A Reminder of What Some Christian Leaders Said After the Tragedy at Sandy Hook December 14, 2013

A Reminder of What Some Christian Leaders Said After the Tragedy at Sandy Hook

A year after the horrific shootings at Sandy Hook elementary, let’s take a trip down memory lane and recall what certain Christian leaders said about the tragedy, if for no other reason than to remind people that they should never take these despicable people seriously.


James Dobson blamed the event on society turning its back on Scripture:

And a lot of these things are happening around us, and somebody is going to get mad at me for saying what I am about to say right now, but I am going to give you my honest opinion: I think we have turned our back on the Scripture and on God Almighty and I think he has allowed judgment to fall upon us. I think that’s what’s going on.

Franklin Graham, too, blamed the event on society apparently not welcoming God:

Prospective 2016 Republican Presidential candidate Mike Huckabee blamed the event on the separation of church and state within our 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, discussing the murder spree that took the lives of 20 children and 6 adults in Newtown, CT that morning. “Should we be so surprised that schools would become a place of carnage?”

Law enforcement has released few details on the alleged gunman, but Huckabee suggested that the separation of church and state may have spurred his rampage.

“[W]e’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,” Huckabee said. “If we don’t believe that, then we don’t fear that.”

He said those suffering from a crisis from faith should look to God in the community’s response to the violence. But he added that “Maybe we ought to let [God] in on the front end and we wouldn’t have to call him to show up when it’s all said and done at the back end.

The American Family Association’s Bryan Fischer also blamed the event on the fictional removal of God from our schools:

The question is going to come up, where was God? I though God cared about the little children. God protects the little children. Where was God when all this went down. Here’s the bottom line, God is not going to go where he is not wanted.

Now we have spent since 1962 — we’re 50 years into this now — we have spent 50 years telling God to get lost, telling God we do not want you in our schools, we don’t want to pray to you in our schools, we do not want to pray to your before football games, we don’t want to pray to you at graduations, we don’t want anybody talking about you in a graduation speech…

In 1962 we kicked prayer out of the schools. In 1963 we kicked God’s word out of ours schools. In 1980 we kicked the Ten Commandments out of our schools. We’ve kicked God out of our public school system. And I think God would say to us, ‘Hey, I’ll be glad to protect your children, but you’ve got to invite me back into your world first. I’m not going to go where I’m not wanted. I am a gentlemen.’

And I think back [to] when I was in elementary school: We had prayer in schools and we didn’t need guns.

Charisma magazine’s Jennifer LeClaire also blamed the event on the fact that public school students aren’t forced to pray:

Some experts are reporting that nothing could have prevented the Newtown school shooting. Again, I beg to differ. I think prayer could have prevented it. And I think reinstating prayer in public schools can prevent the next mass murderer from stepping foot on campus and prematurely ending more innocent lives.

American Family Association President Tim Wildmon blamed the event on Satan:

Pastor John Piper blamed the event on “our own corruption”:

So what we saw yesterday in the Newtown murders was a picture of the seriousness of our own corruption. None of us escapes the charge of sinful anger and verbal venom. So we are all under the just sentence of God’s penalty.

Which means that the murders of Newtown are a warning to me — and you. Not a warning to see our schools as defenseless, but to see our souls as depraved. To see our need for a Savior.

I know that’s not even close to getting the reactions of all the pastors out there. But if it isn’t obvious, God and Satan and prayer had nothing to do with what happened at Sandy Hook. All of those statements are just Christian leaders using tragedy to further their own theologies and ministries by placing the blame on everything they always fight against, anyway, as if Sandy Hook just proves their point about X, Y, and Z.

It’s easy to dismiss those people as crackpots, but millions of people take them seriously. We need people — other Christians, especially — dismissing and denouncing them the next time they open their mouths to explain away a disaster.

(Image via Shutterstock)

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  • How do people become this deluded?

  • MikeBx2

    @flyb, most of them aren’t that deluded. They just want you and me to be. It’s better for their bottom line.

  • Well, it usually starts with parents teaching their children religious ideas as truth. It starts with kids being told it’s okay to believe things without basis. Most of these kids grow up to be good people, even if their ability to reason is broken. But some turn their religion into business (which includes all of those listed above). Their greed and their egos collide with their crazy beliefs, and we see the result.

