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Aftermath of the Shooting in Tucson, Arizona, at
Tennessee Valley Unitarian Universalist Church (TVUUC),
January 8, 2011: The shooting of Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords and others in Tucson, Arizona, sadly reminds TVUUC members and friends of the similar shooting in our church on July 27, 2008 (memorialized in a recent video by synthpop artists Bobby Clark and Stephen Pearlman).
January 9, 2011: Email from Rev. Chris Buice:
"Hello TVUUC, Those interested in looking into a creative response to hate talk might like to look at Stop Polarizing Talk.org which includes a video lecture by Kathryn Ruud, a scholar who has studied this issue across the left to right spectrum. Some of the themes in this lecture might be useful in a public witness on this issue. The UUA Standing on the Side of Love campaign (SOSL) is looking for congregations to hold an SOSL event on the Sunday closest to Valentine's day, and this might be the basis for a good interfaith forum or action project on hate speech. John Bohstedt, Ted Lollis and I have had some preliminary email exchanges around this issue before this week so it may be a way to move forward. Let's keep the families of the victims in Arizona in our thoughts and prayers. This is not an abstract political event but a real human tragedy as we know all too well first hand. Chris"
January 12-16, 2011: Article by John Bohstedt, for TVUUC. THE GREAT BOBBLE-HEAD SAGA
Four days after the horrific shootings in Tucson, TV news reported that a local firing range, "Fabulous Firearms," run by Brent Wilson, had advertised a unique fund-raiser for the next Saturday (Jan. 15). For $5, shooters could fire at one of two bobble-head dolls (8" high), the proceeds going to the Second Harvest Food Bank. The bobble-heads were anything but anonymous: they were dolls of Lane Kiffin and his father, Monte Kiffin, former University of Tennessee football coaches despised by fans for having abruptly left our program for the rosier climes of Southern Cal. So fans could get their anger out while contributing to a worthy cause, Wilson announced.
That shocked us - just as the nation plunged into a furious debate over the role of vitriolic rhetoric in contributing to our nation's long history of public shootings, people were invited to enjoy shooting at effigies of living public figures! At Tennessee Valley Unitarian Universalist Church (Knoxville), we have wanted to reduce violent political rhetoric ever since our own Church shootings in 2008. "Our" shooter's four-page manifesto explained in detail that "This was a hate crime," "This was a political protest," "This was a symbolic killing." Since he could not get at the liberal elites listed in Bernard Goldberg's 100 People Who Are Screwing Up America, he would shoot their local supporters. His letter echoed familiar hate-radio themes, and incendiary books that the police found in his home: Michael Savage, Liberalism is a Mental Disorder; Sean Hannity, Let Freedom Ring: Winning the War of Liberty over Liberalism; Bill O'Reilly, The O'Reilly Factor: The Good, the Bad, and the Completely Ridiculous in American Life. He carried 70 high-powered shells, and evidently planned to keep shooting until he was killed by the police. Instead he was tackled by five parishioners.
In the last five years of hate-radio's and TV's competitions in outrage, "trigger-words" have become common in political diatribes. By trigger-words I mean direct calls for physical violence such as: "They oughta be hanged!" "Just shoot him!" "Beat him up!" "Kick them out," "Make them afraid to leave their home," and so on. Because our shooter's expressed motivations reproduced such rhetoric, many TVUUCers believed - not that such words alone "caused" shootings - but rather that they gave public currency to the idea of physically attacking a political opponent, formulated as a suggestion - not to every listener, but to someone already living in a delusional world who heard the TV or the dog talking directly to him.
We felt the Great Bobble-head Shoot would affirm the legitimacy of murderous rhetoric about celebrities. Indeed, some of Wilson's fans joked on Facebook about shooting at Obama dolls! So we called for a ban on talk of physical violence against political opponents, not by state fiat but by leadership.
TVUUC members did several things. As a spirited discussion began on our own e-list, Ted Jones & Bill Fields drafted a resolution for the TVUUC Board that would "respectfully ask the Unitarian Universalist Association that the Standing of the Side of Love initiative make the issue of public speech that contributes to violence one of their campaigns." The motion was circulated and unanimously endorsed by our Board. Meanwhile Ted Jones and John Bohstedt began conversations about actions with Dan Furmansky, director of SSL. Partly as a result of those conversations, SSL posted a web-page that enabled voters to ask their Congressmen to renounce "vitriolic rhetoric." Dan accepted Ted Lollis's invitation to give a forum on his work at SSL, the weekend of the UUA's National Day of Standing on the Side of Love, featuring associated UU events across the country. Rev. Chris Buice of TVUUC organized an interfaith panel for that afternoon to discuss "Standing on the Side of Love: Spiritual Approaches to Polarized Politics."
