Editor’s note: Rob Brendle is the founding pastor of Denver United Church, a former associate pastor at New Life Church in Colorado Springs, and the author of "In the Meantime: The Practice of Proactive Waiting."
By Rob Brendle, Special to CNN
I held her hand as she died.
Her family had come to a church where I was pastoring that morning, a routine Sunday. A thousand things would never have crossed their minds as they drove through Colorado Springs toward New Life Church’s enormous concrete worship center - including the prospect of being assaulted in their minivan by a young man with a high-powered rifle.
Later that day, we were all at a local hospital. The girl whose hand I held, Rachel, had already lost a sister at the scene. Her father was down the hall in critical condition and her mother was coming undone in the waiting room, but she didn’t know any of it. Rachel lay unconscious for a couple of hours more in the ICU.
And then she died. Her family had come to church together that morning, and by nightfall they were shattered.
That was almost five years ago.
The movie theater shooting in Aurora, Colorado shook me and the rest of the nation. Reading about the young and unsuspecting victims took me back to the dying girl in the ICU who had come to my church that day in 2007, in a an incident that left the two girls dead and injured several others. Back to the Columbine massacre a decade earlier that horrified the world and traumatized Colorado. And back to the aching questions that accompanied those previous incidents: Why did this happen? Where was God in all of it? How could a loving God allow this?
Where was God in Aurora? 7 responses
We pastors face the unenviable task of being asked to answer for God. Most people ask the big questions in times of irresolution, times when satisfying answers are scarce.
Let’s be clear: there are no easy answers to the deepest questions of suffering. Libraries overflow with the volumes that have been written to address these questions. Centuries of philosophers, pundits and preachers have reflected on the existence of evil, the meaning of pain and the role of God in suffering.
I won’t begin to recount all of their ruminations here. But here’s what I think.
God is the author of life and the originator of good. He distinguished humankind from among his creation with faculties like reason, emotion, dexterity and choice. Scripture teaches that God made people in his image. Set apart from all the rest of his creatures, we were endowed with the capacity to know our Creator and ennobled with the ability to choose him. So singularly did God love humans that he gave us this ultimate gift.
Aurora survivor to alleged shooter: ‘I forgive you’
The capacity to choose God and goodness came with the commensurate ability to choose evil. Is it loving to force his creation to follow his order, or to teach it and leave the creature to choose? It would seem that God came to the same conclusion that America’s founders did many millennia later: compulsory virtue is no virtue at all.
But Scripture also teaches that God is totally in control. He is all-powerful and all-knowing and he is willing and able to intervene in human events. So there is a gap between human choice and divine foreknowledge, a gap that transcends understanding and that helps define God in my mind.
The debate over this theological tension has persisted for centuries, and I don’t aim to settle it here. Let me suggest simply that God, in his sovereignty, has chosen to make our decisions meaningful. Consequently, much of what happens on earth neither conforms to nor results from his preference. There are at least four influences on human events: God’s will, to be sure; but also the will of Satan, our adversary; peoples’ choices, for better or for worse; and natural law (gravity, collision, combustion, and the like).
It is difficult to know which force causes the circumstances that devastate us. But it is enough to know that God need not be responsible for them.
The man who made the Aurora crosses
Much of the internal gridlock around tragedy is because suffering is foreign to us. This foreignness is peculiarly Western and modern. Most of the world, for most of the world’s history, has known tragedy and trauma in abundance.
You don’t get nearly the same consternation in Burundi or Burma, because suffering is normal to them. God and hard times coexist intuitively there. For us, though, God has become Anesthetist-in-Chief. To believe in him is to be excused from bad things. He is our panacea for the woes of life.
The God of the Bible promises no exemption from suffering. In fact, he all but promises suffering. He does not suggest that his followers won’t go through fire, but rather that we won’t burn up. Mostly he promises to be there with us, to comfort and encourage us and renew our strength. God grieves with us, and he grows us into good people in the process.
CNN’s Belief Blog: The faith angles behind the biggest stories
Where was God in Aurora? He was on the lawn in front of the Civic Building as thousands gathered in solidarity, hope, and love at a packed prayer vigil last Sunday. He was in University Hospital as neurosurgeons groped for synonyms for miraculous.
