By Southern Region of the UUA

Bust shot of Rob Spirko

Dr. Robert C. Spirko: English professor, UU leader, former SUULE dean, Southern Region guest blogger

We in the UUA Southern Region are not strangers to violence and disruptions in our churches. This weekend's massacre at the First Baptist Church of Sutherland Springs, Texas, reminds many of us of that Sunday in July 2008 when the UU Church of Knoxville was visited by an(other) angry white man with a gun, leaving two people dead and six more wounded. Rob Spirko was in the congregation that day. He offered this post on Facebook in response to the latest mass shooting:

We are in crisis. A crisis of gun culture? Sure. But below that, a crisis of masculinity. A crisis of pain. This country, as it is, breaks people. And gives them no way to gather the pieces. And men try to weld the pieces back together with rage. It only buys them a little time, and they know it. Eventually, when it melts, it looks like a pool of blood on the floor of a church. Some if us know that's not a metaphor, not really.

The roots go deep. One of them: if we want to address this crisis, we should address child and spousal abuse. That's what the latest shooter had been court martialed for, I hear. Was he abused himself? Or had he just absorbed too much toxicity? Whatever the cause, we need to get better at breaking the cycle of abuse, for both victim and abuser. At the very least, if we could see to it that a man who was driven out of the military for abusing his spouse could not so easily buy killing weapons, that would be useful, too.

I have written elsewhere that the 2008 TVUUC shooting was a canary in the coal mine. The toxicity has long been with us, but the level seems to be rising. In ancient Greek,krisis could mean "a moment of judgment." It could also be the turning point of a play, where the action changes. In medical terms, it's the moment when the patient's fever breaks. We have seemingly been in a crisis for a long time, and yet the fever seems unabated. We have not turned; we have not changed. We are, however, being judged.

Thoughts and prayers are not enough. In Texas, they were praying as they died. What will we do--what will *you* do--to break this cycle of rage and pain?

Thank you for posing this critical question, Rob. For some powerful insights and suggestions, we suggest this recent article in the New York Times. As Unitarian Universalist congregations, we affirm and promote "justice, equity and compassion in human relations" and the "goal of world community, with peace, liberty, and justice for all". Each day is a chance to make our values real, even somber days like these. Let us challenge ourselves and encourage each other as we journey on.