John Bohstedt and several others emailed the director of Second Harvest Food Bank (with which we had collaborated for years), and asked them to sever their relationship with the shooting fund-raiser. We committed to raising the money to replace the $2000 they anticipated from the shooting event. (Note: The event had been planned weeks before Tucson). After receiving a number of friendly suggestions from TVUUCers, and angry blasts from some others, Second Harvest announced they had severed their link to the shooting event. We promptly raised the money. More than $4000 came in within 24 hours (from TVUUC and our networks of allies). A Sunday Special Collection at TVUUC [on Jan. 16] harvested $1700 more. A second charity also declined connection with the shooting event.
Meanwhile, several of us also began to email the owner of Fabulous Firearms, Brent Wilson, explaining our feelings to him. In several exchanges he responded cordially, though noting that "we are worlds apart in our beliefs." Indeed we were: in religion; in the possible role of rhetoric in violence; and in his view that we hypocritically accepted the "genocide of babies." He thought the notion that shooting at dolls "caused" murders was idolatrous, satanic and sick. Nevertheless, he moved from using bobble-head targets to clay pigeons to paper targets, joking "as long as the tree-huggers don't come after me." He described this as "a compromise, but not a capitulation." As he explained to his fans who accused him of "caving in:" We critics were not anti-gun, but "when it comes to people who for whatever reason were really distressed that we might shoot a likeness of a human - well one can't argue with that." I call that a brave & generous response.
We did not change Brent & his supporters. We did not try to. We expressed our views frankly, however much they might conflict, with enough respect to keep the conversation going, recognizing that we remained "worlds apart." It seemed in the end that, while compromise on principles was unlikely or even undesirable, it was possible to find common ground on a specific action, perhaps on unexpected bases.
Epilogue: The day of the event, Ted Jones led a Bobble-head Rescue. He collected $5s and "saved" several dolls, together with a paper target. (Of course they were silhouettes!) But it felt like a win-win-win that achieved satisfactory outcomes for all three parties, while humiliating or antagonizing none.
* * *
Below are hot-links to news broadcasts about the Bobble-Head events, collected by Ted Lollis, chair of the TVUUC forum committee, and posted on the forum website at http://forum.maripo.com/forum_videos.htm along with many other resources related to our fora, TVUUC, and peace movements.
LANE KIFFIN BOBBLEHEAD DOLLS
"Kingston gun shop hosts bobblehead shooting day for Kiffin's anniversary," WATE-TV, Jan. 12, 2011. (2:21)
"Shoot at a Lane Kiffin bobblehead gets mixed reviews from locals," WBIR-TV, Jan. 13, 2011. (1:49)
"Food bank pulls out of Kingston gun shop's Kiffin bobblehead shooting day," WATE-TV, Jan. 13?, 2011. (1:32)
"Statement issued by Frontier Firearms about Kiffin bobblehead event," WATE-TV, Jan. 13, 2011.
"Firing range cancels 'Shoot at a Lane Kiffin Bobblehead' event," WBIR-TV, Jan. 14, 2011. (1:49)
"Kingston gun shop cancels Kiffin bobblehead shooting day." WATE-TV, Jan. 14, 2011.
January 15, 2011: - Op ed piece in Knoxville News Sentinel by Rev. Chris Buice:
"Citizen's Voice: Words should heal, not harm
"Sticks and stones may break my bones. Words can poison our community and our nation. The shooting of congress-man Gabrielle Giffords in a rampage that killed 6 innocent people in Tucson, Arizona, should be a wake up call to us all.
"When Ronald Reagan was wheeled into the operation room with a gunshot wound after an assassination attempt he remarked to the head surgeon, 'I hope you are a Republican.' The surgeon Joseph Giordano, who was not a member of the GOP, replied, 'We are all Republicans today.' The shooting of a Democratic congresswoman gives us the opportunity to say, "We are all Democrats." The death of federal judge John Roll, a Bush appointee, gives us an opportunity to say, "We are all Republicans." The murder of citizens gathered to exercise their constitutional right to freedom of assembly gives us the chance to say, "We are all Americans." The man who committed this crime had a history of mental instability. How was someone with such a history able to buy a gun and unable to find treatment? The man was clearly paranoid, ranting about government mind-control. Which leads us to the question, how does the politics of paranoia so prevalent in our "culture wars" influence the more unstable members of our society?
"Hard ball politics is as old as the nation. However, democratic traditions are served best when we make a distinction between opponents and enemies. Kathryn Ruud, creator of a website called StopPolarizingTalk.org, tracks both right wing and left leaning media outlets. She has concerns about American discourse that emerge from her study of German history where dehumanizing language paved the way for genocide. The Nazis began by referring to their opponents as 'a plague, an infection, cancer, tumors, poison, parasites, vermin, leeches, bacteria, tuberculosis.' Opponents were 'things' to be eradicated, not human beings worthy of life or liberty. A disturbing amount of this kind of language is spilling into American political debate.