He was in the outpouring of compassion at a victim’s funeral and in the passionate call for unity from a resolute councilwoman and at the bedside vigil of a wounded victim’s church community. Redemption has only begun in Aurora, and already God is everywhere. Their will be beauty once this story is written that overshadows and transcends the ashes.
Jesus started his ministry by declaring, “I am the light of the world,” and ended it with “you are the light of the world.”
What God our cities will see is what we show them. From the beginning, light has shone in the darkness - he ordered it that way. And the deeper the darkness, the brighter the light will appear. Where is God in Aurora? He is shining brightly from the hearts of his people.
The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Rob Brendle.
God is each one of us. the bible, just a good, or not old story. Jesus, just a nice jewish man. there are no miracles just coincidence. people us whatever they need to find there way. some reference the bible, others can figure it out on there own. it's when the retoric of the bible is used to hurt, disclude, shame others or paraphrased for benefit or arguement it loses the credibility. people will always kill and as a result, people and animals will unfortunately always die. society will need to let go of our forefathers ideals and other societies will need progress out of the middle ages. good luck with that. god is a myth, period.
I'm sorry... I don't follow.
God is not in me any longer. I took a massive dump this morning and happily flushed god down the toilet.
your filth will be with you for eternity as you suffer for the evil you spew. You will be alone in unbelievable torment and without relief with no one to blame but yourself.
@truth be told
I would choose eternal fire rather than being with people like you.
After more than 5000 years of human's history, we are still debating over those stupidities?!?!??!?
people are stupid and weak. the predators use religion to control and manipulate the weak. that's why education and logic and discussion is the biggest threat to religion – it simply cannot stand up to it
An example comes to mind of the ground squirrel and the hawk. The predator and the prey. The ground squirrel will inform the hawk that it is aware of the hawk by verbalizing loudly and if a snake was near by the ground squirrel will not make a sound but will puff-up it's tail with blood so the snake can see the heat. I'm pretty sure that's the standard for nature BUT I find it interesting that humans fall into the hands of the prey of the religious but not atheists. Curious.
What happened in the movie theatre, tragic as it was, happened! All the reference made to GOD or where was GOD, or how could GOD let this sociopath carry out his premeditated act ? Seriously, folks, it all could have ben avoided had a strong wind come by & slam the exit door shut ! Well, it didn't and again, "it" happened! You can feel let down by GOD, or be mad at a specific angel for sleeping on the job, but in real time, right now 2012, you NEED to be "slapped" into present time! If YOU REALLY WANT TO KNOW WHY "IT" HAPPENS...THE ANSWER IS SIMPLE AS IT IS COMPLEX ! WE are responsible! YES, WE ARE ! There I said it. We didn't SQUEEZE THE TRIGGERS, but WE are part of this SOCIETY. Your saying to yourself....."what?" SOCIETY, good, bad, or ugly is responsible for the citizens it produces! WE create our monsters, just like we create the man or woman who dives into a flood drenched canal & rescues a dog, child an 80 year old lady! This "wingnut" like it or not is a member of our society! And, like it or not will remain a member...not in good standing....but a member nonetheless for quite sometime. So, stop looking up towards the heavens or down into the ground expecting to see a gloating guy in a devils outfit smerking because he got one over on GOD !
Frank I think I have to agree with you on this one. We are products of our society and we don't have to look very far to see the impact of marketing on our nation. Obesity would come to mind right away. All you have to do is go out your front door and you will see more overweight people then not.
As far as this disturbed individual is concerned, definitely a product BUT was it a brain slip or intentional crafting, two different things but still brought on by influences in our society. Well put Frank!
The best explanation yet:
My Take: There is no god. Good people do good things. Bad people do bad things. Religion has nothing to do with it.
You're making my head feel better, thank you!
Except when it comes to "good people doing bad things" then religion is very helpful.
@No Truth, Just Claims
Can a bad person do a good thing? Absolutely at the time they are doing it they are good and when a good person does a bad thing they are bad when they are doing it. No need for religion in any of it.
The problem with this response is that, without God, there is no such thing as "good" and "bad," as there is no standard by which to judge what is "good" and what is "bad."
