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

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  2. Science

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    May 4, 2013 at 9:14 am |
  3. ranchdude

    First, then using your logic, the 1st amendment only applies to free speech written with a quill on parchment? Second, no .223 rifle was used at Sandy Hook (despite the media trying to make us believe it was). And third a gun can not kill anyone without a person to fire it, yet a person can kill someone without a gun. So, it appears to me that people kill people, with fists, sticks, knives, swords, muskets, grenades, bombs, feet, cars, machinery, guns and anything else that will do the task and they have been doing it since biblical times. Because you could take away every gun in the world, and people will still keep killing people. And if you don't have a means to defend yourself from a bigger person with a bigger stick, or a group of people with small sticks, you are the one who's going to be dead... It's against the law to build a bomb and use it to blow up and building and kill people, yet Timothy McVeigh still did that. It's against the law to fly a plane full of people into a tall building and cause it to collapse killing yet more people, yet a group of people intent on doing it still did it... What I don't want to hear after this tragedy, is how you need to take away my right to defend myself in order to protect me. Or how a government that allows millions of innocent children to be murdered each year by abortion, needs to take away law abiding citizen's rights in order to protect the children. Rights are not needs. shall not be infringed does not leave any room for guessing. What I need is my right to determine. Do I need a atomic bomb? No I do not believe that I do. But then again, does any country need one, really? That's my take.

    February 22, 2013 at 5:31 pm |
  4. keith

    Religion is like a penis. It doesn't matter how big it is or how proud of it you are, you just shouldn't shove it down other people's throats.

    February 2, 2013 at 6:06 am |
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    January 31, 2013 at 5:08 am |
  6. Scott Allen

    "Shake your hand at Heaven and demand answers." What insolence and chutzpah! You live ungodly, immoral and selfish lives and you dare to shake your hand at God when bad things happen. You expect God to make all things rosy while you reject him in your daily lives. He gave us the mandate to have dominion – to manage this world. He further gave many, many directions on how to do that well. He gave us rules and guidelines on how to treat each other well, how to raise our children, and we ignore them and yet you not only demand him to make life rosy but blame him for the evil things that people do. Shake your fist all you want, but God will not be mocked. You told God to take a hike and not tell you how to live your lives. Well looks like maybe he has. How's that working out for you?

    January 16, 2013 at 2:17 pm |
  7. platypusfriend

    I actually did just read the 2nd Amendment, and the context surrounding its creation (as analyzed by the Supreme Court in the Heller case), and it quite clearly allows the ownership of weapons in common use at the present time. Not only when it was written- At whatever the current time is. Additionally, as determined by the Supreme Court, "well regulated" meant "well trained" at the time of the amendment's writing. I actually was surprised at that one.

    January 16, 2013 at 12:26 pm |
  8. GETinLINE

    This clown wants to hear (and doesn't want to hear) the same things that most of the other CNN editorialist clowns want to hear.

    I don't want to read what you don't want to hear.

    January 16, 2013 at 12:13 am |
  9. laughable

    Yes indeed if we all TRUSTED then why would we need GUNS?? rainbows and unicorns for all

    January 15, 2013 at 6:03 pm |
  10. CommonSense

    Seems you made a fallacy of your own. When the second amendement was written the musket was the cutting edge weapon of the day, The forefathers could have limited weapons to knives and Bows and Arrows but they didn't. While we are relatively stable in our freedom, what is to stop a dictator from taking over the country.

    January 15, 2013 at 1:25 pm |
    • fiveliters

      Why is it that these 'forefathers' are imbued with so much knowledge and wisdom? Weren't they just a bunch of white guys like any other? They didn't just drop down from space with all the answers,did they? As if everything they said was the 'be all and end all' or something....I mean,they were cool with the whole slavery thing too,and I think we realized a few hundred years later that slavery isn't such a great idea. While they laid the -framework- for the country,like anything else,it has to grow and adapt to the times. But hey...keep on "needing" guns,and your kids will keep on shooting stuff. It's all good!

      January 16, 2013 at 10:58 am |
  11. ellen

    Post JFK, we have chosen not to turn in loose cannon personalities and unstable relatives to the authorities. Had Mom and Dad admitted what the local neighbors knew, that the man was a recluse, brooding, and unpredictable–had the parents admitted that the man needed in house treatment...then the children would still be alive. Mental deterioration is just a disease that deserves treatment from professionals.

    January 14, 2013 at 7:10 pm |
    • GvilleT

      How would it have stopped him? What is in home treatment? Who pays for this and where does one get it? I know a family with a daughter completely off her rocker. She walks the streets of our town talking to herself with long matted hair. She's in her 30s. The police will eventually pick her up for something. She has been in State hospitals on numerous occasions, but after "treatment" they let her go. She has no insurance, no money and the states offer very little mental health assistance, at least in Texas. Maybe that's why most of us just resort to having a gun...but then again the mental patients probably have them too...or at least if it were up to the NRA they would.

      January 16, 2013 at 12:59 pm |
  12. D

    Looks like the standards of working as a 'religious scholar' at Boston University are pretty low.

