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. Rogue351

    Our founding fathers would have more than 6 things that should be said after a mass shooting.

    1, Why do we have so many companies making so much money when the product they are selling is so easily getting into the hands of the people doing these horrible acts.
    2. If you purchased these guns and they end up in the hands of a killer why is the owner not responsible ? Why are people aloud to sell guns to whoever they want without a background check.
    3. If all guns are to be used for personal protection and hunting why does any gun need to shoot more than 6 rounds ?
    4. We gave you the right to protect yourself agains a tyrannical government. But we had no idea that government would have. Tanks, Jets, Nukes and artillery that can kill you from miles away. So does that mean anyone with enough money should be aloud to own a full armed F16 or a nuke ?
    5. When children start becoming the target of a mass shooting there is something else wrong. Guns are a means to an end. but not so say without guns it would not happen again but it would undoubtedly be more difficult.
    6. Why are Americans so paranoid of being invaded by another country ? Does Americas fight off scores of boats and ships attempting to land on our shoes with millions of invading troops ? And if that was the case would the military not handle it ? And has anyone asked why these troops would invade in the first place ? Seems unlikely, as does a zombie apocalypse.
    7. Why does America allow one group, the NRA to dictate laws and opinions to so many other all without being an elected body ?

    December 30, 2012 at 12:32 am |
  2. Jason

    Why do you need to speak your mind? Why do you need to practice (or not practice) a religion? Why do you need to keep the government from searching your possessions anytime they want? Why do you need a trial by jury? That's the reason they are called rights. There is no need to justify their exercise.

    No one NEEDS an assault rifle. Just like no one NEEDS electric power, running water, nor an internet connection.

    December 29, 2012 at 10:37 pm |
    • Atheism is healthy for children and all living things

      God says an assualt rifle gits your man card. Zombie jesus relived for you!

      December 29, 2012 at 11:48 pm |
  3. flylear60

    Your rights to have an opinion should be at the same speed of a 18th century printing press as well them.....

    December 29, 2012 at 10:33 pm |
  4. hrdwrknjoe

    Wished the gun toting wingnuts would open fire on the little old lady robbing, child raping, next door neighbor wife banging, wife/child beating con men called evangelicals – but I guess blowing your own head off won't get ya into never never land.

    December 29, 2012 at 10:23 pm |
    • Atheism is healthy for children and all living things

      Unfortunate isnt it.

      December 29, 2012 at 11:46 pm |
  5. moi

    Sometimes it takes hitting home before people like Stephen see the illogic of religion. I would bet he has small children. Let this be a lesson that things really don't have to happen to US, or to people just like us in order for us to see reason and logic in the world. Thanks for writing this, Steve.

    December 29, 2012 at 8:08 pm |
  6. Markenstein

    How about: "Planes don't fly people fly". No someone out there surely will go "Yes but you can fly using a hot air balloon or a helicopter". But surely planes make intercontinental flight so much easier. The same applies to mass shootings using assault rifles. It is so simple that it is hard to believe that anyone could be even too simple to understand that.

    But maybe they aren't and when they say "Guns don't kill people do" what they really mean is "I want to keep my assault rifle, and any soundbite will do, and the death of 20children is a small price to pay".

    Sad, isn't it...

    December 29, 2012 at 6:37 pm |
    • Keith_Indy

      Those of us who are armed are better for answering what that statement then the tortured projections of some commenters here...

      Guns don't kill, people kill people. Whether it is gun, knife, machete, brick, bat, bazooka, jaw bone of a you know what. The problem is violence. Accidents and suicides are a whole different problem. Violence in society is the issue. Look at tje overall rates of violence in America, vs Europe, and we look like a much safer country.

      The Shepard is responsible for his flock. The Shepard kills or drives off the predator if they interfere with his flock.

      As an armed member of society, if I were there I'd have pulled my handgun and put as many rounds into him as I could. By Gods Grace I'd hit only him. Though I practice so that I have a good chance of hitting a target. I went to the range and put 250 rounds down range, all on target. That is a big reason for having large capacity magazines for me, less time wasted at the range loading magazines.

      I pray I never have to use violence. I've not ever had to use violence. I prefer to deescalate and avoid situations where others might Those of us who choose to be armed, and I've been fingerprinted by my local sheriff already, and have had multiple background checks for my carry license.

      Every time I buy a gun from a dealer I have to fill out a form, my id is phoned in to the National Instant Check System. Once verified I can take my purchase and bring it home. If there were an easy way for me as an individual to check if a person was qualified to purchase a weapon, I'd use it.