Whose standard would be used? Yours? Who cares what you think is "good" or "bad"? The Colorado shooter surely doesn't. Thus, what he did in that theater is just as good as helping his neighbor to cross the street. There is no God, and the shooter will not have to answer for his acts after his death.
We all end up with the same fate, dead and non-existent, so who cares whether what happens in this life is "good" or "bad"?
It is inconsistent for an atheist to use the terms "good" and "bad" when it comes to the behavior of people because the atheist has no standard by which to judge such behavior. Any standard he/she uses would just be an arbitrary thing, of no value to anyone else.
"Any standard he/she uses would just be an arbitrary thing, of no value to anyone else."
Why do you think that God provides a standard, aren't His rules not arbitrary also?
The point is more in the justification of the immoral act, if people believe they are acting in their god's behalf, they can rationalize the behavior, where as if the good person had no god that they worshiped they would have no justification for immoral behavior.
The opinions of religious people are valuable to the human race. Thank you.
Actually it is counterproductive to our race, proven.
Any opinion that replaces reason, logic, search for truth, and tolerance with dogma, absolutism, ignorance, denial, abdication of responsibility, and self-forgiveness is absolutely NOT beneficial to humanity.
right on! right on! Food for thought. Although better to watch it when you are not eating.
Best comment yet – your religion is BS
Does God care about mankind? Was it God’s will for innocent people to die, even a child? I've seen and heard several people, clergymen alike, say that God needs more angels in heaven, it was his will, it was the evilness of the people, an act of vengeance, etc. This is sooo opposiste of what the Bible says. When clergymen and others who don't know or understand the bible (or really know the kind and loving God that created us) make such comments, they are actually blaming God for the bad things that happen. Yet, the disciple James wrote: “When under trial, let no one say: ‘I am being tried by God.’ For with evil things God cannot be tried nor does he himself try anyone.” (James 1:13) God never causes what is bad. Indeed, “far be it from the true God to act wickedly.”—Job 34:10. Why, then, is there so much wickedness and suffering? One reason is that mankind in general has rejected God as Ruler, not wanting to submit to his righteous laws and principles. Humans have unwittingly submitted to God’s Adversary, Satan, for “the whole world is lying in the power of the wicked one.” (1 John 5:19) Knowledge of this fact makes it easier to understand why bad situations exist. Satan is evil, hateful, deceptive, and cruel. So we should expect the world to reflect the personality of its ruler. No wonder there is so much wickedness! Human imperfection is another reason for the suffering we experience. Sinful humans tend to struggle for dominance, and that often results in wars, oppression, and suffering. Ecclesiastes 8:9 aptly says: “Man has dominated man to his injury.” A further reason for suffering is “time and unforeseen occurrence.” (Ecclesiastes 9:11) People often experience calamity because they are in the wrong place at the wrong time. The evil that exists in some people WILL be done away with in the future. God DOES love and care about us!
Please stop as it makes me very dizzy to read stuff like this.
Oy! Will we soon have the Church of Terry? He/she has the ONLY truth, Truth, TRUTH! Terriers shall save us all!
The bible – it's just a book – written by men, so that they could control other men. It wasn't written by some imaginary sky guy. It's a book. Go to your local library. Look around. Books. Books, books, books. Written by people. the bible is no different. It's not magic.
Geez, people – just how deluded are you???????
God brings disasters...
"I form the light and create darkness, I make peace and create calamity; I, the Lord, do all these things." Isaiah 45:7
"If a trumpet is blown in a city, will not the people be afraid? If there is calamity in a city, will not the Lord have done it?"
Amos 3:6 (Lam 3:38, Revelation -19)
Life is God's test to us. Are you going to pass or fail? Obviously, this shooter failed.
So Terry, why are we here? What are gods plans?
