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.
I think it is easy to sit 200 or 2000 miles away from Newtown and say, in the abstract, that this was part of God's plan. If you had to watch up close as child after child struggles for breath, screaming in pain, it would be a lot harder to believe that any God worth worshiping would allow such deaths. And when is it OK to intervene in God's plan?
Considering this is the 21st century, why are we even talking about archaic delusions of ancient people? Sick!
Guns, God, and the GOP – I've got to believe we have better topics so how about football:)
How low to blog a Letterman-esque "Top 6 List of Things I'm Sick of Hearing" following an incident such as this. These incidents shake people to their cores and they will grapple with it in many ways, but hopefully without regard for a journalist blogger's opinion about what they should or shouldn't feel. Prothero is just desperate to be heard. This is more important to him than even the topic being discussed. He thinks sharing his opinion makes him important, relevant, whatever... What's next? He'll tell you what you should and shouldn't think about child abuse? Never mind the kids, Prothero needs to be heard! Believer or not, religious or not, ignore this insensitive clown.
Tell me, did you even read the article in full?
As the aunt of one of the children killed, I certainly do not want to hear that the loss of my niece was God's plan, or that she was called to Heaven. That gives me – and her parents – no comfort whatsoever.
Yes, I read the article in full, because the final sentence is the most hypocritical of all: he attempts to cheapen others faith opinions by stating any beliefs unlike his own "cheapens faith". It's like saying, "I'm all for freedom of religion, unless I disagree with your religion." Very stupid.
One thing I don't want to hear after the Sandy Hook massacre: Ranting lectures by jerks like this.
The guy is an ass.
If it were before the internet age, he would be a nobody. He still is.
I disagree. I think the reason some of you dislike what he said is that you're guilty of saying some of those very things. The shallow, meaningless pap that zealots spout shows very little thought at all, and Huckabee's grandstanding about school prayer is nothing short of a disgusting example.
Your ignorant to the things of God
You're, not your. Spoken like a true religie.
People often don't like a movie after reading a book. And yet, they may both be fiction.
"Good god" is the ultimate oxymoron.
Well said Rebel4Christ. The truth is, the spirit of satan is real just as the spirit of God is real. Satan is constantly trying to use people to carry out his destructive intentions. However as people of God, we do have access to a power that is greater than his. Jesus left us that power by way of the Holy Spirit until Christ returns. It is imperative that we use it. We use it by speaking words of faith over our lives and families in the name of Jesus Christ and by the power of the Holy Spirit. We must open our mouths and speak these things with authority. Satan is trying to destroy all of us. As our country continues to remove God, His grace and blessings will go also. Satans activities will only increase. But you and I do not have to be defeated. The spirit world is very real. Choosing to ignore it or not believe it only leaves you vulnerable. Give your life to Jesus Christ today by repenting of your sins and asking Him to be your Lord and Savior. Then you will have access to His power. But even then, you will have to make a decision on whether you will use it.
Your god could get rid of Satan if he choose to. Your god is a jerk.
I'm assuming this is a reply, but I don't need to locate where it belongs because:
1. you are replying to Dumbo4Christ; and
2. you seem to agree with the idiot; therefore
you're an idiot.
"the spirit world"? I think Neverland might be real too.
It appears that Prothero's list of mindless, thoughtless Christian plat itudes has really struck a nerve with some of you thumpers. I would venture to say it's probably hitting home because you have uttered many of them or something equally stupid about this terrible event.
You're the sort who say crap like "God never gives anyone more than they can handle" and think you're wise.
Tom, I think you're being a bit optimistic; thumpers are not renowned for self-reflection...or any other kind.
Mr. Prothero: Thank you for sharing your thoughts in the blog. I could not agree more. I cannot believe that it is "God's will" that something like this would happen. The quote from Abraham Lincoln is insightful – “The Almighty has his own purposes,”. My extremely simple mind wants to believe that a loving God would not allow this to happen. I struggle every day to reconcile free will, God's love for us, and events like this.
"loving god" is the second most ridiculous oxymoron.
I was COMPLETELY disgusted that Huckabee used this tragedy as a platform for his political propaganda oratory. The words "abortion pill" should not even be mentioned in the same conversation as the victims of this tragic event. It was offensive and disrespectful at best.
