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. maximus9

    Great article. Every point is spot on. Thank you.

    December 18, 2012 at 4:49 pm |
  2. Bishop

    "In the Jewish tradition, it is offensive to bring up the afterlife while in the presence of death."

    Wouldn't be the first time Jewish tradition and Christian tradition clashed. If you are a Christian, the resurrection offers hope and consolation. Paul states in 2 Corinthians, "Now we know that if the earthly tent we live in is destroyed, we have a building from God, an eternal house in heaven, not built by human hands."

    It is comforting to know that while Lanza destroyed the bodies, he could not touch their souls. Death of children will always be troubling and we man never understand why. However, I remain faithful to God and believe that these children will live again!

    December 18, 2012 at 4:48 pm |
    • rtr

      The god of israel loves kiIIinlg and wars just read his book its full of his angels telling humans to go forth and kiII. He even put his spirit into some and murdered that way hands on.

      December 18, 2012 at 4:52 pm |
    • Bishop

      Correction: may instead of man.

      Also, for the most part, I am in agreement with this article. My goal was not to find fault.

      December 18, 2012 at 4:53 pm |
    • Rational Humanist

      1. The clash between Christian and Jew is deliberate and malicious and has been part of Christianity since the beginning of Christianity.

      2. What is even more tragic about those children dying is that they will not live again. They are gone forever. They had no souls and thus have ceased to exist forever.

      At death you stop existing. There is no god and no afterlife and nothing supernatural. These facts make this tragedy even more tragic to the survivors, so pretending anyone has souls can be comforting, but it simply is not true at all.

      December 18, 2012 at 4:58 pm |
    • Bishop

      @Rational Humanist

      I am going to need some empirical evidence on that statement.

      December 18, 2012 at 5:04 pm |
  3. Biggles

    It seems the Christians are burning a fellow Christian at the stake for heresy today.

    I bet that when Stephen Prothero wrote the artiice, he didn't expect some kind of Christian Inquisition.

    December 18, 2012 at 4:48 pm |
    • Cardinal Huckabee, Grand Inquisitor to the Stars!

      NOBODY expects the Christian Inquisition! Our chief weapon is stupidity! ...Stupidity and rage . . . rage and stupidity . . . Our two weapons are rage and stupidity...and ruthless insanity . . . Our three weapons are rage, and stupidity, and ruthless insanity . . and an almost fanatical devotion to moldy ancient peasant superstition . . . Our four...no... Amongst our weapons.... Hmf . . . Amongst our weaponry...are such elements as rage, stupid . . . I'll come in again.

      December 18, 2012 at 4:49 pm |
  4. WachetAuf

    Connect the dots. It is God's will that men die. It is the designer's design. Guns, bombs, knives, poison, all serve the strategic purpose. Can you imagine what the world would be like without death? There would be billions of little gods populating the earth. We already have too many little gods on earth. Death reminds many of us who might otherwise be among the herd of little gods that we are not gods but merely mortal men who may die in the very next moment. Narcissism is so very difficult to defeat that the only remedy for most of us is death. In this case, tragic death. What else could get our attention? The USA has been killing tens of thousands of innocent people for decades. Is God Hindu? Must be. Karma seems to be at work.

    December 18, 2012 at 4:48 pm |
    • Rational Humanist

      "little gods"?
      Time to call the nurse for some more meds.

      December 18, 2012 at 4:52 pm |
    • WachetAuf

      To Rational Humanist: Narcissism is virtually impossible to recognize and cure, especially in a culture like ours. We promote it. It sells "things" from hamburgers to politicians. Every narcissist ("little god") has his own group of obsequious enablers. There is an epidemic from top to bottom. Read the news lately?

      December 18, 2012 at 5:13 pm |
  5. mason

    God didn't hear the pleading prayers of the 26 victims because there is no theistic God. It's bronze age myth and childish ideas. Grow up humanity. Mother Earth, Father Sun, Spirit Universe.

    December 18, 2012 at 4:48 pm |
    • Chris

      Well said!

      December 18, 2012 at 4:59 pm |
    • Bishop

      Whose to say that they were not delivered through death?

