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 – in Jesus – was expecting all the born-agains and fundamentalists to be speaking up for a society of justice, peace and compassion – as Jesus did – but they were all too busy protecting Second-Amendment Rights to care what God – in Jesus – was asking.
Aurora is on us, not God. VT was on us, not God. Auschwitz was on us – not God. The dozens and dozens of killings every year by people who are too dangerous to own guns – but have a RIGHT to own guns – is on us, not God.
Just out of curiosity, because you seem to know, what is god responsible for?
plaster city – At least not for Second-Amendment, However, way things are going in 2000 years it may seem that it came from God.
I vote that god is responsible for:
– Birth defects;
– Earthquakes, especially those that kill thousands;
– cancer especially skin cancer (how dare he not place UVA and UVB filters in the earth's atmosphere);
– lunatics who kill.
Am I missing something?
Discussing what role some mythical magical sky daddy may have had in this tragic event just distracts us from the real issue, GUN CONTROL. Mr. Holmes may still have gone over the deep end, but without the AR15 asault rifle and the automatic hand guns he wouldn't have been able to hurt so many people. We need to take action to prevent crimes like this. No amount of whispering to imaginary friends is going to help.
2Peter 2:1 But false prophets also arose among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly introduce destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them, bringing swift destruction upon themselves.
Captain Oveur: Airplane 1:1. Joey, do you like movies about gladiators?
'GOD IS SHINING BRIGHTLY IN THE HEARTS OF HIS PEOPLE...I RECEIVE THAT AND FIND IT THE RIGHT ANSWER ALWAYS SO THANK YOU FOR A GOOD REPORT THIS IS A GOOD STORY!!! WELL THOUGHT OUT AND RIGHT ON!!
It's especially correct because you used all CAPs!!!
God was in the theater in Aurora when Holmes" gun jammed and he was unable to shoot anybody else. God was there in the form of some courageous young men sacrificed their lives for their friends. God is still in Aurora to comfort the grieving, and to give peace ti the injured ones and peace to the families of those who died. And you know something? God is STILL in Aurora.
Why did he show up so late.
This is so funny we always blame God, but we dont see Evil? It means that evil is more inside us than God. This mean that another Good vs evil will happen, I guess. 2012
George Carlin said it best. That he prays to Joe Pesci and receives the same results as when praying to a "God". It's all BS folks and it's bad for you! If Santa and the crew are not real then nor is any God or Gods.
Hey!!! Easy on the Santa thing!!!! He is good for the economy.
It matters nothing to those who believe what the naysayers say. For all we care, such people can go to HELL! Those people can pop veins on their foreheads bad-mouthing religion and trying to disprove the truth. Who cares? It simply goes in one ear and out the other for those who have experienced it. They can believe in The Great Nothing. I choose not to.
George Carlin is dead, most likely realizing he was a little too literal in some things and wrong about a lot of things. It's tragic when people take him too literally. I doubt R.Harris is a real person. Someone just remote logged in on fake info and posted something random. I also doubt that R.Harris ever had and loved anyone. If by some miracle his person did love someone, I'd say – prove it.
God is also good for the economy....Church is a business, don't forget about Christmas, Easter, and New Years.
Great Dr. Holcombe. The same applies in reverse but yours is built on lies, feelings and a bronze-age text. Mine is on observation and rational thought. Your belief system terrifies me. You welcome death because you believe you will go sit with the sky fairy and the after-life will be so much better than this life. I want to make the best of this life because it is all we have. That drives me; not supplicating an imaginary friend. You are good only because you are being watched. That isn't morality; it is sucking-up.
OMG!!! Why blame God for everything. Why not blame Evil. And evil could be ourselves, all this happen because of US!!! human, so lets get out and restart civilization without CORRUPTION! Corruption made this... How? Well this guy was neither brainwashed to commit this by conspiration (by a syquiatric) or too stressfull because of his life, all his hardwork for nothing at the end... Why? Because of hipocrecy of most human? Because of Bullying? All this the effect domino, hate create more hate and it keeps going. So this was HUMAN fault!!!!
