Tuesday, July 29, 2008

For Linda Kraeger and Greg McKendry, and the spirit of democratic religion

A poor, sick, hateful man named Jim Adkisson killed two members of my family's faith last Sunday. His own words indicate he killed them because of their "liberal" beliefs. His life suggests he was yet another discarded byproduct of an impersonal and hate-breeding economic system, a person in need of mental health care, egged on by reading the dehumanizing provocations of Michael Savage.

To Linda, Greg, and all members of the Knoxville UUs, I cannot possibly express my sorrow, or how proud I am to be a longtime member of our organization.

Spirit of Life
Come unto me
Sing in my heart
All the stirrings of compassion
Blow in the wind
Rise in the sea
Move in the hand
Giving life the shape of justice
Roots hold me close
Wings set me free
Spirit of life
Come to me
Come to me

~Carolyn McDade

We affirm:

~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.


Josh Dermer said...

His life suggests he was yet another discarded byproduct of an impersonal and hate-breeding economic system, a person in need of mental health care, egged on by reading the dehumanizing provocations of Michael Savage.

It's funny you say that because Michael Savage is himself a professed universalist of sorts. He's not a UU per se, but he has affirmed the claim that all religions supposedly lead to heaven.

Either way, it's always easier to blame these types of things on outside factors (i.e. your political opponents) instead of the individual who actually committed the act. Scapegoating seems to be a popular theme these days.

matt said...

It's just not that simple, Josh. It's not an "either/or." You can blame individuals AND simultaneously blame, interrogate, and explore, both scientifically and spiritually, the influence and contextualization of outside forces. I prefer such a holistic approach.

As for Michael Weiner...er...sorry, Michael Savage, I doubt he believes Islam leads to heaven.

Thanks for your comment. Peace.

Renegade Eye said...

There are not cliches that honestly explain that behavior.

I go to UU services.

Josh Dermer said...


I never said it was an either/or approach. I'm simply saying that the crime itself is not caused by these outside forces, only influenced by them. We can't blame society as a whole for the actions of one individual. And blaming a bombastic entertainer like Michael Savage is just ridiculous. At that point, you're just grabbing at straws. I definitely agree that there is a spiritual element to all of this as I mentioned in my posting about the doctrine of total depravity. Given mankind's fallen, corrupt nature, we ought not be surprised when things like this happen.

When this guy faces trial, society itself is not going to be sitting on the defense side of the courtroom. We aren't putting our collectively held ideals on trial here. There's a time and place for such a debate, but this guy needs to be tried--and I hope, convicted--of murder. If we do otherwise, then we risk throwing out the window any sense of personal responsibility--one of my biggest critiques of the Left.

As for Savage himself, he has opposed radical Islamists who support terrorism, but I've never heard him denounce Islam as a whole or say that it's not a path to heaven. I vehemently disagree with his universalist views, but I'm not going to paint an inaccurate picture of what he believes. I don't agree with a lot of what Savage says, but he should be fairly represented like everyone else.

matt said...

Hey Renegade--I had no idea you attended UU services. That's cool. I think they provide a space to a lot of people who don't want to turn their backs on feelings of transcendence, but are uncomfortable with credal tests and dogma. It's the plurality amidst unity of praxis that I like the most about that community--even if the members are sometimes a little too materially privileged for their own good.

Josh--we're at an impasse. As a Unitarian Universalist, as well as a socialist, I firmly do NOT believe in humanity's "corrupt" nature. My own experiences as a father, teacher and activist confirm my belief that humans are basically good. If there is a transcendence after our mortal lives expire, it is irreducible to the rigid and limited metaphysical vision of beliefs like yours. So, with all due respect, there doesn't seem to be much point in arguing about any of this. I certainly wish you the best. But you're wasting your time trying to convince me of your theological beliefs. Peace be with you.

Josh Dermer said...


My personal experiences give me the opposite outlook on humanity. Anyone who has worked a customer-service job knows about the depravity of human beings. When you deal with people on a daily basis, you'll see the depravity leaking from them. I see it all the time. History itself testifies to the total depravity of mankind. If human beings are "basically good" as you say, then how do you explain a Stalin, Hitler, or an Idi Amin?

Yet at the end of the day, I don't appeal to personal experiences, nature, or history in order to affirm the doctrinal reality of mankind's total depravity. God Himself says that this is the case in Romans 3:10-12...

None is righteous, no, not one;
no one understands;
no one seeks for God.
All have turned aside; together they have become worthless;
no one does good,
not even one.

You are correct to say that Christianity is rigid and limited. The path to salvation is indeed a narrow path, as Jesus has said. The path which leads to destruction is wide indeed. God has saved unto Himself a chosen elect remnant--a multitude so vast no one can count.

I am not here to convince you of anything, but to proclaim truth as it has been revealed. I do not have the power to convict you of this truth or to save your soul. That is all of God and all of grace. I pray that the Spirit turns your heart from stone into flesh and gives you a saving faith. Soli Deo Gloria.

matt said...

Great stories, Josh. I simply don't believe them.

Anonymous said...

Matt may have his shortcomings, but a "heart of stone" is not one of them.

Paula Lesso said...

Hi Matt- the Spirit of Life lyrics/words were penned by Carolyn McDade, which I mentioned in my entry on the condolences page for Linda and Greg. In case you'd like to change the credit at the top of the page. :-) I love that song.

I must agree, too, that you don't seem to have a "heart of stone." Quite the opposite. I don't believe in humanity's "corrupt" nature either.

Paula Lesso

matt said...

Thanks Paula--I will make the changes.

Thanks anonymous--I suppose.

Emily said...

i heard this story on the radio as i was driving to iowa from minnesota. it reminded me so much of the mass shooting of female engineering students at a college in canada several years ago. the shooter was outraged women were taking over previously male dominated occupations. the shooting sparked an initiative for the white ribbon campaign, a now international movement of men against men's violence.

the intersections of the cruelty of capitalism and hegemonic masculinity are utterly tragic.

peace to the unitarian family...they share many principles of buddhism, which is what i primarily practice.

matt said...

I'm really glad you have found Buddhism, Emily. Our minister is a Christian-Buddhist "hybrid" and she is awesome.

Anonymous said...

I thought I would never have to hear those lyrics of Spirit of Life again. I just read them. I just hope that it is referring to the Holy Spirit. I hope God sent an angel to Linda Lee between the time she was shot until the moment she departed. I grieve that she had not completed her search for truth. I hope God sent an angel to help her find it in her final moments.

Sharon said...

Is the Spirit of Life in the hymn the Holy Spirit?

matt said...


Unitarianism draws from anti-trinitarianism (among the various "heretics" at the time of the Council of Nicea), and therefore UUs don't see the Holy Spirit the same way "mainstream" Christians do. The most simple and accurate way to define the "Spirit of Life" is God.