Sexuality-related topics should spark conversations, not violence

A former youth group member sent me information regarding the shootings in a Unitarian Universalist Church in Knoxville, Tenn., in late July.

At the time, he was attending the National Youth Event for the United Church of Christ nearby at the University of Tennessee.

I was happily oblivious at a UCC family camp in Idaho. Witnesses reported that a man showed up at the Tennessee Valley Unitarian Universalist Church on that Sunday morning during a children’s performance in progress.

He apparently opened fire with a sawed-off shotgun and killed at least two members in attendance, injuring several more.

According to news reports, the police found a letter the shooter had written, in which he allegedly targeted the church because, among other things, the members are people with whom he differs in opinion, including on the issues of women’s rights and gay rights.

Last time I checked, there were more effective ways of disagreeing with people.

Earlier this summer, I wrote an article explaining some acronyms regarding sexual minorities. This prompted a letter to the editor wondering why I hadn’t included terms like “pedophilia” and “bestiality.”

The answer is because I was not writing an article on sexual deviance.

In fact, homosexuality was removed from the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual as a mental illness in 1973, over 35 years ago.

The writer of the letter and I apparently disagree about some issues around sexuality and Christianity — however, I was not shot. In fact, I was not even insulted. This person in entirely entitled to their opinion, as am I and every one of you.

The conversations are what are important. To resort to using a gun or a fist or rape or assault or hateful words to solve a disagreement is tragic.

As we close in on a presidential election, disagreements will be vocalized in an ever-escalating cascade until many of us are tempted to plug our ears, turn off our TVs and radios, and click to less offensive sites.

I am certain we will hear more about sexuality-related issues such as women’s rights, gay rights, definitions of marriage, emergency contraception, rights to choose, definitions of abortion, insurance coverage of Viagra — but not contraception for women, and a host of other controversial topics.

Whatever your beliefs are about these issues, I encourage you to be informed and speak your truth in love — not violence, intolerance or exclusion. Through understanding, even if we disagree, we can find compassion and common ground.

To honor my many Unitarian Universalist friends, here is a list of the seven principles that UU congregations affirm and promote.

I encourage you to find your common ground with these beliefs and reach out to this community with kindness and understanding during this time of tragedy and grief.

The Seven Principles of Unitarian Universalist Congregations:

• 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.

Amy Johnson, MSW, is a personal life and parent coach in Federal Way. She facilitates faith and sexuality classes for youth, and parenting classes in the Puget Sound area. Contact:

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