You are correct. This was the act of a Human.
Now, please show me any verifiable evidence of any act of any god, ever.
Every second we live is more than enough
What?? OMG!! I thought god made evil!! And humans!!!
When you ask a strict fundamentalist about things like this, they cherish their guns and bibles. They see the conservative ideology as including gun rights. I have even heard of a Baptist minister who offers concealed carry permit classes at his church. Kind of odd that someone who claims to be a Christian promotes a device used for violence. The same fundamentalist ideology is against health care reform. So, unless a person has health insurance, they should no be treated. They are also faced with the dilemma of voting for Romney; by their own standards, a member of a Cult. Just because most fundamentalists are also closeted racists.
So, according to these strict fundamentalists, Bible toting Christians should carry devices designed to kill others, ignore the sick and the poor and become a racist. No thanks, Jesus really had other ideas
And God will deal according, we will all be judged
I always find it incredibly insensitive to those who have died and to their families, when survivors say "it was a miracle I survived", or "God saved me" or "God heard our prayers". And the media always seems to quote them...
Good point Dionn. They don't understand that the implication is that the unlucky victims are somehow lesser to god than they were. They are blinded by this belief system and thus became insensitive to the hurt they cause.
NOWHERE. That's where.Same place he was on 9/11. Same place he was when the children of Beslan were massacred. Same place he was when that daycare burned to the ground in Mexico, along with the toddlers inside screaming. Same place he was when I lost my granddaughter. NOWHERE. Organized religion is a moneymaking scam.
Wrong... People that take advantage of what and who is God's is the scams
God was at a poker game with the Devil, stakes was Aurora and the Devil bluffed god and won. The Devil bluffs God alot, since God is so gullible, hence god doesn't interfere cause he lost the bet!!
Oh imaginary sky daddy, why hast thou forsaken us?
get thyne-self a job so that thy will not waste all day typing jibberish here.
You need to
Worst Rating in history – great job CNN keep up the liberal cesspool!
what.. what is he talking about.
//same place God was when his Son Jesus Christ died on the cross for our sins//
I thought Jesus literally is "God"...
Jesus is God. God was and is the Father. And Spirit. Eternal. And in order for him to save us, he had to shed blood.. so he had to get another NATURE. He had to get another LIFE.. because his life was ETERNAL. So God got in the womb of a woman, Mary. and in her body, the ETERNAL God got in there and created another life. And in the body of the woman, were two lives.
"For as the Father hath life in himself; so hath he given to the Son to have life in himself." John 5:26
Jesus Christ came into the world he created.
Mary birthed Jesus, but she didn't birth God. But Jesus Christ is God. God is higher than heaven, deeper than hell, broader than the sea and longer than the earth. God is spirit. God was MANIFESTED IN THE FLESH.
I have clothes on.. I'm not my clothes. My clothes move when I move. That body of the son of God did the work of God when the power of God worked in it!
God is spirit. Exists outside of time, space, & matter. God is EVERYWHERE at once & is eternal. Not limited.
Water can take on different forms, but is still water ..liquid, vapor,
& ice. You wouldn't say ice is not a form of water, would you? It just has a different NATURE.
Jesus Christ is the full deity of God. Fully 100% God & fully 100% divine human nature. Us? We are just human without God's spirit. But when you accept Christ into your life, you become BORN AGAIN spiritually.
So wait God is himself and his offspring?
Call in for meds, please...
"So God got in the womb of a woman"
I guess he's got to git while the gittins good...
I'm guessing theres a lot of women in America who would prefer if he got the heII out...
Jesus Christ is not a one dimensional God. God exists everywhere. The human mind cannot comprehend that God can exist everywhere and see everything at the same time! The finite mind cannot comprehend the infinite! God is too BIG.
