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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. Rebel101

    Its quite amusing reading the rants and arguments on here.

    January 3, 2013 at 1:30 pm |
    • Agnostic

      Isn't it though?

      January 3, 2013 at 5:52 pm |
  2. Rebel101

    Looks like my statement I made few days created a stir within the hearts of Sam Stone and Rational Humanist (very cool name btw). I have seen and talked with Atheists who asked me where is God during tragedy and misfortunes. I simply replied, if God really isn't there why bring Him. Speaking about a being not there and demanding answers seems to be borderline lunacy. Those same group of individuals usually agree and we just feel for the victims affected. So Rational Humanist, as you laugh at my statement, I have been in the thick of it. Amongst people who don't share my beliefs, but still can act cordial and answer any questions presented. Very healthy conversation I might say. Calling me clueless on your own misinterpretation of my statement. And as Sam Stone, I acknowledge your point to a degree, but it just proves what I stated previously "If your atheist, be atheist". Thanks for the responses back on my statement gentlemen. And to the families and everyone affected by the tragedy, I again send you my prayers and condolences.

    January 3, 2013 at 1:21 pm |
    • sam stone

      to what was that referring?

      January 3, 2013 at 1:49 pm |
    • sam stone

      be well, Rebel101

      January 3, 2013 at 1:54 pm |
    • lol??

      You could always say, "Rev 22:11 He that is unjust, let him be unjust still: and he which is filthy, let him be filthy still: and he that is righteous, let him be righteous still: and he that is holy, let him be holy still".......... But not after a tragedy.

      January 3, 2013 at 8:29 pm |
  3. Ruth E. Griffin

    What this boils down to is that we, as a race and a people, do not know what to say in the face of tragedy; and so we say what we think will make the situation better, will make the situation make sense.

    January 3, 2013 at 9:33 am |
  4. Oluwagbenga

    >3. “After death, there is the resurrection.”

    The Bible teaches us to encourage grieving Christian brethren with the hope of the resurrection of believers (I Thess 4:13-15).
    I am not familiar with the Jewish tradition you have referred to, maybe you want to give some reference for this. From the depth of my heart I believe thoughts of the resurrection are very relevant at such a time both for comfort and to be prepared for one's own time. At times like this people like to confess their belief in God and ask Him to prepare them also for the eternity which these young ones have gone ahead to experience.

    January 3, 2013 at 5:41 am |
    • End Religion

      Please don't spread your insanity. There is no such thing as an afterlife. While it may be a bitter pill to swallow, there's no sense in living a life of fantasy simply because it feels good. Love and cherish those who are alive, remember and grieve when they're gone. There's just no need to wallow in ignorance. The sooner you grasp that the sooner you will truly begin honouring the ones you love while they're still here to appreciate it.

      January 3, 2013 at 6:05 am |
    • sam stone

      would you seriously desire to be alive for ETERNITY?

      January 3, 2013 at 6:41 am |
  5. IQ over 160

    > "6. “Guns don’t kill people, people kill people.”"
    > "To pretend it away with slogans is illogical and revolting."

    Stephen Prothero, you obviously didn't get the point. We will be forced to repeat the message until you have understood it.

    GUNS DON'T KILL PEOPLE – PEOPLE KILL PEOPLE!

    Meditate on this until you have grasped why an intelligent person would indeed say this. There is a lesson for you here.

    January 3, 2013 at 2:22 am |
    • IQ over 160

      And NO, it is NOT a political slogan. You will NEVER understand as long as you consider it such. It is a lesson which some people refuse to acknowledge.

      January 3, 2013 at 2:25 am |
    • Eric G

      Actually, people with guns kill people. Never have I seen a headline reading "person shot by unarmed shooter".

      You big silly.

      January 3, 2013 at 8:55 am |
    • LOLWHUT

      I assume your username is ironical?

      January 3, 2013 at 9:57 am |
    • sam stone

      Never have I seen a headline reading "person shot by unarmed shooter"

      I am amused by the phrase "killed by a deadly weapon"

      January 3, 2013 at 10:29 am |
    • Saraswati

      NUCLEAR WEAPONS DON'T KILL PEOPLE – PEOPLE KILL PEOPLE!

      Does that sound stupid to you...even a little bit?

      January 3, 2013 at 10:35 am |
  6. catholic engineer

    Genesis might have some bearing on the issue of what man can – and will – do when left to his own devices. In the old story, the first man began to Think for Himself. This could have been a good thing. But instead, he enslaved himself. Turned himself into a drudge. Great thoughts, scientific discovery, works of art would have to wait for thousands of years. In the next generation, uncommanded by God, the first murder occurred: Cain killed Abel. Reason: maybe jealousy. Like at Sandy Hook. After a few generations, man was convincing himself that God was ordering mass murder.

    January 2, 2013 at 5:39 pm |
    • End Religion

      The bible is a known fraud. There is no such thing as the god you believe exists. Sandy Hook had nothing to do with religion. There is no such thing as good or evil, there are only people who make good or bad choices as deemed so by the prevailing society. Take some responsibility for your own actions and stop chalking it up to imaginary sky buddies.

