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My Take: Six things I don't want to hear after the Sandy Hook massacre
Ex-Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee appeared to blame the Newtown massacre at least partly on the secularization of schools.
December 18th, 2012
12:58 PM ET

My Take: Six things I don't want to hear after the Sandy Hook massacre

Editor's note: Stephen Prothero, a Boston University religion scholar and author of "The American Bible: How Our Words Unite, Divide, and Define a Nation," is a regular CNN Belief Blog contributor.

By Stephen Prothero, Special to CNN

(CNN) – There are a lot of things I am sick of hearing after massacres such as the one at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut. Here are six of them:

1. “It was God’s will.”

There may or may not be a God, but if there is, I sure hope he (or she or it) does not go around raising up killers, plying them with semiautomatic weapons, goading them to target practice, encouraging them to plot mass killings and cheering them on as they shoot multiple bullets into screaming 6- and 7-year-old children. Much better to say there is no God or, as Abraham Lincoln did, “The Almighty has his own purposes,” than to flatter ourselves with knowing what those purposes are.

2. “Jesus called the children home.”

I don’t want to hear that Jesus needed 20 more kids in heaven on Friday that Madeleine Hsu (age 6) or Daniel Barden (age 7) were slain because Jesus couldn't wait to see them join his heavenly choir. Even the most fervent Christians I know want to live out their lives on Earth before going “home” to “glory.” The Hebrew Bible patriarchs rightly wanted long lives. Moses lived to be 120. Abraham was 175 when he died. Madeleine and Daniel deserved more than 6 or 7 years.

3. “After death, there is the resurrection.”

In the Jewish tradition, it is offensive to bring up the afterlife while in the presence of death. Death is tragic, and deaths such as these are unspeakably so. So now is the time for grief, not for pat answers to piercing questions. “There is a time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance,” says the biblical book of Ecclesiastes, and now is not a time for laughing or dancing or talk of children raised from the dead.

4. “This was God’s judgment.”

After every hurricane or earthquake, someone steps up to a mic to say that “this was God’s judgment” on New Orleans for being too gay or the United States for being too secular. I’m not sure what judgment of God would provoke the killing of 27 innocent women and children, but I certainly don’t want to entertain any theorizing on the question right now. Let’s leave God’s judgment out of this one, OK? Especially if we want to continue to believe God's judgments are "true and righteous altogether" (Psalms 19:9).

5. “This happened because America is too secular.”

Unlike those of us who are shaking their heads trying to figure out what transpired in Newtown, former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, an evangelical icon, apparently has it all figured out. We don’t need fewer guns in the hands of killers, he said Friday on Fox News, we need more God in our public schools.

“Should we be so surprised that schools have become such a place of carnage? Because we’ve made it a place where we don’t want to talk about eternity, life, what responsibility means, accountability,” Huckabee said in an astonishing flight of theological and sociological fancy.

Just keep plying people like the killer with Glocks and Sig Sauers. As long as we force Jewish and Buddhist Americans to say Christian prayers, then the violence will magically go away. The logic here is convoluted to the point of absent, leaving me wondering whether what passes for "leadership" in America can sink any lower.

6. “Guns don’t kill people, people kill people.”

If ever there has been a more idiotic political slogan, I have yet to hear it. The logical fallacy here is imagining that people are killed either by people or by guns. Come again? Obviously, guns do not kill people on their own. But people do not shoot bullets into people without guns. At Sandy Hook and Aurora and Columbine, people with guns killed people. This is a fact. To pretend it away with slogans is illogical and revolting.

The question now is: Are those of us who have not yet been killed by guns going to allow these massacres to continue unimpeded? Are Americans that callous? Is life here so cheap? I have read the Second Amendment, and I find no mention there of any right to possess any gun more advanced than an 18th-century musket? Do I really have the right to bear a nuclear weapon? Or a rocket-propelled grenade? Then why in God’s name would any U.S. civilian have the right (or the need) to bear a .223-caliber assault rifle made by Bushmaster?

If you believe in a God who is all powerful and all good, then covering up for the Almighty at a time like this is in my view deeply unfaithful. Today is a day to shake your fist at heaven and demand answers, and then to shake it harder when no answers are forthcoming. To do anything else is in my view to diminish the idea of God, and to cheapen faith in the process.