    January 14, 2013 at 2:38 pm |
  13. 14u24me

    The fact is that more people have been killed in the name of God than any other single source of deaths on the planet earth. To keep comparing second Second Amendment rights alongside these horrific killers is just wrong many life's were taken before guns were ever on this planet I think it probably started with a rock to the skull , if you want to stop killings start with man becoming civilized to man. The people committing these crimes are mentally ill. A certificate of health is required to drive a big truck how hard would it be to #1 require a background check #2 require a medical / Mental evaluation with the renewal of your license ( you even need this to play sports in school) and #3 all weapons must be registered to the person that purchased the weapon with no right to transfer with the purchaser going through the same process. Buy a gun for a felon go to jail.

    January 14, 2013 at 9:35 am |
    • Scott Allen

      Some very good advice here. I wish Congress would listen to this. You can ban any gun you want, but if worked at filtering out crazies in the first place, put restrictions on bullet sales to licensed gun owners that would help. Make gun ownership hard, but not impossible will help. Unfortunately the streets are already saturated with guns and that is a separate issue. I'd start by making it an automatic felony to be in possession of a gun that is not registered to you (make provisions for borrowing guns – like registering the loan -make that easy).

      January 16, 2013 at 2:23 pm |
    • CarbonUnitDale

      More people killed in the name of God? You need to check history a little more thoroughly! Countless millions died at the behest of avowed athiests – 77 million in Communist China, 62 million in the Soviet Gulag State, 21 million non-battle killings by the Nazis, 2 million murdered in the Khmer Rouge killing fields.

      January 16, 2013 at 5:20 pm |
  14. 14u24me

    The fact is that more people have been killed in the name of God than any other single source of deaths on the planet earth. To keep comparing second Second Amendment rights alongside these horrific killers is just wrong many life's were taken before guns were ever on this planet I think it probably started with a rock to the skull , if you want to stop killings start with man becoming civilized to man. The people committing these crimes are mentally ill. A certificate of health is required to drive a big truck how hard would it be to #1 require a background check #2 require a medical / Mental evaluation with the renewal of your license ( you even need this to play sports in school) and #3 all weapons must be registered to the person that purchased the weapon with no right to transfer without the purchaser going through the same process. Buy a gun for a felon go to jail.

    January 14, 2013 at 9:33 am |
  15. Gir

    Destroying entire nations just so his "chosen people" could take their land and hanging his "son" on a tree because he couldn't forgive man's sins without doing so was all part of "god's will, yet you think he's above causing the murder of 26 innocent people?


    January 13, 2013 at 5:24 pm |
    • One one

      That was bad god. Now believers have good god.

      January 14, 2013 at 6:42 am |
  16. woodie

    I don't think it is helpful to hide from reality. You have no concept of God and you don't believe people can and will kill children.

    January 13, 2013 at 4:37 pm |
  17. karlak2t

    Of course the last one is going to be on the CNN site... Get real CNN is a bunch of garbage!

    January 13, 2013 at 3:14 pm |
  18. freefromfaith

    I can not believe in this day and age, with all the information we have, most of the world still harbors faith. It is the same faith, no different if it a christian praying to god, or a malaysian to allah, a mayan to the sun or somebody on an island somewhere praying to his toes. Nobody wants to hear the fact that everything they have been taught is just a story, a fairy tale.

    January 13, 2013 at 10:23 am |
    • Gir

      You under-estimate the awesome power of willful ignorance.

      January 13, 2013 at 5:32 pm |
  19. freefromfaith

    I can not believe in this day and age, with all the information we have, most of the world still harbors faith. Nobody wants to hear the fact that everything they have been taught is just a story, a fairy tale.

    January 13, 2013 at 10:18 am |
  20. stopcnnlies

    >The second amendment confirmed the basic human right to bear arms, without government infringement, it did not specify a technology freeze at the time it was written.

    Despite the propaganda being spread by CNN you cannot trade your freedom for safety. When guns were banned in Chicago the politicians promised to make the city safe it has not. Connecticut has some of the strictest gun laws in the country, applying them nationwide will make no one safer except criminals an murderers.

    January 12, 2013 at 4:10 pm |
    • Observer

      New York has some of the toughest gun laws in the country and the murder rate is the lowest in 50 years.

      January 12, 2013 at 4:15 pm |
    • Sylar

      The basic human right? Are you freakin kidding me? So you believe someone who was convicted of murder with a fire arm should be allowed to have them again once they have served their time? You are insane. I mean its a basic human right and they are still a human.

      January 12, 2013 at 4:30 pm |
    • Sylar

      And an "ammendment" by definition is to allow to add or change. They modified the 2nd ammendment to include ones right to defend themselves against harm and not just the government back in the early 70s. Are you against that change? It wasn't in the orginal meaning of the ammendment?

      January 12, 2013 at 4:34 pm |
    • Silverglass

      It also states "well regulated militia." We have gun laws, but the biggest loophole is the one that says the average citizen can own pretty much any gun he or she wants. Ask yourself this question: If everybody you knew–and I mean everybody, your neighbors, your co-workers, your family–owned guns, would you trust every one of these people with a firearm?

      January 12, 2013 at 7:26 pm |
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About this blog

The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.