  • Artor

    Yeah, and America is far more religious than most other developed countries, yet we have far more gun violence than most other developed countries. I wonder if the reverse correlation is valid?

  • What happened to your out-of-this-world avatar? Miss that thing.

  • It’s pure fantasy, but I wish these people all lived together in their own country. I want to see what they do to each other, and how they excuse it.

  • momtarkle

    These people are vultures, seeking and feeding on death.

    My sincere apologies to real vultures. You’re good guys.

  • diogeneslamp0

    These preachers prove that conservative Christianity is a cult of child sacrifice. The blood of children has a magic which they think will grant them money and power.

  • I have no idea. I think it’s Disqus acting up again. Maybe it doesn’t fetch Gravatar icons anymore? Annoying. I could try creating a Disqus account, but that gave me no end of problems in the past, with lots of comments just disappearing.

  • BobButtons

    I never understood the ‘It’s because we don’t allow God in’ argument. I’ve heard there are way more church & the like type shootings every year than there are public school shootings so apparently the presence of God doesn’t ward off violence. Not to mention the countries with the lowest crime rates are also the least religious (Sweden, Denmark, etc.).

  • Eliot Parulidae

    I am especially confused when we are told that God has saved and blessed the survivors of these tragedies. In these situations, does God have to fight His way into secular spaces and salvage what He can? Does the inevitable time delay explain the problem of God’s seeming preference of survivors over victims?

  • Eliot Parulidae

    Vultures are wonderful creatures. My stepfather helps take care of a turkey vulture. She seems quite vain of her looks.

  • Paraphrase of all the commentary cited above: “How DARE any American refuse to believe what I believe!? Why, anything bad that ever happens, MUST be the result of their hateful insolence!! Wha wha whaa!”

  • One word: Immaturity.

  • Robin

    That is what I was thinking, you beat me to it!! 🙂

  • Yes and exactly why does “God not go where he’s not wanted”. Does secularism perhaps have the same power as iron chariots giving an omnipotent god some form of performance anxiety? If the victims were christians surely God ought to preserve them against the godless state.

  • John

    So you think your god allowed dozens of children to die just to make a point…and you still think this is a loving god?

  • Steven M. Long

    It took months before I got Disqus to work right. My problem was that I think I signed up to make a comment with one e-mail, then signed on to the service with another. It was a big, off-topic mess.

  • Ryan Hite

    Maybe they should do a little thing called research! But, most of them only read one fictional book and that explains their worldview.

  • TheG

    Better question: exactly when does “God not go where he’s not wanted”? Can anyone name a time when God and his Christians were not butting their heads in where it clearly doesn’t belong?

  • Neko

    Thank you for this. Let such zealots hang themselves by exposing their obscenities.

  • Well…my question was more theological whereas yours is sorta political… But no less valid for that.

  • MN Atheist

    Tim Wildman: I think satan possessed this 20 year old and walked into the school and murdered these children. But doesn’t exonerate that person. So if I am taken over by a demon and kill someone, the demon made me do it. I am still responsible. Great logic.

  • MN Atheist

    A google search turned up this: People have been getting shot on school grounds since the early 1800’s. The first known event was in 1760 when a group of natives massacred nearly everyone at a school. I was going to spell out a few, trying to weed out all of the jealous lovers that entered schools and shot a teacher. But the list was too long, and I only made it to 1937. I found many instances of teachers being shot by parents or other students because of punishments doled out.

    The one that stuck out happened on May 18th, 1927. It still stands as the deadliest mass murder at a school in U.S. history. 45 dead, mostly children, after a man killed his school teacher wife at home, and then drove to the school and blew it up with dynamite. That was way before we got smart enough to take religion out of our schools. Take that Bryan Fischer!

  • lucky21

    If I want to be honest this is really getting petty on your part. For the John Piper and Franklin Graham its more like they are blaming corruption they perceive that is going on in people’s hearts. I also think this is really kind of low for you because this is just a way to bash Christians in general. In fact there were other Christians who commented on the event last year. Or maybe its not brought up because its not enough to make atheists to get angry for Christians. Or you are misinterpreting some of what they said for your own agenda which makes you a bit of a hypocrite. But I guess its not wrong unless you do it. Some of the testimonies said like James Dobson and Bryan Fischer was out of line. While others are just widely big misinterpretations of what they are saying.

