Mike Huckabee Sandy Hook Comment is Crazy, But He Doesn't Represent All Christians

Considering how often God has been invoked in explaining everything from super storm Sandy to the shootings at Sandy Hook elementary school, America may be having what Princeton University sociologist Robert Wuthnow has called "the God problem." In brief, this is a phenomenon where it becomes increasingly hard to talk about religion in a reasonable manner and all “believers” are seen as extremists and unreasonable (and often irrational) people. This creates a big problem for believers like me, who can be reasonable despite having beliefs in a supernatural God. The folks who are extremist in their beliefs must be dealt with, in order to recognize the good that religion has done in this country.

With superstorm Sandy, it was Pat Robertson, who went on a rant claiming that it was America’s growing acceptance of homosexuality that brought various calamities including Katrina and Sandy. (With Sandy, his rhetoric was against Mormons.)

More words of wisdom came from Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee, when he made a direct correlation between lack of religious teaching in schools and gun-violence. He is reported to have told Fox News, "We ask why there's violence in our school but we've systematically removed God from our schools." He continued, "Should we be so surprised that schools have become such 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."

Given statements like these, it's not surprising that those who don’t believe see religious folk as crazy, irrational people.

A recent Pew survey on religion pointed out that though levels of religiosity are declining among millennials, the attitudes towards religion remains quite the same, as the older generation, as the report points out. Pew Research Center surveys show, for instance, that young adults' beliefs about life after death and the existence of heaven, hell and miracles closely resemble the beliefs of older people today. Amidst this shift in attitudes towards religion and increasing religious diversity in America, the decline in religiosity it only makes sense that religious figures and those in authority positions should avoid sounding like they are from the 12th century B.C., as it would help if they are able to relate to younger generations.

The argument against religion and religion-talk is compelling. Consider this: A survey of more than 1,600 scientists and social scientists employed at 21 elite research universities found that only 8% of the natural scientists and 10% of the social scientists had “no doubts about God’s existence.” A third did not believe in God, and a third said they did not know whether or not there is a God, and there is no way to find out. In essence, a sizable majority are agnostics. Reams have been written by thoughtful atheists who argue against belief.

Wuthnow’s argument that religion is ultimately also about how we talk about it, seems true. He says, "Religion is always about language. The cup of water, for the Christian, is to be given in the Lord’s name. The worship is awash in words. In the beginning, the Scripture says, was the Word." Perhaps using this insight, our leaders, both religious and political can be a bit more sensitive and caring when they invoke religion to make a point.

While separation of church and state is a valid and much-needed exercise, the other extreme of sneering at those who believe and dis-respecting the beliefs of people is not acceptable either. While the First Amendment gives us the right to believe or not believe, it should be handled with perspective and sensitivity, especially in times of tragedy. If we fail to do that, we may throw the baby out with the proverbial bathwater, since a lot of good has been done in the name of religion as well.

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Sabith Khan

Sabith Khan is a social entrepreneur, researcher and founder of MENASA, a think-tank and policy shop engaged in issues related to MENA and South Asia. Sabith has worked for several years in the field of strategic communications, public affairs and nonprofit management, trying to understand and communicate issues pertaining to civil society, development and youth in the US and MENA region. Sabith has worked with several large global public affairs firms, on award-winning campaigns in healthcare, entertainment and government relations. During his stint at Ogilvy Public Relations Worldwide, he ideated and executed a global award-winning campaign for Apollo Hospitals (Abby and Clio Awards). He has also worked in the Middle East managing accounts as diverse as Dubai Film Festival, Mohammed bin Rashid Foundation, Dubai International Film Festival, Dubai School of Government. Most recently, he served as the Executive Director of Muslim Public Service Network in Washington D.C, an NGO that engages and inspires young American Muslims to do public service. He is currently pursuing a PhD in Planning Governance and Globalization at Virginia Tech. He has been involved as a team member and leader in several international development projects including consulting for the Near East Foundation, in helping set up their Monitoring and Evaluation system for their offices across the MENA region. Sabith has a Master of Public administration and a Master of Arts in International Relations from the Maxwell School of Syracuse University. In Summer 2013, he conducted research on American Muslim philanthropy at the Lilly School of Philanthropy, Indianapolis, in an attempt to map giving behavior among Muslims over the last ten years i.e., 2002- 2012. Sabith’s research interests include Religion and Philanthropy, Youth issues in USA, Middle East North Africa and South Asia, Governance and Civil Society. Sabith is also the co-editor of Millennials Speak: Essays on the 21st century, a snapshot of the ideas and opinions of the global Millennial Generation. Twenty writers from five continents, a diverse mix of young academics, policy professionals, and future thought and creative leaders, cover topics from the legacy of the Arab Spring, the global food system, the U.S. student loan crisis, youth unemployment, to popular culture. Currently working: Founder and Executive Director, MENASA Publications: 1. Humanitarian Aid and Faith-Based Giving: The Potential of Muslim Charity - Unrest Magazine, George Mason University. May 2013. Accessible at http://www.unrestmag.com/about-unrest/past-issues/#sthash.GEqNfv0U.dpuf 2. Arab American Diaspora and American Muslim Philanthropy: impact of crisis situations on mobilization and formation of a “community.” American University in Cairo Press. Cairo. (NP). Expected Fall 2013. 3. Middle-East Peace Talks 2010: Investigating the Role of Lobbying and Advocacy Groups in Washington, D.C. as Spoilers. Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs. Spring 2011. Accessible at : http://www.maxwell.syr.edu/parcc/Research/intrastate/Spoilers_of_Peace_Project/ Blog: www.sabithkhan.wordpress.com

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