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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. Shirley

    those who don't believe in god I hope sickness don't fall upon you because I know when you are on your death bed you will be calling god name to heal you. I will pray that god will torment your day and night until your convert your believe in him.

    December 18, 2012 at 7:15 pm |
    • say what

      Well you and your god make quite a pair, don't you? Both psychopaths, indeed.

      December 18, 2012 at 7:16 pm |
    • Why thank you Shirley

      You are so kind. Wishing your fairy will torment others. I seriously doubt your god thinks much of your mean soul.

      December 18, 2012 at 7:17 pm |
    • Raoul Duke, Jr.

      You are one sick person. I just hope you don't own any firearms.

      December 18, 2012 at 7:20 pm |
    • drito

      LOL lunatic.

      December 18, 2012 at 7:20 pm |
    • jorline

      Put down the joint....you will not see Jesus.

      December 18, 2012 at 7:22 pm |
    • Frank

      "those who don't believe in god I hope sickness don't fall upon you because I know when you are on your death bed you will be calling god name to heal you. I will pray that god will torment your day and night until your convert your believe in him."

      ^
      Ridiculous statements like this are why religions and the religious are losing credibility in the world.

      December 18, 2012 at 7:25 pm |
    • Athy

      Keep it up Shirley. I'm certain your thoughtless comment must have converted at least a few religies to atheism.

      December 18, 2012 at 7:36 pm |
    • bami2

      Right. This argument really annoys me! Let's take that point on face value; that I will, on my death bed, call out for god and repent my wandering atheist ways... Could it not be perhaps I would do that be because I am afraid of death? Perhaps I'm hedging my bets? Perhaps I need a comfort blanket? Becoming emotional and very very scared when I finally die is what I expect will happen to be honest. It doesn't make your god or anyone else's any more real.

      December 18, 2012 at 8:23 pm |
  2. onemorehere

    we are all guilty of circular thinking, trapped on Ironies and paradoxes, on every action we take and every words we say...not one can cast a stone withou it coming back to hit its head, its like throwing it straight up on the air its bound to comeback and hit you right on the head every time...

    the none believer said there is no God but in the days of trouble he blames God for lack of mercy on him, and those around him...adknowledging God's existence...then continues to say there is not God, and continues to blame it for all evil..."God is'

    December 18, 2012 at 7:14 pm |
    • mama k

      "the none believer said there is no God but in the days of trouble he blames God for lack of mercy on him"

      What?? "Total fail", as they say.

      December 18, 2012 at 7:16 pm |
    • Observer

      It's not atheists and agnostics that claim God was around doing NOTHING.

      December 18, 2012 at 7:17 pm |
  3. MontesC

    What I find interesting is that the argument by Christians is getting polarized into Christians and Atheists. I am not an atheist but I also disagree with conservative Christians. I practice traditional Native American ways/beliefs and we do believe that there is a life force.. a spirit... and an interaction that we have with it. You make it seem as if you are not Christian then you really have no spirituality – which is insulting and arrogant. I think that is the reason people have started to strike against you – is because of your arrogance and self-righteousness. You are pushing more and more people away. I for one do not want my kids to have to pray Christian prayers in school. But it is not because I am an Atheist but because I do not want your religion forced on me or my children. We have freedom here – freedom to be what ever religion we want or to be agnostic or atheist or not to even care. That is the truth and you will just have to accept it.

    December 18, 2012 at 7:14 pm |
    • CGAW

      You believe in something other than yourself and the very limited knowledge of human science, so you are an idiot to an atheist.

      December 18, 2012 at 7:17 pm |
    • Answer

      " That is the truth and you will just have to accept it."

      Here is the line that summarizes your stupidity. Your opinion. Get that straight and see why you are the IDIOT.

      December 18, 2012 at 7:20 pm |
  4. I'm not a GOPer, nor do I play one on TV

    Wow – 1,467 posts in six hours, 12 minutes – a post every 15 seconds.

