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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. dcmoser

    If you check out mass shootings world wide there is no correlation between gun control countries and non. Every instance where a country tells us we have half the shootings you do, they have 20% the population we do. I have no problem with controlling assault items, but some fear this is a foot in the door. The 2nd amendment assures us "the right of the people to keep and bear Arms" and yes say anything you want- it means this or it means that, it is what it says. Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto – “You cannot invade the mainland United States. There would be a rifle behind each blade of grass.” I'm all in agreement something has to be done but completely outlawing guns won't work. If it does, then let's outlaw cocaine and heroin also. I think we all want the same goal. Some of these 'medications' make me wonder also. Seems most these offenders are on a prescribed medicine.

    January 6, 2013 at 8:18 am |
  2. John

    Stephen, you are absolutely right about "Guns don't kill people. People kill people". These gun lovers also say, "it's not just guns. They can use knife and other objects to kill". Right. I am sure the little guy from Virginia Tech could have killed 32 people with his fists or a knife. No!

    If it wasn't the bullets from the guns, many of the children would be living a normal life with their families.
    The America's gun lovers have not outgrown their childhoods of toy guns and arrows.

    The gun lovers are in a serious denial. It's about their love for the guns than the innocent lives lost.

    A total lack of empathy!!!

    January 6, 2013 at 2:57 am |
    • Miss Jean

      What a ridiculous notion to suggest that people who love guns have no empathy. All people who love guns? I don't think so. I definitely have empathy for victims of mass shootings and such. I lost a family member, almost two family members, in the Trolley Square Mall shooting a few years ago. Do you know what it's like to be at the hospital with all of your family, waiting to find out if the people close to you are dead from gun shots? I do. I also know that the shooter illegally obtained the gun he used. Guess what, the man selling the guns didn't obey the laws already in place and let that kid walk out of his shop with a gun he planned on using to kill people with. The only reason he didn't kill more people was because a citizen with his concealed weapon was there eating dinner at the mall. He stopped the shooter from killing more people and held him off until the police made their way to the scene. My family, close friends and I all agree that taking away our rights to have guns will put us in more danger. We have experienced first hand what it's like to lose family to a man with a gun. That doesn't mean we think the entire nation should be reprimanded for the actions of few. Our point of view definitely doesn't mean we have no empathy. Perhaps it is you who lacks empathy. Maybe you should think before you blurt out such an ignorant opinion generalizing everyone that doesn't agree with you on gun control.

      January 6, 2013 at 11:47 am |
  3. js

    For all those who claim that It's God's will, Let me tell that God gave us the freedom of thinking, and act, If those acts were God's will then he nullifies himself as a judge of our behaviors, and therefore all crime can be committed because after all are God's will, there is no a need of Hell or Heaven, why then all that noise for abortions? why is it so different the death of an unborn baby from the death of a 6 year-old? I do not believe that either of them represents God's will. He has his own purposes. Try to live in his rules, you may find yourself aiding in fulfilling them.

    January 5, 2013 at 11:18 pm |
    • Anon

      Your imaginary god can go f-ck itself.

      January 6, 2013 at 1:08 am |
  4. None can deny that Jesus is the most powerful influence in all of history.

    Anyone who sees created things and deny the fact that there is a Creator is clearly a blinded fool born to perish. I wont waste my time on proving something that is so obvious. A blind man will never see unless he is given sight and that's one simple truth. I will leave all you non-believers with a few simple verses.
    Job 27:8-"For what hope do the godless have when God cuts them off and takes away their life?
    1 Corinthians 1:18-"For the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness; but unto us which are saved it is the power of God.
    1 Corinthians 2:14-"But people who aren't spiritual can't receive these truths from God's Spirit. It all sounds foolish to them and they can't understand it, for only those who are spiritual can understand what the Spirit means.
    John 14:17-"the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you
    John 8:47-"Anyone who belongs to God listens gladly to the words of God. But you don't listen because you don't belong to God"
    John 6:47-"Truly, truly, I say to you, he who believes has eternal life"
    John 3:36-"Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life, but whoever rejects the Son will not see life, for God's wrath remains on him."
    John 3:18-"Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God."
    John 5:24-"I tell you the truth, those who listen to my message and believe in God who sent me have eternal life. They will never be condemned for their sins, but they have already passed from death into life."
    Matthew 25:46-"Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life."
    Romans 6:23-"For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord."

