National Football League tight end Benjamin Watson is warning that the United States is treating God like a "cosmic vending machine" that it only seeks during times of crisis and asserts that the country may be suffering the consequences of pushing God out of the public square.
The 37-year-old free agent, who played last season with the Baltimore Ravens, appeared on Fox News Monday to clarify a Facebook post he issued following the deadly school shooting last week in Parkland, Florida, that killed 17 and shook the nation.
In the Facebook post, Watson explained that as people across the nation took to prayer following the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, he is "haunted" by the fact that the "very exercise is forbidden in this school and thousands of others across our nation."
"Whenever we have a natural disaster or a hurricane or an earthquake, something like that, or a school shooting, of which we have had many over the last few months, we always invoke prayer," Watson, a devout Christian and father of five, told host Martha MacCallum. "We say, 'We want to send our thoughts and prayers. We want to pray for these people.' That is very important, don't get me wrong ..."
"What I am saying is that we can't come to God as if He is some sort of cosmic vending machine that whenever we have a problem we just reach out to Him," Watson stressed. "No. We need to be submitting to Him daily in our lives. We need to be coming to Him every day and saying, 'Lord, how can I help people? How can I reach out to people? What are the things I can do for the person who is being maligned? What can I do for the vulnerable so they don't feel like they have to lash out and do things like this? Lord, give me wisdom to do things like this.'"
Watson added that being able to come to God with such requests "comes from a daily walk with Him" and is "not something that we just turn to when we have a crisis."
"Now, He will answer us in crisis and He will come to us and save us in our time of need," Watson assured. "But more importantly, when we look at what is happening in our schools by taking prayer out of schools and by taking the Ten Commandments and God out of schools, by taking Him out of the public sphere and saying that we are not going to listen to God and not going to talk about Him and do what we think is best and then we turn to Him in these times, it rings hollow."
Watson asked why is it that people can seemingly trust God during times of horror and tragedy but not during times of peace.
"What cries out to me the most is that people are hurting. [Parkland shooter Nikolas Cruz] went through so much in his life, so many tragedies. People are really hurting and when you take faith out of the public arena, when you take God out of there, people suffer," he stated. "In talking to my father who has seen kind of how things have changed over the course of his lifetime, a lot of people of his generation point to the fact that when you start to remove God from the public sphere, we start to suffer the consequences."
Earlier in the Fox News interview, Watson criticized American culture for gravitating "toward violence."
"Every time there's an instance like this, something really horrific, we talk about respecting life. And while that's very important, we have to look at our culture as a whole," he said. "We incarcerate our young men at alarming rates, we vote for things that create the disintegration of the family, we murder 60 million of our unborn since Roe v. Wade — we're really a culture that gravitates toward violence."
Watson explained that while Cruz must be held accountable for his crime, there are also societal aspects that need to be changed to help prevent future shootings.
"We need to step back and say, 'Hold on, what are we as parents teaching our children? How are we as teachers dealing with kids when they have certain conflict in the classroom?'" he said. "All these things are very important."
While gun legislation could be a helpful solution, he noted that the solution to the problem is not as simple as just passing laws.
"We need to as individuals, as a parent, as a community, as a culture to identify where we have gone wrong and be willing and have the courage to fix it," he contended.