"I'm guessing theres a lot of women in America who would prefer if he got the heII out..."
And the more America rejects God, the more the devil licks his chops on those that are his. Because those that reject the Lord Jesus Christ, are a child of their Father, the devil: Satan.
The explanation is:
God molested a virgin who was engaged to someone else so that she could give birth to him so that he could torture himself to apease himself for the imperfection of his own creation.
That's because it's a lunatic fairy tale made up by a bunch of bronze age goat herders.
Praise... if you are right that "God is spirit. Exists outside of time, space, & matter" then you are saying that god does not exist. Make up your mind-or did you fall for the trick.
"And in order for him to save us, he had to shed blood"
and why did he need to save us from himself?
"Water can take on different forms, but is still water ..liquid, vapor, & ice."
Hmmm, how to explain something no one has ever seen, touched, felt, smelled or heard that can do something that is impossible for anything we can find in nature. I know!! I'll use an example from nature, and say it's like that only not like that at all...
How sharp is the tip of a Unicorns horn? It's so sharp it could punch a hole in a plate of solid adamantium...heck, it could even go through two plates!!
What garbage. If he wanted to save us, he could have done it without bloodshed. Or better yet, create us good without sin. What a bunch of garbage. You believers just dig yourselves deeper and deeper with all this jesus, god and christianity manure.
Wake up. Turn your brain on. Think. Like an advanced primate not a sheep. Remember what the shepherd ultimately does to the sheep. He uses them for his own selfish purposes then slaughters them when their usefulness runs out. Seems like an appropriate analogy for the armies of god.
Born Agains, please tell me what to do, what to say, what to think, how to convince the parole board that I am indeed rehabilatated; even though the prison chaplin is standing by my side, some times the board assumes that I have just paid him to stand up for me, the chaplin is partial to good looking younger inmates. Help me please, I promise to follow the path of the righteous jesus and will never ever sell drugs around a school again. Help me JJJEEESSSUUUSSS.
What a disgustingly depraved article. Here's why:
Where was God when he allowed companies to cheaply manufacture guns and bullets, and legislators who make their possession so easy, to be placed legally and inexpensively in the hands of a mass murderer? Don't look to God for that one. Look in the mirror instead.
Imagine two boxers in their corners praying to the same god to help them win the fight. Their objective is for god to help them be the hell out of the other guy. Did god pick the winner if one gets knocked-out. Such favoratism. Why don't the fighters and have a prayer meeting and let god determine the winner based on who prayed the hardest. Nobody gets hurt and the correct decision is made. We can still make bets. Wake up with this imaginery stuff people.
Please stop posting this garbage in place of news.
same place God was when his Son Jesus Christ died on the cross for our sins
God was in Aurora. He punished those people for going watching batman. Clearly Batman was made to symbolize the devil. His mask has 2 horns on it. Batman was made to send us subliminal message that the devil is good.
this guy is potential mass murderer, please track his IP and arrest him, thanks
I know where god wasn't. Just ask the families of those who are dead. Just ask the kids now burning in hell because they died of starvation never knowing the word or salvation of your God. While your god was busy saving healthy educated people in that theater he wasn't watching the rest of the world.
God is in charge let Him handle it. I assure you just like he saw you ..He sees everything. Don't be deceived God is not mocked whatever we sow we will reap. Plus God gave us free will to make a decision for God or not. Being bitter only hurts you. Jesus is not going to go to hell to burn ... People will if they do not accept God. Two places exist... Heaven or hell. Good people will go to hell because they haven't accepted Jesus.
You assure us? How can you assure us?
"Good people will go to hell because they haven't accepted Jesus."
why? what possible reason is there for the whole believe in jesus are be tormented forever?
"Two places exist... Heaven or hell. Good people will go to hell because they haven't accepted Jesus."
And your verified evidence for this is....?
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.