    Life is nothing but a CHOICE. No one is forcing anyone to do anything, you all have a CHOICE. Just know and understand that some decisions will have permanent consequences. Life by right and by eternal law belongs to the Giver of life. He can take it and give it to whom ever He pleases. Life is a choice. Finally before you judge my Lord and God, the Creator of all things; take into considerations His words. Ezekiel 18:21-23-"But if a wicked man turns away from all the sins he has committed and keeps all my decrees and does what is just and right, he will surely live; he will not die. All their past sins will be forgotten, and they will live because of the righteous things they have done. I don't want wicked people to die." declares the Almighty LORD. "I want them to turn from their evil ways and live."
    I pray that your eyes and ears are open to the Word of God and you choose life and not death. Peace and grace from my Lord Jesus Christ be with you all.

    w w w the eternal wisdom . com

    January 5, 2013 at 5:44 pm |
    • pip

      I'm just going to have note that you used the Bible as proof of god, then said because god wrote the Bible, it must be true. FALACY!!!!1

      January 5, 2013 at 7:45 pm |
  5. Danny Hunt

    1. “It was God’s will.”

    Addressing the causes of these rage shootings and preventing them or hiding their cause through stereotypes and discrimination is "Our will" and not that of someone else.

    Newtown, Connecticut was an organized crime act of terror to advocate gun control. "too many guns" "a deranged person" these are rhetoric and stereotypes used to hide their cause, not rage shooting factors or the cause of these.

    6. “Guns don’t kill people, people kill people.”

    American's associate guns too freedom because the U.S. 2nd amendment deters different forms of dictatorships and abuse aka Marie Antoinette "let them eat cake" that fear a well armed population, and abuse is linked to some of these terrible crimes.

    January 5, 2013 at 4:49 pm |
  6. Lexy

    This article is completely offensive and arrogant. This author does not clearly understand any of the religions he is referencing and simply discarding. If you don't believe in something, that's fine by me and most people so long as you don't try and ridicule those who do and comfort each other with words that they believe are true.

    The Christian religion believes that the world is Godless. Prayer brings hope, but sin, sadness and illness happen here. If a Christian or a child dies, it's a good thing. It's sad for those left behind, but death brings eternal happiness.

    On Guns: Taking guns away won't stop crime rates or massacres. People who want to commit murderous acts don't tend to care about the legality of having a gun. They will still find them. I don't want to be an unprotected law abiding citizen when somebody who is willing to break the law finds a gun on the black market and robs my house or holds me up at a bank. If you don't like guns, don't buy one. Stop protesting for us to have our damn rights taken away.

    January 5, 2013 at 3:49 pm |
    • Jen

      Lexy, perhaps you didn't read the blurb next to the author's name which read, " Stephen Prothero, a Boston University religion scholar and author ..." I think he probably understands the ins and outs of religions better than most people. I say nothing of his faith, just that he knows what the teachings are.

      The world godless? Have you ever read St. Francis of Assissi or St. Thomas Aquinas? god is everywhere and lifts us to be better people all the time.

      And finally, yes a gun could never get up and walk up to someone and shoot him/her. It does take a human. And, deranged humans will find them even if they are illegal. I ask though, what is the harm in making it just a little harder to get the, to buy more time? Maybe someone will finally see their madness in that wait time and do something to stop it.

      I am praying they do.

      January 5, 2013 at 7:01 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      "so long as you don't try and ridicule those who do and comfort each other with words that they believe are true."
      What makes you so sure that everyone wants to hear such crap as you think is "comforting?" I heard a number of morons blabber many of the plati tudes Prothero quotes after losing loved ones, and found them incredibly offensive and not in the slightest bit "comforting." And that's the whole problem: people like you are so blanking insensitive you don't even know you're being offensive.

      I suspect that's why you are bothered by Prothero's opinions.

      January 5, 2013 at 7:08 pm |
    • Max

      Lexy, if you walked up to me after my kid just got shot and uttered any of those words to me, I would punch you in the cvnt.

      January 5, 2013 at 7:16 pm |
    • Anon

      Hey Lexy here's what your screwed up religion means to me.
      [youtube=https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6OgAXbyzP5g&w=640&h=360]

      January 6, 2013 at 1:42 am |
  7. Carlos Marin

    If Heaven is a nicer place and good people go to it, why would any good people want to live a long life?

    January 5, 2013 at 3:13 pm |
  8. Hans

    “Jesus called the children home.”

