home
RSS
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. Jim

    By far, the worst article I have read this year.

    December 19, 2012 at 9:27 am |
  2. Corrie Robbis

    If I lost a child the first thing I would want to hear and ponder over is the hope of the resurrection...everything else he said I have heard before, nothing new.

    December 19, 2012 at 9:25 am |
  3. UM

    Huckabee did not say that "Christian Theology" is missing from schools, but God is missing and all that comes with understanding a higher power. He is not saying we should make all kids even Buddhists and Jews say Christian prayers, he is saying we should talk about theology and spirituality in class and not strip it down to a secular desert.

    You who wrote this article needs to step back, put your emotional wheels on hold and think logically and not misrepresent people's thoughts which inadvertently completely discredits you.

    December 19, 2012 at 9:24 am |
    • mk

      But whose god, UM? Would Mike Huckabee be okay with prayer to Allah or even discussion about Allah in schools? I doubt it. He only wants attention for HIS own god.

      December 19, 2012 at 9:26 am |
    • Rinsewind

      Really? And whose theology do you think Huckabee was planning on putting into schools? Would you be the first one in line to complain if it were a theology that you didn't happen to agree with?

      December 19, 2012 at 9:29 am |
    • rick

      In case you haven't noticed, God doesn't seem to give a damn.

      December 19, 2012 at 9:35 am |
    • sam stone

      I think they already have compartive religion in schools, UM

      December 19, 2012 at 9:39 am |
    • Manny

      That's what comparative religion courses are for, but any religion course that presents all religious opinions equally is usually boycotted by conservative Christians who prefer that their kids maintain the bias against other faiths that only church-spun ignorance and misinformation can generate.

      December 19, 2012 at 10:07 am |
  4. Chris Allen

    I see a lot of opinions, but no one has answers..because there is no answer. The only person responsible for what happened is the 20 year old psychopath that performed this heinous act. it wasn't God or the lack thereof or the fallibility of our gun laws. It was that young man's actions and his actions alone. Stop blaming this or that. Blame that young man that took the easy way out.

    December 19, 2012 at 9:22 am |
    • fiftyfive55

      You,sir,are the only one here with the correct statement,punishment is for him alone,even though he took his own life,don't blame gun owners for what one wacko did.If people go that route however,they will first have to go after all the people who talk and text while driving because they have killed far more than this guy did.

      December 19, 2012 at 9:31 am |
    • rick

      So since only the shooter is to blame we can all go home and hope the next attack doesn't involve us? Yes, the shooter is to blame, but so are the gun laws. If he couldn't get his hands on a semi, alot of kids would still be alive. You ignore potential solutions because you don't want to see them.

      December 19, 2012 at 9:41 am |
  5. QuestionEverything

    Australia is secular and does not permit prayer in school (outside of personal/silent prayer) and they haven't had a shooting in their schools in a LONG time.

    December 19, 2012 at 9:21 am |
    • mk

      Violent crime in the U.S. reached a 40-year low in 2010. Teenage pregnancy is at an all-time low. Divorce rates are down 30%. Yet, there are more non-religious people now than ever. How is it possible that these "moral" issues are improving with less believers and no prayer in schools??

      December 19, 2012 at 9:27 am |
    • Manny

      mk
      Good point, but I doubt that many conservative believers will come to the logical conclusion.

      December 19, 2012 at 9:47 am |
  6. Alfred

    The more accurate phrase is:
    Guns don't kill people, people WITH GUNS kill people.
    Just rebutt with that and you'll see the gun nut staring at his feet.

    December 19, 2012 at 9:20 am |
    • Manny

      Better yet, people WITH GUNS kill MORE people than people without guns, and the more efficient the gun (and military-style assault rifles are the end product of design in efficiency of killing humans) the more people a long gunman can manage to kill before being stopped.

      Less time vulnerable while reloading means fewer opportunities for a potential victim, or a police officer to overwhelm them. Deep down in the psychology of these killers they probably imagine themselves as "heroic" lone soldiers, the kind that video games and action movies have made popular. They're on a mission to take out their "enemies" just like these characters, after all.

      December 19, 2012 at 9:57 am |
  7. Ronald

    Well, if Mr. Prothero doesn't want to hear these things, then they must be inappropriate to say.

    I don't want to hear them either, but for theological reasons, not personal ones. While I disagree with most of the assumptions behind these statements, I imagine my response to hearing them would be different from that of Mr. Prothero.

    December 19, 2012 at 9:19 am |
  8. Civil American With THE RIGHT TO BARE ARMS

    When we start to give up our rights as a people, what have our previously hard fought battles even meant? Did we fight for the right to nothing? Wasn't my government formed through revolt and strife from the beginning? Do I or do I not have certain rights as an American? Who's Rights are next on the list of correctness and who gets to decide what that means? Good luck getting true AMERICANS to give up their guns... You gonna come get 'em?