      To me all of this stuff seems reasonable, and hardly anyone considers them an infringement of our 2nd Amendment protected liberties. The base of which is the right to defend yourself and others Lives & Liberty, with violence if necessary. How many less tyrannies would their be in the world if those who wished to defend their lives and liberty had the means to do it.

      Until peace reigns o'er the Earth, the innocent will need protecting. I don't trust a government that has a monopoly on all arms.

      December 29, 2012 at 9:37 pm |
    • Atheism is healthy for children and all living things

      You would have ran like the little girl you are. Stop with all your heroics, go pray or something, your weak and silly.

      December 29, 2012 at 11:43 pm |
    • OTOH

      "The Shepard [sic] is responsible for his flock. The Shepard [sic] kills or drives off the predator if they interfere with his flock."

      The shepherd guards his flock for a couple of reasons:

      - For profit from their wool and from their skins and flesh at slaughter.
      - For dinner.

      The guy who thought up that analogy was just silly.

      December 29, 2012 at 11:51 pm |
  7. Steve

    I dont know why everyone wants to bring God into the situation, when in our secular humanistic society there is a push to remove God from the equation. Its kind of ironic dont you think. We want a cosmic Santa Claus but not a risen Savior. Ooooooooooooh no you mean He requires me to follow Him and deny myself. And we didnt evovle....and He really didnt create gay people..its a choice.Whoa thats not the God I want. I want the one I made up.

    December 29, 2012 at 4:38 pm |
    • the AnViL

      wow – steve is another one of those emulating the right reverend fred phelps and the westboro baptist church.

      December 29, 2012 at 4:42 pm |
    • Jack

      Actually, the AnViL sounded more Westboro-ish to me: Steve pointed out that some people sound hypocritical, the AnViL sounded like he was condemning Steve.

      December 29, 2012 at 7:07 pm |
  8. retief1954

    America can hardly be called a pro-life country in its present state. Life is not particularly valued by our culture as a whole. America pays lip service to the idea that life is precious but its actions or inactions say otherwise.

    December 29, 2012 at 2:57 pm |
  9. Live Love

    For those professing to be Christians, the first question that should be asked is "What Would Jesus Do?" Would he advocate for or against banning automatic weapons whose sole purpose is to take out as many people as possible? Would he find that upholding a 220+ year right ratified at a time when the deadliest guns were single-shooting revolvers and rifles is a higher priority than the lives of innocent children and adults who are murdered expediently and horrifically with military-style weapons? Tell me, please, what would Jesus do?

    December 29, 2012 at 1:28 pm |
    • Mike

      When I start hearing people say, "God says this and God says that" or "God told me to do this" or "God tells me what to do":

      I get very nervous.

      December 29, 2012 at 1:40 pm |
    • Mike

      Live Love, you can get rid of the 2nd Amendment if I can get rid of the 1st Amendment.

      Deal or No Deal?

      December 29, 2012 at 1:41 pm |
    • Mike

      Rewriting the Bill of Rights is called a "slippery slope" and clearly not what the Founding Fathers intended.

      December 29, 2012 at 1:51 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      I doubt you have a clue as to anything the founding fathers intended, Mikey. If the founding fathers had had their way, you wouldn't even be allowed to vote, moron.

      December 29, 2012 at 6:50 pm |
  10. Mike

    The USA and the world for that matter is really going to hell in a hurry.

    You will need a gun when the bottom falls out.

    December 29, 2012 at 12:08 pm |
    • jamie Cruz

      Definition of Mike in dictionary: incredibly dense, uneducated person who scares normal, intelligent people to death.

      December 29, 2012 at 12:29 pm |
    • Mike

      Definition of Jamie Cruz: a person who does not read the newspaper or watch the TV news. Simply stated, a simpleton.

      December 29, 2012 at 1:33 pm |
    • Mike

      If you look up the term "arrogant know it all" in the dictionary, you will find a picture of Donald Trump but if you look closely you will see Donald Trump is holding up a picture of Jamie Cruz.

      December 29, 2012 at 1:37 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      If you look up " 15-year-old dumbfvck redneck", you'll find Mike's puss.

      December 29, 2012 at 6:48 pm |
    • Lsteel

      There's your problem, Mike: too much tv news. People who get their news from tv are more fearful.

      December 29, 2012 at 7:24 pm |
  11. Mike

    Where in the 2nd Amendment does it say "18th Century Muskets Only – No AR-15s"

    What a fool!

    You obviously miss the entire point of the 2nd Amendment!

    December 29, 2012 at 12:04 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      Why do you need an AR-15?