Kristy,12 God has a wonderful purpose for the earth and for mankind. He “did not create [the earth] simply for nothing” but “formed it even to be inhabited.” (Isaiah 45:18) Moreover, he“has founded the earth upon its established places; it will not be made to totter to time indefinite, or forever.” (Psalm 104:5) Learning these things about God’s purpose for the earth and for mankind can help us to understand why we are here.Genesis chapters 1 and 2 show that god took great care to prepare the earth for human habitation. At the end of the creative period involving our globe, everything was “very good.” (Genesis 1:31) God placed the first man and woman, Adam and Eve, in the lovely garden of Eden and supplied them with an abundance of good food. The first human pair were told: “Be fruitful and become many and fill the earth and subdue it.” They were to have perfect children, to extend the boundaries of their garden home earth wide, and to exercise loving dominion over the animals.—Genesis 1:26-28. It is God's purpose to have a perfect human family dwell on earth eternally. God’s Word says: “The righteous themselves will possess the earth, and they will reside forever upon it.” (Psalm 37:29) Yes, humankind was meant to enjoy everlasting life in Paradise on earth. That is God’s purpose, and it is what the Bible really teaches! For those of you who don't believe in the Bible, I'm sorry. It gives wonderful hope for a future in a very bleak world. I live in Colorado so this shooting has affected us greatly and I'm comforted by the hope I have.
What Happens to Us at Death?
If God loved us, then He would NOT submit us into the hands of his adversary, knowing that we are imperfect and weak, and then demand as a part of being released from that TORMENT, believe that He somehow loves us.....God doesn't care......God (the universe) just is.....
I love how they whip out the magical scripture to make their point. Same with pastor K. Like there is some magic in those words. I would like to see some examples of how those magical words have actually done something good! Well, they cant, and never have. They have no power. Empty. Impotent.
"What Happens to Us at Death?"
Unless you can prove otherwise we just die, that's it, nothing more as far as we know at this time. If you think there's something else please prove it but you cannot, it will remain supernatural belief until there's proof.
Since you don't believe in God or the Bible, Vloice of Reason, your right. I happen to believe what the Bible promises. Throughout history, the bible has been accurate in its accounts, I have done hundreds of hours of secular research for myself. If you really want to know what happens to us at death, I can only tell you what the bible says and it appears you don't hold it as a credible source.
The bible as a credible source of what? Are you kidding me? If you have done the research you claim you have (and I don't believe it for a moment) you would have found how utterly useless and ridiculous that 2000 year old book is.
So, right off the bat, how old is this earth? Do you think Adam and Eve actually existed? Do you believe in the story of Noah's Ark? I could go on and on and on and on.
Well, do you believe all of that to be true?
If this alleged "god" were real, and he/she/it actually had an all-important message to give to the universe, he/she/it would write it in bold letters in the sky, in every possible language (including audio, Braille, etc. for various sensory impairments), permanently, and so obviously "from god" so as not to be misinterpreted by, or to have been tampered with by any man.
But has this happened? NO!
Therefore, all religions are opinion.
No proof. No god(s).
exactly – extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence
Faith that could stand up to any form of reason is long gone. Our knowledge of the world from 2000 years ago to what we now know about the world has irrevocably changed the need for religion. We do not need God to explain things; and religion becomes obsolete as an explanation when it becomes optional or one among many different beliefs. We now see that the leap of faith is not just one leap; it is a leap repeatedly made, and a leap that becomes more difficult to take the more it is taken, reaching its pinnacle in blind allegiance and active denial and rejection of any other possibilities. At that point, the credibility of the faithful is entirely lost. YOUR credibility is lost. Get it???
The sooner that humanity can accept that humans were created by our Extratirestrials ancestors, the better for us all. Humanity is so distant from reaching our potential and higher consciousness because of religion. Religion was created by our ancestors to help guide us but because we were given the ability of thought and understanding, there were many that misinterpreted what was left to guide us. People have been misled by the misinterpretation of books and stories to help guide humanity to a peaceful existence and ability to reach a higher consciousness. It's time for humanity to wake up and realize the reality of our existence.
The simplist explanation is often the correct one! What makes more sense? Some deity created a man from clay, then a woman from his rib, we're left in some mythical garden, where a talking snake with knowledge apples encouraged them to learn. D people really believe this? I struggled with it for years and my die hard catholic dad called me his evil son when I challenged this very story of A&E. I believed in Extratirestrials when I was very young because of an encounter I had hiking as a young boy. The only thing that makes sense to me is that we were genetically engineered by ET and I am very comforted by this thought. I feel great to know that I am in some way part ET. The simplist solution is that we were genetically engineered by ET. That's much more sensible then the story of Adam and Eve.