"When adults argue in this manner, our children can get caught in the crossfire. When terrorists attacked on September 11, 2001, I thought, 'It's hard to know how to respond to someone who thinks you are the Great Satan.' Poisonous language paved the way to violent action. Christina Taylor Greene was born on that day marked by foreign terrorism. Heartbreakingly, she died in an act of domestic terrorism.
"As I write, the Westboro Baptist Church, which brought us the 'God Hates Fags' campaign, is planning a demonstration at Christine's funeral. Fortunately, creative Arizonans are planning to offer emotional protection to a grieving family by dressing as angels and spreading their wings to shelter those in grief from those engaged in hateful political posturing. Can anyone think of a more appropriate way to make visible Abraham Lincoln's appeal for us to follow 'the better angels of our nature'Christina Taylor Greene? This month we remember the birth and violent death of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. King taught us to act in the manner of love for God is love. He reminded us to refrain from violence of the body and the spirit. The civil rights movement isn't over yet. The goal of this movement is to work for the worth and dignity of every person, an ongoing struggle. The purpose is not to defeat an enemy or humiliate an opponent. The goal is to strengthen a nation where there can be "liberty and justice for all." The goal is to build a community where our words are used to heal and not harm; where we can stand together as neighbors on the side of love."
Chris Buice is minister of the Tennessee Valley Unitarian Universalist Church and a graduate of Earlham School of Religion (Quaker).
Copyright 2011, Knoxville News Sentinel Co.
January 16, 2011: The TVUUC Board of Trustees unanimously adopted the following: RESOLUTION
"We respectfully ask the Unitarian Universalist Association that the Standing of the Side of Love initiative make the issue of public speech that contributes to violence one of their campaigns."
[This text was verified by Ted Jones. Hyperlinks & emphasis added.]
January 17, 2011: - Members of TVVUC march in the annual Martin Luther King, Jr., Day parade behing the banner of the Knoxville Interfaith Network (KIN):
Members of the Knoxville Interfaith Network (KIN) include Sacred Heart Cathedral, Church of the Savior, Immaculate Conception Catholic Church, Peace Lutheran, Messiah Lutheran, Tennessee Valley Unitarian Universalist Church, Northside Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), Mount Zion Baptist Church, Bethel AME, Muslim Community of Knoxville, Heska Amuna Synagogue, True Vine Baptist Church, Holy Ghost Catholic Church, Middlebrook Pike United Methodist Church, Eternal Life Harvest Church, New Friendship Missionary Baptist & New Life Christian. (Photo by TVUUC member Karen Krogh)
January 18, 2011 - First of 3 meetings, TVUUC standing committee for Standing on the Side of Love (SSL), chaired by John Bohstedt.
January 19, 2011: TVUUC newsletter column and cartoon by Rev. Chris Buice:
"Where There Is Hatred...
"One of the challenges of our polarized times is learning how to respond to hatred with love. The talk radio format that has become so popular was originally designed by communications professionals to mimic professional wrestling, a contest of personalities where the victor is a foregone conclusion, rather than a substantive debate about the issues where differing points of view lead to mutual illumination. Those who promote it bill it as 'entertainment' although it often carried on 'news' stations. This combative format has made its way from radio into television, the internet and other forums of discourse including office conversations, personal email exchanges and family dinners. My observation is that this format is all about selling anger. If we respond in anger we merely support the game rules laid out for us by others. The cycle of action, reaction reinforces the power of a pedantic punditry. The media pundits can throw the pitches, but we don't have to swing. We don't have to play the same game.
"'I don't want to respond in love,' you may say. I understand. Howard Thurman, who taught Martin Luther King, Jr. in college, said that whenever he did not want to love someone, he prayed to be able 'to want to want to love.' I think the best that religion can do is encourage us to be honest about 'who we are' and open to growth in a positive direction.
"On Sunday the Board of the Tennessee Valley Unitarian Universalist Church voted to ask the Board of the Unitarian Universalist Association to consider addressing the polarization of our national discourse through the Standing on the Side of Love Campaign. There is some understandable resistance to that idea from the UUA, out of laudable concerns over freedom of speech. However, this gives us an opportunity as religious organization to offer spiritual leadership, to move beyond the letter which killeth to the Spirit which giveth life, to speak to what Dr. King called 'unenforceable obligations' that strengthen and build up the beloved community. It doesn't do anyone any good if we meet freedom of speech with silence. Instead we are challenged to find our own voices and practice our freedom of speech. In the media age some of us get a louder voice than others. In Knoxville the lights from broadcasting antennae are visible from the top of Sharp's Ridge. Our challenge is to live up to the vision of our Founding Fathers, our Reforming Mothers and our brothers and sisters in the civil rights movement, 'From every mountainside let freedom ring.' --Chris"
Sunday, January 23, 2011: TVUUC Forum at 10:05 AM -- "Reflections on Arizona." Everyone is deeply concerned about the attack in Tucson on January 8, the TVUUC email discussion list has been over active, and several church members have proposed our taking action of some kind, perhaps in connection with the UUA Standing on the Side of Love campaign (SOSL). The forum hour is limited in time but conveniennt to the greatest number of people. Retired history professor John Bohstedt will facilitate this forum to share information, insights, views, questions, and suggestions, and partly to see whether we might agree on some future paths. Another forum related to the Standing on the Side of Love may be held on February 13, the Sunday nearest Valentine's Day.
