Dear Gov. Huckabee,
God is a great source of comfort in my life. My faith has helped me through extraordinarily difficult times. And I have been blessed that in my ministry I have seen the positive role that faith in God can play in the lives of others. Where you and I agree is on the fact that faith can play an important role in people's lives. Where we disagree is in your assertion that to not believe in God is to put society on a path toward the kind of senseless murder we saw on Friday.
Such an assertion is simplistic at best and only serves to distract us from dealing with the realistic causes that comprise the roots of the tragic shootings plaguing our nation: access to the kind of weapons that can kill dozens in an instant, with no practical use outside a battlefield; a lack of adequate support for mental healthcare and a depersonalizing stigma for those who receive it; an apathetic attitude toward the plague of bullying in our schools. Faith leaders can and should be at the forefront of efforts to solve each and every one of these issues. But to imply that a belief in God is the sole path to the answers we need only serves to block us from involvement in the solutions in front of us.
Mr. Huckabee, as we share a common Christian and denominational heritage, l am stunned by the small view of God you have embraced. To speak of kicking God out of our classrooms or prohibiting the presence of God in our schools strikes me as blasphemy. The God I meet in Scripture, the God I saw revealed in the life of Jesus, cannot any more be kicked out of a classroom than a genuine prayer of the heart can be banned by any authority in any setting.
In my work, I also have come to understand that questioning God, or, yes, even rejecting God, is not an indicator of one's moral character. Frankly, I would find myself in a questioning or denying situation spiritually if someone tried to force me to believe in a God as inept as the God you describe. You claim this to be a nation that has shifted from "God-centered" to "self-centered." I regularly crisscross this country, and I see our nation as one rich in spirituality and beautifully diverse in its religious practices and understanding of faith. Watching the interfaith service on Sunday night in Newtown, Connecticut, strengthened my conviction about that very point.
As I see it, Newtown is not a community lacking in faith or reverence and respect for God. This is a town jolted by tragedy, with a diverse and supportive faith community vigorously playing its critical role of support and comfort in a time of need. The clergy of Newtown provide a good model for all of us -- vibrant with faith, respect, determination, compassion and purpose.
Rev. Dr. C. Welton Gaddy
President, Interfaith Alliance