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Stephen Prothero.

- CNN Belief Blog contributor

Filed under: Belief • Christianity • Crime • God • Mike Huckabee • United States • Violence

soundoff (5,447 Responses)
  1. Bill

    Getting really tired of the gun control hypocrites. If those kids would have died in an automobile accident, no of your would of cared. If those kids were killed in a accident by a drunk driver, you still wouldn't care. In fact, some of your are going to get drunk and drive this weekend and think it's really funny. So, lets fix this problem now. Ban alcohol. It serves no useful purpose. And, from now on, all cars will be prohibited from going faster than 55 MPH at the factory. All radios, cell phones, GPS, and any other distracting feature will be removed.

    December 18, 2012 at 6:33 pm |
    • Observer

      Bill,

      Try again. If your child was in one of those rooms, would you prefer the assailant to have a knife or semi-automatic rifle?

      December 18, 2012 at 6:36 pm |
    • Damocles

      @observer

      What difference does that make? Dead is dead regardless of the manner in which it was done. Yes, with a knife, the killer may have been able to have been stopped sooner or killed less kids, but it still would have been a terrible tragedy. To those that lost a loved one, it hardly matters if they were the only one that lost someone or if the one they lost was part of a larger group.

      December 18, 2012 at 6:46 pm |
  2. Victoria Berke

    I am a Christian but I can see both sides. I am not prepared to argue with you but I think its sad that this horrible tragedy is giving way to this argument. Children are dead. Atheists: dont tell me or anyone else to give up our faith because trust me, my faith is all that makes sense to me right now, and it is a great comfort to other people and to myself to be able to believe that God has some plan and that those children are in God's garden basking in the light. However, Christians: dont try to press your beliefs on anyone else. Let everyone find something that makes sense to them because greif of this magnitude is deeply personal.

    We all need to remember that NO ONE has all the answers. None of us can rightly claim to know what happens post mortem. Find some way to make sense of this tragedy that works for you, and be respectful of everyone elses views.

    Rest in Peace little angels.

    December 18, 2012 at 6:33 pm |
    • Anon

      If your religious faith is whats keeping your from going on a rampage killing everyone, please don't abandon it for the non-believers safety. :D

      December 18, 2012 at 6:37 pm |
    • Anon

      Forgot one thing, the kids are dead and six feet buried.

      December 18, 2012 at 6:40 pm |
    • lionlylamb

      Victoria Berke,

      Blessed be your words for they are thoughtful and kind.

      December 18, 2012 at 6:45 pm |
    • Ed

      Why you, or anyone else for that matter, would look to God for comfort when it was He who allowed this massacre to happen, because it was His will, is completely beyond me. That's about as delusional as it gets, and this is why faith and religion are poison to society.

      How could you find comfort in the god whose will is the massacre of 26 innocent children??? It's similar to having a family member murdered, and then visiting the murderer in jail to find comfort in speaking with them. It's absurd and delusional!

      December 18, 2012 at 7:12 pm |
  3. brandon

    Did anybody else read the Lincoln quote with Daniel Day Lewis' voice in their heads?

    December 18, 2012 at 6:32 pm |
  4. Damocles

    From the story: Today is a day to shake your fist at heaven and demand answers, and then to shake it harder when no answers are forthcoming.

    *facepalm*

    December 18, 2012 at 6:32 pm |
  5. A Minnesotan

    Some of the founders were Christian, and some weren't. It's true that at the time, most of the people in the country were Christian, but so what? Because Christianity was popular in that particular time and place doesn't make it inerrant. There are lots of other religions out there, and they don't agree on all points. They clearly can't all be right. Why should we subject our children to one of them as the truth?

    December 18, 2012 at 6:30 pm |
    • Answer

      It is always this case.

      The devout all think that their religion is the only one true religion. They can't accept the fact that they're all equally garbage.

      December 18, 2012 at 6:34 pm |
    • lionlylamb

      A Minnesotan,

      In seasons are all things made and in manifestations of all things are they made in their due seasons.

