Well, I posted a Facebook statement that has caused a little consternation for a few friends. It said, “The logic of Mike Huckabee: God had a mad man kill a bunch of innocent children and teachers because God is angry that we do not have government sponsored prayer in schools. Perverted and dangerous theology.” I was referring to Huckabee’s weekend remarks on Fox News concerning last Friday’s senseless slaughter of innocents at Sandy Hook School in Newtown, Connecticut. I never suggested that he said those words, but that this summarizes the logic behind what he did say.
My friends challenged me on the basis of a subsequent video Huckabee released explaining what he had meant by his comments. I have listened, but I am not convinced. Since I do not have a camera handy I will have to rely on words to explain what I meant by my post.
My response to my friends is too lengthy for a Facebook reply, so I am offering an extended explanation here. I respect the right each of you has to disagree with me. It is not my intention to offend anyone. Further, this kind of dialogue is dicey because we cannot really hear each other (vocal tones) and we cannot see gestures or body language, etc. Still, I feel compelled to attempt an explanation.
First, I referred to Huckabee’s “logic,” not a specific quote. Perhaps I should have used the word, “inference.” However, I will clarify. What he said was that we shouldn’t be surprised that this happened because we have “systematically removed God from public schools.” That is, in my opinion, code language for “we have taken mandated Christian prayer out of schools.” He used the same “logic” and asserted it more explicitly to account for an earlier shooting at a movie theater in CO when he said, “we’ve ordered God out of our schools and communities; the military and public conversations… we really shouldn’t act so surprised when all hell breaks loose.”
Really? Huckabee’s God can be “ordered” out of our culture? A god so small that his presence or absence depends on legal code is not a god worth our worship. I do not believe God can be so easily dismissed from schools or from the culture, especially by legislative decree.
Others have suggested that God does not go where God is not welcomed. Does that mean that God was not present in the concentration camps of Nazi Germany, even though people such as Bonheoffer were there praying to him? All hell was breaking loose for the Jews and resisting Christians in that situation. I am quite certain that Caesar Domitian did not welcome the God of our Bible in his empire, but I am equally certain that God was present with the martyrs inside the Coliseum. All hell was certainly breaking loose for them.
It is, in my opinion, shallow of Christians to assert, imply, or infer that God can be banned, run off, or expelled from any place, any time, or any situation in this world. Not to mention that some of the same people who say this would be quick to say that God is omnipresent. How can the two positions be reconciled? They cannot be.
This leads me to the crux of the matter. Huckabee was responding to a question from Cavuto, who had asked, “Where was God?” Huckabee decided that God had abandoned post. Huckabee promptly politicized the issue rather than offering a reasonable and thoughtful theological or pastoral response. He answered as a politician, not as a pastor. No thoughtful pastor that I know would tell one of the grieving Newtown parents that their child is dead because we have systematically removed God from our schools. A caring pastor would say something like, “I do not fully understand why God allows this kind of evil to happen, but God loves you and God loved your child. I am sure God is broken hearted by your loss.” I have a feeling Huckabee would have offered a very different answer in private to one of those grieving families than he offered in front of the camera on Fox News.
Thus, I stand by my statement about his logic. As an aside, the media should seek theological clarifications from theologians and pastors, not politicians.
Was God not at Sandy Hook? If he was, was he there to enact vengeance of some sort? Is that sort of God consistent with God as understood in and through the personage and example of Jesus? I think not! If God was not there, then again, what shall we do with the notion of omnipresence?
Perhaps most critical to understand is that Protestant theology rests on the foundational idea that God laid the punishment for our sins on the back of Jesus. We either believe that or we do not. If we believe it, then we cannot believe that God goes around punishing people for sins (either their own or anyone else’s). If we do not believe it, well then, our theology of salvation is in shambles isn’t it?
I agree that a general lack of respect, reverence, and fear for God and God’s teachings has led us through a downward spiral of morality and into a maelstrom of evil. I agree that those who are anti-God have misinterpreted the Constitution when they insist that individual expressions of faith are excluded by the wall of separation between church and state. But I stand firm in resisting the notion that it is the government’s job to fix our morality problem or that our morality problem was caused by the government.
A nation cannot serve God. Only people (individuals) can serve God. And this is where Mr. Huckabee runs off the track – because he can’t decide whether he is a politician or a preacher – by politicizing a moral and spiritual crisis. I will give him a slight break and concede that he did not mean to imply what he implied. His three minute corrective is proof enough that he does not want us to believe he believes what he implied. But…
Huckabee’s attempt to “walk back” his earlier comments was a politically necessary move. But sometimes we just cannot unsay what we have said, and in particular what we infer by what we say.
In conclusion, I stand by my statement. I believe that Mr. Huckabee meant what he said, and I think he said more than he meant to say. It may have been by inference or implication. Nonetheless, it revealed a theological understanding that is, in my opinion, perverted and dangerous.