Sunday, January 30, 2011: TVUUC Forum at 10:05 AM -- "TVUUC Social Action Over the Years: Ruth Martin's Story." In recognition of Martin Luther King Day (January 17) and Black History Month (February), Ruth Martin (assisted by Ed Goff) will recall our own participation in social action over the years. Ruth got her masters degree in social work in 1951, joined the Knoxville/Knox County Office on Aging in 1977, and has been an advocate for seniors ever since. She received the Covenant Platinum Award in 2008 (along with Roger Frey, Robert Hayes, Libba Jaco, and fellow UU Shigeko Uppuluri). At this forum, she will tell us about TVUUC's Fellowship Camp, interracial mens group (which met at the bus station), lunch counter sit-ins, and chicken processing war in Morristown. She'll also recall TVUUC's sponsorship of a family from Guatemala (with whom Ruth shared her home for seven years) and her accompanying two medical mission teams to Nicaragua and Guatemala.
February 1, 2011: TVUUC newsletter article by Jerry Bone:
Lifetime Achievement Award -- Ruth Martin
Sunday's forum was remarkable in many ways. Titled "TVUUC Social Action Over the Years: Ruth Martin's Story," it was ably facilitated by Ed Goff. It had to be deftly facilitated, too because it wasn't long before Ruth's old compadres in the civil rights, sanctuary, fair tax and other movements began telling stories. And what wonderful stories they were, too - relayed with humor, passion and integrity by those who fought the good fight in the past and who are still walking the long road of social justice today.
Stories of "freedom camps," where white and black children came together during the dark days of legal segregation were told. Tales of lunch counter sit-ins and interracial men's groups meeting at the bus station (where it was legal) were told. The narrative of persistent struggle for justice flowed into the seventies with accounts of the struggle for the rights of undocumented immigrants, then into the eighties chicken processing plant struggles in Morristown. Someone mentioned Ruth wearing the "MT Plate" costume at a rally for Tennesseans for Fair Taxation. (There's a photo of this somewhere - you should check it out.)
Anyway, through it all - some sixty years now - Ruth has been there in the struggle. And for this struggle and a long career of volunteerism at TVUUC and in the community, Sandra Lyke, Program Council Chair, arose near the end of the forum to present Ruth Martin with the Tennessee Valley Unitarian Universalist [first annual] Lifetime Achievement Award. Citing her tireless advocacy, her generosity, her uncompromising loyalty and her exemplary representation of the Seven Principles of Unitarian Universalism, the award is a fitting testament to a life of energy, commitment, humor and compassion. Congratulations, Ruth from all of us at TVUUC. - Jerry Bone
Sunday, February 6, 2011: TVUUC Forum at 10:05 AM -- "How to Do Things with Words." What is the power of words, and where does it come from? How can we use our own speech to counteract the destructive power of polarizing language and unleash the creative power of humanizing language? TVUUC member Laurie Knox will introduce some concepts from linguistics that might help us get a handle on these questions and help us use linguistic concepts to exploit the generative power of language to speak on the side of love. As a full-time lecturer in Rhetoric and English at the University of Tennessee and long-time student of linguistics, Laurie has for years been seeking a way to satisfy her father's wish that she "do something practical" with her life. Recent events suggest that devoting one's professional life to musing about language may have some real-world value after all.
February 7, 2011: TVUUC Press Release A Public Interfaith Forum: Standing on the Side of Love
February 13, 2011, 3:00-5:00 pm, Tennessee Valley Unitarian Universalist Church, 2931 Kingston Pike, Knoxville, TN 37919
Contact: Lillian Mashburn 865-690-8637, Bill Dockery 865-368-6656
When election politics become polarized, it can affect relationships around the water cooler at the office, the coffee hour in a congregation or the dinner table at home. The First Amendment guarantees every American freedom of speech. Spirituality invites us to exercise that freedom in the spirit of love: to respect the worth and dignity of every person including our opponents; to refrain from violence of the body, mind or spirit; to seek justice not by humiliating an enemy but through actions that build up community and mutual respect. Some variation of the golden rule is found in all the major world religions inviting us into relationships where we treat others the way we would want to be treated.
