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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. matt

    You miss the point. God has put us all here to grow and learn. Sometimes, things that are negative happen and we grow and learn through those negative human experiences.

    Death isn't a horrible bad thing according to the bible or it would seem to God. We as humans are the ones who put such a negative conotation with death...as "the end". We as humans have made this conclusion up.

    Believing that their is nothing after death, that there are no consiquences to our actions and how we treat one another...that there is no one we have to answer to ...is the easy way out. Its a very childish, immature approach to life, and really a selfish one that sounds like something a child would come up with "No one is the boss of me!"

    Just remember...we are not being tested, but deal with good AND bad in our lives to grow and learn. You are not the person you are because of adversity, you are the person you are because of how you DEAL with adversity in your life. That is what makes us different as human beings...how we REACT to good AND BAD.

    December 18, 2012 at 4:44 pm |
    • Huebert

      So what, God wanted to see how a bunch of 6 and 7 year old's dealt with high powered rifle rounds?

      December 18, 2012 at 4:48 pm |
    • matt

      @Huebert ...no, please stop looking at things so small minded. The family,friends ect...all will need to grow as people, as spirits to get through this and grow their faith. Its not a test, but an opportunity for them to do what they are here to do in the first place.

      Why people always look for the immediate response is beyond me. Instant Gratification or its not worth it...or doesn't make sense. Has anything worth while in your lives been easy? 99.9% of the time NO. Either is growing spiritually here on earth.

      What separates us as beings isn't adversity, we all have to deal with adversity in life at some point or another in varying degrees. But what DOES separate us as being is how we REACT to adversity. And that sometimes is something that has no instant gratification.

      December 18, 2012 at 5:36 pm |
  2. doughnuts

    For all we know, this was just the modern equivalent of sending she-bears to kill a bunch of kids for being rude to a bald man who just happened to be a prophet. (2 Kings 2: 23-25)

    So maybe it really is God's will.

    December 18, 2012 at 4:44 pm |
    • matt

      of course its Gods will.

      Death isn't a horrible bad thing according to the bible or it would seem to God. We as humans are the ones who put such a negative conotation with death...as "the end". We as humans have made this conclusion up.

      This event took place in order for people to grow and learn spiritually as beings from the events. Those close will turn to God for help, drawing them closer spiritually. Those that do not and pull away from God, may need that to happen in their lives in order to grow later spiritually. Parents, families, friends will all be facing difficult human emotions that they each individually will have to deal with, and hopefully they grow stronger by getting through this.

      People have to start lookiing less at the horror and immediate effects (instant gratification that humans can't seem to be without now days) and look at the growing and learning as humans from this.

      December 18, 2012 at 4:49 pm |
  3. hello

    So you are saying we can't say this or that. I can say whatever the hell i want. This is America where you have freedom of speech and a right to bare arms. So gfy

    December 18, 2012 at 4:43 pm |
    • Dave

      sure, roll up your sleeves idiot, and you can have "bare" arms. When it comes to the right to bear arms, we've clearly gone over the edge. There is absolutely no reason for people to have semiautomatic high powered assault rifles

      December 18, 2012 at 4:54 pm |
    • matt

      Sure, you can say and do whatever you want...that is free will. Unfortunately, there are consiquences to that type of thinking and action. You honestly don't believe that though, or you wouldn't follow the laws of the United States...because "you can do whatever you want...this is america!".

      See, the difference is, you haven't accepted the reprocussians of acting like you say and living your life that way. Those consiquences God speaks of are not a reality to you. You would probably act the same way with laws of the united states if you had never seen prisons on tv or seen or heard of people being arrested. See, people don't believe a lot of things unless they see it with their own eyes. Otherwise you have to go on faith. You don't need faith to see that if you break a law in the United States, you will go to jail. You have been shown that on tv or through society. Thus, you fear the laws and obey them...you have seen the other choice if you don't.