      December 29, 2012 at 12:06 pm |
    • Mike

      Tom, do you think the government should be the only people with AR-15s?

      If you do, you clearly do not know your history.

      December 29, 2012 at 1:38 pm |
    • Mike

      Tom, do you trust government?

      Do desperate governments do desperate things?

      December 29, 2012 at 1:45 pm |
    • Da Bears

      You obviously don't know the 2nd amendment either Mike... It only refers to lawful usage of guns. Assault rifles only have one purpose which is to kill people. You do not need them for anything else. Therefore you do not have the right to have assualt rifles if they are deemed uneccessary.

      December 29, 2012 at 4:28 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      Don't see a thing in the 2nd Amendment about AR-15s, honey. Do point it out.

      On second thought, don't bother, as you're too myopic to notice the little phrase about a "well regulated militia."

      You're a dolt.

      December 29, 2012 at 6:40 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      I notice you can't seem to respond, Mikey. Maybe that's because you don't have a good argument for owning weapons whose sole purpose is to murder.

      December 29, 2012 at 6:49 pm |
  12. elgeevz

    Finally, a rational comment with which I can completely agree.

    December 29, 2012 at 11:39 am |
  13. ameevid

    God doesn't need anyone to 'cover up for him". People have free will and that is why you will have evil and the democrats can't understand that you cannot impose their will on everyone. If I could I would impose good feelings toward everyone and never any violence again. But, alas I can't. There is a thing called free will and it will impact what evil people do.

    December 29, 2012 at 10:51 am |
    • lordnimrond

      ameevid said: "People have free will and that is why you will have evil and the democrats can't understand that you cannot impose their will on everyone."

      Oh,...you mean like how the republicans can't understand that women don't want conservatives imposing their will on women's bodies?

      December 29, 2012 at 2:46 pm |
  14. Jason Dollar

    I believe Prothero has written a sad strawman of an article. Thus, I had to respond on my own blog from a conservative Christian perspective. I feel like I'm taking on Goliath (CNN BLOGGER), but somebody has to refute the lack of basic logic and civil discourse represented by what has been written here.


    December 29, 2012 at 10:44 am |
    • lordnimrond

      Sorry, dude.... But there's no "straw-man" here at ALL!

      If your god being left out of the schools was what caused this type of massacre, then surely we shouldn't be having all the problems with boy-r@pe in churches... Apparently god likes that stuff...

      If violent video games were the cause, or violent movies, or violent books, then it should boggle your mind at how Canadians can be entertained the same things and yet not partake in the same kind of crimes at anywhere near the same level...

      You don't want to "see" the truth in any of these statements because you want all your answers to come comfortably from an ancient text that should be a mere entertainment, as supposed to some kind of dogmatic rule-book...

      Sane people have the ability to be entertained by fanciful things while still maintaining their grip on reality enough to function within society... It's when folks read these things, and start believing the delusions, that you have problems like being filled with the desire to mass murder other innocents,...or belief in a giant sky god that created the universe in six days...

      December 29, 2012 at 3:00 pm |
  15. Dave V

    What a dip stick? You would hope a Bible Scholar could do better than thatAs a human being we were originally designed to live forever. Death wasn't part of the original plan God had when he created us. We as humans will resist death in every way possible. Its not in our nature to give up and die. So, does this give us the right as New Testament Christians the right to kill? Justified or in war? When Jesus laid upon the cross he had the means to call down a legion of angels to defend and rescue himself from the cross.
    When you are a Christian and you own a gun for protection you are usurping Gods role as protector. You are not trusting God with your life. Do you think it makes any difference how you die or when you die. What makes a difference is where you go when you die. This is why "trust" is such an issue. Your level of faith is demonstrated by what you believe and trust God for in this life. Do you believe in resurrection life. Then don't fear a man who could take your life, but fear God, the one who take your life and soul and separate you from himself forever. Almost all of Gods disciples had there heads cut off. His Son Jesus was murdered. Do you think Jesus was just being cool when he said to Peter, those live by the sword while die by it? Why do you fear death? I'll tell you why. Your faith is not at the level that provides you with peace and love that over comes death.

    December 29, 2012 at 10:41 am |
  16. Micah

    I believe this writer is doing nothing more than troll readers along with his ridiculous articles. He writes, “Guns don’t kill people, people kill people.” and states that people aren't able to fire off bullets without a gun. Well if he was a scholar then he should know how to do some research before submitting his articles. Travel to some 3rd world country where people are firing off bullets using a metal pipe or two. How about putting some rounds in a tobacco can with an MRE heater pack and some water and electrical tape. Read up on how some kid was shot by playing with bullets on a train track. The sources go on and are out there.
    The statement “Guns don’t kill people, people kill people.” is very true. The truth may not sit well, but it is not idiotic.