Sunday, a panel of interfaith leaders will share spiritual approaches to the challenges of political polarization that can help us reclaim the public forum, the water cooler, the coffee hour, the family table for friendship and community; to move beyond "us versus them" to a deeper understanding of what it means to be We, the people. There will be breakout discussion groups after the panel so there can be deeper conversation.
Rev. Chris Buice, TVUUC, will moderate the panel of:
- Prof. Joe Barnhart, member of Westside Unitarian Universalist Church (WUUC), member of Rationalists of East Tennessee (RET), co-host of Freethought Forum on Knoxville Community TV, and co-author of "Trust and Treachery: A Historical Novel of Roger Williams in America."
- Rev. Steve D. Martin, executive director of the New Evangelical Partnership for the Common Good and writer/producer of several documentary films, including "Muslims in Appalachia," "Theologians Under Hitler," and "Hearts Divided: Baptism and the Jews in Nazi Germany."
A special musical benediction will be offered by jazz pianist Wendell Werner and Friends.
Febuary 11, 2011: - Wire service story:
Unitarians turn tragedy into lesson in tolerance
By TRAVIS LOLLER, The Associated Press, Friday, February 11, 2011; 3:31 PM
As published by the Washington Post:
NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- A national campaign to promote love and tolerance has grown out of the tragedy of a 2008 shooting at a Tennessee church.
In July of that year, an out-of-work trucker opened fire at the Tennessee Valley Unitarian Universalist Church in Knoxville. He killed two people and wounded six.
A candlelight vigil the next evening was so powerful in its message of overcoming hatred with love that it inspired denomination's leadership to organize "National Standing on the Side of Love Day."
Timed around Valentine's Day, Unitarian Universalist churches across the country will be holding events on Sunday and Monday aimed at promoting civil political discourse, gay rights, humane immigration reform and an end to the demonization of American Muslims.
As published by the San Francisco Chronicle:
(02-11) 14:19 PST Nashville, Tenn. (AP) --When an out-of-work truck driver opened fire in a Tennessee church because it welcomed gay and multiracial families, the congregation met that hatred with love. In the process, it inspired a national campaign centered around Valentine's Day to promote tolerance.
Unitarian Universalist churches across the country will be holding events on Sunday and Monday promoting civil political discourse, gay rights, humane immigration reform and ending what it calls the demonization of American Muslims as part of "National Standing on the Side of Love Day."
The idea is to take a day that is already about love, albeit the romantic variety, and expand it into a day when people seriously consider the implications of loving your neighbor as yourself.
It's the sort of thinking that made the Tennessee Valley Unitarian Universalist Church in Knoxville a target for Jim Adkisson, whose ex-wife had once belonged to the congregation. The denomination promotes progressive social work, including advocacy of women and gay rights.
Adkisson told police after the shooting that he was unemployed, depressed and ready to take his anger out on what he called an "ultraliberal" church that "never met a pervert they just didn't embrace."
He walked into the church on July 27, 2008, pulled a sawed-off shotgun from a guitar case and fired into a group of about 230 people watching a children's performance of the musical "Annie."
He killed two people and wounded another six before church members wrestled him to the ground. He pleaded guilty and is serving a life sentence.
The night after the shooting the church held a vigil [service of healing in Second Presbyterian Church next door] that was attended by an overflow crowd of many faiths and political persuasions. The service ended with the children, on their own initiative, singing the "Annie" theme song with the lyrics "The Sun Will Come Out Tomorrow."
"Everyone was standing up and clapping," Tennessee Valley Pastor Chris Buice said. "At that moment, I had a palpable sense of love that is greater than our differences that I felt, and still feel, in a physical way."
One of those attending was the Unitarian Universalist Association's then-president William Sinkford. Inspired by the church's example of overcoming hatred with love, he helped launch the national campaign.
About 150 congregations around the country will be holding an event for Standing on the Side of Love Day this year. The churches have tailored the events to the concerns of their communities.
At the Unitarian Universalist Congregation at Shelter Rock in Manhasset, N.Y., that means sending a giant Valentine to U.S. Rep. Peter King, urging the House Committee on Homeland Security chairman not to hold controversial hearings on what he calls the "radicalization" of some American Muslims.
Shelter Rock social justice coordinator Claire Deroche said her Long Island congregation has strong ties with the Islamic Center of Long Island, often working together on issues and attending each other's services.
"The point is to express to Rep. King that we, too, want him to stand on the side of love," she said. "We don't want him to disrespect the Muslim community this way."
The Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Phoenix, which has been active in protesting Arizona's divisive immigration law, is asking its members and allies to call their U.S. senators and protest the deportation of unaccompanied children, Social Justice Director Sun Principe said.
Members of a sister congregation close to the border with Nogales, Mexico, have documented several cases of children being left by themselves at a bus station by immigration agents, Principe said, but most Americans are unaware this is happening.