      Faith is needed to understand and accept the reality of life that we have to answer for our actions when we die. We do have a "boss of us" and our actions, just like in science, have a reaction.

      December 18, 2012 at 5:42 pm |
  4. Kevin

    Jesus is real. We live in a world where good and evil exist. Man fell from God by taking of knowledge of good and evil. Sometimes evil just happens. However, look at the world, I believe God has shown up. Yes God, has the power to stop evil. Why, He did not prevent this tragedy I do not know. I believe through this tragedy God will bring his glory. Just look at the outpouring of love everywhere.

    December 18, 2012 at 4:43 pm |
    • Huebert

      So god thinks to him self "The best way for me to get people to love each other is to murder 20 children, Brilliant!" You worship a monster.

      December 18, 2012 at 4:45 pm |
    • Almighty Reason

      "Why, He did not prevent this tragedy I do not know." Why would you worship something you know nothing about?

      December 18, 2012 at 4:59 pm |
  5. bibleverse1

    A man committed this act of his own free will. He chose to do this. His victims did not choose their fate. His victims had no choice or recourse to mount defense.

    December 18, 2012 at 4:43 pm |
    • matt

      you do not need to fight back or have a defense if it is your destiny in serving God.

      These children are in a happy great place, one that is much better than any life they could have hear. And if you do enough research on NDE, its very possible these children will have more opportunities, if they choose, to come back and grow spiritually on earth.

      http://near-death.com/children.html

      For those truly interested, please read through links at the address above. Scientific and medical research suggests these children are just fine where they are now. :)

      December 18, 2012 at 4:54 pm |
  6. LightningStruck

    These children died a far worse death than anything Jesus endured. He didn't have to sit there and watch is school friends ripped to shreds by an assault rifle one-by-one before his light was put out.

    December 18, 2012 at 4:43 pm |
    • doughnuts

      No, he just had to be flogged, loaded down with the instrument of his own death, paraded through the streets while people threw garbage and rocks at him, have his scalp lacerated by thorns, have spikes driven through his hands and feet, be hoisted into the air to hang by those same spikes, have a spear shoved into his side, and then die orf blood-loss all the while convulsing in agony.

      Not nearly as bad as getting shot. Fool.

      December 18, 2012 at 4:48 pm |
    • agamemnon

      Aside from the physical agony and suffering experienced, the Bible teaches that Christ suffered the tremendous weight of having the guilt of all mankind's sin placed on Him. The only perfect man, Jesus Christ, the second person of the triunity was considered the perpetrator of every crime, every sin made by any man, woman, child from past, present, and future. He bore the sin of murdering these 20 children, and all other sins. And the God the Father turned his back on Him since He could no longer look on something that bore all of our sin. To be separated from God with Whom He'd been with since eternity past. Can you even imagine it?

      December 18, 2012 at 4:58 pm |
  7. t3chn0ph0b3

    Good list. Pay heed, Christnuts. If you keep up 1-6, count on 7 (atheism) following quickly thereafter.

    December 18, 2012 at 4:43 pm |
  8. DG

    I agree 100%. It was not God's will and how could anyone say such a stupid thing. Also, the parents should not be afraid to say that they hate the killer, instead of trying to be rightious. The killer was evil it's as simple as that and he had access to his mother's weapons. His mother should have known better than to keep her guns where the killer had easy access.

    December 18, 2012 at 4:43 pm |
    • matt

      God's will doesn't mean he wants bad things for us. You have to understand, death is not a bad thing in the bible, its actually the begging of true life, better than on earth. We as humans are the ones that decided it was so horrible.

      Also – God's will is for us to love one another and grow spiritually. According to the bible, that is why we are here. If you look at this as something the children were set to do from the time they were born, to go through this so that the people around them would grow, love and learn spiritually, then it makes more sense. For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven.

      December 18, 2012 at 5:29 pm |
  9. LGTV

    GOD WILLS IT.

    December 18, 2012 at 4:42 pm |
    • Huebert

      I hope you are quoting that annoying bishop from "Kingdom of Heaven."

