Gohmert’s “Context”

Since I called the man a “blasphemer,” I guess I am obligated to note Rep. Louie Gohmert’s complaint/apology about the reaction to his comments Friday about the Aurora murders. He says now his remarks on Ernest Istook’s radio show were taken “grossly out of context,” but that “I am very sorry if my comments caused heartache to anyone in Colorado.”

I can’t speak for everyone who took exception to one or another aspect of Gohmert’s rant, but here’s the section that sent me over the edge (this is from the transcript posted on Gohmert’s own web page):

You know, when people say, where was God in all of this? Well, you know, we don’t let… in fact we’ve threatened high school graduation participants that if they use God’s name that they’re going to be jailed, we had a principal of a school, and a superintendent or a coach down in Florida that were threatened with jail because they said the blessing at a voluntary off campus dinner. I mean, that kind of stuff… where is God? Where, where? What have we done with God? We told him that we don’t want him around. I kind of like his protective hand being present.

Now it’s true Gohmert was not being terribly coherent here, and did not cross the t’s and dot the i’s to say that the massacre in Aurora was attributable to God’s “protective hand” not being present thanks to Amerca’s offensive secularism. But I don’t know how else to interpret the remarks, particularly when combined with an earler sentence that appeared to directly relate “ongoing attacks on Judeo-Christian beliefs” with “a crazy senseless act of terror like this.” What is the context that explains any of these references, if it’s not the one I deduced?

In another section of Gohmert’s complaint/apology, he suggests that he wasn’t prepared to discuss the Aurora tragedy and was reacting spontaneously–in other words, that he didn’t much know what he was saying. That may well be true. I don’t know that I find it terribly reassuring that his default-drive rap when taken by surprise is to start babbling about atheists and “attacks on Judeo-Christian beliefs” instead of expressing grief and puzzlement like the rest of us generally did.

But what I’d really appreciate from people like Gohmert would be a pledge to stop presuming to speak for “Christians” on topics like this. I have no reason to think he is a particularly learned man. But he should be able to grasp that when he makes the kind of wildly speculative remarks he offered on Friday connecting, however incoherently, church-state separation issues and the God’s “protective hand” and acts of violence, he is being deeply offensive on multiple levels. I’m glad he apologized to the families and friends of the victims in Colorado. But in future, he should perhaps refrain from being so ready to share his frightfully arrogant assumptions about the metaphysical meaning of every event that occurs on the planet.

Ed Kilgore

Ed Kilgore, a Monthly contributing editor, is a columnist for the Daily Intelligencer, New York magazine’s politics blog, and the managing editor for the Democratic Strategist.