      December 18, 2012 at 6:35 pm |
    • Joe

      Point, but consider the fact that there is a greater tolerance for differing religions and viewpoints in this country, as compared with others. Travel outside the US more, and you will see this.

      December 18, 2012 at 6:38 pm |
  6. Bill

    Getting really tired of the gun control hypocrites. If those kids would have died in an automobile accident, no of your would of cared. If those kids were killed in a accident by a drunk driver, you still wouldn't care. In fact, some of your are going to get drunk and drive this weekend and think it's really funny. So, lets fix this problem now. Ban alcohol. It serves no useful purpose. And, from now on, all cars will be prohibited from going faster than 55 MPH at the factory. All radios, cell phones, GPS, and any other distracting feature will be removed.

    December 18, 2012 at 6:29 pm |
    • Akira

      How many cars have barged into a school and killed twenty 6 and 7 year olds?

      What a weak arugument.

      December 18, 2012 at 6:33 pm |
    • A Minnesotan

      Don't you see the difference? The purpose of cars is to move people around. The purpose of guns is to kill things.

      December 18, 2012 at 6:33 pm |
    • A known Filipino

      You ever hear of Prohibition? The ban of alcohol have rise to the bootleggers. A lot of crime went down. You ever hear of Al Capone? St Valentines Day Massacre?
      On the other hand, you could be sarcastic. You never know.

      December 18, 2012 at 6:37 pm |
  7. gibsonsdad

    Saturn caused this to happen. He is angry that we have forgotten His day.

    December 18, 2012 at 6:29 pm |
  8. rog

    First what made you feel that Yah goes around intervening. We break every one of his laws, support abominations Disrespect him by repeatedly calling him/her "lord", replace his "holy days " with Satan worshipping "Holi days" Christmas , Easter dont ever give thanks . But when things yo wrong you ask where "GOD" is. Try obeying his laws . And the bible covers about those 3500 years and online few times did bible show GOD intervene in times of trouble. Where did you all get much an erroneous idea from. Oh, know false teaching Christians . GOD LO'VE ONLY THOSE WHO obey his Commandments.. WHICH BUY THE WAY exclude 99.5% of Christians DOn't keep his laws. Btw, Christians are jot praying to a god that protects. That worship a sun God name Baal, aka "Lord" . We commemorate him by worshipping on SUN day, and by celebrating Christmas and Easter which neither has nothing to do with " Jesus"( the name Jesus is pagan). Christians have made very hard to believe in GOD with false teaching. And please front ever ask Christians were god is. The vast majority of them . DO NOT READ THE BIBLE

    December 18, 2012 at 6:28 pm |
    • Answer

      WRONG.

      Read that piece of crap! Get familiar with the religious ideology of stupidity and then free yourself.

      Read that pile of manure.

      December 18, 2012 at 6:30 pm |
    • Mario

      i couldnt understand what you wrote with all the spelling and grammitcal errors but it does seem like Answer is right, read before you attempt to write and debate.

      December 18, 2012 at 6:32 pm |
    • Brad

      ?? what the hell?? are you developmentally disabled? How and the hell did you figure out which one was the keyboard and which was the mouse? Does your nurse know you are playing on her laptop?? You just wait till she gets back from the bathroom mister!

      December 18, 2012 at 6:47 pm |
  9. Sly

    Who cares if it was God's will or just some nutcase gun-lover. None of y'all will EVER know, so why can't you just accept either scenario and work on a solution.

    Listening to y'all acting like your personal opinion means everything is a joke ... it's like listening to a Red Sox fan argue with a Yankees fan: "The Red Sox are the best team". "No, the Yankees are". "No, I have proof, it's the Red Sox". "No, I have proof, it's the Yankees".

    Why can't everyone understand that we are born with a brain, and with our brain, we form personal opinions. With our brains, we are also able to discern 'opinion' from 'fact'.

    Pretty simple really. Now ... about those solutions ....

    December 18, 2012 at 6:28 pm |
  10. Mario

    Let's get this straight! Sin, is NEVER part of God's will, so anyone who says "this is God's will" is being deceived. God has given man/woman free will and because some people are good and some are evil is why these things happen. More people do need God in their lives.