    Stephen Prothero has hit a nerve here.

    Well done sir!

    December 18, 2012 at 7:14 pm |
  5. Sara Higman

    What exactly DO you want to hear after the massacre, Mr. Prothero? And if I may say so, I'm not so sure that what YOU want to hear is what matters. That, in fact, may be what is wrong with this damned (and I do mean damned because I can see nothing positive about its course) country in the first place- self-gratification before others.

    December 18, 2012 at 7:13 pm |
  6. Shirley

    Gwen and those who don't believe in god I hope sickness don't fall upon you because I know when you are on your death bed you will be calling god name to heal you.

    December 18, 2012 at 7:13 pm |
    • drito

      LOL you are so delusional. Grow up.

      December 18, 2012 at 7:15 pm |
    • Answer

      Finally the remark that we can attest to is the TRUE core feelings of a christian!

      "You don't believe in my god so go die." <<– thank you for your statement and real admonition of sincerity.

      And it is always appropriate to respond with "May your god finds you today and takes you away from us!".

      Love you.. see you.. goodbye.

      December 18, 2012 at 7:18 pm |
    • Shirley Whirley

      I'm nuts. I like it when my god makes you suffer. I get off on it, actually.

      December 18, 2012 at 7:19 pm |
  7. CGAW

    Against the slogan guns don't kill people? Interesting, last itme I checked through humanity's sordid history, people kill with all sorts of weapons to include hands and feet. Yes, let normal people not have weapons and alllow the criminals to obtain illegal weapons – yes.... this makes sense.

    December 18, 2012 at 7:12 pm |
    • Answer

      The past that we people were as barbarian is over.

      This new 21st century – when we have a brokered peace and mass communication .. we should be ridding ourselves of the NEED for weapons. Now is the age of insight and what we can classify as a useful product and what is NOT.

      You're on the path of thinking that "it was in our past .. we can not change ourselves." – well you are wrong.

      December 18, 2012 at 7:15 pm |
    • CGAW

      Interesting answer (lame) from you considering you area barbarian since you seek to sew discord and mock for your personal enjoyment – very barbarian. You are not very bright are you? Most atheists are not, so it figures.

      December 18, 2012 at 7:20 pm |
    • Answer

      Oh look at that reply.. lame. Oh I'm shocked! XD

      Got any other fashionable replies to add?
      Will you now take the high road and be the moral grand master? Or will you try again? XD

      Do try.

      December 18, 2012 at 7:22 pm |
  8. veep

    "Let’s leave God’s judgment out of this one, OK? "

    Let's leave it out of Politics!

    December 18, 2012 at 7:12 pm |
  9. jorline

    I'm a Christian and I loath 1 & 2. God was calling them home...right. If God wants someone to "come home" he doesn't need to have them shot, mangled in a car wreck, abused, stabbed or rap ed and murdered. Your God may do that...not mine.

    December 18, 2012 at 7:11 pm |
  10. liz

    Anyone who thinks there is no prayer in school has never been in the math dept before a geometry test

    December 18, 2012 at 7:11 pm |
  11. demogal

    Mr. Prothero, I am with you all the way!

    December 18, 2012 at 7:11 pm |
  12. veep

    If HE's 'omnipresent', then HE was there.

    December 18, 2012 at 7:10 pm |
    • Observer

      The witness to the crime who could have stopped it, did NOTHING.

      December 18, 2012 at 7:12 pm |
  13. Chips

    What if our right to own land was granted to us by "Batman"...think about it. Think really really hard about it.

    December 18, 2012 at 7:10 pm |
  14. Mg

    God Schmod. It was a nutcase. Nothing to do with god. Whatever that is.

    December 18, 2012 at 7:10 pm |
  15. Megan

    This article was so funny. I need to write one that says six things I don't want Stephen Prothero to talk about.