      December 18, 2012 at 5:00 pm |
  6. Nana

    My heart goes out to the grieving families but God was no more involved with this event than he was when my 6 month old Grandson was abducted and murdered this past summer. There are bad people in this world who do very bad things and unfortunately all too often they get away with it. The person responsible for our family's tragedy has violated his restraining order six times without penalty and remains employed working with young children. If our tragedy or the one at Sandy Hook Elementary was God's will then let me be the first to join Satan's team.....

    December 18, 2012 at 4:48 pm |
    • owe2AA

      I am so sorry for your loss. I can't begin to imagine pain that your heart feels.

      December 18, 2012 at 4:54 pm |
  7. Jopaqio

    Great article Prothero. I'm glad to see a journalist have the balls to write what he's really feeling and for those who don't think these sorta things are being said / are happening.... I will never forget as a child when my mother died someone told me "it was God's Will". I grew up wondering why God would want to take away a child's only living parent and DESTROY his life in the process. It must of been God's Will to make a kid live a life of hell on earth. I can't believe such BS.

    December 18, 2012 at 4:48 pm |
  8. Pan3

    Well said Stephen, well said!

    December 18, 2012 at 4:48 pm |
  9. The AF Chief

    I agree with everything you have said EXCEPT # 6. It's true, a weapon of any sort cannot kill anything. It's the crackpot using the weapon who did the killing.

    December 18, 2012 at 4:48 pm |
  10. Chris

    Huckabee was flat wrong but was coming from a place of his beliefs. God has nothing to do with it. In fact and unfortunately, the god of the old testament was involved in a few child killings on a mass scale. Does everyone remember the story of Passover? Keep god out of schools and focus on educating and treating the mentally ill.

    December 18, 2012 at 4:47 pm |
  11. owe2AA

    thank you. Well put. My faith is shaken. I dont know a scenario where murdering defenseless children is part of a grand plan Im not supposed to question.
    I would trade places for any one of those children. In a second, I would give my life to bring them back.

    December 18, 2012 at 4:47 pm |
    • Jopaqio

      I wish there were more ppl like you in this world. I can't imagine being in that situation but I would do the same. Kudos to you for questioning your faith.... it's a leap for some, but let logic dictate your beliefs and I promise you'll be happier. I am.

      December 18, 2012 at 4:52 pm |
  12. Bob

    I have only one statement for you Mr. Prothero. You are the most confused individual I have ever heard open their mouth.

    December 18, 2012 at 4:47 pm |
  13. CaesarXIII

    leave it CNN and the rest of the liberal brainwashed media to twists his actual speech around.

    December 18, 2012 at 4:46 pm |
  14. n8r0n

    If you believe there is a god, then this obviously was his will.

    As if the notion of an invisible man in the sky with a son, who is himself, who was born of a virgin, apparently couldn't keep himself from being executed, then magically appeared again after 3 days, isn't ridiculous enough .... you people believe that all the wonderful things that happen in the world should be credited to this invisible man, but the bad things are never his fault.

    I mean, this is a classic self-reinforcing delusion.

    Grow the heck up. Adults believing in children's fantasies, and affecting our laws because of it, is beyond stupidity.

    December 18, 2012 at 4:46 pm |
    • robert

      Actually, you're wrong. Read the bible. What separates Man from animals is that we have Free will. This means that God doesn't exercise his will on us EVER. To do so would invalidate the idea that we are in control of ourselves – the very gift we were given to set us apart.

      December 18, 2012 at 4:49 pm |
    • Rational Humanist

      robert, there is no such thing as free-will and we are animals, as you would understand if you knew how to educate yourself.

      December 18, 2012 at 4:51 pm |
    • jo

      I don't believe in YOUR VERSION of God...my God would never do this..

      December 18, 2012 at 4:53 pm |
    • Igor

      Why in your twisted mind do you think there should be a balance between good and evil created by god. Is somewhere there is a law that for the amount of good there should be the same or more the amount of evil. Your comment and your views don't make since. People like you are afraid to recognize that You are responsible but instead would prefer to hide behind the will of god.

      December 18, 2012 at 4:54 pm |
    • jem4016

      You forget the possibility of a God who chooses to hold back from forcing His will on others by allowing them to do evil.

