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. maria

    I think it is nothing to said after a immense tragedy like this one ! just feel the epain and sorrow and cry with the family member ise nough for me ,after that it becomes political ,not one feels the pain and agony this parents are feeling right now! so words ,specially from polticians is only baloney!

    January 6, 2013 at 6:16 pm |
  2. Ken78

    Shake your fist at heaven and demand answers?

    Who are you as a mere man to demand answers from the Almighty God who created you – and indeed, this entire world – from nothing?

    The author is an atheist. Plain and simple. Like the vast majority of authors whose articles CNN post here. Why not just rename it "The Atheism Blog" and at least be honest about it?

    January 6, 2013 at 5:48 pm |
    • nelsonleonard

      ken, I think it was a saint (Teresa of Avila) who is quoted as saying "God, if this is how you treat your friends, no wonder you have so many enemies" I can imagine her raising her fist a bit then. She was canonized so the church did not think less of her for showing human emotions. I believe God would understand frustrations such as this. I never was a huge follower of Mother Theresa until I heard she had her doubts and frustrations with God but soldiered on despite her failures in faith. I understood her as a mere human rather than a walking "saint" unlike the rest of us.

      January 6, 2013 at 6:45 pm |
  3. nelsonleonard

    As a retired teacher who worked in the schools for 30+ years it saddens me to hear an intelligent person such as Hucklebee promote the belief that public schools do not teach morality. I am a Christian and proud to be. I went to school everyday with that faith and I never worked with my kids forgetting it. Just like all the teachers I've worked and volunteered with (since retirement) I always taught my kids to treat each other with kindness, to settle disagreements with words not aggression, to not lie or steal, to not hurt other's feelings, and other Christian ways of behaving. I'm sure the teachers at Sandy Hook did the same. What I could not do is teach morality as a Christian belief as I taught children of many faiths. As Christians would not want Muslims or Hindus teaching their personal beliefs to their children, I had to respect the parents' choice of religion. But no one can stop me from teaching children to respect each other. It surprises me that a man such as Hucklebee who wanted to be President could be close minded. It scares me to think of a man with his beliefs trying to be President of a diverse nation. I do not mean to infer he is not a good man as he is but he should stick to leading a faith community not a government. I guess when he was Governor he kept these strong religious opinions to himself.

    January 6, 2013 at 5:44 pm |
  4. moose1

    When the Islamic terrorist's jihad finally makes it to the United States and your family is being slaughtered, ya'll will be wishing that you had the "assault rifles" and high capacity magazines that are about to be banned! It's coming!!

    January 6, 2013 at 5:16 pm |
  5. Brandon

    I have to say with jerks like Stephen Prothero using their freedom of speech to write antic articles like this one in a major media outlet only exacerbates the situation of lack of understanding on the root problem behind the shootings. Thanks Stephen for taking the expensive education and throwing it down the drain. Maybe you will try really hard to make up for this stupid article by going out and doing something with your life here after – how about getting another degree in child psychology or social welfare and experience the hard decisions that middle class americas our having to make every day and then read in an article that God and rights our something to joke about. Thanks Stephen, your a real shining light for american theology. For some people, those statements actually mean something – something like a four letter word called hope.

    January 6, 2013 at 4:40 pm |
  6. Rebel101

    I appreciate the calm individuals on here. They hold different stances and beliefs on this issue but they don't attack each other with words, quotes, scriptures, and YouTube videos. You can battle each other over ideologies, philosophies, and history. And once it dies down, it will start all over again with other incidents. Someone is definitely getting a paycheck for this.

    January 6, 2013 at 4:24 pm |
  7. Correctlycenter

    If people knew God and His word, there wouldn't be any school massacres...

    January 6, 2013 at 2:18 pm |
    • David DeForge

      History much?

      January 6, 2013 at 3:16 pm |
  8. sam dunkan

    That sounds about right. A religion scholar that's an atheist. Blind leading the blind. There is nothing you can say after a tragedy like that. Innocent ppl are dying every day and being abuses. What we can hope for is that God's judgement will make things right one day. In God's time, not ours.

    January 6, 2013 at 2:04 pm |
    • Beans

      well said.

      January 6, 2013 at 2:09 pm |
  9. Sigurd

    This is the dumbest article I have read this week....We are all now more stupid for having read it...

    January 6, 2013 at 1:56 pm |
  10. CRC

    More CNN trash.

