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. Name*roger

    I Think Alan Keyes cut to the heart of the matter more eloquently and with a much more reasoned approach than the silly, knee jerk reactions of this author. He said, "The question is not 'why does God allow evil', but rather "Why do we insist on doing it"?


    December 19, 2012 at 12:22 am |
    • James PDX

      Yes, that is so wise. Because if there is a god, no way an all-knowing god should have to take any responsibility for what he knew we would do before he created us.

      December 19, 2012 at 12:26 am |
  2. Pete


    December 19, 2012 at 12:21 am |
  3. Laurie Johnson

    Mr. Prothero, I first want to thank you for this article. My 19 year old son was killed two blocks from my home on a beautiful Sunday, afternoon by gun violence. My son just completed his freshman year at UT of Austin and was the joy of my life. I was and still am sick and tired of people telling me it was God's will. I know my God is a loving God and would not have approved of such a violent attack on my child. I cried...cried...and still am even after six months awaiting answers from God. I pray one day I will have an answer why my child could not live a long beautiful life, liked he hoped. I thank you for setting the record straight on this issue....

    December 19, 2012 at 12:20 am |
    • Wayne in Oregon

      Laurie, I am so sorry for your very very untimely loose, I can not even know how much pain you are suffering. One thing I do know and understand.....as time goes on the pain will become less, but, you will always remember. Remember with a different view as time passes and may God take away your suffering. I feel your pain and pray for you.

      December 19, 2012 at 12:32 am |
  4. mocus1

    Obviously, this is a left winger who has an axe to grind with believers, as you can see he's not "sick' of liberals who say, "where was your God when this happened?" or "why didn' your God protect you"? Nope, he has no problem with left wingers who mock and ridicule God (after saying anyone who believes in God is a kook). He only has a problem with believers who think God could be involved, he doesn't have a problem with non-believers who think it was due to God's lack of involvement. Hey Prothero, if guns kill people, not people, then why dont' we charge cars with DUI when a drunk drives them, instead of the driver? After all, cars kill people, not drunk drivers. What a leftist fraud Prothero is, nothing new, more mockery of religious people by the secular international Communists at CNN (Commie Nincompoop Network) with no viewers.

    December 19, 2012 at 12:20 am |
    • Loathstheright

      I bet you're sad and lonely this Christmas, no friends, no family....your dog hates you....sad, very sad.

      December 19, 2012 at 12:23 am |
    • James PDX

      Hey mocus1, why would he be tried of hearing people speaking the blatant truth; that it is impossible for an all-knowing, all-powerful, perfect and loving god to have created us? Think about it. An all-powerful and all-knowing god can do anything he wants, any way he wants to do it. This is indisputable. Yet you claim your god created us with a plan and he decided that we should all suffer horribly and die, some even spending an eternity being tortured when he didn't have to. That's not loving, That's pure evil.

      December 19, 2012 at 12:30 am |
    • J-Pap

      If that was God's way, I can tell you straight up, I want nothing to do with him. And the rest of you "kooks" should seriously question your faith after something like this happened. There is no need for innocent children to die like this. Nothing good can come of this that just justifies a massacre of children.

      December 19, 2012 at 12:31 am |
  5. Kev

    While I do agree with Prothero that it's fine to shake your fist at God, when one's faith is shaken or questioned, and I do agree that it is good to exercise your faith at times by questioning that faith, I do not agree that it should be an absolute requirement to have to specifically do those things in order to strengthen that faith.

    December 19, 2012 at 12:20 am |
  6. Loathstheright

    Well, seeing how that God doesn't exist, no amount of questioning matters. It doesn't take more than a minute of thought to understand that the myth of God is completely made up....as all Gods throughtout time have been.

    December 19, 2012 at 12:19 am |
  7. Shannon

    So much to take in with this article. How about one..people with guns kill people. So do people with knives, people with bombs or people with any other object besides guns. There is always an object to kill with. Doesnt have to be guns.

    December 19, 2012 at 12:19 am |
    • OOO

      So lets make nukes available at gun shows too!

      December 19, 2012 at 12:26 am |
    • J-Pap

      Yeah no background check for a nuke at a gun show...but you with the cane, step aside so the tsa can strip search you. You see the problem?

      December 19, 2012 at 12:32 am |
  8. David Miller

    I do agree with some of Stephen's comments, for example the Evangelical Right Wing nut cases saying that because God is not in the Classrooms we are doomed. We indeed, in a free country, do not have the right to force anyone to believe as we do. God is not punishing us for that. But telling a young child that God loves children so much that he sometimes brings them home to be with him is a small comfort that may be able to help them to grasp the horrors of this situation without making it worse than it is. Nothing is going to take away their memory of the terrors that they may have experienced, but at least knowing that these "little ones" are now in God's comforting arms may help just a little bit. Gun control is an entirely another thing. That anyone can possibly rationalize the possession of Assault Rifles is well beyond insanity.

    December 19, 2012 at 12:18 am |
    • Shannon

      Right wing nut huh? How about left wing jerk with a gun killed the children. Unconnected correlations. How can you make broad based assumptions on the God you do not know? Unfounded conjecture on your part. That is all.

      December 19, 2012 at 12:22 am |
    • James PDX

      How would he know a god none of us have ever met? A god that abandoned us to suffer. A god who created flawed being and then punishes them for those flaws. Do you know him? When did he last visit and talk with you? The last time you stopped taking your meds?