      December 18, 2012 at 4:55 pm |
  10. frespech

    #7 on the list, refering to people as sheep is an injustice to both.

    December 18, 2012 at 4:42 pm |
  11. TAK

    As a non-believer I've seldom agreed with much of what Steven Prothero has written. Until now. If this atrocity has knocked some sense into a theologian then perhaps there's some hope for this nation. Perhaps it will even knock some sense into the NRA gun-fetishists, but probably not.

    December 18, 2012 at 4:41 pm |
    • kdawg

      The NRA is simply a lobby group for the legality of guns. Why the hasty generalization and name calling? Is this what you call civil debate?

      December 18, 2012 at 4:44 pm |
  12. YP

    I have two things to say: Shame on you Mike Huckabee; and I feel pity for so called Huckabee follower. If they believe anything this guy has said in their entire life.

    December 18, 2012 at 4:41 pm |
  13. Richard

    Well said. Thank you.

    December 18, 2012 at 4:41 pm |
  14. 6 things Prothero likes to hear

    1) Where is God
    2) Why God
    3) I don't know
    4) I am not accountable
    5) Man is not responsible
    6) Blame it on God

    December 18, 2012 at 4:40 pm |
    • Ved

      On the contrary, it seems to me that if you read what the writer wrote, and took the time to understand it, or at least had the intelligence to do so, he was saying that this is a human problem, created by humans, so let's not pretend there's anything divine about this, or that there was some divine purpose; i.e., let's not delude ourselves, and confront the real issues.

      December 18, 2012 at 4:47 pm |
  15. J. Bernadas

    Here is my one cent, the Christianity I was taught was that God gave us free agency(free will) to choose good or evil. Freedom to choose the light or the darkness. Adam Lanza chose to do the evil he did. God does not compel anyone to do the right thing. That is why we are on this earth, to see if we would give in to evil impulses or work to be a good person. I don't think God sees death the way we do. For Him the physical death of a person is just a mere passing from one realm to another. For God that person still exists. The way I understand it is that because children are pure and clean, they are assured a place in His presence. What is grievous to God is for a person to suffer a spiritual death, because this person is forever lost.

    December 18, 2012 at 4:40 pm |
    • Bob

      Hi J – nice post.

      December 18, 2012 at 4:45 pm |
    • Kevin

      Well said. That is correct. We must choose to serve and follow Christ, or choose our own way. Our good deeds alone can not get us into heaven.

      December 18, 2012 at 4:46 pm |
    • Art Schmon

      This argument is seriously flawed. Mentally impaired people do not always have free agency. They can be delusional and, in any event, their ability to make rational decisions can be substantially diminished. They do not as a rule have easy access to proper health care but they do have easy access to guns in our society. The more important question is why each of us is not demanding more vigilant care for the mentally disabled in addition to stricter gun controls?

      December 18, 2012 at 4:53 pm |
  16. luker6401

    Jesus was Jewish Leonid. Do some history inquires before you post false statements.

    December 18, 2012 at 4:40 pm |
  17. Billy

    One of the ridiculous, crazy argument we hear now a days is "Cars Kill more people than Guns" !!! Give me a break. Let see, the purpose of the Car is "Transportation". Purpose of the Gun, Gun Lobby Folks, take a guess what it can be, tough one? OK, it is to "KILL". Big difference there!! Yes accidents happen with Cars. But Guns are fired for only one purpose => "To Kill". And unlike Guns, we have 100s of rules and guidance for Cars, drive in lanes, Driver License course, Cops on road etc.etc. But nothing even near comparison for Guns. Please stop this stupid comparison.

    December 18, 2012 at 4:40 pm |
    • kdawg

      What a about DWI ? BAN ALCOHOL? ooops we've tried that already.

      December 18, 2012 at 4:42 pm |
    • QS

      Agreed – it's probably one of the worst false equivalency arguments going around.