    January 6, 2013 at 1:04 pm |
    • Rich Green

      God is the creator and he is the all knowing and shapes our lives. But if he lived amoung us, he and his kid would be on death row!

      January 6, 2013 at 1:11 pm |
  11. athoughtor2

    I like this article. It reeks of sanity. Regardless of how strongly you feel about God, the school system, gun control, the ability for people like Adam's mother to access help and to compel people like Adam to accept it, there is a standard for treating others that is rooted in dignity and respect for our common humanity. There will always be profound differences in individual perspectives and therefore in our opinions and beliefs. The issue is that we try to inflict these beliefs on others and when they don't agree, we feel angry and threatened and we dismiss them.

    If we can engage in reasonable discourse that is rooted in that mutual respect for our common humanity instead of in our conviction about how wrong and foolish someone else is, there is a chance that we may survive as a society and as a species on the planet. But the pointless name calling ("gun control babies?" Really?) and the self righteous evangelism are the exact opposite of the kind of debate that we need to engage in. LIberal or conservative, we need to put mutual respect first and our limited perspectives second.

    January 6, 2013 at 12:07 pm |
  12. James

    An AR-15 is not an assault rifle? So it's purpose is to hunt, then? No. No it's not. It's sole purpose is to kill human beings. It should be legal to police and armed forces and no one else. If you need a semi automatic weapon to protect your family, then move somewhere safer. If you just want it to shoot at a range then we should develop ranges where you can go and shoot it and then it gets locked in a vault on the range. People with guns kill more people than people without guns, and that fact is irrefutable.

    January 6, 2013 at 10:51 am |
    • David DeForge


      January 6, 2013 at 3:16 pm |
    • Jeff

      Last time I looked at the CDC reports on this, your statement on this is wrong. Did you look for yourself or did you just go off what others tell you. I am telling you to take a long walk off a short cliff, in the hopes you will rid the world of you. Please do not have kids.

      January 6, 2013 at 4:50 pm |
    • Ryan

      James is an idiot! People with guns kill more people then people without them? really? not sure what fats you are looking at but the FBI has released all the numbers up to 2011 and nowhere in any of those numbers do you see rifles killing more people then a club or blunt object. Better yet how many people are killed each year in the careless actions of drunk/careless drivers? I am sure you never took into acount the amount of people who die under the knife of a Dr or even those who are stabed on the street. Media just highlights each and every case when a gun is used. It's too bad you buy everything they sell. And just anorther thing for all those that seem to mis the fact that the guns used in the shoot were legal. Yes they were for his mother, he STOLE THEM FROM HIS MOTHER! A criminal before he even got to the school. He did not own these guns nor did he try to get his Legally. More laws are not the answer, holding people accountable is.

      January 7, 2013 at 9:30 am |
  13. Andrew

    How about mindsets you should not have when entering these kinds of debates?

    Many people in the media have been emotionally charged in recent weeks. I remember seeing Piers Morgan's debate and he EXPLODED on his guests. How unprofessional of him and very difficult to understand and hear CNN's side of the argument because this news organization has taken a side on this subject.

    January 6, 2013 at 10:45 am |
  14. allenwoll

    Is there a schedule available on these ? ?

    January 6, 2013 at 10:08 am |
  15. Ken78

    Gee. Another article from an obvious Atheist in CNN's misnamed "Belief" Blog.

    Color me shocked.

    Apparently being an Atheist is the sole requirement to have an article posted here.

    January 6, 2013 at 10:02 am |
    • Lou

      He is clearly not an Atheist. He says, "There may or may not be a God." That called being agnostic. Geez, typical theist. IF someone doesnt "believe" then you ignorantly call them an Atheist, because you love the shock it brings. My advice, learn the difference between atheist and agnostic- then give your opinion. Until then, you only look dumb.

      January 6, 2013 at 10:13 am |
    • Lou

      AND- its called a "belief blog" because its about the topic of religious belief. That doesnt mean only believers should talk, it means anyone can give their opinion about religion and belief.

      January 6, 2013 at 10:15 am |
    • maine liberal

      At the aninth hour Jesus cried out with a loud voice, “bEloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani?” which is translated, “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?”

      psalm 22:

      1 aMy God, my God, why have You forsaken me?

      1bFar from my deliverance are the words of my 2cgroaning.

      2 O my God, I acry by day, but You do not answer;

      And by night, but 1I have no rest.

