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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. dan

    god isn't real and our founding fathers weren't christians, just a heads up

    December 30, 2012 at 10:00 pm |
  2. Gun Owner in IN

    Guns are in no way responsible for what happened in Sandy Hook... A mentally disturbed person was!

    The media have blown this event ENTIRELY out of proportion just to boost their own ratings. The soccer moms who are touting 'gun control' are the same ones who won't allow mass murders to be executed and punished as law dictates. They'd rather stand in the way than let folks be prosecuted by the laws that already exist!

    I am sickened that CNN (as far as I'm concerned the Communist News Network) and our politicians decided to use this tragedy for the sole purpose of personal gain and their own agendas... You should truly be ashamed of yourselves.

    December 30, 2012 at 5:27 pm |
    • johnson of go

      In my opinion, we cannot terminate all the problems we have. We always should try to improve our world and not make it perfect, as far as we are not in heaven. The law should prohiber automatic guns and machine guns for the citizens.

      December 30, 2012 at 6:28 pm |
    • 13Monkees

      Automatic weapons are the same as machine guns and they are already illegal. The weapons used here were semi-automatic. That means you have to pull the trigger each time you want to fire a bullet. Heck, an argument could be made that automatic weapons would save lives because they are more inaccurate than semi-automatic weapons. Automatic rifles tend to start to fire high after about 3 rounds. This is why the military has gone to a 3-round burst. In any case, your argument is moot. It was already illegal for this guy to have the weapons he had. Laws outlawing weapons don't work. Look up mass shootings in Europe. They still happen even though they have the gun laws the left wants.

      December 30, 2012 at 9:35 pm |
  3. americaswatchman

    Listen up everyone...

    I cannot speak for God, only he can do that. But God is real, I know this for a fact.
    It is not right to blame God for this, unless he admits to it himself, and he has not done that.
    If God was allowed back into the US by school prayer, being taught in school (ten commandments,etc.)
    Then people would learn what the rules are that they should follow (not to lie, cheat, steal, kill, etc.. )
    And then perhaps this country could go back to the way it was decades ago.
    Where people did not walk around randomly killing, robbing, raping, etc. innocent people.
    Being courteous, polite, and socialable to other people, etc.

    Also, perhaps God had a reason for that, perhaps his attention was somewhere else that day, only he knows.

    By the way, the first murder on the planet was committed with a rock, perhaps we should ban rocks then?
    (Cain killed his brother Able in the Garden of Eden with a rock... )
    The gun is just a tool, if an unlocked, loaded, and chambered gun is sitting on a table somewhere,
    it will NOT kill anyone, unless someone that has already decided to kill someone picks it up and uses it
    to kill someone.
    If people want to kill, they will find any weapon they can get there hands on, even if they cannot get a gun.
    Then they will use a rock, hammer, baseball bat, statue (just sitting around the room somewhere), pen, knife (from their kitchen, a lamp (classic), a pill, poison, etc.
    I could go on forever...

    God gave man free will, and his words in the Bible as a guide and book of rules to live by with free will,
    and most people have ignore it, and not followed the rules.
    And just like we do in life, when the bad do bad, we punish them.
    God does the same thing to sinners, he punishes them.
    As for Satan, he encourages sin, and rewards sinners when they commit sins.

    I have gone my entire life, trying to live by the Ten Commandments as much as possible, and because of that,
    I have never been arrested, never hurt an innocent person in any way, never killed anyone, never driven under
    the influence, etc...
    So far I am doing pretty good I think.. So I believe God looks out for me because of it. So I have no real complaints.

    Here is the lesson of the day for all of you...

    Start beliveing in God, follow and live according to the Ten Commandments, and the rest of the Bible as much as possible,
    attend church, pray, etc. and your life will improve... And if all of US on this planet of God's do the same thing.
    Life for all of us will improve overall.. It is that simple...

    And for those of you that do not believe in God, just because you cannot see or measure him..
    I feel very sorry for you. Because he does exist.

