A disturbing tragedy has befallen a Connecticut school. According to the Washington Post, 20 year-old Adam Lanza walked into Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newton, Connecticut on Friday, where he proceeded to kill 20 children and several adults before committing suicide. Lanza had also murdered his mother, a teacher, that day. The New York Times recounts stories of horror from students and employees at the school, who described hearing the sound of gun fire, hiding in closets, huddling in gym corners, and fleeing outside. President Obama gave a nationally televised address, expressing grief at Friday's loss of life.
What would motivate someone to murder over two dozen people in cold blood? Did Lanza have a history of violence? How do surviving students, school staff, and loved ones process a horror of this magnitude? Could this massacre have been prevented? The Newton community and the nation as a whole have many questions and few answers as they respond to this tragedy.
To my disgust, it wasn't long before some Religious Right voices used the tragedy as a soap box. For example, Right Wing Watch reported that talk show host Steve Deace used the tragedy to pontificate about bearing arms, atheism, abortion, and entertainment. Deace made the following observations about America's alleged "culture of death" on his Facebook page.
"Insanely tragic scene in Connecticut, and already there is a rush to politicize it. For example, the White House reiterated its support for an assault weapon ban, however that wasn't even the type of weapon they're saying right now was used. But I'm sure there are some honest people who care about human life that think banning guns would avert these tragedies, and not just folks out to disarm the citizenry as a check and balance on tyrannical government. If you're one of them, I have a proposition for you. If you're willing to agree with me up front that asking kids to write suicide notes in schools, teaching them there is no God and thus no real purpose to their lives, letting children see movies glorifying the occult and gory violence, and that allowing and subsidizing parents killing at least 4,000 of their own children each day contributes to this culture of death, then maybe -- just maybe -- we can have an honest conversation about guns. But if you can't see that ultimately this is a cultural/spiritual problem then the reality is you don't really care about human life. You really care about politicizing yet more gun violence in what is supposed to be a gun free zone."Right Wing Watch also documented the reaction of the American Family Association's Bryan Fischer, who tastelessly used the tragedy as an opportunity to promote religion in schools.
"You know, the question's going to come up -- where was God? I thought God cared about the little children, God protected the little children. Where was God when all this went down, and here's the bottom line. God is not going to go where he is not wanted. Now we have spent, since 1962 ... we have spent fifty 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 don't want to pray to you before football games, we don't want to pray to you at graduation, we don't want anybody talking about you in a graduation speech, we don't want anybody referring to you, we don't want your word read in our schools. So in 1962, we kicked prayer out of the schools. In 1963, we kicked the word of God out of schools. In 1980, we kicked the Ten Commandments out of 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 gentleman.'"UPDATE: In a similar vein, former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee used the massacre as an opportunity to call for more faith in schools. During an interview with Fox News on Friday, Huckabee lamented that "we've systematically removed God from our schools" and hinted that this state of affairs was partially to blame for the tragedy. "Should we be so surprised that schools would become a place of carnage becuase we've made it a place where we don't want to talk about eternity, life?" he said. If people would make room for God at the "front end", Huckabee argued, "we wouldn't have to call him to show up when it's all said and done at the back end." (Hat tip to Politicus USA)
To be fair, some Religious Right organizations posted sensitive, sympathetic statements in response to the Newton shooting, such as Concerned Women for America (see www[dot]cwfa[dot]org/content.asp?id=21787). Focus on the Family posted a column today on helping children cope with trauma. (See family[dot]custhelp[dot]com/app/answers/detail/a_id/26257/)
Only time will tell how other Religious Right voices will respond to the tragedy. Hopefully, other voices will be more sensitive than Deace, Fischer, and Huckabee. The shooting victims are NOT political mascots, and a senseless tragedy is NOT the time to spout irrelevant right-wing rhetoric.