The shooting that took place yesterday in a Knoxville, TN church is, by now, well known. Initially folks of the Rightward persuasion declared it must have been a “hate crime” against Christians by a raging atheist. Unfortunately that turns out not to have been true. Here are the facts which weigh against this belief:

  1. The shooting took place in a Unitarian-Universalist church. The UUC is not exactly a Christian church, however; it embraces multiple doctrines (that’s what the “Universalist” in its name means — it views spiritual truths as being universal to all religions). It’s likely many Christians were there, but chances are, not all were. If Jim Adkisson, the shooter, were trying to gun down Christians, he picked the wrong place to do it.

  2. He wrote a letter explicitly stating who his targets were, and they were not “Christians” — he was targeting, instead, “gays” and “liberal views,” blaming them for things which had gone wrong in his life. While some Christians are politically liberal and some denominations accept gays, not all do, and in fact, most denominations decry both gays and political liberalism.

  3. That he chose a UU church shows that he was, in fact, more interested in targeting gays and liberals, since the UU as an organization tends to be much more politically liberal than Christian denominations, and accepts gays as members. Had he gone to — say — a Baptist church, it would have been very unlikely he’d have encountered any liberals or gays.

Early reports had pointed out that Adkisson complained about Christians, for instance railing against a woman who told him his daughter had attended a Bible college. This fits, of course, with most Christians’ inherent compulsion to feel persecuted, and the story was told according to this angle — until Adkisson’s letter surfaced, showing his motivation to be much more personal and not a philosophically-driven effort to wipe out Christians just because they’re Christians.

So it turns out this was not a “hate crime” against Christians … it was against people of two classes that Adkisson had a personal grudge against.

Folks on the Right were — and possibly still are — railing about this being a “hate crime” because largely they despise the very notion of “hate crime.” They fear that any crime by a Christian against, say, a gay person — regardless of whether or not religion or sexual orientation played a part in the particular event — would have “hate crime” charges tacked on for added measure. Some go further, claiming that all “hate crime” legislation is, by definition, an attempt to “silence” all Christians everywhere. This sort of paranoia is, of course, yet another example of the Christian Martyr Complex, which I already mentioned. While I consider “hate crime” laws to be dubious at best — after all, aren’t all violent crimes “hate” crimes? — this fear is completely irrational.

At any rate, hopefully the Right will stop claiming this crime is an anti-Christian massacre, because truthfully, it wasn’t — and they know it.

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