      January 3, 2013 at 6:10 am |
  7. jda

    The answers are all around us, we're just unwilling to accept them because of the 5% of Americans who dont believe there is a God. The One True God and Father of Jesus Christ.

    January 2, 2013 at 4:17 pm |
    • sam stone

      5% of those who do not believe there is a god control the beliefs of the majority?

      January 3, 2013 at 12:41 am |
    • sam stone

      "the 5% that do not believe in a god...."

      was the way it was in my head when i typed it

      January 3, 2013 at 12:43 am |
    • End Religion

      The bible is a known fraud. There is no such thing as the god you believe exists. Sandy Hook had nothing to do with religion. There is no such thing as good or evil, there are only people who make good or bad choices as deemed so by the prevailing society. Take some responsibility for your own actions and stop chalking it up to imaginary sky buddies.

      January 3, 2013 at 6:11 am |
  8. lol??

    Culture problems in americult? Destroy the family and take over is the course the Socialists desire."We'll take care of the male problem, later". You taught your daughters to obey the corps and the gubmint but forgot all about their husbands.

    January 2, 2013 at 3:44 pm |
  9. lol??

    Socialists don't understand inheritance which is a basic Christian doctrine. These people are very practiced at burning bridges.

    January 2, 2013 at 3:34 pm |
    • Jericho

      So the fact that the murderer was christian makes blaming so called "socialists" a wee bit of not looking to your own house?

      January 2, 2013 at 8:17 pm |
  10. jfc1

    What is illogical and revolting is your generalizing away the specifics of this massacre to the point where you want to disarm *and* disenfranchise EVERY American who wants to exercise their 2nd amendment right to keep and bear arms. No it doesn't specifically say Bushmaster AR-15 clones with 30-round clips, 20" barrels semi-fire capability pistol-grips and folding stocks". Come to think of it, the 1st amendment isn't all that specific either. Does the 1st amendment ask you to justify everything that you want to say on every forum on which you want to say it? Does the 1st amendment ask you if you really need to express yourself? NO. It's a right. Deal with it.

    January 2, 2013 at 1:45 pm |
    • patlee

      May God forgive you for what you just said.

      January 2, 2013 at 2:33 pm |
    • lol??

      Rights can only be infringed which is the goal of the Socialists. The gubmint is their substi tute god, a fill in so to speak.

      January 2, 2013 at 3:30 pm |
    • tallulah13

      What well-regulated militia are you a member of, jfc1? As I recall, that was part of the 2nd Amendment deal.

      January 3, 2013 at 2:36 am |
  11. Tate Miller

    Any sane person would know not to say those things as well as a host of others. However I am glad you took the time to point them out. I am against the Second Amendment and would support its repeal. The right to own a gun that you feel is provided by the Second Amendment is not as important as the lives of those 27 people slaughtered on December 14th and not as important as my daughter's life. As long as the Second Amendment exists, these tragedies will keep occurring. Take your pick. A child's life or the Second Amendment. I choose the child's life. You?

    January 2, 2013 at 1:38 pm |
    • Slick

      I understand where you are coming from Tate, but you think it's an all-or-nothing deal? Either children die or we get rid of the 2nd Amendment? There are many other things out there that are the 'weapon' in preventable deaths, should we ban all of those as well (cars, planes, knives, drugs – rx and illicit, alcohol, tobacco, unhealthy foods, etc. etc. etc...)?

      January 2, 2013 at 1:58 pm |
  12. brian

    hes right on with out guns people couldnt shoot bullets into each other ,people would just blow up each other with car bombs if a person wants to kill people they are gonna get it done unless they are locked up before they do it .

    January 2, 2013 at 1:24 pm |
    • Edward

      The article went right over your head.

      January 2, 2013 at 1:44 pm |
  13. Slick

    Funny how guns are the 'boogey man' when there is a horrific accident – and I get it, they are messy, scary to some, and headline grabbers. The bigger problem is our ever more 'progressive' society. Guns have been prevalent in the country since this country was formed, and yet these mass shootings are only a recent phenomenon, which coincides with disintegrating moral values, families, and our society as a whole. Why don't liberals look at the 1.2 MILLION babies aborted yearly in this country (17,000/year in Connecticut, which translates to about 46/day), rather than 11,000 homicide by firearm deaths? Or the 35,000 automobile deaths, or the literally hundreds of thousands of deaths caused by what I call 'fat butt syndrome'? Liberals go out of their way to twist the 1st Amendment to cover all sorts of 'freedoms' in the name of free speech, yet the clear wording in the 2nd isn't good enough... There are bigger issues here than ARs and magazine capacity people...

    January 2, 2013 at 12:55 pm |
    • sam stone

      We have had diminishing moral values? Compared to when we could own other people? How about compared to when women could not vote? When was this moral utopia you seem to want to compare us to?