  • Tor

    The obvious solution to the removal of god from schools would have been to replace him with lots and lots of guns. What could possibly go wrong?

  • Kristin

    So maybe you could interpret it for us lucky 21?

  • kristin

    And supposedly being possessed by said Satan, one still has the mindset to know what they are doing,so sayeth Tim. WTH??? I am confused…

  • Might it be (I’m just throwing this out there) rather that you are misinterpreting the intent of the posting in the first place, that your operating premise (namely that the poster is out to “bash Christians in general”) is in fact completely in error?

  • purr

    And some, not pastors, but conservatives, blamed it on abortion and wussy female teachers, wussifying the schools with their wussy female ways.

  • To be fair, I don’t blame them for “pushing their agenda”, so to speak. When people blame school shootings on the current state of gun control/mental illness/etc., I view people to be pushing those specific agendas. I see nothing inherently wrong with that.

    What I have a problem with is when said agenda is delusional and demonstrably wrong. If anything, the vast amounts of misery in the world’s most religiously devout countries relative to the world’s most (freely chosen) atheistic countries highlights that level of religiosity likely has either nothing to do with such social ills, or worse, actually exacerbates the problem.

    The evidence suggests their agenda is either useless or actively harmful. It is not the pushing of an agenda in and of itself, but the results of said agenda that I detest.

  • Mick

    At least the religious hoi-poloi have enough sense to analyse their leader’s arguments and discard all those that don’t make any sense.

  • The Starship Maxima

    We need people — other Christians, especially — dismissing and
    denouncing them the next time they open their mouths to explain away a


    So, Dobson, Fischer, Huckabee, Piper, LeClaire, et al, you say a bunch of kids dying is indicative of God’s judment.

    Yes, it is. God is judging this country because we say gays are destroying marriage, but say nothing when some priest is abusing yet another young boy. We get angry because they take the 10 commandments off the courhouses, but say not a Goddamn thing when a young Hispanic boy gets 15 years for carrying a bag of dope, but a rich white guy uses Monopoly math to bankrupt a hundred thousand home owners.

    We tell gays they can’t adopt, but then Christian parents kick out their children by the dozens.

    We care about how hip-hop is destroying the community, but we don’t care that we continue so many of the antebellum South’s policies that leave blacks in a state of perpetual poverty.

    God is judging us because we’re a bunch of degenerate assholes who think a bunch of dead children is not the opportunity to promote understanding and healing, but rather to badmouth others.

    God truly is merciful, because if it was me, I’d smite every last one of you and leave your bodies as an example of what NOT to do as a Christian.

  • RN from NY

    So just to clarify, there were no shootings and murders prior to 1963, right? No school murders, right? The worst school massacre did not happen in Michigan on May 18th, 1927, back when god was in the schools, right? Okay, then bring prayer back!

  • Anat

    Err, so you think it makes sense for your deity to arrange for school kids to be killed because his followers are supporting racist, homophobic, and otherwise unjust policies? And that deity is worthy of being worshiped? The deity you believe in is evil.

  • $925105

    Fundies look at a bunch of corpses and see a great opportunity.

  • coffeecat

    the only one who died in Newtown on 12/14 who ever prayed in school was Adam Lanza. (Catholic school when he was around 9 or 10.)

  • Sue Blue

    Exactly. I guess Adam Lanza was just God’s little helper, then. When God needs something done to make a point, he just recruits mentally ill people who also happen to own a lot of guns. Nice. Real nice. So is Lanza up there yuckin’ it up with Jesus over a job well done?

    These people really, REALLY don’t think these things through, do they?

  • Neko

    Hello lucky, please consider:

    It’s easy to dismiss those people as crackpots, but millions of people take them seriously. We need people — other Christians, especially — dismissing and denouncing them the next time they open their mouths to explain away a disaster.

    Merry Christmas!