    December 19, 2012 at 9:18 am |
    • lol??

      That's the plan.

      December 19, 2012 at 9:20 am |
    • lol??

      Then the Big O sells em to Mexican drug gangs.

      December 19, 2012 at 9:21 am |
    • lol??

      Charlie Sheenster ssays, "Win, Win!".

      December 19, 2012 at 9:22 am |
    • midwest rail

      Please cite any news story or reliable source that indicates guns will be confiscated.

      December 19, 2012 at 9:22 am |
    • rick

      Civil - you really think your freedom is at risk if you can't own a semi-automatic weapon? Sounds very narrow minded to me.

      December 19, 2012 at 9:31 am |
    • sam stone

      I rolled up my sleeves to support the right to bare arms

      December 19, 2012 at 9:41 am |
  9. organically

    God is the biggest scam in the history of humanity

    December 19, 2012 at 9:16 am |
    • sam stone

      what a gig, eh?

      December 19, 2012 at 9:17 am |
    • lol??

      How far back does your history go?

      December 19, 2012 at 9:19 am |
    • hal 9001

      I'm afraid your assertions are correct, "organically". The "God of Israel" is an element of mythology, and therefore, in fact, "the biggest scam in the history of humanity".

      December 19, 2012 at 9:21 am |
    • paul

      Religion was the earliest basis for civilization. Before religion there was no conscience or definition of right and wrong. The strong took what they wanted from the weak and that was simply the way it was. Still is for the most part but religion over time has introduced guilt into that.

      December 19, 2012 at 9:27 am |
    • Funwithcrazyliberals

      Useless, blind, empty comments. Assert that gravity doesn't exist either while your at it.

      December 19, 2012 at 9:30 am |
    • paul

      @Funwithcrazyliberals actually according to Einstein it doesn't, its just the curvature of space around objects

      December 19, 2012 at 9:36 am |
  10. bakbakyri

    a popular post on facebook was something to the effect of this is what happens when you take prayer out of schools...i kept thinking if that applied to all the child molesting priets all over the world.

    December 19, 2012 at 9:16 am |
    • lol??

      The kweers worm their way into everything.

      December 19, 2012 at 9:24 am |
    • sam stone

      Really, lol?? did they wear protection when they wormed their way into your backside?

      December 19, 2012 at 9:43 am |
  11. fiftyfive55

    Ever since states have cut mental health funding and closing mental health facilities,these types of incidents have increased.Anybody who can't understand that this was the result of a mentally disturbed man is about as blind to life as one can get.Punishing the rights of others is only a distraction away from mental illness and a governments lack of compassion for the mentally ill.

    December 19, 2012 at 9:16 am |
  12. Tony Castro

    Here is a link to an article that will help shed light about this subject. I hope, that even Mr. Prothero, gets a chance to read it:
    http://www.jw.org/en/bible-teachings/questions/our-suffering/

    December 19, 2012 at 9:16 am |
    • Degrin

      If you believe that then there is little or no use for God. The short article outlines how God is not liable for human suffering, nor does God judge or is to be judged. Which pretty much means that God is useless in this situation. So how is "more God" (like in public schools) going to help if he/she/it has no control over humans and their actions which cause suffering? It won't. So your article shows nothing other than that God is irrelevant.

      December 19, 2012 at 9:34 am |
    • Harry

      Tony Castro, you should be castrated for posty stinky linkspam like that of your website that is full of lies.

      December 19, 2012 at 9:35 am |
  13. Gerri

    Religion. Opiate of the people? A true opium for the people is a belief in nothingness after death – the huge solace of thinking that for our betrayals, greed, cowardice, murders we are not going to be judged.

    December 19, 2012 at 9:16 am |
    • sam stone

      No, Gerri...you have blathered this earlier. The opiate is the idea that the creator of the universe loves you and desires a personal relationship with you. Aren't you special?

      December 19, 2012 at 9:20 am |
    • Eduardo

      I believe you have blathered your ignorant talking points before too.

      Mine actually ring true.

      December 19, 2012 at 9:23 am |
    • lol??

      The liberty bell cracked and all the liberty ran out.

      December 19, 2012 at 9:26 am |
    • Degrin

      You are judged....by society, by your peers. You are judged by real people, tangible people, not figments of your imagination.

      December 19, 2012 at 9:35 am |
  14. Joe Tunon

    Agreed. Don't say it was God's will. That God would allow any evil because of our free will (including ill will in both senses of the word) does not equate to God "willing" the evil that is done. As a parent I don't will that my child gets hurt when they do something wrong. Take God out of the equation and you're still left with an utterly senseless atrocity. So please, don't say it was God's will, and don't say there is no God, as an explanation of this tragedy. I also agree with the writer that now is a time to mourn, regardless of your beliefs.

