My head is still reeling from reading the article on the TVUUC shooting entitled "Picking Up the Pieces." [cover story by Rose Kennedy, July 21, 2011] Especially the section entitled "Liberals: The Next Generation." I cannot emphasize enough how myself and other members affiliated with the youth program were offended and angry when we read those words. Where to begin? The shooting is not what shaped the characteristics of the youth discussed in this article. The piece stated that we have started a "new youth group" after the incident, but in truth the youth group in question has been active for many years. I spent my middle and high school years in the youth program, graduated in 2007, and that faction of Religious Education had been in place long before I was there. The leadership position changed hands—for better or for worse—not even a year ago.
The Neo-Nazi protests and events like the Peace Rally are a long-standing tradition in our group—I can remember growing up with my parents saying, "Are you sure you want to go?" concerned about the volatile nature of such demonstrations. And I understand the quote about how people may think we are afraid of "getting shot at," but making that a focus, and saying that we "have really been called to social justice work" since the incident, makes all of our blood boil. Where was the acknowledgement for our years of social justice work (which actually was a larger part of our group in the past) when a huge tragedy didn't bring attention to our congregation? It's not that we're doing more now, it's that now everyone's eyes are on us.
In conclusion, the determination to stand up for what we believe in is not a new development, it is the Unitarian Universalist's foundation of our value system. It is unfair to portray a sudden bond within the youth or a sudden bloom of social action—it is downright offensive to those of us who have worked in or with the program for many years. The church is my home, and I'll be damned if anyone says we only act by means of reaction.