      December 18, 2012 at 4:55 pm |
    • Rational Humanist

      jem4016, if that were true then it would be totally your god's fault for deliberately "allowing" the evil to happen. Duh.

      December 18, 2012 at 5:00 pm |
    • Jose

      Then, please explain this event in mathematical equations. Please explain this using chemistry. Right a chemical equations that helps take the pain away. Please find the gene that made this kid plot this horrific accident. I can't wait to here the scientific reason for this. I can't wait to hear the Darwinain explanation that will make this okay. Crap!. When we move away from the compassion and purpose driven aspect of faith, we become more reliant on science to expalin everything. Science and reason can't make this better. Understanding that this kid had a miss'firing gene or his neurotransmitters were not being released properly can't make this anybetter. Nothing can. But the hope and purpose that faith instils in us gives us the strength and confidence that Man can be better than this. That we were created for a higher purpose and that we are beyond an aqueous solutions of ions and molecules. For those that say that having faith in some thing beyond us is a wast, the belief in nothing is even worse.

      December 18, 2012 at 5:19 pm |
  15. Michelle

    Thank you for your opinion, but what's your point? You're a religion scholar yet I fail to see the wisdom, or even scholarly knowledge, in your column. Your view is rather negative as well. I clicked on the article hoping for something sensible in a time when very little makes sense. Since you failed to mention anything theological in your article it would be pointless of me to suggest an evaluation of "permissive will" and "perfect will" in the case of how the Creator of the Universe manages things. You had a real opportunity here to make a difference and you came up short. Boo.

    December 18, 2012 at 4:45 pm |
    • ajaybeeee

      PERFECT response. I could not have said it better myself.

      December 18, 2012 at 4:52 pm |
    • jwill

      I guess the Bible verses he referenced aren't theological. Noted.

      December 18, 2012 at 5:47 pm |
  16. steve

    Absolutely correct in every point. Great article. I just wish there were more Americans that believed this way.

    December 18, 2012 at 4:45 pm |
  17. Ibobo

    What are you doing, Prothero? You are criticizing, but come up with no solutions. By the way, the Bible offers comfort, particularly to the parents who lost loved ones. That's well more than what you are doing now. Huckabee is right. We live in a morally compromised country that routinely rejects God; don't look to Him when evil and tragedy presents itself to you. As to the fallen, He will take care of His own. Interestingly, now everybody's going to Church these days.

    December 18, 2012 at 4:45 pm |
  18. drskaplan

    Good article.

    December 18, 2012 at 4:44 pm |
  19. kristinakaye

    So many stupid sayings and I agree that all mentioned in this article are perfectly defined by the author. I have always believed that there is a GOD. I have also believed that there is EVIL. It is perfectly logical (for me) to realize that my GOD started everything in motion a long time ago and has let both good and evil play out. Just because GOD didn't stop this massacre doesn't mean that He ... probably She ... isn't feeling the impact just like I am. That was one of the gifts we received when humanity was conceived ... FREE WILL. What is EVIL here are the totally unnecessary comments of many.

    December 18, 2012 at 4:44 pm |
    • blogo

      The last time I checked life evolved from a bunch of chemicals in the primoridal soup, wheich gave rise to simple organisms which led to more complex ones over time, and than finally humanity branched off from a branch of apes. God sure works in mysterious ways if his idea was to create the humans this way.

      December 18, 2012 at 4:47 pm |
    • rtr

      And the spirit of the lord came upon him and he slew thirty people for their clothes (samson) thirty innocent people, so the god of israel is a murderer to.

      December 18, 2012 at 4:49 pm |
    • blogo

      OKm I do need to correct my typos before posting ;-P

      December 18, 2012 at 4:49 pm |
    • Rational Humanist

      Your so-called "free-will" is coercive and thus not free at all.
      Maybe you should think about it for a while before saying dumb things.

      December 18, 2012 at 4:49 pm |
  20. blogo

    There's a lot simpler explanation why god allows amything to happen – god doesn't exist in reality, only in delusional people's minds.

    December 18, 2012 at 4:44 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.