The most asinine and offensive reactions to the school massacre in Newtown, Connecticut, have come from conservative Republicans. Is anyone surprised? And it's not merely fringe elements of the Republican Party, but mainstream, leading conservatives - like for example Mike Huckabee, who blames the murders of little children on secularism.
Mike Huckabee, 2012
Photo: Spencer Platt/Getty
Not only is Mike Huckabee's reaction not surprising, it isn't even unique. Lots of other conservatives and Republican have historically blamed violence on secularism and atheism. This reaction is predictable because it's so common, but it takes on new levels of offensiveness when it's expressed immediately in the wake of such a horrific tragedy like that which occurred in Newtown.
Conservative Christians like Mike Huckabee never cite any actual evidence that would demonstrate any sort of link between secularism and violence. Then again, it's uncommon for them to cite hard evidence for any of their claims. They don't live in a world where evidence matters; they live in a world of faith and people are expected to believe their claims simply on faith.
HUCKABEE: Ultimately, you can take away every gun in America and somebody will use a bomb. When somebody has an intent to do incredible damage, they're going to find a way to do it... People will want to pass new laws, but unless you change people's hearts, they're our transition to the pastor side. This is a heart issue, it's not something, laws don't change this kind of thing.
CAVUTO: You know, invariably, people ask after tragedies like this, "How could God let this happen?"
HUCKABEE: Well, you know, it's an interesting thing. We ask why there is violence in our schools but we have systematically removed God from our schools. 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.
And so I sometimes, when people say, why did God let it happen. You know, God wasn't armed. He didn't go to the school. But God will be there in the form of a lot people with hugs and with therapy and a whole lot of ways in which I think he will be involved in the aftermath. Maybe we ought to let him 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.
Source: Media Matters
Of course, no one has "removed God from our schools." All that's happened is that schools aren't allowed to promote any one religion -- including Mike Huckabee's religion. So what his real complaint is that schools are "a place of carnage" because government employees aren't allowed to promote Huckabee's religious beliefs to other people's children. Put so starkly, how can anyone not see just how asinine his position is?
But that's not all he has to say. He goes on to repeat a common attack made by conservative Christians against atheists: that we want to avoid accountability for our actions. It's a scurrilous lie and arguably defamatory, but I've already pointed out that Mike Huckabee doesn't care much about whether his statements are rooted in evidence from the real world.
In some ways, his very first comments above may be the most important, but I fear that many critics will miss that. Look at them again: he's saying that the answer to problems like this isn't to change or improve the law, but to change and improve people's hearts. He's denying that there could possibly be any sort of structural or systemic problem (like services for people suffering from mental illness or regulations for guns). He's basically arguing that social problems are a product of sin and thus can only be solved on a personal level.
This is a standard, basic premise from which conservative evangelicals commonly operate. It informs and even determines their positions on a wide variety of political, social, and economic issues. It is, for example, why they typically oppose any kind of affirmative action: if there is any sort of problem with racial disparities in an organization, then the solution is to address individual racism because there can't possibly be a systemic or structural problem.
Very often, this thinking is taken in the reverse direction as well: if there are no overtly racist policies and if the people are not overtly racist, then the outcomes can't really be racist (or sexist, or any other "ist") either. This is something you should watch carefully for -- you'll probably find evidence of it in more places than might expect.