    Here is a question each one of you should ask yourself:
    Just because you have not seen, and touched something with your own eyes, and hands, does it not exist?

    There are many things in life some of you will probably never see, or measure, or can be measured,
    but they still exist.

    I will never see the top of Mount Everest for myself, but I know it is there. I have seen photos.
    I know I will never measure the air that we breathe that surrounds all of us, but I know it exists,
    Because I breathe it every day. etc.....

    Just get over yourselves, and follow God, then all will improve...

    God bless all of you with the mercy and guidance of God to show you all the right way to live, by doing all the right things.

    God bless America.

    December 30, 2012 at 3:45 pm |
    • Mike1

      Incredibly thought-provoking comment. You have a valid point that god commands us to do good. However, the fact of the matter is that we live in an increasingly secular society. I don't mean to call you an idealist, and I hope that doesn't offend you, but in reality God will never again be allowed in our schools. Citing biblical references even though it has significance towards you and me does not have any relevance in our society today. That being said, I just want to say that you have a fantastic line of reasoning and I look forward to reading other comments you post. Cheers.

      December 30, 2012 at 5:37 pm |
    • OTREBOGIR

      I will SURELY prefer to take on a guy with a rock, pencil, knife, machete etc. than a guy with a semiautomatic...I BET you the consequences will be way less dramatic

      December 30, 2012 at 6:09 pm |
    • Xggghhh

      You suggested in your statement that God is fallible. God's omniscience mean that his attention could not just "be elsewhere". I refuse to go into a long theological conversation with you, however, please do not claim things about God that make him less glorious than he is.

      December 30, 2012 at 7:52 pm |
    • Jake

      The way I see the whole thing, God either cant do anything about disasters such as this, he chooses to cause them, or he doesnt exist. Therefore your God who is supposed to be good and loving is either impotent, evil, or imaginary. I refuse to believe in a god who can allow such things to happen. And our country was founded on secularism, we fled another religion to find tolerance. What really sets me off is religious nuts who think only the bible teaches morality. That is totally untrue and absolutely ridiculous and selfserving. I'm an atheist, and I know not to steal or kill, and many other of your "christian" morals. I was raised by athiest parents, and Im a beneficial member of society, if anything religion sets us back as a country.

      December 30, 2012 at 9:16 pm |
    • Bet

      By the way, the first murder on the planet was committed with a rock, perhaps we should ban rocks then?
      (Cain killed his brother Able in the Garden of Eden with a rock... )

      The bible doesn't specify a weapon, it merely says that Cain attacked and killed Abel.

      This story didn't take place in the garden of eden. Adam and Eve had been ejected from the garden before they had children.

      You don't even know what your book of fairy tales says, and somehow you are arrogant enough to open with "Listen up everyone". What an ass.

      December 30, 2012 at 11:30 pm |
    • Ol' Yeller

      "By the way, the first murder on the planet was committed with a rock, perhaps we should ban rocks then?
      (Cain killed his brother Able in the Garden of Eden with a rock... )"
      Which brings to mind a real good question... We have Adam, we have Eve, who have Cain and Abel.
      Cain kills Abel.... Which leaves Adam, Eve, and Abel...
      How did the Earth get populated from this mix. according to your "facts"?

      Oh., let me guess... we are not here to question God!
      Right....

      December 31, 2012 at 3:17 pm |
  4. Skegeeace

    Everyone wants to blame God when things go wrong and give Him no credit when things go right. SMH...Who are we to demand answers from God? He created a perfect world and guess what- we threw it back in His face! I wouldn't blame God for abandoning us, but He didn't. He sent His son to forgive us so that even after we live out our miserable lives with our precious free will- which some use of their OWN VOLITION to commit heinous acts like killing children- we have a chance at perfect life again. If you don't want it, fine- no one's forcing you to and CERTAINLY not God.

    December 30, 2012 at 12:59 pm |
    • Moby Schtick

      There's no cause to blame a god who is so invisible and undetectable as to be nonexistent. Don't blame a being who can't be detected by any objective measurement just as it would serve no purpose in believing in such a being.