"When people understand that children are being abused, they are able to put politics aside and do something," Principe said.
In Knoxville, Tennessee Valley UUC will hold an interfaith forum.
"What we will focus on, because it's what we've been victimized by, is the politics of polarization, where you lose any sense of the loyal opposition and people are branded as traitors," Buice said.
Buice said it is not just politicians who need be concerned about the issue.
"There's a member of our congregation whose father refuses to talk to her after the last presidential election," Buice said. "He cut someone out of his family because the election didn't go the way he wanted it to."
The Standing on the Side of Love campaign will present the Tennessee Valley congregation on Sunday with an award honoring their work.
Sunday, February 13, 2011: TVUUC Forum at 10:05 AM -- "Honoring Courageous Love," UUA's campaign to end bigotry and oppression -- Standing on the Side of Love (SSL) -- is rooted in the outpouring of love which followed the violence at TVUUC in July 2008. And SSL manager Dan Furmansky has come from Massachusetts on the Sunday nearest Valentine's Day to help us celebrate the 2nd annual National Standing on the Side of Love Day. Dan will talk about "Love People" from across the country who are seeking justice, equality, community, interfaith partnership, and inclusion. He will also offer reflections from his own life on how love -- in the form of work for social justice -- can help to heal the painful scars of emotional and physical violence. Dan has 16 years of experience working with legislators and with non-profit and progressive advocacy organizations focused on issues related to civil rights, the environment, animal welfare, hunger and poverty, consumer advocacy, immigrant rights, religious freedom, and economic justice.
Sunday Afternoon, February 13, 2011 (the day before Valentine's Day): Forum from 3:00 to 5:00 PM, in Sanctuary of Tennessee Valley Unitarian Universalist Chruch (TVUUC) -- Interfaith Forum: "Standing on the Side of Love -- Spiritual Approaches to Political Polarization." When election politics become polarized, it can impact relationships around the water cooler at the office, the coffee hour in a congregation, or the dinner table at home. The First Amendment guarantees every American freedom of speech. Spirituality invites us to express our views in the spirit of love; to respect the worth and dignity of every person, including our opponents; to refrain from violence of the body, mind or spirit; to seek justice not by humiliating an enemy but through actions that build up community and mutual respect. Some variation of the Golden Rule is found in all the major world religions, inviting us into relationships where we treat others the way we would want to be treated. A panel of interfaith leaders will share spiritual approaches to the challenges of political polarization that can help us reclaim the public forum, the water cooler, the coffee hour, the family table for friendship and community; to move beyond "us and them" to a deeper understanding of what it means to be "We, the people."
February 13, 2011: - Click here for 171 photographs taken by Karen Krogh.
February 13, 2011: - TV news, WBIR-TV (Channel 10), Knoxville, TN:
TVUUC participates in "National Standing on the Side of Love Day"
A National Campaign created in response to a violent act in Knoxville is encouraging people to show more respect and tolerance for everyone on a weekend centered around love.
In July of 2008, an out of work trucker opened fire at the Tennessee Valley Unitarian Universalist Church. The shooter killed two people and wounded six.
The community's response was so powerful in its message of overcoming hatred with love, that it inspired the denomination's leadership to organize "National Standing on the Side of Love Day."
Unitarian Universalist Churches across the country including TVUUC, held events promoting love and tolerance on Sunday. The events are aimed at promoting civil political discourse among people of all backgrounds and faiths and encouraging Americans to re-adopt a "We the People" attitude not an "Us vs. Them" mind set.
"This is about meeting freedom of speech with freedom of religion. What is the wisdom and insight that religious traditions have that can take our debate to a higher level and call us to a higher sense of brotherhood and sisterhood of all people. This is really what we're doing, bringing the voice of the faith community to what have really been divisive and polarizing issues of our time. And are inherently so and understandably so," said minister of TVUUC Chris Buice.
One-hundred and fifty congregations and communities took part in the event. The theme this year is "Honoring Courageous Love."
February 14, 2011: - From the Standing on the Side of Love Website:
"SSL Presents Courageous Love Awards to Knoxville Congregations"
The message below went out [from Dan Frumansky] to Standing on the Side of Love supporters on February 14, 2011.
I am, quite simply, blown away. Millions of people have already heard about our efforts to re-imagine Valentine’s Day as a holiday of love and acceptance of all people. More than 50 media outlets published a story this weekend about National Standing on the Side of Love Day, including the San Francisco Chronicle, Washington Post, FoxNews.com, Forbes, and the Minneapolis Star-Tribune, to name just a few. The article said: "Unitarian Universalist churches across the country will be holding events on Sunday and Monday promoting civil political discourse, gay rights, humane immigration reform and ending what it calls the demonization of American Muslims as part of 'National Standing on the Side of Love Day.'"