  • lucky21

    As a fellow Christian when I read Piper and Graham’s its not an indication that God is punishing them. In fact it seems to be blaming human nature itself. I think some people are really becoming just as sensational as the people they claim to be against. Why blame human nature because the things you are relying against are exactly what stems from the problems in society.

  • lucky21

    People might think of me as being delusional or being callous but where does all those things you are mad about stem from. Everything stems from our own corrupt hearts. Some Christian leaders are not saying this is an act of God’s will but are saying its at our own hands we have become that way. Yes, others will say it is God’s doing but they are wrong because this is not something from God but something that lies deep within people’s hearts which is they ability to do wicked deeds because they can.

  • lucky21

    I also find it kind of irritating that he only reported the Christians that said controversial stuff. It seems like he only cares about using this as an opportunity to bash Christians or use as an excuse to shame us. Its really hair pulling. There were Christians who saw grief in this tragedy there but it seems it doesn’t matter in his eyes because only the ones that said highly toxic stuff were given attention. That is sensationalism and I hate it. It really is dishonest and disgusting. We will denounce those who do say stuff like that. But at the same time don’t make into a sensationalistic situation just to further your own agenda as well. It does come off as hypocritical.

  • The Starship Maxima

    Lucky21, yes, there are people who live to find any fault at all with Christianity. This site was designed to highlight all the ills of Christianity and ignore the vast good done under our banner.

    It can be grating, but there’s no need for hair pulling. A bunch of biased atheists affirming their own biases does not harm us.

    However…….when prominent and visible members of the Church use tragedy as an excuse for bashing others, there’s a problem. And it SHOULD be called out.

    I get angry when atheists talk about how religion causes all the evil in the world, and then when you point out plenty of evil is done in non-religious causes, they respond with “Well, whatever, but Christianity is still evil.”

    So to, it’s wrong when Christians fail to own their evildoing. It doesn’t matter we do a lot of good. It doesn’t matter that atheists are sometimes snobbish.

    When children die it is NEVER the time to start apprortioning blame.

  • The Starship Maxima

    I’m with you Lucky, but the problem is the tenor and tone of these statements is less, “Fellow Christians, it might be our own failings that cause these tragedies” and more “See “Murica! You let gays marry and you like hip-hop, see what you get!”

    That’s not right.

  • Aida

    Do Christians forget about all the families and children that have been harmed and neglected and abused in the name of god within residential schools (for example Canadian Indian residential schools) ? The affects of the atrocities that occurs at these segregated schools for blacks, Asians, aboriginals just to name a few, are still effecting families of the kidnapped and abused. All in the name of god and cultural genocide

  • lucky21

    That reminds me Mayor Bloomerg when this happened tried to make Obama try to turn it into a gun rights debate. But yeah I think some see this an opportunity to bash others. And that is a sad thing to see. I think some Christian leaders saw this as another example of an example of needless violence perpetuated in the heart of a young man who let his heart grow dark and take innocence from this world. On the other hand it should be a time to be comforters to this world because each and every day this world needs more of them.

  • lucky21

    All I can say is these shootings are happening more and more. It seems to be a common thing in the news. No one knows what the solution is and I wish myself could find an answer. It makes one want to sit down and cry for a moment how such things are happening. Or how children are getting involved in these actions of violence just because they were there.

  • lucky21

    And you are right it should be more “Fellow Christians, it might be our own failings that cause these tragedies” than trying to do a political posturing piece.

  • Red-Star

    Violent Gun crime is actually down from ten years ago. School Shootings aren’t going up, the media just gives them more attention now.

  • I’ll confess I really don’t understand this complaint at all. Why does a critic need to soften their criticism by including counter-examples? Isn’t that the job of the person responding to the criticism?

    Part of the problem here is that you are perceiving an attack upon a whole group (Christians) in an attack that is very explicitly targeted at a only a small-but-vocal subset of that group. If the article implied or said that all or most Christians secretly (or overtly) agreed with Dobson, Graham, et al. on these matters, then your complaint would make more sense, but Hemant went out of his way to say that that was not the intent of the piece (heck, the word “some” even appears in the title). Given that, the only way to get an attack upon all Christianity out of the piece is by bringing it in with you in the first place.