    December 29, 2012 at 10:40 am |
    • Micah

      I hope CNN fires this guy or stops letting him submit articles. No one hear likes what he has to say or how he says it.

      December 29, 2012 at 10:42 am |
    • guns do indeed kill people

      The only reason guns were invented were to kill or maim. Period. and they kill and injure often times when someone does not actually mean to pull the trigger. Case in point; I had a cousin who was about 16 at the time and he was hunting (We were all trained and went to gun safety classes and had fired weapons and hunted) and he fell on his rifle and it discharged into his leg. He had to be carried 2 miles back to the cars and taken to the Hospital. He did survive thank goodness but when you say Guns don't kill people you danderously overlooked why it was created in the first place which was indeed to kill. The gun did its job on accident which was to kill or maim. The difference between a car accident and a Gun accident is that a Car was invented to travel and move things so if it kills soemone it truly is an accident where a Gun was made to kill so if it does so it is doing its job.

      December 29, 2012 at 11:02 am |
    • schmedly

      A gun fires a metal projectile at a couple thousand feet per second. The sole intention of that is to kill something, human or animal, and they have proven the most efficient means of doing so for a couple of centuries. If it weren't, we would still be fighting wars with swords and arrows. Of course, a gun doesn't get up all by itself and shoot other people. A person has to pick it up and aim it, but to ignore either the human factor or the efficiency of weapons as part of the solutions to the rampant mass shootings in our nation is ignorant. I emphasize the efficiency aspect of the weapon, because a deranged person can kill someone with a sword or bow and occasionally, still do. But not 27 people. at one time. I doubt that we will ever eliminate murder, but we need to address all factors if we are to have any hope of reducing the sheer number of mass killings that we have come to expect as "normal deviations".

      December 29, 2012 at 4:28 pm |
    • Decency costs Nothing

      Prothero is a jumped up, patronizing, wannabee philosopher. Unfortunately he's got his ambition mixed up with his capability. CNN need to stop encouraging the uneducated little twerp!

      January 1, 2013 at 5:09 pm |
  17. really?

    Nicely written, clear, reasonable logic Stephen!!!! I hope there are more christians out there like you!

    December 29, 2012 at 10:39 am |
  18. Nate

    Had me till the last point. Yes, guns can kill people, but so can fertilizer, water, football and Big Macs. Bleeding heart could be added too I suppose. And there is absolutely no reason the average person needs fertilizer, football or Big Macs and water could be dolled out in eight ounce paper containers to avoid drowning or glass cuts (Insert hand wringing here).

    December 29, 2012 at 10:32 am |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      Can you picture in your mind those little bodies at Newtown?


      Pretending that access to automatic and semiautomatic weapons had nothing to do with that is idiotic.

      December 29, 2012 at 10:41 am |
    • really?

      Water really? that's your logic ....it's a RIDICULOUS slogan......guns don't kill, people do.......water drowns so give out water in cups.....Guns do kill simple!!!!! That's their designed purpose, now water, on the hand, can have other purposes!

      December 29, 2012 at 10:51 am |
  19. darrell

    you call your self a scholar of the bible you are in the wrong work people pay you for articles that i just read man you need to read and read again Gods word.

    December 29, 2012 at 10:13 am |
  20. ForReal

    "Shake your fist at heaven"? The author might be a religious scholar but he does not sound like a Christian. Why not complain about wars, natural disasters, etc?

    More importantly, why not complain about deaths caused by alcohol? Drunk drivers kill far more....than guns... But tougher laws on this might affect your friends or family as so many drive drunk...

    December 29, 2012 at 9:27 am |
    • Eric1334

      Oh,so since were not addressing ALL issues on this article we may as well not address any? I'm not sure i follow. Drunk driving should be an issue,absolutely as i'm sick of hearign about drunk drivers killing people,but there wasn't just a mass killing by drunk drivers was there? It was a school shooting were currently talking about k.

      December 29, 2012 at 7:34 pm |
    • Decency costs Nothing

      For real – you're right.
      Unfortunately, the ranters on here don't realise that the killing of ONE person; ONE child, is just as bad as 20. Each ONE of those victims has a family, friends and people who love them.
      It would seem that there's so many single murders in the USA that unless they're in ever increasing numbers you people don't even react any more!

      January 1, 2013 at 5:12 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.