Commenting on tragedy is something that is hard to do in the immediate aftermath. For that reason, I have avoided comment on the horrific tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary School, in which a deranged gunman took the lives of 20 students and 6 adults. I have, however, followed the comments by others – and, some of the comments that have flooded cyberspace have left me shaking my head in dismay.
Anyone who might wonder about my position on religion and politics; I try to steer clear of the former and have a strong feeling of disgust for the latter; has but to read some of the commentary to know why. The puerile political posturing by some former politicians, like former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee, who blames the shooting on a combination of lack of prayer in classrooms, homosexuals, and contraception are too dumb to even attempt a response to. Huckabee, perhaps realizing how inane his comments sounded, has since tried to back off them a bit, but it’s a case of too little, too late. The initial statements are engraved in stone, and no amount of scratching will remove them.
But, it’s the statements by those who try to portray themselves as ‘religious’ leaders that has really left a bitter taste of bile. Using this senseless tragedy as a vehicle to push their far out agendas has further validated my decision decades ago to look at Western religions with a sense of caveat emptor. Take William J. Murray, son of former anti-school-prayer activist Madalyn Murray O’Hair, who brought cases that spurred the Supreme Court to get prayer out of schools. Murray, now a convert to evangelical Christianity, has gone on record as saying, “lack of school-sponsored prayer led to this tragedy.” Like beginning the school day with a Christian prayer would have dissuaded Adam Lanza from his killing rampage. Murray needs to get real.
As if Murray’s ridiculous statements were not enough, Franklin Graham, son of evangelist Billy Graham, joined the chorus, claiming on American Family Radio’s AFA Today that the Sandy Hook shooting was due in part to ‘God being taken out of our schools.’ James Dobson, considered the number one right-wing religious leader in America, went even further. He had the audacity to claim that letting gay couples get married, among other things, caused God to let children be killed at Sandy Hook.
Finally, we have the nutty congregation of Westboro Baptist Church, a fundamentalist Christian church from Topeka, Kansas, threatening to stage a demonstration at the funerals of the victims of Sandy Hook, declaring that God sent the shooter.
These so-called ‘religious’ leaders would have us believe that their God approves of the slaughter of innocent children in retribution for treating all people with dignity regardless of their politics or sexual orientation, or for policies that put religion where it belongs; in the home and church; or, for teaching children rational science rather than religious fantasy in school. This isn’t even the Old Testament God, but something from a sci-fi horror novel. If there are people out there who buy this drivel; and I fear that there are many; I can’t sign on to such a religion.
My heart goes out to the families of the victims. We might never know what motivated this deadly event, but, the pulpit pronouncements from these foam-at-the-mouth prophets of doom aren’t helping. I find it strange that none of them seem to want to venture a comment on the ease with which disturbed people can get high-powered automatic weapons in this country has contributed to the continuing slaughter. There are some sane voices out there. Let’s hope that they’re not drowned out by all this insane patter.