many times those calling themselves His people — who follow after and worship other gods. Simply put, all the religions of this world are idolatrous and wrong. So using the “wisdom gathered from world religions” as a basic tenant to your religion, and putting it on par with the Holy Scriptures has two inherent problems:

    First, it shoots itself in the intellectual foot. Whether or not you believe Jesus Christ is who He claims and whether or not you believe the Bible is inspired and without error, Scripture makes it pretty clear that true Christianity excludes all the other religions of the world. So saying that you embrace both the teachings of Scripture and the “wisdom gathered from world religions” is self-contradictory.

    Second, it borders upon — if not wholly crossing over into — the sacrilegious because it puts the “wisdom of world religions” on equal footing with the teachings of the Holy Scriptures.

    Now, to get back on-topic with the shooting itself… Nothing justifies what that shooter did, as you have said. Murder is wrong, regardless of who your victim is. I am saddened that nobody present had a gun — and I feel grateful knowing that if ever somebody does walk into my church, we will be armed and ready. And I even live right in the middle of a major urban metropolis. This shooter should hang, or fry, or do whatever they do in Tennessee.

  23. Jonathan says:

    Thanks, Richard, for the comments. Yours and Patience’s are probably the most well thought out responses out of the bunch here, probably topping my own responses to various comments here as well. I appreciate that.

    I’m with you in that if someone tries the same in the church that I attend, there are some of us that are armed and ready to do everything we can to minimize the harm caused by it.

    As for the punishment, I wouldn’t have been upset if the police showed up earlier (before the shooter was tackled) and he got his wish according to his ‘manifesto’ a letter he’d written, he said he fully expected to shoot until he was shot himself. Is that wrong of me? Maybe, but in my opinion someone who willingly and purposefully takes innocent lives immediately gives up all of his/her own rights, including that of their own life.

  24. Jon says:

    Way to go Jonathan! Stir up a mess on the Internet… not that it is hard to do. People really do not take the time to read an entire sentence much less the post before they jump to conclusions. Maybe a little more listening and a little less accusing would do the world a great deal of good.

    I’m not super religious, as you know, but after reading though a few of the comments here I’m kind of confused. What is it that the Bible says about judging other people?

  25. Jonathan says:

    Jon, you’re thinking of the ‘judge not lest ye be judged’, I’m guessing of course. 🙂 But in context (Ah, it’s that thing about reading again 😉 ) it is basically saying that if you do judge, you’ll be judged by the same thing. So it isn’t necessarily a command not to judge, but a warning to be ready to be judged yourself.

  26. Dale says:

    Jon said, :”What is it that the Bible says about judging other people?”

    The Bible said: “Judge not according to the appearance, but judge righteous judgment.” John 7:24

  27. Jon says:

    Thanks guys. I did understand it correctly then, although I didn’t know the verse. My point being that I TRY to understand someone and how they think before I jump to a conclusion. I still make rash judgments about people from time to time, but remember that we are all sinners. Because my sins are different than yours, do not think that your sins are lesser than mine. We are all equal and should treat each other as such. Offering an opinion is normally much better received rather than forcing one. 🙂

  28. Joy says:

    What a can of worms! Some people have way too much time on their hands. I think a lot of people need to try to live in the real world instead of trying to win a huge “battle” on someone’s personal blog. It’s almost funny.

    Jonathan, you have done a great job. I just want you to know that I read your facts as facts and your opinions as opinions. It’s really not hard to understand what you said. I can’t believe people make such huge assumptions about what kind of person you are just by a few sentences you wrote.

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