      As to god giving free will..... If he's doing that, I wish he'd be a little more fair about it. How about next time he respects the free will of the twenty-six people who want to live versus the free will of the one person who wants the twenty-six dead.

      December 30, 2012 at 1:05 pm |
    • mrp55

      My father died when I was 17 years-old. He was the kindest, most generous and loving man I have ever known. My aunt (his sister) said, "It was God's will." That was the moment I stopped believing in God. I am now 58 years-old. I still don't believe in that god. I never will. Why would someone say something so uncaring if she considered herself a good "Christian?" How many hurtful, evil and unforgivable things have been said or done in the name of god and by Christians? I can't begin to name them. I raised my children to be kind, caring, giving, open minded, respectful, non-judgmental, civic minded and to help other people and animals. I don't know too many people of faith who live by these examples.

      December 30, 2012 at 2:58 pm |
  5. Natty Dread

    One big problem in the U.S. that I see is that most people's concept of God is wholly influenced by medievel european style Christianity, and does not even consider other cultures of the worlds approach to spirituality. It is actually very alien and convoluted to adopt the ancient middle eastern (oriental essentially) religious way, and then espouse complete rejection and disdain for other religions. That's why, I believe, we have such idiotic statements and ideas about God thrown around here. Others have this problem, too, but here in the U.S., we have some of the most spiritually ignorant people, some of whom are actually leaders and preachers, etc.

    December 30, 2012 at 12:53 pm |
    • TJ

      Natty... you're proof that "ignorance has a voice".

      Too bad you know little about Amerindian beliefs... you might find their beliefs similar to those of Judea-Christians. Ah well, not to worry... I see a great deal of ignorance on these boards. You're far from being alone.

      December 30, 2012 at 4:51 pm |
    • Natty Dread

      @TJ – "amerindian"? Indians are from India, Columbus! I don't see the Europeans in North America following anything of the natives of the Americas. They follow the Roman bible (from Constantine – Nicene) and the subsequent "development" in medeivel Europe. If you don't know that, you are blind to your own religions history. That is ignorant.

      December 31, 2012 at 11:15 am |
  6. morality

    In God we Trust is methaphor in that people truse the goodness and morality of 99% of the people. Sadly morality is not taught in schools to kids. some kids and people don't even know what morality means and have never read the bible and don't believe in the ten commandments which is code for social conduct. An one other thing why should God care? God or Satan punish humans for their sins. Satan was watching as nukes wa bombed. and millions. Satan laughs as millions die! Arrogant humans who think they are gods. why should God care when evil doers die!? People always say where is god when millions of jew as slaugthered...Satan was laughing as millions of Jews was slaughtere and millions die in the baltlefield (angel of death)

    December 30, 2012 at 11:48 am |
    • Duzinkiewicz

      Morality is not dependent on acception a Christian mythology that by its very nature is incompatible with reason.

      December 30, 2012 at 12:59 pm |
    • herfules

      So you Christians and your churches are incapable of teaching morality to your children? They have to learn it at school??

      That's pathetic.

      December 30, 2012 at 4:52 pm |
    • TJ

      Hey Dunk... then your life belongs to me, you have no rights anymore as I am taking them away, and your possessions (including your wife) are now mine. I mean hey... without Christian mores, you have nothing, and I have everything. End of story.

      You truly are ignorant Dunk... truly.

      December 30, 2012 at 4:56 pm |
    • herfules

      You said, "An one other thing why should God care?"

      So God doesn't love all people?

      I've always thought he couldn't based on his system he created where 99% of all humans will burn in torment for eternity. Since he's omniscient, he knew this would happen when he created the whole system (only a twisted being could create hell). Would a loving God deliberately set things up so almost every human he creates is tortured for eternity?

      A God who set things up this way does not deserve to be worshiped or loved.