We don't know anything, there is so much in this world that we dont understand. There are so many problems facing this world that we will never be able to solve. We are on this earth for such a short time, like a blink of an eye in comparison to the universe. I think you give humans too much credit, I have no faith in people, I have faith in God. We may have figured out some things but there is far more to discover... You're not as smart as you think you are. You don't have any answers either. I have no faith in your abilities. You cant help me, you can't bring me peace. My faith brings me peace of mind. I pray for my children every night, I am thankful for what I have. I give credit where credit is due... I put my faith in God because I have researched, I have studied, I have questioned and I have found answers that allow me to wholeheartedly believe in Him.
Why all the anger and judgement from both sides?
Why do you worship Hitler?
Where do you stand Jay and why?
Well, atheists would really like for most believers to mind their own business, but they can't do that. Believers insist on weaseling their beliefs into politics, schools, laws, workplaces, communities, and every other corner of society. They want "In God We Trust" on our money (1954), they want evolution banned from schools while allowing a REVISED pledge of allegiance that originally did not include the phrase "under God", they want laws that reflect Christian morality (Abortion, same s3x marriage, etc.), and they treat as outcasts anyone who doesn't align with their particular religious view. NOW do you see why atheists are upset? Because they have reason to be!
exlonghorn, it's called teaching truth (Jesus) versus teaching lies (satan).
Let me just say that I have not read any convincing arguments on here. I think there are a lot of ignorant comments, which are especially annoying when made in, "The name of God."
I am a Christian, and think it was a well written article. I am proud of what I believe, but am not here to convince anyone that what they believe is wrong.
Even as a Christian, I can see where you are coming from on this one. Your point is taken. I just get frustrated when all the people in one "group" are lumped together. We are not all the same, as I would assume all atheists are not.
All we ask is for you to make sense. Is that too much to ask for?
voice of reason,
what didn't make sense?
Jay, you are correct. I don't presume all believers are so aggressive about their approach to the world. But you don't see Atheists doing ANY of that stuff I described.
HeavenSent, you are EXACTLY the type of person I am referring to. The sheer pompous, arrogant stubbornness to call your religious beliefs "truth" completely demonstrates what is wrong with you. Truth should require evidence. Allow me to correct your definition..."Truth: A verified or indisputable fact, proposition, principle, or the like: mathematical truths." Doesen't really apply to your beliefs, does it?
Unfortunately a lot of "Christians" are missing the point.
"voice of reason,
what didn't make sense?"
The belief in a god doesn't make any sense.
To early man that had no clue about nature and the universe or about the "visions" they had when they went to sleep (they're called dreams), one can understand the fear they experienced of the unknown. The lighting storms, thunder, rain, wind, hurricanes, volcanoes, earthquakes, tornadoes, tsunamis, snow and ice, heat and drought, death, illness, blindness, deafness, this list could go on and on. So called god or deities were created out this fear of the unknown. Once we evolved and sought answers for these unknowns we have come to the answers that can be proven.
Your belief in a god does not make any sense and I challenge you to make sense out of it.
Voice of reason,
You will have a blast bashing my reply, I am sure.
I do not claim that my belief in God makes sense, or that I can prove it.
You seem pretty strong in your convictions, and I respect that. I appreciate a mature, respectful debate, although I think face to face is a better way to go about it and frankly, I don't have the energy for one here. I was merely making a point that we can be so cruel to one another, and that seems pretty counter-productive.
I do have two questions for you though:
1) Do you believe all Christians/other believers are idiots?
2) Do you have a problem with what the author of the article was saying, or just Christianity in general?
I think anyone's an idiot, including myself, if they don't allow critical thinking to drive their actions. I'm nearly 75 and lived in the delusion that there was a god for most of my time. I have had an epiphany and a waking to reality that the mere thought of something so supernatural without as one tiny bit of proof is just plain insane. I've been on both sides now and this side is way sunnier, cleaner and enlightening that any god or religion could never attempt to produce. I am a free thinker and I seek the truth within our natural existence. Anything outside of that is just a big waste of precious time as far as I am concerned.