This weekend I was warmly welcomed to Knoxville, where I presented Courageous Love Awards on behalf of the Standing on the Side of Love Campaign to Tennessee Valley Unitarian Universalist Church and Westside Unitarian Universalist Church for their inspiring resilience, and their long-standing efforts to bring love forth in their community. The justice-and-love-themed worship services were electrifying. An interfaith forum - "Spiritual Approaches to Polarized Politics" - boasted an impressive array of local denominations and a fantastic spirit of community solidarity. The day was capped off with the presentation of a check for more than $11,000 to [Family Promise], an organization providing services to homeless families that has found itself in financial peril.
The local NBC affiliate captured the spirit of the events in Knoxville well:
A National Campaign created in response to a violent act in Knoxville," WBIR reported, "is encouraging people to show more respect and tolerance for everyone on a weekend centered around love. The community’s response was so powerful in its message of overcoming hatred with love, that it inspired the denomination’s leadership to organize "National Standing on the Side of Love Day." Unitarian Universalist Churches across the country including TVUUC, held events promoting love and tolerance on Sunday. The events are aimed at promoting civil political discourse among people of all backgrounds and faiths and encouraging Americans to re-adopt a "We the People” attitude not an "Us vs. Them" mind set.
As the pictures and stories from Sunday’s events roll in, I can feel the energy in our movement building with each successive story.
And today, Feb. 14th, our efforts continue. Can you feel it? Our movement for love, justice, and inclusion is already changing the world!
Standing on the Side of Love
P.S. On this special day, please share with us stories of courageous love in your life and your community.
Dan Furmansky is Campaign Manager of the Standing on the Side of Love Campaign.
February 16, 2011: TVUUC newsletter column by Rev. Chris Buice:
Greg McKendry Saves the Day One More Time
A couple of weeks ago, I received a letter from the executive director and the board of Family Promise making an emergency appeal for funds. As you know Family Promise is the interfaith organization where congregations, including TVUUC, house homeless families in our own buildings while they work to locate permanent housing and employment. Many of you have volunteered to fix meals, lead activities with children, provide transportation, offer support for the overnight shift and more. It is a labor of love here at TVUUC.
One cold winter night as a Family Promise volunteer, I held a baby in my arms, knowing that it was the roof and walls of our church protecting that child from the harsh elements outside. That experience has forever changed the way I think about our building, making it a more holy place, a more sacred site. This past year our congregation hosted families the week after Christmas and "unto us a child was born." Unlike the story of Christmas, this holiday season there was "room at the inn" for mother and a father and their newborn child, a holy family, because of our congregation’s commitment to Family Promise.
Family Promise has been hit hard by the recession. In their letter I learned that the organization needed $12,000 to stay in the black due to a couple of fundraisers that had not achieved their goal. The organization has a strategic plan for the next fiscal year to prevent a recurrence of this shortfall, which includes a commitment by a popular local basketball coach to host a fundraiser.
You may remember after the shooting in our church on July 27, 2008, our congregation created a fund called >"The Greg McKendry Fund for Charitable Works." Many of you contributed to that fund in memory of him. Greg’s family expressed a desire that we give it all away in a grand gesture, rather than create an ongoing endowment fund for the support of good causes. The total of the money in the fund was $11,816.80.
On Sunday February 13 as part of our interfaith forum for the national Standing on the Side of Love Day, we presented a check for the entire amount to Family Promise. We chose the interfaith forum to make our announcement in order to invite more faith traditions into the good work and to remind us that interfaith dialogue is best when followed by interfaith action. On a deep level it feels to me that, once again, Greg McKendry has saved the day.
A picture of Greg hangs in our fellowship hall. I told Jayne Raparelli that next holiday season we need to find a way to put a Santa hat on him. He is our patron saint of generosity; a reminder that death can never truly end the ongoing influence of a generous life. As we enter into our congregation’s Stewardship campaign, let us remember that it takes generous individuals in order to create a generous congregation. The money we give to TVUUC to provide the roof, the walls, the kitchen, the heat, the light, is money dedicated to many forms of holy work. This time of year we ask you to make a commitment to us so that we can make a commitment to you to co-create with you a congregation where we can all make a difference in our world as we stand together on the side of love. - Chris
February 21, 2011: Press release from University of Arizona, Tucson:
Bush, Clinton to Chair New National Institute for Civil Discourse at University of Arizona
A new center – to be chaired by two U.S. Presidents – has been created at the University of Arizona to advance the national conversation currently taking place about civility in political debate.
The National Institute for Civil Discourse is a nonpartisan center for debate, research, education and policy generation regarding civility in public discourse.
Presidents George H. W. Bush and Bill Clinton have agreed to serve as honorary chairs for the institute.
"I am honored to join President Clinton in supporting this important effort at such a critical time in our nation’s history," said President Bush. "Our country needs a setting for political debate that is both frank and civil, and the National Institute for Civil Discourse can make a significant contribution toward reaching this goal."