      December 30, 2012 at 5:01 pm |
  7. Steve Smith

    Humans exercise free will. Some choose a righteous lifestyle, others don't. Unfortunately for the majority of mankind who value life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness there is always someone who doesn't. As Doc Holiday so profoundly observed in the movie Tombstone, "Johnny Ringo can't kill enough to satisfy his soul because he seeks revenge, he kills because he was born."

    December 30, 2012 at 11:37 am |
  8. pjr

    "In God we trust" is a joke. This nation of ours no more follows that than there being life on the planet Mars. If, and that is a big, if, we did trust in God, then God would shower down more of his grace, mercy and protection on this country we call the United States. Look around, do you think we trust God? Read the Bible and see what it says about trusting him. And man is three componets, mind, body and soul. That too is in the Bible.

    December 30, 2012 at 11:25 am |
  9. Har Dav

    This Politician didnt learn that "The right thing at the wrong time ...... is the WRONG THING". No wonder God didnt allow him to be President.

    December 30, 2012 at 10:43 am |
  10. Har Dav

    This Politician didnt learn that "The right thing at the wrong time ...... is the WRONG THING". No wonder God didnt allow him to be President. He may have some points but this shows he does not understand.

    December 30, 2012 at 10:42 am |
  11. Dan

    Prothero, there's nothing more to say than that you ae a hethen idiot who pretends to understand religion and life. Go get a real job.

    December 30, 2012 at 10:31 am |
  12. Lost Estate

    Christianity birthed America, not Islam, not Buddhism, not Atheism, not even Judaism. The Declaration unashamedly declared our rights come from God, not from man. The Bible was clearly the basis of their understanding. This re-election of Barack Obama is a disaster for our nation. We have abandon our original charter. The Democrats rejected God by a voice vote (less than 2/3s majority) and so did the nation by electing them. We are wide open for judgment. No-one who has revelation walks away from God unscathed. The 2nd Amendment was put in place to prevent tyranny. Obama is our most tyrannical president ever. He ignores Congress and rules by executive decree. No wonder everyone's after the 2nd Amendment, it's the only thing that stands between us and a total police state! The Aspergers kid who murdered the children at Sandy Hook was pushed over the edge by a domineering parent in my opinion. People with this condition may have savant skills in an area, but their brains are wired differently and they typically lack social skills. This may explain his lack of empathy for the children he gunned down. Violence on this level is certainly not the norm for this condition. I have a family member who is a Christian who has Aspergers and who could never do such a thing, so environment could certainly have much to play in this regard. No-one wants armed guards, but this may be the only solution short term for a society that has become so Godless. There are churches in my area that have armed guards. It's so hypocritical to decry the murder of these 20 children and not have any empathy for the nearly 4,000 babies torn part without anesthesia every day in America. Maybe we all have a little Aspergers.

    December 30, 2012 at 10:03 am |
    • In God We Trust

      Well stated!

      December 30, 2012 at 10:07 am |
    • Will Mahoney

      If the 2nd amendment is held so dearly by christians, how do you justify ignoring the 1st?

      you brought abortion into this? There are thousands of kids starving to death in this country and sleeping in cars. FAR outweighing the amount of abortions. Stop using tragedy to bring up a completely unrelated argument.

      December 30, 2012 at 10:10 am |
    • Har Dav

      But ...This Politician didnt learn that "The right thing at the wrong time ...... is the WRONG THING". No wonder God didnt allow him to be President.

      December 30, 2012 at 10:45 am |
    • Face-Palm

      I can’t figure out if you’re a brilliant comedian parodying an absurdly ignorant and deluded caricature – or, if you do in fact honestly believe what you say you do. Either way, I had a really good laugh reading your post, thank you!

      December 30, 2012 at 11:31 am |
    • Jake

      This is the most ridiculous thing I have ever read, morality is not a christian quality, you can have moral standards and not be christian. Religion holds America back.

      December 30, 2012 at 9:19 pm |
  13. Steve

    I agree with Gov. Huckabee. Relativistic morality founded in man ultimately incurs God's wrath. See Romans 1-2.