      December 19, 2012 at 12:33 am |
  9. Teluu

    It`s exactly what the extreme republican religious right will say. “It was God’s will.” They always ignore reality of life and blame God for everything. Maybe I should buy a Tanker to protect myself as the right to bare arms, because I`m so much afraid of myself. I was surprise to hear from a republican representative saying if those teachers have guns they could have shot the guy and save the children. How can teachers carry guns among young children in schools. What a dumb statement.

    December 19, 2012 at 12:17 am |
  10. inspiration for the rest of you

    What? Archaic delusions of ancient people

    December 19, 2012 at 12:16 am |
  11. Faithful


    December 19, 2012 at 12:14 am |
    • OOO

      Exactly how was S.P. bashing god?

      December 19, 2012 at 12:16 am |
    • George Carlinisgod

      face judgement from who? what judgement? what are you talking about?

      December 19, 2012 at 12:17 am |
    • Athy

      Turn off your damn caps lock. It makes you look childish. Are you childish?

      December 19, 2012 at 12:17 am |
    • inspiration for the rest of you

      It is god's fault, no doubt.

      December 19, 2012 at 12:18 am |
    • James PDX

      Wait, so before God created Adam he didn't know Adam would sin? So you're claiming God ISN'T all knowing? Blasphemer!!!

      December 19, 2012 at 12:34 am |
  12. mmorton

    People kill people, guns don't kill people.....

    It is like saying, baseball players score runs, baseball bats do not....

    Oh really? Then baseball players do score runs without bats?

    December 19, 2012 at 12:12 am |
    • inspiration for the rest of you

      Sure. Also called diarrhea.

      December 19, 2012 at 12:13 am |
  13. Doug

    Mr Prothero: I completely identify with your anger over this horrifically sinful murder of 26 fellow humans. But perhaps your should not write articles when your anger clouds your ability to write well. after all, if you are not sure whether or not there is a God then why are you so angry at Him. Unfortunately your article is rather absurd and excuse the religious reference, it also smacks of a great deal of self-righteousness. .

    December 19, 2012 at 12:11 am |
    • John

      I did not read that the writer was angry at god. I read that he is angry at the way certain of us profess to know god's will so well that we feel qualified to speak for god.

      December 19, 2012 at 12:22 am |
    • reaperfearer

      This article was perfectly written and extremely true. Non-gun-toting Americans are sick of this. Gun control is necessary. Even if you think it won't make a difference, we obviously need to find out for sure at this point. Get ready for some weapons bans.

      December 19, 2012 at 12:24 am |
    • James PDX

      Doug, you clearly inferred what you expected, or possibly wanted to see.

      December 19, 2012 at 12:35 am |
  14. inspiration for the rest of you

    Think about religion as a drug addiction. Instead of "mind altering chemicals", people are getting "mind altering illusions". Same thing. People love their addictions that free them from otherwise more than mediocre lives!

    December 19, 2012 at 12:10 am |
  15. Pez

    God grows within you and so does evil, you choose what to be, this is a horrible tragedy, we are just part of a greater being not something outside of it and we happen to be in this world just temporarily, but I could be wrong.

    December 19, 2012 at 12:10 am |
  16. Freethinker Seeking Reason

    Major kudos to Prothero for standing up against this country's religious insanity while somehow remaining respectful. Great article!! MORE like this, please, CNN.

    December 19, 2012 at 12:09 am |
  17. inspiration for the rest of you

    Don't even expose your kids to religious brainwashing until they reach adulthood. By then, hopefully, they will have learned some critical thinking. Religion would cease to exist.

    December 19, 2012 at 12:09 am |
  18. inspiration for the rest of you

    Religion is not based on reason, logic, evidence, facts, and probability. What is it based on? Not much at all – the only thing that remains is creative story writing. But JK Rowling and others are so much better at it!

    December 19, 2012 at 12:08 am |
    • Teluu

      Right on the point.

      December 19, 2012 at 12:22 am |
  19. George

    "Evil did visit that town". People make decisions (Ephesians 6). God grieves over man who makes sinful (not illness) decisions contrary to His will as revealed in Scripture. Don't blame God. Blame man. God will have the final say at the judgment.

    December 19, 2012 at 12:07 am |
    • George Carlinisgod

      what is this judgement you talk about? what happens here? who judges?

      December 19, 2012 at 12:19 am |
    • John

      We know that the bible says god has ordered man to participate in the destruction of other men because they do not live according to his plan. Whether this is proof of a loving god or not can be debated. Maybe the teachers needed to be killed for their sins. What sins did a child of 6 or 7 commit that demanded his or her killing? Even if this is true, the rest of the children and their parents and teachers do not need to hear this. Please keep your religious absolutism to yourself and show some of the love for your fellow man that your savior said we should show.

      December 19, 2012 at 12:32 am |
    • James PDX

      God is all knowing. Therefore, he knew everything that every man would do before that man was even created/born, yet chose to create mankind this way anyway. Therefore, everything is god's fault. Indisputable, unless you claim god is not all-knowing and all-powerful, in which case whay are you worshipping him again?.

      December 19, 2012 at 12:38 am |
  20. inspiration for the rest of you

    Considering this is the 21st century, why are we even talking about archaic delusions of ancient people?

    December 19, 2012 at 12:06 am |
    • lol??

      You idiot, the evolutionists imply you're at the peak of your game. You progressed.

      December 19, 2012 at 12:34 am |
    • lol??

      A few K years ago ain't ancient. Now, 350,000 years might be called that.

      December 19, 2012 at 12:36 am |
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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.