"America faces big challenges in revitalizing the American Dream at home and preserving our leadership for security, peace, freedom and prosperity in the world. Meeting them requires an honest dialogue celebrating both a clarification of our differences and a genuine stand for principled comparisons. I believe that the National Institute for Civil Discourse can elevate the tone of dialogue in our country, and in so doing, help us to keep moving toward 'a more perfect union.' I'm pleased to join President George H.W. Bush to help advance this important effort," said President Clinton.
"It is right and fitting that two of America's most successful practitioners of American democracy – Presidents Bush and Clinton – have now joined to help save it," said Fred DuVal, vice chair of the Arizona Board of Regents and originator of the idea for the institute. "And equally that the Tucson-based University of Arizona would host this bipartisan effort. This institute is the right people in the right place at the right time."
U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor (retired) and former U.S. Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle will be the institute’s honorary co-chairs.
A diverse array of political backgrounds are represented among the institute’s other board members, who include:
* Madeleine Albright, former U.S. Secretary of State
* Ken Duberstein, former chief of staff for President Ronald Reagan
* Greta Van Susteren, host of "On the Record", FOX News Channel
* Trey Grayson, director of the Harvard University's Institute of Politics
* Jim Kolbe, former U.S. Congressman
Several new board members will be announced over the next few months.
National Institute for Civil Discourse initiatives will include:
* Convening major policy discussions with elected officials, policymakers and advocates on topics that tend to generate polarized positions.
* Promoting civil discourse, civic engagement and civic leadership.
* Organizing workshops and conferences in Washington, D.C., Tucson and across the country.
* Promoting a national conversation among prominent public figures from government, business and media regarding challenging political issues in a non-partisan setting.
* Developing programs and research centered around the exercise of First Amendment freedoms conducted in a way that respects both the ideas of others, and those who hold them.
The commitment by the honorary co-chairs and board members reflect a commitment by highly influential leaders to cross political boundaries to address issues that divide many Americans.
"The mission of the National Institute for Civil Discourse is essential for our nation's future success," said O'Connor. "I am pleased to be part of the effort to unite Americans across the political spectrum in constructive debate about critical issues."
"Civil discourse does not require people to change their values, but should provide an environment that all points of view are heard and acknowledged," said Daschle. "If our nation is to successfully address its problems, we must unite behind shared values and principles and bring people together to develop solutions."
The institute is in the process of naming a working board that will be chaired by DuVal.
The National Institute for Civil Discourse will be housed in the UA's School of Government and Public Policy, in collaboration with the UA Rehnquist Center on the Constitutional Structures of Government in the James E. Rogers College of Law and other departments throughout the University.
Fletcher McCusker, chairman of the board and chief executive officer of Providence Service Corporation, headquartered in Tucson, is the first to step forward to provide community support for the project.
Joseph Anderson, former chairman and chief executive officer of Schaller Anderson, also has pledged a major gift to enable the establishment of the institute.
"The University of Arizona is a place where all political views are welcome and where discussion and vigorous debate can take place in a respectful manner," said UA President Robert N. Shelton. "I am pleased that the National Institute for Civil Discourse will advance the cause of elevating the tone of our nation’s political rhetoric."
"The University of Arizona is committed toward helping provide solutions to the challenges facing our country," said UA Provost Meredith Hay. "It is an ideal home for the National Institute for Civil Discourse, which will focus on bringing Americans of all political backgrounds together to solve problems collaboratively."
One of the key goals for the institute is to connect people with diverse viewpoints and to offer a venue for vigorous and respectful debate.
Among the institute’s first events will be an executive forum with media, foundation, academic, government and corporate leaders regarding moving forward the national conversation about civil discourse and proceeding with constructive solutions.
February 24, 2011 - Second of 3 meetings, TVUUC standing committee for Standing on the Side of Love (SSL), chaired by John Bohstedt.
March 22, 2011 - Third of 3 meetings, TVUUC standing committee for Standing on the Side of Love (SSL), chaired by John Bohstedt.
Sunday, April 10, 2011: Forum at 10:10 AM -- "How to House the Homeless." Ginny Weatherstone will talk about what works and what doesn’t based on her own experience and her studies of best practices around the country. She is Chief Executive Officer of the Volunteer Ministry Center (VMC), a non-profit, interfaith agency which facilitates permanent supportive housing for those who are homeless and provides services to prevent homelessness. VMC promoted the conversion of the Fifth Avenue Hotel into a complex of 57 one-bedroom apartments and efficiencies named Minvilla Manor as part of the Knoxville/Knox County Mayors’ 10-Year Plan to End Chronic Homelessness. FYI, this forum follows another TVUUC forum which Stephanie Matheny presented about homelessness on September 19, 2010.