If you must seek comfort through religion in the wake of the recent tragedy at Sandy Hook elementary school in Newtown, CT, that’s fine by me. People express their grief and direct their compassion in different ways; shortly after an atrocity that is still a highly sensitive issue to those affected is certainly not the time to criticize someone’s beliefs.
But don’t you dare blame this tragedy on Atheists. Don’t you dare link this senseless act, performed by a young man with a deeply troubled mind, with the politics of secularizing America, as if driving God out from our public places led to such a calamity. Please don’t humiliate yourself by suggesting that the murder of 20 elementary school children and 6 adults, dedicating themselves to the education of those children, was merely the reflection of a society that has eliminated God. Don’t you dare.
Yet, someone did.
Former governor and presidential candidate Mike Huckabee was recently attacked by what he calls “the predictable left” for saying that the ban on prayer in schools caused the Newtown killings. Now, we all know that it is not atypical for the media to twist someone’s words for the benefit of their organization or for the detriment of someone else. But no worries – Mr. Huckabee himself went on the air to clarify just what he meant, exactly. And he certainly did clear things up.
In responding to the accusations that he blamed the school shooting on the ban on school prayer, he ensured us that, of course, it was not just school prayer that triggered this event. A great number of other things contributed to it as well.
Phew! He’s not that disillusioned. As he admits, many elements are at play here. For example, the young man had asperger syndrome, a somewhat lesser form of autism. He was home-schooled, further hampering his social experience. He was likely depressed and could find no outlet to channel his frustrations. All these things probably factored into his decision to shoot 20 elementary students, right? Well, in Mr. Huckabee’s opinion, these aspects are not even worthy of mention. Several others, however, are.
“It’s far more than taking prayer or Bible reading out of the schools,” Huckabee assured. “It’s the fact that people sue a city so we aren’t confronted with the manger scene or a Christmas carol. That lawsuits are filed to remove a cross that’s a memorial to fallen soldiers. Churches and Christian-owned businesses are told to surrender their values under the edict of government orders to provide tax-funded abortion pills.”
Oh, yeah. Those things.
But wait a minute. Isn’t this supposed to be about the 26 murdered victims of a psychologically troubled 20-year old? Surely Mr. Huckabee is not using the current vulnerability of the public to promote his political agenda. That would be arrogant. Insensitive. Even absurd.
But it appears as though many of our top-tier politicians continue to insist upon the meshing of church and state. Even if they need to disguise a psychologically abnormal and troubled 20-year old as the epitome of “evil” – as Huckabee labeled him – to convince us that God’s absence in schools and public venues is the true heart of society’s problems.
But unfortunately, this problem goes much deeper than the assertion that “evil” was present in Newtown. If the issue was as simple as destroying evil and glorifying God, I think we would have fixed it by now. But leave it to the religious fanatics among us to mask the true problems with useless, ungrounded mumbo jumbo. I’m sorry if I offend my religious peers, but this problem has nothing to do with God. Nothing. And if we continue to demonize these killers and shun them as mere evil outliers within a more godly general society, we are evading the issue indefinitely.
I understand that there is a lot of hatred being spewed at Adam Lanza, the Sandy Hook killer, and this response is only natural, particularly for the victims’ families. But let’s get one thing straight. This man was not a monster. He was not the devil. He was not simply separated from the presence of God. He was psychologically ill and socially inept. Real-life conditions lead this man to commit the crime he committed – all within the scope of human experience.
So let’s not put our religious blinders on. Associating God with this problem only renders us incapable of tackling the true issues at hand by disregarding pragmatic solutions in favor of the lazily asserted notion that the answers simply lie with God. Lanza was clearly lead astray by some sort of unfortunate psychological condition. This should cause us to ask questions regarding how to better identify and treat the psychologically ill. Additionally, he could not have committed this crime without access to his mother’s weapons of brow-raising potential, including a “sporting version of the U.S. military’s principle assault weapon,” as reported by the NY Post. This should lead us to consider the degree of gun accessibility in America – though I think the media has run this issue dry. Regardless, these are two practical issues involved in this tragedy that, if attended to, could make a real difference in preventing future catastrophes like this one. And there are surely many more underlying elements to the atrocity that are more difficult to identify.
But school prayer? Lawsuits protesting Christmas carols? Taxes devoted to abortion pills? What?
The selfish agenda of religious leaders like Huckabee to impose Christianity on the public is one of the many ways that religion deters our society from analyzing its biggest problems from a rational, practical standpoint. But Huckabee’s remarks represent more than just a foolish distraction to pragmatism. They are are disgustingly insensitive and insulting. He once again substitutes God as the protagonist in a story whose main characters should be the victims, their families, and the population of psychologically ill people that we must learn to identify and treat more effectively. But when people like Huckabee have the floor, everyone else – in this case, 20 slain schoolchildren and 6 dead educators – must be forgotten to ensure that all eyes are on God.
We must mourn. We must reflect. We must learn. But we must not deceive ourselves by fruitlessly throwing the issue into the hands of God – for as history has revealed, they happen to be particularly clumsy. And though solving societal problems, like the ones reinforced by Adam Lanza, is never easy or straightforward, we can start by making one simple decision: leave God out.