    December 30, 2012 at 9:06 am |
    • Will Mahoney

      If the lack of prayer is what is "incurring god's wrath" then why do majorly secular countries not have these mass shootings? Why does Canada, a country with rich religious history, not have them despite the complete lack of prayer in schools? Is the United States god's chosen land despite the bible being pretty clear it was in the middle east? Or is it the far more likely scenario that there are socio-economic factors and there is no god?

      December 30, 2012 at 9:47 am |
  14. Manuel J.

    Since alcoholic drinks kill thousands of people each year on the motorway, let's ban alcohol in this country........ GET THE POINT????!!! It's sick and/or irresponsible people that cause these deaths, not the "thing" or "tool".

    December 30, 2012 at 8:57 am |
  15. Annie

    So....what....this is God's fault????????
    God gave man a free will.....and, this life...is a blink of an eye in comparison to eternity.....no matter what religious beliefs are upheld.........All I can say is God Bless America!!!

    December 30, 2012 at 8:53 am |
  16. skytag

    The things he listed are just Christians say to rationalize the fact that the real world isn't consistent with what their beliefs tell them.

    December 30, 2012 at 8:21 am |
  17. Geoffrey

    The only answer is that there is "evil" in this world. Yet good shall overcome that evil.

    December 30, 2012 at 8:19 am |
  18. Russ

    Huckabee is delusional. But then again, he is Christian.

    December 30, 2012 at 8:03 am |
  19. scott

    Why are we worried about the Taliban/Al-Qaeda, when we have Huckabee and Billy Graham? They are home-grown religous zealots who advocate a theocracy in America. Whether Islamic theocracy or Christian theocracy...both are anti-American.

    December 30, 2012 at 12:50 am |
  20. Rogue351

    GUNS DO NOT KILL PEOPLE. People with guns they have stolen from people who purchased the guns legally kill people. The real answer is why are GUN owners not more responsible by law. Why isn't the original purchaser of the gun held accountable for letting his or her unsecured weapon fall into the hands of a person that is doing the killing ? People who buy guns legally are not doing the killing, that is correct. However all of the guns floating around on the streets arrived there in one way or another and fell into the hands of people doing the killing. The simple answer is to make the gun owner more responsible for the guns they have bought. Destroy all guns used in a crime. Give people the option for turning guns in if they want to. Banning guns will not work. It is how we approach the guns that are on the streets right now. If you own a gun, just like if you own a care you should be required to take out insurance on not only the weapon but the effects the weapon may have if stolen. Basically lock up your guns or pay for them again. Large capacity magazines should be banned and illegal to own or sell. If you are hunting with your gun you don't need them. If you use a gun that has a 100 round magazine, or 60 or 30 you are not hunting and if you intend on using it for personal protection your not a very good shot and should probably not have a gun in the first place.

    December 30, 2012 at 12:45 am |
    • jim atmad

      It's a little late to hold the gun owner for the Connecticut school shootings 'responsible'. SHE'S DEAD! Shot in the face 4 times with the guns she bought for 'protection'.

      Then her guns were used to kill 20 six and seven year old kids, and 6 school employees.

      That's what happens with these guns. They are many, many times more likely to be used agains the gun owner than to ever be used to 'protect' somebody.

      The NRA lie you are trying to reinforce, that the guns themselves aren't a problem, is entirely exposed to be completely at odds with what happens in the real world.

      Nobody has a need to own these kid-killer high-capacity, rapid-fire weapons, and they should be taken off of the street.

      December 30, 2012 at 7:03 am |
    • skytag

      If you think no one is killed with a gun wielded by the gun's legal owner you are suffering from deep denial.

      December 30, 2012 at 7:58 am |
    • GoodLerd

      and you guys think we should just ban them?

      December 30, 2012 at 11:40 am |
    • Margo

      Amen. There are so many good arguments presented here by good people.

      December 30, 2012 at 8:32 pm |
    • Saraswati

      I know two people who had locked gun collections stollen. No individual needs a collection. I wouldn't take away those people now have, but an ars'enal is not required for private use.

      December 30, 2012 at 8:38 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.