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.
Considering this is the 21st century, why are we even talking about archaic delusions of ancient people? Sick!
The Socialist Capitalist medical govern*mental complex has failed the mentally ill. I hear it's working in China, though.
"Nothing dies harder than a bad idea." Julia Cameron
Well said. I agree with all of it. Thanks for writing.
Romans 1:20 For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse.
That was maybe true before the age of science, but now we can figure out how the universe actually works, so the reliance upon excuses is now firmly in your court.
See also Romans 1:28 (?) on why man becomes depraved.
Just because a person doesn't believe in you God it doesn't make them "depraved". I didn't just decide one day to become an atheist because I didn't think that being a Christian was worthwhile anymore. I just realized that God didn't exist, so why pretend to believe in something that I didn't? This didn't change me any. I didn't "go bad" and start hurting people. I did drop my old prejudices against nonChristians and gays though, so you could say that I actually got better be becoming an atheist.
Do you know what God's invisible qualities r?what?.How many atheists know?#no.So how many other mysteries you don't understand So you read without Ye with no faith a mustard seed is all you need to grow.Answer?Study.You cannot hear.Peace&Love(one comment)"spit on God"he knew you would say that as dust.
"He has revealed Himself to all mankind without exception: to the young and the old, to the rich and the poor, to the simple and the educated. None lack a knowledge of God. Innate knowledge of God is a gift of God to all men. Through it, He has given all an opportunity to know Him. Much of our innate knowledge of God comes through reason, a gift God has given only to man among the creatures. Not all have access to God's direct revelation of Himself in the Bible, but all have reason."
Bible Quote: "The fool says in his heart, `There is no God'" (Psalm 14:1)
Well, Holly, he didn't reveal squat to me. I guess I'm just not deluded enough.
Now that's just silly, Holly. If it were true then why would you guys need missionaries, Sunday School, and church to teach people about God?
All things work together for good for those love God and are called according to his purpose. Romans 8:28
God cannot be blamed for this incident but he is very much in control. He can cut off our air supply and we are all dead. It certainly was tragic that this happenned but we know now that we must protect our children.
He should cut off your air supply because you are obviously wasting it.
You are exactly the problem the is article is highlighting. Id**t!!
I'm sorry. Did you say "he can cut off our air supply"?
The head honcho is in control, but cannot be blamed when things go south?
Sounds like the Bernie Madoff defence to me.
I believe Huckabee, is on to it, in that the modern American, multi cultural, multi morality, grey area filled school systems, have no moral core whatsoever. Sure, Huckabee only knows his GOD, but his point is not to get everyone to follow his God, but to follow A god, Any god, something larger and holier than your self. So I say scrap the entire funding mechanism for "public schools" and let people voucher their children to their specific religious love.
Ummm, school systems have a moral core? Really? And if so, how exactly do they "lack" that? And compared to what? What is a "moral core"? And your assessment of Huckabee is delusional. He is a fundamentalist wack job that would jump at the chance to legislate this country back to the dark ages. People, believe what you want. Worship cheese for all I care. Do what makes you happy, and gives you peace. But the second you try to say that your way needs to be someone else's way, you lose. Public schools don't "prohibit God"...they let you deal with it somewhere else. We can all be in a room and agree to learn math, even if each of us believes in a different god. We cannot be in a room and learn about one right God, if each of us believes in something else.
You do realize there are shootings in churches also.
Follow any god, eh? How about Loki, Set, Hades, Baal, ...? Lots of gods were mostly evil, but most, including YHWH, expressed the full range of human morality. Remember the jealousy, rage, and vindictiveness of bibleGod, not to mention his genocidal tendencies? Nasty!
Soemone asked why a .223 is needed. The .223 is a very small caliber, so small its usually used for small varmints that are shot from a longer range. Its about 2/3 the size of the .30 caliber used for most large game hunting. Its a handy gun to have around the ranch or farm. Its also good for antelope hunting. That caliber is available in a lot of regular hunting rifles. Most are semi automatic and many are bolt action. Bombs are the real fear as in the 1927 Bath, Mi. school massacre. What has to be changed is people. If they want to kill there are a lot of methods available. A gun or knife or bomb is only a tool. The most deadly is the bomb.
You're a "Guns don't kill people...people do..." kind of tool.
If you need 30 round clips to hunt "varmints" then you're no better a hunter than Elmer Fudd.
You've read the 2nd amendment? Really? So where does it state these limits on anything beyond a musket? I don't see them.
It's immoral for Christians and others in the Govt.to cut spending on programs for the poor,and not cut spending on wars: Jesus said,he came to preach his Gospel to the poor,and he said he fulfils all the prophets,including the prophet Isaiah,and Isaiah 2:4,he will Judge among the nations,and rebuke many people,and they will beat their swords into plowshares,and their spears into pruning hooks,nation will not lift up sword against nation,neither will they learn war any more. Jesus left the Holy Spirit with us,and the Holy Spirit is also God,so God is here now.