    December 19, 2012 at 9:15 am |
    • sam stone

      joe: how does free will coincide with the idea of an omniscient god?

      December 19, 2012 at 9:22 am |
    • lol??

      ""free will"
      occurs in 0 verses in the KJV"...... If your will conflicts with God's will, then a price has to be paid. No free lunch, even though God is so generous he gives the wicked rain, too.

      December 19, 2012 at 9:30 am |
    • lol??

      The wicked are ssooooo wicked that they say, "I get rain, too, and I'm proud of being wicked. 'Sides, it proves there is no God!"

      December 19, 2012 at 9:37 am |
  15. Charlie

    You a moron

    December 19, 2012 at 9:15 am |
  16. TC

    Thank you Stephen Prothero! You said it all! People should not use this tragedy to promote their religion. What difference does it make to teach Christianity in schools if the shooter was not a student there? Some people want religion to be taught in schools but what religion may that be, Christianity, Islam, Judaism, Buddhism? After all if we are to have freedom of religion then ALL should have a fair share. I say religion is personal, leave it to each parent to teach their own kid. Parents also have the option of placing their kids in a Christian private school. Yet they want to take away the option of not teaching Christianity from other parents who do not share their same beliefs. Doesn't seem like freedom of religion to me but more like "you will believe what I want you to believe in."

    December 19, 2012 at 9:14 am |
  17. Allen Lind

    Thank you for this story!

    December 19, 2012 at 9:13 am |
  18. paul

    1. “It was God’s will.”
    If there is a God, I don't think they think on the small scale, they just don't deal in matters this small no matter how tragic.
    2. “Jesus called the children home.”
    See No. 1
    3. “After death, there is the resurrection.”
    Thats a comforting thought and if it helps the family members who lost loved ones, then I don't mind hearing it.
    4. “This was God’s judgment.”
    Again see No 1
    5. “This happened because America is too secular.”
    I would point you again to No 1 again but I would also add the least secular people I can think of, think Taliban and Islamic Fundamentalist terrorists do some pretty tragic stuff because of their nonsecular beliefs.
    6. “Guns don’t kill people, people kill people.”
    This is true, people have been killing people since long before there were guns, this crime could have been committed almost as easily with a baseball bat and if there were no guns I imagine it might well have been.

    December 19, 2012 at 9:12 am |
    • Degrin

      Paul,

      1. Thats odd, God has enough time to watch every human on earth, but doesn't have time to intervene when one looks to cause a massacre? Because it is too "small scale" as you say?
      2. See number 1
      3. It may be comforting, don't think you can deny that. You know what else is comforting? Putting programs in place to help mentally ill individuals get back into society, tightening gun laws to make it more difficult for this to happen again. That is comforting.
      4. See 1 again.
      5. Religion has served its purpose for human civilization. In more advanced cultures its becoming less and less necessary and will continue to do so untill it is all but gone.
      6. How many kids do you think he would have killed before 3-4 adults jumped on him and subdued him because he was only weilding a bat and not a gun? If he kills only 3 kids instead of 20 because he didn't have access to more deadly weapons then that is a step in the right direction.

      December 19, 2012 at 9:50 am |
  19. Ron

    Bravo, bravo, bravo!! It's about time somebody had the cajones to say it! This stupidity of "Guns don't kill people" is even more insane than anything Rush Limbaugh and his bunch of crazies comes up with. People fire those guns...they don't fire themselves. We're a nation of so many macho quarter-wits that the reality of this is lost in the numbing rhetoric of the NRA and those that it has in its holster. God not in the schools? And they can prove this with hard facts? Not this Faux News BS! God's will? Prove it! God's Judgement? Prove it! And prove it without the smotheringly banal rantings of the State Religion! It's sad that our Machoismo society thinks with its trigger finger and not with its brains. IMHO, they all need a Mental Enema!

    December 19, 2012 at 9:11 am |
  20. David

    They say, you plant sorrow, you reap sorrow. America, your wealth is 40% based on the lives of innocents around the world. How dare you feed your children with cheap food that was subsidized by the sales of weapons around the world for WWI and WWII, Korea, Vietnam, Iraq, numerous coups and bloody civil wars instigated directly by your and your only government?? I feel very sorry for the victims of Sandy Hook. They are the result of government greed on your own soil. Stop it NOW!

    December 19, 2012 at 9:10 am |
    • David

      Whoops! False cause.

      December 19, 2012 at 9:37 am |
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 31 32 33 34 35 36 37 38 39 40 41 42 43 44 45 46 47 48 49 50 51 52 53 54 55 56 57 58 59 60 61 62 63 64 65 66 67 68 69 70 71 72 73 74 75 76 77 78 79 80 81 82 83 84 85

Post a comment

You must be logged in to post a comment.

Advertisement
About this blog

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.