While the story of an armed gunman, Jim D. Adkisson, opening fire on strangers at a Unitarian Universalist church in Knoxville, Tennessee is several days old, the killing has weighed heavily on my mind. As a Unitarian Universalist, I wanted to understand the motivation of the killer who shot into a crowd of people who practice my faith. It is perhaps the most telling thing about UU's, to want to understand and not be condemning of others, to question, and to be compassionate.
According to the AP, the gunman wrote a four page letter where he expressed "hatred for gay people and what he called the liberal movement." The "liberal" policies that incidentally allowed him to receive food stamps and unemployment insurance during the two years he was without work, and allowed him to stay in his home so that he could hatch such a despicable act against people that he had no real knowledge about. Joe Barnhart, one of the victims, said "The liberals that I know are like the conservatives I know. They may criticize each other, but they don't go around shooting each other."
Sadly, people like Jim Adkisson are around us and perhaps John Prine was right when in song he implored us to say to complete strangers, "hello in there, hello." There are a lot of people who are disconnected from the rest of us and some may do unspeakable things if left to the voices in their heads.
Unlike those he killed, he will live to have a chance to understand his act. But, as Joe Barnhart said, if Adkisson is convicted, perhaps he should "never see the light of day in an orderly society" again.