The world is ending on the 21st anyway. So those of you that see god, ask him why does these things happen?
If the world ends on the 21st you'd have the Mayan gods to thank. Remember, it's pronounced Q'uq'umatz! :-)
I'll take an answer from any god at this point!
Some people in the South Pacific consider Prince Phillip a god. Will he do?
And, just think – Huckabee wanted to be your President... what's worse than that? A lot of people supported him.
America needs people with brains not people who believe in fairy tales.
PM Harper believes in the same fairy tales, including the Rapture. I'll give him credit though; on the news today I heard him say that we live in a nation of many faiths, and that it wouldn't be appropriate for him to place his faith over that of others.
Careful...If you're going to bring religion into it don't damn God for what he did or didn't do without acknowledging the other side of the religious fight. Even if you don't believe in a Christian God or any God there is still a matter of "good" and "evil" and they are constantly at war with each other. From a Christian perspective, there is a religious fight happening every second where God (good) is fighting evil (Satan). Satan has his own agenda for the world and that's creating hate and violence and pain because that's what he thrives on. What happened at this school was Satan, it was evil. For whatever reason, God lost the shooter to Satan and Satan's will was carried out. NOT GOD'S. Does that mean that Christians aren't questioning why this had to happen? No it doesn't. At this point, "shaking our fists at God" won't do anything...instead we show God through our constant love and support to all those affected. This isn't the time to focus on our differences but come together to make sure evil doesn't continue to win through our discourse.
People, we do not need stricter laws. The bad people will get their hands on anything reguardless if there is a law or not. Only the good follow the laws. The bad don't give 2 sh!ts about the law. Logic.
You should change your moniker to THAT NUT. If guns make you safe why do police officers get shot?
The cops have the right to carry as an extension of the citizens' right to carry. Take the citizens' guns and the cops must give up theirs, too.
I want to get rid of ALL guns. They have outlived their usefulness.
John Has Been Huckabee – you maniacal, brain-rotted redneck robot: enough. Go away and just...expire. Try this...us god-ferin' real amer-ee-cans sure do believes in our right to free speech...so here's mine godboy – to the political loser who just tried to preach that our lack of religious fundamentalism in public schools could be why 20 kindergartners were shot through the face by a sociopath: I will happily defecate on your gravesite in the hopes that it will fertilize the dirt and grow something more substantial than you. This is nowhere near as offensive as the fly-ridden s*it that spewed from your mouth.
You know what , if the us was blown up by another country would u want somebody to poop on your grave. no is the answer. And yes could god had intervened, yes only if he wanted to . Things happen for a reason. God sees the future not us , had these kids had turned from him in the future, then the kids would be held accountable. But when kids die young they are guarantied heaven. As adults we are not. Only if we repent of our sins an ask jesus into our heart it's not that hard. We are all going to die . But let'z go to heaven an rejoice with our families an jesus an little angel's that arrived just before CHRISTMAS. HAVE A MERRY CHRISTMAS ! GOD BLESS YOUR FAMILY I'm not afraid to die an I'm married an have 2 young kiddos! Heaven is worth it all!
Crazed gunmen like Lanza should target NRA conventions, not elementary schools.
God can't be bothered by any of this – he's busy with Christian Mingle! After all what's more important?
Agree with the article. But this was a Perfect Storm, that people finally get the point on assault weapons. And G-d is Perfect.
20 innocent children are "PERFECTLY" dead, Grow up.
Poor Steve, so misguided and so wrong. Steve, how come we never hear about gun control from you and your liberal buddies everyday when poor inner city kids are mowing eachother down? Why is it only when there is a mass killing in a school or movie theatre?
Steve, check you research. More people are killed each year by cars and bats then guns. And, guess what? People are driving the cars and swinging the bats that kill other people. Should we ban cars and bats...and airplanes for that matter. Get real, Steve. This isn't about God's will. God doesn't want dead children. But if we valued life like Samuel L. Jackson has come out and said and stopped blaming guns, we'd live in a hell of a lot better society.
Nice try. Your column didn't make it.
Lamentations 2:21-22 AMP
The young and the old lie on the ground in the streets; my
maidens and my young men have fallen by the sword. You have slain them in the day of
Your anger, slaughtering them without pity. You [Lord] called together, as on an appointed feast day of
solemn assembly, my terrors (dangers) from every side. And there was not one in the
day of God’s wrath who escaped or survived; those I have nursed and brought up, my
enemy has destroyed.
Then close your eyes and plug up your ears. That way you won't hear or see anything. You want to decide what it right and what is idiotic. You know what they say about opinions. Listen genius. People believe what they want to believe because it may bring them comfort in times of dire pain.
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.