    December 18, 2012 at 6:28 pm |
    • Anon

      The belief that a cosmic Jewish Zombie who was his own father can make you live forever if you symbolically eat his flesh and telepathically tell him you accept him as your master, so he can remove an evil force from your soul that is present in humanity because a rib-woman was convinced by a talking snake to eat from a magical tree.
      Yeah, christianity makes sense.

      December 18, 2012 at 6:30 pm |
  11. Joe

    Evolution has NEVER been proven. Please do not promote an unscientific, unproven theory by using a massacre to promote hate to millions of readers.

    December 18, 2012 at 6:28 pm |
    • Observer

      Joe,

      Nonbelievers don't have to believe in evolution.. Think it through next time.

      December 18, 2012 at 6:31 pm |
    • Anon

      Evolution has nothing to do with this massacre you creationist nut.

      December 18, 2012 at 6:32 pm |
    • Damocles

      This is an oversimplification, Joe, but did you spring fully form the womb or did you evolve into the person you are today through stages, trial and error, learning and making mistakes?

      December 18, 2012 at 6:35 pm |
    • Peteyroo

      JoBlo, you're a fool, my friend. Pure and simple.

      December 18, 2012 at 6:37 pm |
    • A Minnesotan

      Sorry, but evolution is a simple fact. It happens all the time. Darwin's theory of natural selection was to explain how evolution worked, not whether it occurred. The theory of natural selection is the bedrock of modern biology. It's about as proven as things get.

      December 18, 2012 at 6:47 pm |
    • Brad

      Evolution is a working theory based off of scientific evidence. If something is brought to the fore front that disputes it's accuracy, then the theory of evolution will have to change or be done away with. Can you say the same for your bronze aged religion?

      December 18, 2012 at 6:50 pm |
  12. Gregory L. Faith

    We came out of the trees and discovered fire. We ate the animals around us and grew our brains to what they are today. Along the way someone invented GOD and the concept of it and wrote stories that were real just interpreted differently over the years. Wars have been fought over this concept and many millions have died because of it. Now we struggle to grasp why a man would walk into an elementary school and kill little children. He had hate in his mind and acted on it. He's gone and cannot tell us why. They are gone and never coming back. WE are left to deal with it. So do just that. We watch others die each day on the news and do nothing to prevent it. Humans kill or are killed. It is in our nature and that will live on forever. Banning guns will not stop it and everyone knows that.

    December 18, 2012 at 6:27 pm |
    • Peteyroo

      Exactly!!

      December 18, 2012 at 6:36 pm |
    • QS

      You highlight evolution in your comment, but refuse to apply it to the context of your thought.

      As the only creature on this planet that has not only an evolved brain that allows us to reason rather than just act on instinct, but also a conscience that requires us to assign right and wrong to most things, it is our responsibility as a species to overcome our base animal instincts that we have, as you pointed out yourself, evolved from and no longer rely on.

      Instead, you devolve into insisting that we cannot actually overcome those instincts and are simply destined to continue being merely slightly intelligent animals.

      December 18, 2012 at 6:56 pm |
  13. QS

    We have to erase the tragic history of the gun debate in this country that has traditionally been monopolized by paranoid pro-gun, anti-government people and start reframing the conversation within the confines of logic, reason and rationality....not just on some false sense of patriotism.

    December 18, 2012 at 6:26 pm |
  14. Psss retard read this

    Who is this retard who wrote this? Why are you still in America? IT IS PEOPLE WHO KILL PEOPLE. There has been wars since man existed so lets talk bible and sum it up. MORE PEOPLE HAVE DIED for GOD, ALLAH and what ever other GODS in religion. Romans ruled with spears, England with swords and crossbows and dont forget this country was originally founded to spread Christianity. Many Wars was based of religion and they did not have guns back then. Humans are our own worst enemy and unless there is a plan to wipe out all of man kind there will never be peace or a time that another human will not kill another human whether by gun, knife, car, rock and thousands of other ways. Get your facts straight before you open your mouth to try to sound like you know what you are talking about.

    December 18, 2012 at 6:26 pm |
    • Answer

      The retard is yourself. Apparently your don't like number 6.

