Monday, August 18, 2008

May nothing Evil cross our doors

There's a church in Fairfax County that doesn't lock its doors.

It never has, as far as I know.

I was introduced to it about fifteen years ago. I was a teenager, questioning my faith and very depressed, and a boy took me there in the middle of the night to sing hymns. (This probably sounds a little precious to you, but I can assure you that to a teenage girl, it was great stuff and it helped me out a lot. I hope I made out with him in a serious way after we left the church. I'm sure I did.)

I've never forgotten that this church is unlocked. It's not a UU church, but it's a church just the same and I've been there a couple more times in the middle of the night in what felt like desperate circumstances and I've always found peace there, not so much for praying as for thinking in an environment conducive to looking beyond one's own problems and taking the long view.

Every time I've ever been, I've written an anonymous thank-you in the guestbook indicating that I was there in the middle of the night and that I was grateful that the church had been unlocked when I needed it.

By contrast, I've heard a lot about security measures at UU churches recently. People want to lock the doors during the service, to check packages, to let nothing evil cross our doors. A Chalicesseur actually attended a service yesterday where the church was locked from inside during the service.

I get the temptation.

But please, please don't.

I probably should have written this a couple of weeks ago as I did see this coming*.
But I was hoping that the "random whackjob wanting to hurt his ex-wife" explanation would be the commonly accepted one rather than the "holy war against liberalism" explanation.

Either way, locks and security won't keep evil from our doors if evil really wants to get in, but they will eat away at our feeling of safety with each other, our feeling that the church is a place we can come to that will be available for us.

I get that all churches can't be like my beloved church in Fairfax County. Indeed, with the world we live in, the "always unlocked" policy must be terribly controversial within the church itself. I am fairly confident that I will need that church again some awful night, and not at all confident that I won't find the doors soundly locked.

But we can't be locking people out on Sunday mornings.

If we start, those shootings will have damaged us in a much more widespread and serious way than merely killing two of our number.

And Evil will have won.


*Us Washingtonians know a bit about threats and the way people react to them.


Anonymous said...

Locking people out on Sundays ... wow!

As for locking out in general: it is common practice here in Portland, Oregon. I have attempted to open many a church door in downtown Portland, and none of them has ever been unlocked unless there was a service or event going on. I understand why (esp. in a downtown area), but it's a real bummer.

Toonhead said...

Locking from inside during a service? I think the fire marshall might frown upon that.

Chalicechick said...

Toonhead, the Chalicesseur reported that the doors still had those emergency bars on them, so it was still safe.

I should have mentioned that in the post. Thank you for pointing that out.

Robin Edgar said...

Evil already has won when it comes to the various internal U*U evils that are already in a good number of U*U "churches" that U*Us generally prefer to neither see, hear or speak about. No U*Us much prefer to point the finger to the various evils that are outside the "church" while denying, ignoring and minimizing the evils that have crossed numerous U*U doors years ago. . .

Chalicechick said...

UU churches are made up of human beings so they will always have imperfections, and indeed, the more mundane sorts of evil.

As the heroics at Knoxville demonstrated, churches made up of humans also have potential for a great deal of good.

And indeed, given Knoxville, I think we can be forgiven being a little more focused on a more direct and deadly kind of evil for awhile.

Most of us, I'm sure, would like to think that we would be willing to give our lives to save our friends, but nobody actually wants to do so.


Lisa M. Orange said...

Thanks for pointing out the downside of doing something as ostensibly simple as locking a door. My kids have attended two different schools that decided to install electronic front-door locks requiring "security" codes. It was clear to me that all this would do was inconvenience people on a daily basis while giving them a false sense of safety. A random nutcase or an angry noncustodial parent would have had no trouble getting past the system. It was the attitude of "We're taking this action to keep you safe" that bothered me the most.

Anonymous said...

Well, I agree with you on this one, CC. It's really sad that they are so afraid that they must lock the door during services. It's not who we are.
When I was a kid, most churches were unlocked. I remember going into a church in the middle of the night when i was distraught, and had walked all night.

Jay said...

Thanks for writing this. I absolutely agree.