    December 18, 2012 at 7:10 pm |
  16. Dwayne

    God made the .223 Bushmaster and god made the idiot who killed the kids. Just like God made super storm Sandy and Katrina and Rita and all the other devastation that kill people. There is no god, if there is he is a sick f***

    December 18, 2012 at 7:10 pm |
  17. Seola

    So you've "read the second amendment" but your INTERPRETATION is that it only applies to muskets? I've yet to see any part of the 2nd amendment which specifically states each type of gun we are allowed. A nuke or an RPG – NOT GUNS. Just because YOU lack reading comprehension or have no idea on, well anything (your statement about muskets portrays ignorance and disqualifies you from judging why others might need or want ANY type of gun), then we should all shut up. Between this and the barber piece – CNN is hitting all time lows.

    December 18, 2012 at 7:09 pm |
    • drito

      No where in the 2nd amendment does it say GUNS. It says ARMS. LEARN TO READ; A well regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.

      Any offensive weapon is considered arms, including Nuclear bombs, RPGs and machine guns.

      December 18, 2012 at 7:19 pm |
    • Seola

      Incorrect. ARMS by the standard definition in use during those times was GUNS. NOT RPGs. We changed terminology over time to include all weaponry, from RPG to knives. Period reference however was arms were all guns in all incarnations. Nice try.

      December 18, 2012 at 7:24 pm |
    • bami2

      Your logic is bizarre! You say that it means guns because that is what the term "arms" was defined as at the time but then when the author points out that you shouldn't have more than a musket you then assert that you should be allowed to own a modern gun (say a semi-automatic). Surely this sort of weapon is allowing the definition of "arm" to evolve past the one you use to ensure it means a gun in the first place! Either the founding fathers meant "arm" to mean the weapons at the time (in which case you are the proud owner of a musket) or you allow it to mean the "arm" or armaments of the day which would include an RPG, bio weapons maybe, heck maybe even a drone or two.

      December 18, 2012 at 8:35 pm |
  18. Tim

    So basically you're the only one that's allowed to speak on this issue. And what you think is right and what everybody else who thinks differently from you is wrong. What astounding arrogance. Whether you realize it or not this is a country where you are free to express your opinion however you want so I don't really care what you do not want to hear. this country belongs to people who do not agree with you. So why don't you get off your soap box and let everybody express themselves. This is still America, right?

    December 18, 2012 at 7:08 pm |
    • Ita

      He is not telling people not to say things. He is writing about what he himself is sick of hearing. There is a big difference! It's right in the opening lines: "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."

      December 18, 2012 at 7:22 pm |
  19. Fuzzy Thinker

    There is a warning in the Scriptures: The sins of the fathers will be visited upon their children, generation after generation.
    If society turns it back on teaching the 10 Commandments. If Permissive Parents are afraid to raise their children ethicly. IF we produce a ME generation. IF all problems can be blamed on the 'other person'. IF it is OK to spend more than you have and then get debt forgiveness.
    Then you will get what you deserve and NOT what you want.

    December 18, 2012 at 7:05 pm |
    • F_God_Inthe_arkse

      Please don't take offense but S and the T plus a F and ultimately, a big U. Now go kiss your sister!

      December 18, 2012 at 7:07 pm |
    • Observer

      Your thinking really is fuzzy. "The sins of the fathers will be visited upon their children, generation after generation."

      God changed his mind about that.

      Why not read the Bible sometime?

      December 18, 2012 at 7:07 pm |
    • QS

      Even parents who aren't all that permissive don't raise their children "ethicly"! LOL!

      Do people not understand that the worse you butcher the language, the less credibility your comment has? I prefer not to take advice from people like this, it feels like an insult to my own intelligence to do so.

      December 18, 2012 at 7:20 pm |
  20. say what

    You began with the threats, like a real tough guy.

    December 18, 2012 at 7:04 pm |
    • say what

      Dammit. I hate this commenting system.

      December 18, 2012 at 7:15 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.