      December 18, 2012 at 4:43 pm |
    • Mrs Time

      That is exactly what I have been saying to those stupid comments!!!

      December 18, 2012 at 4:46 pm |
    • doughnuts

      How about banning tobacco then? It has no other purpose than to be smoked or chewed (I count dip with chewing to bacco), and it kills way more people than guns and cars combined.

      December 18, 2012 at 4:52 pm |
    • Ved

      Billy, it's useless to reason with people that have no reason. As soon as you make your argument, some other brainless fanatic uses the same false logic with alcohol. Clearly your reasoning was lost on a fool. For the sake of that poor brainless fellow, the idea is that alcohol is intended to be for merriment and entertainment, not killing. Apart from sport shooting, guns have only one purpose, which is killing. Yes, I'm sure pillows have suffocated some people too, but they were meant for sleeping on, not smothering people. I really can't understand how difficult it is for people to understand this. WHAT IS REALLY SCARY is that the people that are making these illogical and unreasonable arguments that show they are bereft of any intelligence are the same ones that are most likely to want to carry guns.

      December 18, 2012 at 4:55 pm |
  18. Kgh

    Agree on many points, but his tantrum is not newsworthy. It belongs on his Facebook page, not a respected news outlet like CNN.

    December 18, 2012 at 4:39 pm |
    • kdawg

      "respected news outlet like CNN", ha ha, that's the best oxymoron I've heard in a while.

      December 18, 2012 at 4:41 pm |
    • Suzanne

      This section of CNN is called the "Belief Blog." Therefore its content may be opinion based.

      December 18, 2012 at 4:52 pm |
  19. TrustUs

    Could God microwave a burrito so hot that he himself could not eat it? Either way he is not omnipotent. No but seriously, Mike Huckabee should be ashamed for using this tragedy to make political points. Seriously Mike, God is mad that our schools aren't Christian enough? Either he really believes that or it is hypochristian propaganda. I'm not sure which is worse.

    December 18, 2012 at 4:39 pm |
  20. QS

    The only greater convenience than "hate the sin, love the sinner" that this particular religion offers, is that of "free will".

    Religion is all about dictating to others how they should live their lives.....while relying on and employing every convenient, and false, justification available to avoid doing that very thing themselves.

    For example – Christians believe being gay is a sin, by labeling it as such they can justify their negative treatment of gay people in general....but because to them treating gay people that way is what they're supposed to do, they can also still see themselves as good people for treating others badly.

    So even though they claim they are commanded to treat others as they would want to be treated, they apparently also have a "golden rule exception list" that the rest of us are not privvy to that lists all those who they are allowed to not treat as they would want to be treated.

    What a complete joke religion is. I honestly find myself pitying religious people for allowing themselves to be so easily manipulated.

    December 18, 2012 at 4:39 pm |
    • DJ

      QS, you are exactly correct. "Free will" is the religious man's get-out-of-jail-free card, just as is using biblical text to back up the validity of the book itself.

      If god – the Christian god, or any other- is omnipotent, generous, kind, loving, etc., then that god would simply not allow such an atrocity as Sandy Hill to happen; moreover, they would have intervened to stop it from happening. If somehow the death of those magnificent and delightful souls who perished last Friday were part of "god's plan" then it seems beyond cruel and unusual that they had to experience even one millisecond of the sheer and utter terror wrought by the gunman. There are other ways to go peacefully that one would assume a benevelent and omnipotent being would utilize to achieve their "plan." I have been an athiest for a long time. despite being raised a Christian, and not one scholared Christian has been able to come up with a convincing and non-circular argument that doesn't rely on either free will or biblical text.

      And Huckabee? Wow. What a ridiculous thing to essentially insist that such a tragedy is anyone else's fault but the gunman...or, in fact, to insist that it is everyone else's fault.

      No person should tell another what to believe, nor should they ridicule them for such belief. In the face of hypocrisy and condescension, however, it is hard to remain silent.

      December 18, 2012 at 5:04 pm |
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