You want your god or you religion, I could care less, have at it BUT keep it away from the government I pay taxes to and the schools that teach our children.
GOD is everywhere, everyday in the midst of triumph and tragedy. Only good comes from GOD...if you believe you know that he was right there with every single soul who died that day and those souls fly directly into his arms upon passing. Why does GOD let bad things happen?? He doesn't, it's Satan who is running wild in this country because GOD has been taken out of public places and prayer has been taken out of schools etc., when you take GOD out, you let evil in...this nation hasn't learned that yet...there will be more tragedies like this or worse unless GOD is bought back into every facet of the public as he was decades ago when prayer was allowed in school, the commandments were made visible and even on our money his name was present – BRING GOD BACK!!
I'm guessing you don't shave your beaver.
Eat more chicken Jane, you god wants you to eat chicken.
jane, you're listening to a false teacher.
"If a trumpet is blown in a city, will not the people be afraid? If there is calamity in a city, will not the Lord have done it?" Amos 3:6 (Lamentations 3:38, Revelation -19)
What makes you think that those are the words of a god?
No thank you, Jane. I don't want to live in a theocracy.
Perhaps you should be more concerned about getting your own house in order: The catholic church protects pedophiles. Obscenely rich pastors preach the hypocritical "Prosperity Gospel". Mega-Churches and televangelists are the sources of scandal after scandal. Preachers in the South advocate hitting children suspected of being gay. The psychotic Westboro bunch creates more pain for grieving families by picketing funerals with messages of hate. There is a small congregation near where I live that has a cemetery full of children who died of easily cured maladies, because doctors are proscribed by their belief.
Every one of these people claims that they obey the will of god. So no thank you. Your god is part of the problem, not part of the solution.
Imagine a god who doesn't waste its time with making people suffer and teaching them lessons over and over again (and we're obviously not learning), who rises above this futile pastime and takes us to new levels of consciousness where we're all happy?
That is all the Proof one needs to know there is No god
Imagine a world where every person would choose that over violence and hatred. I think God will provide exactly what you suggest to everyone who asks for it.
I cannot wait for the Holy War to start in the USA. Christians, Muslims, Hindus, Jews, etc., just killing each other off in the name of their Cults. Fun times.
There is one of those cults that will NOT hesitate to chop your head off for not bowing down to their god.
If I was god, I would beat off to Maria Sharapova in the shower.
There are literally thousands in high schools and colleges better looking than her
Isaiah 55:6 Seek ye the LORD while he may be found, call ye upon him while he is near. LOVE to ALL, bye CNN commentors.
Ok CNN commenters... I have to go now, as I have a life to live but I would like to leave you with one final message... Isaiah 55:6 Seek ye the LORD while he may be found, call ye upon him while he is near: LOVE to ALL :-)
Its pretty common for believers to illustrate examples human compassion and love and some how link that to 'god'. Especially in such horrific situations. As if humans were not capable of that without god intervening. I find that incredibly insulting to human kind, as well as ridiculously clueless about what an omnipotent 'benevolent' god would and should 'do'. I dont give god a pass on these situations. That why I dont believe in the concept. God needs to start doing a better job!
Strange,A HUMAN did it but you want God to stop it while others let it happen?
A human being acted upon what HE thought,not God.
God can't tempt evil on a person,God allows us to make our own choices.
"God can't tempt evil on a person,"
- What makes you think that?
"God allows us to make our own choices."
- Is your version of "God" omniscient?
I have no "version" of God.Also in the bible, God himself says he cannot tempt a person to evil.
Ransom – All I am saying is that it would be nice if 'god' would do some good once in a while!
Who is to say he doesn't? I would love to talk to you about this whole argument. However I believe it is better served by talking in person and not anonymously right here. Its a huge and complex conversation that does not have easy answers. I believe the "Theodicy issue" is where you are coming from if you want to read up on this philosophical debate. There are many arguments from both sides that you can find.
Why do you think that the Bible contains the words of a god?
Give God the opportunity and he will do a better job... He only works for those who believe in Him.
I think the real question is where was Santa Clause?
Santa is mining coal to keep the toy factories going in China.
The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.