      3 Yet aYou are holy,

      O You who 1are enthroned upon bthe praises of Israel.

      4 In You our fathers atrusted;

      They trusted and You bdelivered them.

      5 To You they cried out and were delivered;

      aIn You they trusted and were not 1disappointed.

      6 But I am a aworm and not a man,

      A breproach of men and cdespised by the people.

      January 6, 2013 at 10:33 am |
    • Ken78

      Lou, that is a sham. The author is an atheist. Like you.

      January 6, 2013 at 5:42 pm |
  16. Manan Shukla

    After Newtown massacre, some people blame school, some people make a point that school teachers should have guns. Some religious people say it is God's wish.
    I think we miss the point. Many people believe to keep gun is fundamental right. So due to vote bank politics, no one dare to say the truth.
    Human nature is emotional. When they are in stress or in anger due to their own reason, they blame others and sometimes society. To express their anger, they use whatever available to them. If gun is available, they use it.
    If we see last few incidents , that was the story.
    Now as a society, we have to decide, we want to tolerate few more incidents or prevent it in future. To create a society enough mature that to know when to use those type of weapons is a long way or we have to give sacrifice of innocent people.

    January 6, 2013 at 9:58 am |
    • maine liberal

      On that same day in 130,000 other schools, children went to their classes and nothing happened.

      Do we really want a society in a free country where there are armed guards of prevention at public places, movie theaters, schools, parking lots, malls, churches, universities. Do we really want to arm-up. how do we know that we arent training another George Zimmerman, Adam Lanza.

      The NRA solution (police in schools) is nothing short of an Orwellian nightmare.

      Tough questions and the answers are tougher

      January 6, 2013 at 10:25 am |
  17. greg

    Brandon...exactly correct regarding the definition of an assault rifle. Most prople don't know.

    additionally, it is a fact that a.223 rifle was NOT used in Newtown CT shooting, yet the gun control babies still want that type rifle banned.!?
    One more thing..this nitwit Huckabee says the 2nd Amendment applies only to owning a black powder musket ??? He says that owning a Nuke or a rocket launcher is equal to owning a .223 semi??

    I wonder what color the sky is in his world.


    January 6, 2013 at 9:36 am |
    • babydoc

      You need to check your facts. ALL the children were killed with the Bushmaster rifle!

      January 6, 2013 at 11:47 am |
    • Tyler

      You're a moron. if that USMC there is true, then that explains it.
      Mike huckabee didnt say anything about the musket, huckabee's comments were far more ridiculous.
      the writer talked about the musket.
      the children were all killed with the rifle.
      im not against guns, and i love my bushmaster rifle. and i will never give it up, and i will never fully trust the government, gun registries and taking away guns wont change violence in the country and looking through history, countries that have done this, well it doesn't end well.

      January 6, 2013 at 2:24 pm |
  18. Robert

    What it is is a wake up call on how guns are handled, distributed, and legalized.

    January 6, 2013 at 9:32 am |
  19. LogicAndReason

    So you are saying, make it illegal to use certain weapons to commit murder?

    January 6, 2013 at 9:00 am |
  20. Brandon

    An AR-15 is not an assault rifle; saying it is demonstrates ignorance and makes me disregard your opinion as someone who is afraid of something they have no knowledge of. Go educate yourself on what an assault rifle actually is and then write another article where you don't come off as ignorant.

    January 6, 2013 at 8:47 am |
    • Jeremy

      So, you discount someone's opinion entirely because they misstate a nuance relating to a particular classification of weaponry in one of six opinion points that, overall, focus on the social etiquette when speaking about those who died, but the person whose opinion that you've disregarded is the one that is "demonstrating ignorance." Really?

      January 6, 2013 at 9:41 am |
    • Jon-of-WE

      I think you may wanna try again!

      January 6, 2013 at 10:01 am |
    • maine liberal

      #1 i am not anti-gun nor do I want to take your guns
      #2 I am a member of the NRA and the ACLU

      let us stop with the technical jargon of what this gun is, assault, nuclear weapon, flintlock etc to immedialy disregard any argument that runs counter to the NRA gospel.

      20 kids are dead by a shooter that even the NRA says should not of had a gun.
      everything worked in this case: (the shooter tried to obtain a gun couple days before and was refused, his mother was legally registered to those guns). lets start there with our education not with the symantics of a guns name.

      January 6, 2013 at 10:12 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.