Let’s talk about how not to respond to a national tragedy. Playing the blame game, unless we are talking about the actual perpetrator, is out of place and hurtful to the many still suffering real emotional (and physical) wounds. It is important to keep in mind those very real people who are reeling from huge losses in Connecticut — our hearts go out to them — and temper our words so as not to worsen their pain with more hostility. It is one thing to suggest respectfully, as many have done, concrete actions that could help prevent future tragedies. It is another to do as several conservative Christians, including Mike Huckabee, have done and respond by blaming the tragedy on a lack of faith in our nation.
Despite all of this, James Dobson, a prominent right-wing Christian, has announced that the shooting at Sandy Hook was clearly the result of God’s wrath in response to abortion and gay marriage. Dobson is the founder of Focus on the Family, and the Family Research Council, the latter of which was classified by the Southern Poverty Law Center as an anti-gay hate group. Nonetheless, he also “is perhaps the most influential right-wing Christian leader in the country, with a huge and loyal following that he can reach easily through an impressive media empire," according to Right Wing Watch. Dobson hosts a Christian radio show called “Dr. James Dobson’s Family Talk,” through which he shared his thoughts on Monday:
“Our country really does seem in complete disarray. I'm not talking politically, I'm not talking about the result of the November 6 election; I am saying that something has gone wrong in America and that we have turned our back on God.
I mean millions of people have decided that God doesn't exist, or he's irrelevant to me and we have killed 54 million babies and the institution of marriage is right on the verge of a complete redefinition. Believe me, that is going to have consequences, too.
And a lot of these things are happening around us, and somebody is going to get mad at me for saying what I am about to say right now, but I am going to give you my honest opinion: I think we have turned our back on the scripture and on God almighty and I think he has allowed judgment to fall upon us. I think that's what's going on.”
Dobson was right about one thing: that somebody — actually a lot of people — would get mad at him for saying that. I'm sure his words left the families of the Sandy Hook victims feeling all warm and fuzzy and comforted inside. There are thousands of articles written on why such conservative religious takes on abortion and gay marriage ought to stay out of our civic discourse, from those citing other crazy things the Bible condemns or allows, to those discussing the role of religion in a secular society; these ideas are relevant, but they are for another day. What is important today is how inappropriate it is to use a tragedy to play the blame game, religious or not. These are the sort of tactics that the Westboro Baptist Church is known for — and reviled for; the controversial organization said on their twitter account that God sent the shooter. Such bullying is not typically a successful way to convince people to have faith, or to respect it — it only makes enemies, and it does not prevent tragedies. Dobson, Huckabee, and the others who have seized on this tender moment to condemn America for a lack of fundamentalist faith have forgotten to demonstrate a key aspect of Christianity: compassion for those who are suffering.