    On another level, I sympathize. I’m politically conservative, and quite a lot of fun is had at the expense of conservatism around these parts (due to the ways political conservatism is socially adjacent in US politics, these days, to religion). Thing is, I (at least strenuously try to) reserve my complaints on that point to when someone actually crosses the line from complaining about a conservative or some conservatives to “conservatism” or all conservatives everywhere. There is plenty to criticize among the acts of extant conservatives, and so I don’t take it as an attack upon all conservatives for someone to pick one of those things or people out and hold them up to brutal scrutiny.

    Most basically, I guess I would suggest you should ponder the question: If someone uses Christianity as an excuse or even the explicit motivator for odious actions or attitudes, why should other Christians take offense for that Christian being called out?

  • The Starship Maxima

    As usual 3, you make a fantastic point. But, much like Bible, Lucky’s gripe makes more sense when taken in context.

    People habitually make blanket statements. This is not limited to atheists, liberals, Republicans, Muslims, whatever. Most people just don’t bother to differentiate between subsets of the group they oppose.

    Particularly, on this website, you have people who will create a Christian correlation where there isn’t one. Terry Firma’s retrospective on the UpStairs Lounge massacre made no suggestion of the religious belief of the arsonist or lack thereof. The closest clue was that the person who burned down the lounge was himself possibly gay.

    Cue 900 posts raging at the evil Christians. And when several posters said “How did this become about Christianity when there’s no indication it’s involved?” many people got even more offended and belligerent.

    Coming from a website full of people who pride themselves on rational thinking and honesty, it gets galling to see such ad hominem attacks and hypocrisy.

    And this is one of the better places on the interwebs.

    All of this though is irrelevant next to the fact that as you said, “if people are using Christianity for fucked up purposes”, our duty is to neutralize and exterminate the perpetrators first. We can talk about the people who badmouth us later.

  • Robster

    In the first video, that Graham person said something like “we’ve been de synthesized” They call it the Moog effect of the Korg strain of societal breakdown. The only people top survive will be keyboard players, I believe.

  • UWIR

    Applies to both conservatives and leftists, doesn’t it?

  • UWIR

    Reminder of leftists such as Adam Gopnick and Jerry Coyne called gun-rights activists: “Child-killing lobby”. Let’s not pretend that conservatives are the only ones acting uncivilly.

  • UWIR

    Bringing up worst school massacre doesn’t exactly help the leftist position, either, seeing as how it wasn’t performed with guns.

  • Anat

    When there is a vivid example of blatant misuse of guns, that is exactly the right time to bring it up as an example of why better gun control laws are needed. It worked in Australia.

  • Anat

    Things like this happen because for an assortment of reasons people with mental health problems do not get sufficient help in time, while at the same time having access to guns.

    Destigmatize the mentally ill, cover their treatment, follow-up on them regularly, forbid them and anyone living with them from having guns, reduce the number of guns in total, that sort of thing.

  • I think some Christian leaders saw this as another example of an example of needless violence perpetuated in the heart of a young man who let his heart grow dark and take innocence from this world.

    And those people are wrong. I hesitate to call them delusional, because that’s an actual medical diagnosis, but they clearly live in a world that is only tangentially related to reality. Adam Lanza didn’t “let his heart go dark”. He was mentally ill and had access to guns he never should have had access to. He killed his mother and many other people, including children, for reasons we may never understand, but I highly doubt his goal was to “take innocence from this world”.

  • John

    Real vultures, unlike these guys, perform a valuable service for the environment.

  • John

    Thinking isn’t exactly their strong point.

  • Stealth Avenue

    Uh, no. These religious “leaders” are engaging in victim blaming of the most egregious sort (i.e. these kids died because they didn’t pray hard enough), and they deserve to be called out for their vile words. Nowhere did the author “bash Christians in general”. Nowhere. Learn to read.

  • “God doesn’t go where we don’t want him, so he allows children to get killed because he is a gentleman!”
    Sounds more like a passive-aggressive bastard to me.

  • The Starship Maxima

    Nobody disagrees. But you can’t deny that while the majority of gun control advocates are sensible, many take the opportunity to make it look like guns and gun owners are just evil white guys.

