The Religious Right's Shameful Exploitation of the Newtown Massacre
Bill Berkowitz printable version print page     Bookmark and Share
Tue Dec 18, 2012 at 01:45:33 PM EST
It's commonplace for Religious Right leaders to blame the godlessness of Americans for hurricanes, tornadoes, the 911 attack, and the gay rights movement. And, as someone who regularly monitors and writes about the Religious Right's activities, I am seldom surprised by the events its leaders ascribe to godlessness. Nevertheless, even I was shocked by the comments of two nationally prominent conservative religious leaders in the wake of the Connecticut elementary school murders.

Two of the most shameful observations about the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, which killed 26 people, including 20 children, came from Mike Huckabee, former Arkansas Governor, Fox Television Channel news contributor, and host of a Saturday night Fox television program, and Joel Rosenberg, the best-selling author of apocalyptic novels.

On Friday, the day of the massacre, Huckabee, who often comes across as affable and occasionally sensible, responded to the shootings by saying that the incident was no surprise because we have "systematically removed God" from public schools.

"We ask why there is violence in our schools, but we have systematically removed God from our schools," Huckabee said on Fox News. "Should we be so surprised that schools would become 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 -- that we're not just going to have be accountable to the police if they catch us, but one day we stand before, you know, a holy God in judgment. If we don't believe that, then we don't fear that."

Huckabee was echoing a similar stance he took in late-July following the Aurora, Colorado movie theater shootings. At the time, Huckabee said that "We don't have a crime problem, a gun problem or even a violence problem. What we have is a sin problem. And since we've ordered god out of our schools, and communities, the military and public conversations, you know we really shouldn't act so surprised... when all hell breaks loose."

Joel Rosenberg is not nearly as well-known a public figure as Mike Huckabee, but he is nevertheless a formidable figure on the Religious Right as an author of several best-selling apocalyptic novels and several non-fiction works on the Middle East.

His Flash Traffic post titled "Implosion Update: The Demons of Violence are on the Loose in America. But Why? And Where Do We Go From Here?" pointed out that "It's not just "the economy, stupid." We are, in many respects, in a moral and spiritual freefall in our country, and we are paying a terrible price."

Rosenberg maintained that "The demons of violence and lawlessness are the loose all across America ... . [and] the further we turn away from God in our nation -- the further we drive Him out of our society, our of our schools and courts, and out of our media and out of our homes, or the more we give mere lip service to religion, the more men are "holding to a form of godliness, although they have denied its power" (2 Timothy 3:5) -- the worse things are getting."

Rosenberg asked readers to "Consider the cultural war against Jesus and Christmas that has been waged just in the last few days," and he went on to cite several recent headlines:

  • Fox News headline: "Holiday message: Atheists dub Jesus a `myth' on Times Square billboard"
  • CNN column, "Have yourself a merry atheist Christmas"
  • AP article about the "War on Christmas"
  • Fox News story about a rapper singing about a "Gangbanger Jesus"
  • KTVA-TV (Alaska) story: "Atheists Wage War on Christmas in Anchorage: Anti-religion signs on People Mover buses"
  • Comedy Central's Jon Stewart wages war on Christmas and mocks those who thinks he's wrong

He added: "The Lord God Almighty is a gentleman. He won't force us to accept His great love and many blessings. If a nation tells Him to leave, He will leave. But what are we reaping as a result of a society that increasingly ignores God and hates or dismisses Jesus Christ? We are witnessing a horrifying explosion of murder. We are witnessing a gruesome crime wave unprecedented in American history. And there appears to be no end in sight. In recent years, we've seen brutal mass murders in high schools, on college campuses, and in small towns all across America (a recent FBI report says the murder rate soared 18.3% in small towns in America last year alone)."

Rosenberg cautioned that "there is a point of no return - a point at which God removes His hand of grace and mercy and turns to the judgment of America."

In a piece that runs for hundreds of words, Rosenberg never once mentions the word gun (he uses the word "gunman"  twice, and the phrase "gunned down" once). He never advocates for responsible or sensible gun control, never acknowledges the epidemic of guns in this country. Not once. Never ever.

We can no longer afford to stay silent. It is the moral imperative of our leaders -- secular and religious -- to respond to this latest tragedy as a call to action. And Huckabee, Rosenberg and their brethren, should be ashamed of their callous response to the pain of others.

are those which state that, because abortion is legal, we have no right to grieve over real, living children who are murdered. This is less than a step away from Westboro. I actually expect them to start massacring children to prove their point.

by Rey Mohammed on Tue Dec 18, 2012 at 03:03:36 PM EST
There are many things we can say about the Christian right and antiabortion leaders in particular, but this kind of absurd hyperbole is not helpful, Rey Mohammed.  Please refrain.

by Frederick Clarkson on Thu Dec 20, 2012 at 04:50:41 PM EST

Rosenberg, Dobson, Huckabee and Fischer show there is absolutely no low to which they won't sink to deliver their political message. They think of God in their image, small, petty-minded, and vindictive. I would doubt the families of the victims find any comfort in their messages.

by khughes1963 on Tue Dec 18, 2012 at 08:16:33 PM EST

Back in 199 during the horror of Columbine, Flip Benham, head of Operation Save America (offshoot or something of Operation Rescue) claimed the actions of the young men were because of abortion. At the moment he said that, Benham was trying to close a clinic where murdered doctor Bart Slepian had practiced. Benham was one of hundreds of anti-abortion zealots who either openly celebrated Bart's death or gave po-faced pretenses at sorrow while blaming Bart for his own demise. It is the religious right that has repeated the mantra for nearly 20 years that murder of someone with whom you deeply disagree is entirely "justifiable". THAT is what people learn and take to heart. Add in "stand your ground" and other faux Biblical "eye for an eye" assertions, and you will see why those who have a violent reaction to someone or something seem to have no qualms at all about killing the objects of their ire or even strangers who represent something to them. Mass murderers have no need to care about others or the consequences of their own actions. They've been told their anger and opposition is enough. And they learned this from the craven and despicable stand of very public religious right leaders. Why wouldn't shooters believe they have the same right to kill? They have it on very good authority.

by Churchlady on Sun Dec 23, 2012 at 11:47:55 PM EST

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