      December 18, 2012 at 6:28 pm |
    • wat

      You do know that quite a few of the founding fathers were atheists, or at least agnostic, right? So how exactly was this country founded to spread "Christian" views? It's religious zealots like you who drive a lot of people out of religion, or was that "God's will" as well?

      December 18, 2012 at 6:33 pm |
  15. Evil does exist.

    Evil does exist in this world. The events that took place in Newtown were truly evil. All of the officials, media, investigators are all trying to figure out why exactly this Adam Lanza committed this crime. Adam Lanza just all of a sudden snaps and commits this crime out of nowhere? No signs of psychosis?... The fact of the matter is there is a spirtual battle going on that is unseen. Ephesians 6:12. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. And are you to tell the parents that there child isn't spending eternity with our Lord. The fact of the matter is we need Christ in our lives more than ever.

    December 18, 2012 at 6:25 pm |
    • Peteyroo

      There is no LOrd. There is no Christ. It's all nonsense.

      December 18, 2012 at 6:27 pm |
    • QS

      Seems to me that many religious people need less Christ and more education – I prefer not to take advice from somebody who doesn't know the difference between "there" and "their".

      December 18, 2012 at 6:28 pm |
    • Damocles

      You mention psychosis and then display yours with seemingly no shame.

      December 18, 2012 at 6:37 pm |
  16. Jvega

    When anyone imply is God will or God have a plan when something horrific happens...that's exactly what are you saying that it was God's fault,his plan even if you don't like my argument.We're are God's puppets,he gave humans free will to choose our path good or evil or cut in the middle. Our loving God will not have such will or plans.

    December 18, 2012 at 6:25 pm |
    • Peteyroo

      God doesn't exist–never has.

      December 18, 2012 at 6:26 pm |
  17. Realistic Snark

    It not his will at all, and I am very tired of hearing it. If it was indeed "gods will", then "god" sucks and I don't want any part of him.

    December 18, 2012 at 6:24 pm |
  18. michael

    This is pure propaganda...Why is CNN running this trash from a so-called 'scholar'

    One fool's opinion is not news....Please take this down.

    Out of respect for the families, do not promote your propaganda.

    December 18, 2012 at 6:24 pm |
    • Peteyroo

      And what about your propaganda?

      December 18, 2012 at 6:28 pm |
  19. maria

    I had an interesting conversation with a family member on this – i too, asked where was God in all this? How could our heavenly father allow such tragedy? I too was angry at God, etc....She told me flat out....."isnt it ironic the timing of this incident? So close to the birthday of Jesus Christ? This is an act of spiritual warfare..a time when the evil and negativity hits the world....thats what evil wants....he wants you to forsake the creator and become part of his unholy army....our reaction is exactly what he wants! He choose this situation to conquer his goal...to make the rest of us denouce God...to make us unbelieving and weak....i thought about her words and decided my faith in the creator will never waiver...that i may not understand his intentions but i pray for everyone involved,,,i will not lose sight of my heavenly father in all of this...it takes alot to say this...i will neve stop praying....

    December 18, 2012 at 6:23 pm |
    • QS

      So you're essentially saying that "god" purposefully stages events like Newtown just to test his toy creations to make sure they'll continue believing in him? Now I've heard it all!

      December 18, 2012 at 6:31 pm |
    • Brad

      The correlation between religion and a lack of education is undeniable.

      December 18, 2012 at 6:54 pm |
  20. Billsf

    I'm still trying to figure out how those polar bears and kangaroos made it across continents to Noah's Arc!

    December 18, 2012 at 6:23 pm |
    • Anon

      According to Ken Ham one of the gran poobah's of creationism it was magic. :D

      December 18, 2012 at 6:34 pm |
    • Peteyroo

      Noah may have had an arc as well, but we're talking about his ark in this case. I, too, wonder how the Komodo dragons got to the ark. I also wonder what happened to the fish and mammals living in the ocean. All that rainwater mixing with sea water would have been a nightmare for those animals. Or did Noah bring the fishes aboard as well.

      December 18, 2012 at 6:34 pm |
    • QS

      Didn't you see "Evan Almighty"!? LOL!

      December 18, 2012 at 6:48 pm |
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The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.