  • The Starship Maxima

    I could get behind that.

  • It certainly can. The potential is definitely there. The difference is, Leftists aren’t acting out in such ways, anywhere near as often as Rightists are.

  • wabney

    “Lucky21, yes, there are people who live to find any fault at all with Christianity. This site was designed to highlight all the ills of Christianity and ignore the vast good done under our banner.”

    “I get angry when atheists talk about how religion causes all the evil in the world, and then when you point out plenty of evil is done in non-religious causes, they respond with “Well, whatever, but Christianity is still evil.””

    That’s quite the straw man you have built up there. The “good done under [y]our banner” doesn’t require the religious portion of it to be done. Do good things because it’s the right thing to do and leave out the magic thinking, bigotry, and persecution it includes.

  • True. I think it’s important, though, not to confuse social tendencies with overt intentions. Atheists in the US are, generally speaking, former Christians. (I am a rare exception in this regard, and there are a few other regulars similarly situated.) The formerly-Christian atheists have familiarity with the cultural tropes and dog-whistles of the several Christian sub-communities and were, as likely as not, participants themselves in the things they later have come to reject and criticize. Anger is to be expected; as the saying goes, there is no zealot like a convert. Commentators come from the full spectrum of orientations toward religion, and so it is a problem to assign any particular tendency to blame or excuse religious groups as a dominant tendency.

    On the other hand, this site’s curators in particular go well out of their way to not make broad generalizations; when a particular prominent Christian says something whackadoodle, the reasonable question to ask of the religious community in general is whether the wacky sentiment so expressed has a receptive home in the wider community or not. I think, contrary to your sincere protestations, the answer to that question is a lot less comfortable than you’d like most of the time. A criticism that hits too close to home can certainly seem more like an attack than it actually is.

  • Jacqueline Lee Smith Borrero

    They worship a God who has a hissy fit and lets children die. If this was true, it would just be another reason to NOT worship him.

  • Davo

    I feel sorry for your country, where you appear to have raving lunatics in charge and mindless sheep listening to them :(.

  • virginiay

    I got this reply when I discussed Sandy Hook with Christian, questioning him why God does nothing to stop the killing. The reply, “If God decided to do something, all of us would be dead because God wanted us all to have a chance to repent.” Then remarked that a lot of the victims are not Christians. He said, “God predestined them to Hell…” – you cannot beat their kind of reasoning!!!!

  • Richard Thomas

    You’re muddying the issue and conflating two separate issues. Troll better.

  • —However…….when prominent and visible members of the Church use tragedy as an excuse for bashing others, there’s a problem.—

    And the problem isn’t that there are a few loonies who happen to be Christian. The problem is that these are people that make their living on donations and support from Christianity at large, meaning that enough people agree with them and send them money that they can buy this airtime to spew their garbage. And they don’t even have to point guns at people to get the money, people donate it willingly.

    Dobish, Graham, etc… aren’t a ‘small portion of Christianity’. They are mouthpieces for mega-churches and supported by the donation and applause of thousands of people.

  • UWIR

    No, I’m not. But seeing as how you substitute personal attacks for actual arguments, there’s no point in trying to have a discussion with you.

  • Richard Thomas

    Conflating an anti-gun “leftist” position and a separation of church and state position is, in fact, muddying the issue. Unless, of course, you’re tacitly agreeing that for all the Constitutional huffing and puffing otherwise, those on the right actually are opposed to SoC&S.

  • UWIR

    “Conflating an anti-gun “leftist” position and a separation of church and state position is, in fact, muddying the issue.”

    I have done no such thing. Not that there’s any point to discussing it, seeing as how you consider people to be “trolls” just for disagreeing with you.

  • Richard Thomas

    “Bringing up worst school massacre doesn’t exactly help the leftist position, either, seeing as how it wasn’t performed with guns.”

    I’m really not sure how you’re denying the fact that this was your post.

  • UWIR

    I didn’t deny it was my post, lying asshole.

  • Richard Thomas

    I’m really not sure what part of this you aren’t grasping here. Have a nice day.

  • UWIR

    There’s nothing to grasp. You’ve presented no argument, just insults and lies. You’re a troll.

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