    That ranks right there with "I will pray for you." Why? Does God listen only to you? Does you saying your prayer have some special meaning? Other than making yourself feel good by thinking that you are doing something good, it does nothing for me. Instead offer some act of compassion. Announcements are just words.

    January 5, 2013 at 11:34 am |
  9. Brad

    The young man who perpetrated this tragedy is to blame, and his mother exercised poor judgement in buying said weaponry, knowing that her son was 'troubled'. In my opinion, these are the ONLY two things that need to be discussed, if anyone is looking for answers. The reason to keep that part of the discussion clinical is because looking for answers from an emotional standpoint leads to divisive conclusions like the ones this article is describing. Keep it simple, and then maybe we'll learn a reasonable truth about the situation that we can actually use in the future.

    January 4, 2013 at 11:09 pm |
  10. John

    This is not a good article for a lot of reasons, well, at least from the 2nd amendment point about having the right to bare arms only from the 18th century...I see no words that bind the amendment to any particular type or era of guns. Why are so many religious scholars of secular Universities so "unspiritual" and unbelieving?

    January 4, 2013 at 9:05 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      It's "bear arms." not "bare arms."

      What point are you trying to make?

      January 4, 2013 at 9:07 pm |
    • I'm not a GOPer, nor do I play one on TV

      You absolutely have the right to bare your arms. Best done in the summer however.

      The roots of the second amendment stem to 1688 (Julian) and the English Bill of Rights signed by King William and Queen Mary – the namesakes for the college in Virginia.

      "That the Subjects which are Protestants may have Arms for their Defence suitable to their Conditions and as allowed by Law."

      This was the law in the Colonies – through the revolution.

      January 4, 2013 at 9:11 pm |
    • Jen

      B.U. is traditionally grounded in the Methodist Church. While is is mostly secular, it does have one of the most preeminent theological schools in the country.

      January 5, 2013 at 7:05 pm |
  11. Librarian

    "If God is Good" – by Randy Alcorn – WONDERFUL book that deals with reconciling the concepts of tragedy and a loving Creator/Savior. I totally agree with the author of this article that there are things that should not be said to victims of tragedy while they reel from the unfathomable emotions in wake of this shooting. Eventually, however, loving – encouraging – words must be spoken, to comfort and strengthen. "If God is Good..." offers one positive approach to finding those words.

    January 4, 2013 at 4:27 pm |
  12. chappymartin

    Stephen Prothero said, “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

    You are missing the point of why this is being said in Ecclesiastes. Right after this is said the author says, "What gain have the workers from their toil?" In other words, these are words of frustration that the author is not able to control the events going on around him or understand their ultimate significance totally, only God is able to control events if he so desires and understands them

    January 4, 2013 at 4:10 pm |
  13. John J. Shaffer

    In my life journey, I have run across several people who are willing to state their views with certainty and eventually I have had the nerve to respond with equal certainty, hoping to provide some balance. One national church leader once said: "God does not listen to Jewish prayers." That provided some fodder for several sermon illustrations against such stupidity. Sadly, that national leader never repented of his views. If he were correct, God would not have listened to Jesus.

    In my first parish, some one killed himself and a neighbor came to comfort the family with the thought that "sadly, you will not be in heaven with your loved one, because anyone who commits suicide can't go to heaven". That upset me so much, I not only confronted the neighbor immediately, but I studied the subject for three days and tackled it head-on in the funeral sermon. The Bible does not teach this. But of course, some things the Bible "teaches" is wrong and persons of good will and good scholarship need to be clear where that is true. One could start with the six day creation story and then move on to where God "orders" the slaughter of people. Somebody got their wires crossed and persons of faith and non-faith need to be clear on such points.

    When Bible writers and Bible editors gathered in stories from different sources, they printed them side by side without any effort to make the stories consistent. Scholarship reveals this and what do some so-called Christians do – they attack scholarship, as though it is a virtue to be ignorant. Sadly, some people fill themselves with garbage information and then spout it as though their view is the only so-called Christian view. God help us! And fortunately, some of us are!

    January 4, 2013 at 2:43 pm |
    • Anon

      Best use for the bible.
      [youtube=https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6OgAXbyzP5g&w=640&h=360]

      January 6, 2013 at 1:47 am |
  14. Rebel101

    To LOL??
    May you please clarify your response to my response to two other individuals' response? Its on page 81. Don't quite understand the context in which you used the scripture from Revelations.

    January 4, 2013 at 2:34 pm |
    • lol??

      When you said, "....."If your atheist, be atheist".....", it brought the scripture to my mind. No harm meant.