Thank you Stephen Prothero for the most sense I have heard in days!!
I'm not offended at all it was just a question. I have friends that don't believe in any God but we have respect for each others beliefs or non beliefs. And no I do not think non believers will go straight to hell. I know quite a few atheists that are great people. My point is maybe we need to put differences aside, look at the big picture and respect each other. Maybe then the country wouldn't be the train wreck that it is now.
They might be great people to us humans, but the bar is set high with God. They are still sinners and need Christ.
Cannot agree more. Most Christians lives in their illusion and tried so hard for over a thousand years to find excuse for their Jesus's powerless in front of evil. This is the biggest joke they put out in their life. Their love to Jesus is based on this fear that if they question, they are punished. From an outsider's eye, it is almost hysterical to see how their faith is defined by what happened in every day life, instead of their words.
There should have been a seventh statement listed in this list: I do not want to hear someone who makes their living by editorializing telling me what is correct or incorrect to say or believe. Prothero is a disgrace to Boston University's theology department.
Who forced you to read it?
Are you saying law-abiding citizens should not be able to defend themselves with a gun?
Again: can you read? Is that what he wrote?
thats what you got out of that?....
Not if they are christers.
Well said Stephen, thank you.
Why is it when tragedy hits we don't want to hear about God, but yet this writer wants to shake their fist at God and question Him.
How come the devil, the deceiver and motivator of evil gets off scott free? should we not be saying that we should shake our fist at the devil and blame him for leading this killer down the road to do such a tragic thing?
I am a christian and I do feel that our gun control legislation is out of wack, no one needs assault rifles and 30 round clips and such. I like to hunt, but if you can't down your target in one shot, go back to the practice range.
When the right to bear arms was written, people were carrying muskets, not AK47's, glocs and automatic weapons. You can regulate the weapons, but that does not stop the criminals from getting them, they don't use the regulations anyways.
If you take away the guns, then take the next step that has more damage than guns, the entertainment that glorifies killing, movies, tv shows, and video games. Replace them with wholesome shows that show the value of human life and the importance of protecting it, taking care of the less fortunate and weaker one in our society.
While you take the guns away you might as well take away the knives, China had a man attack 21 children with a knife.
Regulations don't stop crime, people with values and morals stop crimes by not committing them. Put that back in our schools and we offend a non-christian by teaching the 10 commandments and the value of life, it will be worth it, if it stops a senseless killing spree such as we have seen.
Evil comes from man and satan, not God. shake your fist at the devil if your brave enough
God created all things, satan and evil included.
The only power the devil has is what your god allows, therefore your god is ultimately responsible for everything.
No god, no devil, only us.
god and satan are just different personalities in a disordered schizoid fantasy.
“The heart is deceitful above all things, And desperately wicked; Who can know it?
Assault weapons include the .223 AR-15 and 5.56 AR-15. However, Assault rifles do not – as they requires the weapon to essentially be fully automatic. Get your lingo right.
He's a typical liberal fool that thinks guns kill people.
A Walmart parking lot is probably very scary to him as he watching all those cars waiting to kill, kill, kill.
Liberals go to Target, Walmart is for conservatives.
Speaking of fools, explain how people kill large numbers of people by thowing bullets at them, apparently.
Guns are a HOBBY. Unless you are in the military, or law enforcement. Yet for some reason Americans will not give up their HOBBY even if guns kill thousands every year.
And don't give me the "self-protection" argument – the number of guns used successfully for self-protection is miniscule compared to murders and suicides committed.
Isn't God supposed to have a grand plan covering all details of everything from who gets born to who wins battles who survives a car accident or any close call and what team wins the ball game ( at least the winner always thanks god, as if this is what they believe). So in this case why would one say that this was not part of his plan? If god does not run the show, then why do folks pray fro this and that?
Is it not written,,,
1. This world is not God's kingdom domain?
2. The kingdom of God is inside us?
3. We labor Together with God?
4. God is our husbandry in that God is with us as he conceptualizes or being built in our mother's womb?
5. Our bodies are God's buildings where God and God's families take up residents inside God's buildings?
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.