mass shootings huckabee prayer atheism
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Once again, Christians are instinctively looking skyward for answers in a surreal realm after a real catastrophe.

mass shootings huckabee prayer atheism
Caricature of former U.S. presidential candidate Mike Huckabee, a Christian pastor. (DonkeyHotey, Flikr, CC BY-SA 2.0)

As if help is waiting in an invisible netherworld beyond the clouds.

In the latest in an unending string of heart-wrenching mass shootings in America, two failed human beings turned firearms on innocent people doing innocent things—doing back-to-school shopping in El Paso, Texas, in one, enjoying leisure time at a Dayton, Ohio, bar in another.

Left in their wake are 31 dead Americans and several dozen wounded, some so grievously that the death toll continues to mount.


One shooter was a standard-issue white supremacist racist, according to a bigoted manifesto he posted online minutes before he opened fire. His intent seemed crystal clear. Less clear was the intent of the second killer, who, for reasons still unknown, went to the murder venue with his sister, who inexplicably ended up among the slain.

After these unfathomable tragedies, what we don’t know vastly overwhelms what we do know.

In these two unconscionable acts 13 hours apart last weekend, we do know that two young white men were filled with such raging antipathy that they calculated a necessity for mowing down men, women and children in cold blood. We know that that they chose firearms to make their statement. We know that their murder weapons of choice were high-powered, military-style, rapid-fire rifles with bulging bullet clips—one held 100 rounds, according to police. It’s clear they not only wanted to kill but voraciously.

We know that whatever human empathy exists in most people was utterly absent in these two young men, unless in some twisted logic they actually thought they were protecting the nation from greater peril, of “an invasion” of brown-skilled immigrants who are “murderers and rapists” (according to our president) or some such invented motivator.

What we don’t know is why these astonishing acts of cowardice applied with abrupt, explosive violence keep happening in “the land of the free and the brave.” Again. And again. And again.

Whither lawmakers?

But nothing seems to soften the hardened hearts of conservative Republican lawmakers in Washington, not even after more than 20 six- and seven-year-old students, and six adults, were slaughtered by a deranged young white man at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, in 2012.

Republican state and federal lawmakers in statehouses and Congress, in continuing to bow to the deep-pocketed National Rifle Association (which funds their campaigns and political party), have resolutely blocked any sensible gun-control legislation to reduce and mitigate these appalling massacres.

They have blocked mandatory background checks of gun buyers, national licensing of firearms (like we do for our cars, without complaint) and a federal gun registry, enactment of “Red Flag” laws to prohibit gun purchases or ownership by people identified as mentally unstable or violent, creation of federal gun laws so buyers can’t go from state to state until they find a law that allows gun purchases with no questions asked, and a closing of loopholes that allow sales without background checks at private gun shows in America.

So, although we don’t know exactly why these tragedies keep happening, we know very well what would mitigate them. We just aren’t doing it.

Which brings me to Christians.

Huckabee’s non-solution

Mike Huckabee, the former Arkansas governor and U.S. presidential candidate, said something today that illustrates why true-believing evangelical Christians have nothing to offer in effectively dealing with this awful, relentless problem in America.

Speaking to Fox News co-anchor Bill Hemmer, Huckabee said too little Christianity in America is what’s causing these shootings.

“So, yeah, it’s a horrible thing, but let’s be real clear,” Hucklebee said. “The common denominator in all of this is not the particular weapon. It’s the hate inside the heart. It’s the loss of morality. It’s that disconnecting from God who values all people and who would never let me do that to another person, because I would be basically doing it to God and to myself, to just destroy another human life. That’s just not how we’re hardwired from the father above. That’s what I believe hurts me the most is that we’ve got a lot of our country that are utterly disconnected from any sense of identity with their Creator and with his love for them and his love for the people that they hate.”

Well, to this I say, “the Creator” also put hate in the hearts of the shooters, because, if the omnipotent and omnibenevolent “God” of Christianity were truly divine, he would not have put such hate in anyone’s heart, which would have guaranteed the carnage and subsequent human suffering they unleashed. A divinity simply can’t be omnipotent and limited at the same time.

And don’t tell me God acts in mysterious ways. In fact, his ways seem quite clear: He routinely accommodates evil that He could easily disallow from the get-go, but chooses not to.

Some benevolence. Read the Bible for countless other examples of this divine deficiency.

The Catholics urge prayer

Another unhelpful bit of Christian advice after El Paso’s Cielo Vista Mall attack came in a statement from Cardinal Daniel DiNardo, President of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), and Bishop Frank J. Dewane of Venice, Florida, Chairman of the USCCB’s Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development.

They urged … prayer, which even scientific research has proven ineffectual even though the people who pray may feel better.

“Pray, please, for El Paso and all the victims. Prayer for our country,” the prelates wrote. “God’s mercy and wisdom compel us to move toward preventative action. We encourage all Catholics to increased prayer and sacrifice for healing and the end of these shootings. We encourage Catholics to pray and raise their voices for needed changes to our national policy and national culture as well.”

Better yet, raise your voices toward your statehouses and Congress, shaming your elected lawmakers to do something realistic, something that might actually be effective in transforming the nation’s murderous gun zeitgeist.

Praying from now until doomsday won’t change anything real one iota. Rational political action will.


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Rick Snedeker

Rick Snedeker is a retired American journalist/editor who now writes in various media and pens nonfiction books. He has received nine past top South Dakota state awards for newspaper column, editorial,...