      January 4, 2013 at 10:13 pm |
  15. El Jorge

    6. “Guns don’t kill people, people kill people.”

    Yes they used guns, but if we ban guns, there are still knives http://www.cnn.com/2012/12/14/world/asia/china-knife-attack/index.html hammers http://www.wishtv.com/dpp/news/crime/man-arrested-for-hammer-attack and any other inanimate objects. Should we ban those too? Ban food too while you are at it... it makes people obese. Make more laws for drinking and driving, because THAT stops people from getting behind the wheel drunk, why not ban cars instead?

    Criminals dont care about laws, just look at the overflowing prison system, they will get guns. not just guns but WEAPONS in general.

    People are crazy, everyone to a different extent. "Insane" people will do bad things no matter what laws are on the books. they will find a way.

    January 4, 2013 at 12:11 pm |
    • PSY

      Yet with a Knife, there were far fewer deaths involved and a bigger chance of taking down the individual without getting shot at. I would be more willing to take down a guy with a knife then a guy with a gun.

      January 5, 2013 at 12:05 pm |
  16. JMakoul

    As a pastor I agree completely with this article. The time may come when the families may be ready to explore one of those points. For now they need to just grieve and process and it will be a long haul. Even Jesus wept at the tomb of Lazarus. What a tragedy when those ministering are so self-absorbed that they speak from themselves instead of to where the family is at that moment. We are just pilgrims passing through a transient world. The theme and image of the empty tomb is a powerful one with much meaning. In time, I hope it offers some of them comfort. However we need to be mindful of where they are and what their needs are, not where we are and or what our needs are.

    January 4, 2013 at 8:26 am |
  17. MrHanson

    And yes, Huckabee pretty much hit the nail on its head.

    January 3, 2013 at 5:04 pm |
  18. MrHanson

    You really want to know what not to say after a mass shooting? Humans are just a purposeless cosmic accident in the struggle for survival and then cloak this entire world view in the guise of "science". Atheism is a journey without a destiny, a body without a soul, a religion without reason, life without meaning, a faith without hope, and a universe without God.

    “The moment a man questions the meaning and value of life, he is sick, since objectively neither has any existence"
    Sigmud Freud

    January 3, 2013 at 5:00 pm |
    • damo12345

      Yes, after a tragedy you do not like to hear harsh realities. That's one of the reasons why we invented religion. I would love if one of the religions out there was true, it would be of great comfort. Unfortunately none of them has presented any evidence to back up their claims, and the fact that you don't like to hear the harsh realities of the world does not make them any less real.

      January 3, 2013 at 9:22 pm |
    • sam stone

      i life without meaning?
      MrHanson,. you are a blowhard

      Life has plenty of meaning

      It is those who point to a life after death who feel that this life is only a staging area for the next one.

      go home, boy, and get your shinebox

      January 3, 2013 at 11:45 pm |
    • Albert Rogers

      "just a purposeless cosmic accident" Not true. Albert Schweitzer in his definition of "Reverence for Life" alludes to the Will to Live. Every living thing has that apparent purpose, even MrHanson. I note with some embarrassment that S.J. Gould correctly defines humans as, from the point of view of most other species, as bad as any other plague upon the Earth.
      No, Schweitzer, who pleaded for "faith in humanity" - the opposite of the doctriine of original sin - insisted that our own recognition of ourselves as existing because of the Natural Selection of organisms with a will to live, should recognise the rights and ramifications of these rights in all other living organisms. These rights include, of course, the Right of the Lion not to Lie Down with the Lamb. It becomes a difficult ethical point when you ask whether the agent of rabies has a right to exist at all, and even more difficult when you realise that some parts of Africa are available to their wild animal populations chiefly because the risk of trypanosome or malaria infection means that humans dare not go there.

      January 4, 2013 at 11:45 am |
  19. lol??

    "Rev 19:13 And he [was] clothed with a vesture dipped in blood: and his name is called The Word of God."....An attack on scripture appears to be a direct attack on Jesus. Now gwow up and be sure you don't have the wrong Jesus. BBBBbbwwwaaahahahaha

    January 3, 2013 at 1:39 pm |
  20. lol??

    End Religion sayz,
    The bible is a known fraud. There is no such thing as the god you believe exists........" Better watch out pal, the known atheists that hang out here, AKA the Master Debaters, have not called you out on having flunked logic. The Logicians must hate you, too.

    January 3, 2013 at 1:33 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.