      January 2, 2013 at 1:14 pm |
    • Slick

      Our past isn't perfect Sam, but if you think we are heading down the right road then that's where we would disagree. Obviously slavery and women's suffrage were wrongs that have been corrected, but look at the issues we are facing today and I'd say it's in moral decline (then again, I believe a two-parent family who teach their children respect, integrity, and hard work and actually live by those standards would solve a lot of problems, which is probably crazy by most liberals line of thinking)

      January 2, 2013 at 1:29 pm |
    • sam stone

      slick: "most liberals"?

      January 2, 2013 at 3:30 pm |
    • tdail

      Your over generalizations make for some very boring and predictable reading. You may need to talk to persons you consider 'liberal' to get a more well-rounded view. I like to hear both sides, so I'm not giving up on you Slick.

      January 2, 2013 at 6:16 pm |
    • End Religion

      Morality is not dictated by religion. Many within each generation feel the world "gets worse" with each successive generation. Simply isn't true. Society does change, however, and it is that change you fear.

      Morality: Using empathy as a guide for human interaction. AKA, "treat others the way you want to be treated" and "put yourself in my shoes". It has nothing inherently to do with the bible.

      Karen Wynn of Yale has a study showing even babies have an idea of wrong versus right. Neuroscientist Christian Keysers has done research to show that the brain of those who see others receiving pain themselves have similar neurological responses. There is a curve to empathy; some feel it more than others. But it certainly doesn't come from a hateful book about imaginary people.

      Frans de Waal shows that even monkeys employ "morality"...
      [youtube=https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GcJxRqTs5nk&w=640&h=360]

      January 3, 2013 at 6:16 am |
  14. Steven

    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?

    I agreed with a lot of what you had to say until this ignorant statement. I have also read the second amendment and find no mention of 18th century musket

    January 2, 2013 at 10:55 am |
  15. ChrisM1967

    I am the Father of a little girl that was in the "iconic" picture of the students being led away to safety that day. I was lucky to have my daughter back with her family safe! Yes my daughter saw things no one ever should.This could scar her for life but I will do everything in my power to make sure she is ok. This all comes back to what THIS article was about....things we dont want to hear after this shooting, I agree with all of them. I also agree with freedom of speech,etc. All comes back to making sure our children are safe, we are safe. I useed to havea gun, I CHOSE to get ride of it years ago. This idiot CHOSE to go on this rampage. It wasnt anyones will...it was HIS! All I know is that we lost 26 lives that day that should not have been taken. Its already hard enough to get through a day with all the obstacles we have in life...we shouldnt have to worry about things like this. Only we the people can make a positive change. WE have to make that happen. Only go around this life once, lets make it a good one!

    January 2, 2013 at 10:37 am |
    • End Religion

      I know you're thanking your lucky stars. Sorry your family had to endure this tragedy. Thanks for keeping your rationality in the face of it. Good luck to you, your family and town in the recovery.

      January 3, 2013 at 6:19 am |
  16. lol??

    There are actually many, many "single moms" that are PROUD of their status. Course somebody else picks up the tab on the out of control male offspring. This was an exaggerated case of headline grabbing horror. It's more common than the, head in the sand, "progressives" admit with their little made up theories. Women's rights, right or wrong, full steam ahead!.

    January 2, 2013 at 9:11 am |
    • Eleanor

      whereas you are proud of your ignorance and banality, as shown in your screen name as well as your posts.

      January 2, 2013 at 9:58 am |
  17. ccw holder

    yet again, someone who doesnt understand the second amendment. where does it say anything about muskets? it says "arms", which include ar-15's. if we want to take that route, where does it say anything in the first amendment about being able to use the internet? the author should be relegated to only use a printing press and a quill and parchment.

    January 2, 2013 at 8:47 am |
  18. Jim Carter

    Love the post, but hate who it brings out. The trolls love these stories...it gets them out from the dark recesses.

    January 2, 2013 at 8:17 am |
  19. Phillip Rinaca

    In my opinion the writer is a total idiot.

    January 2, 2013 at 5:51 am |
    • fred bazzeeda

      In all reality, your post is ignorance and idiocy.

      January 2, 2013 at 6:10 am |
  20. Wfu86

    Don't you realize we're all being played for fools? Everytime something like this happens, the media outlets shove microphones in front of religious leaders, and ask them to make sense of the event. Then, those same outlets give us a counterpoint op-Ed and let the games begin. In the meantime, they've paid the bills by hitting you with a screen full of ads.

    January 1, 2013 at 8:17 pm |
    • Jerry

      Very well said. Most everything in the media is about advertising anyway.

      January 1, 2013 at 9:02 pm |
    • Bob

      Yeah but you can subvert it by clicking on the ads (or faking it). Most cases, the advertisers still pay, even though most clicks are accidental or fraudulent. Maybe they get your eyeballs, but maybe they don't have to get your mind.

      January 2, 2013 at 10:01 am |
    • Rebel101

      Excellent Point.

      January 3, 2013 at 12:58 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.