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 owes me a bean burrito with extra cheese. You know, AMERICAN cheese. ho.mo.se.xu.al cheese! MMMM love that cheese.
Here you go again with your talk of burritos. Burritos are for the weak minded. You call on everyone to love cheese, yet your cheese is Un-American. It is not even cheese, it is an oily byproduct of vegetable fat. Stop forcing your culinary opinions down everyone's throat. Fried Chicken is the true answer. Salt has been around since the beginning of time. It was one of the first universal compound. Cheese was created by man. Chicken came before eggs.
If you are not a child of God then you are a son of hell. That's why!
And now atheists will use Salero's quotes and say all Christians are weird kooks who have no brain. They then justify their stance for not believing in God.
"See, Salero is an idiot. I no longer believe in God..." Oh right, right, it's the lack of evidence..I forget.
"all Christians are weird kooks who have no brain" Nope, that would be illogical. Let me tell you, any statement consistent with "All X are Y" is going to be false. Not ALL Christians are weird, brainless kooks. Plenty of them are reasonable people.
During the Dark Ages, when Christians ruled the Earth, people who noticed that the Earth moved around the Sun were routinely crucified or burned at the stake for saying so. A lot of sensible people opted to stay alive and proclaim that the Earth was at the center of the solar system. However, at no time during the Dark Ages did the Sun actually orbit a motionless Earth!
Believing stuff doesn't make it true. Believing passionately in God, Frodo, or sparkly vampires doesn't make them happen. Calling atheists names makes you look scared of their beliefs, so BOO!
It is arrogant to put God on trial. Who can judge God? You would have to be omniscient in order to understand the workings of God. We live by faith, not sight. There is nothing in Scripture that promises that bad things won't happen in this world. In fact, it states just the opposite.
I'll judge God. Guilty of too much good lovin! He'll kick your butt if you don't love him. LOVE HIM! Or don't, that is okay too, just be ready for some pants down PYITE hell time. But if you like that, isnt that heaven? Maybe hell is just a party for those of us who aren't boring and stupid. Hadn't thought of it that way. DIsco baby!
"Who can judge God?" I'll give Him three out of five. He talks big, but when the heat's on, He can't deliver.
Aren't you judging Him yourself there? I guess it's ok if you judge God to be GREAT! After all, not likely that God will come around and say you were right or wrong.
God is not responsible for the tragic deaths in Aurora. Over 6000 years ago, the mightiest angel in heaven rebelled against God—his name was Lucifer, meaning, light bearer.
Isa 14:12 How are you fallen from heaven, O Lucifer, son of the morning! how are you cut down to the ground, which did weaken the nations!
Isa 14:13 For you have said in your heart, I will ascend into heaven, I will exalt my throne above the stars of God: I will sit also on the mount of the congregation, in the sides of the north:
Isa 14:14 I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will be like the most High.
Lucifer wanted to be God. The Father and the Son bore with Lucifer long, and clearly laid out his destructive path—but he refused repentance, thus deceiving one third of the Holy angels to join his rebellion:
Rev 12:7 And there was war in heaven: Michael and his angels fought against the dragon; and the dragon fought and his angels,
Rev 12:8 And prevailed not; neither was their place found any more in heaven.
Rev 12:9 And the great dragon was cast out, that old serpent, called the Devil, and Satan, which deceives the whole world: he was cast out into the earth, and his angels were cast out with him.
The first chapter of Job tells us that Satan appeared in a conference with God, and told God if He would lessen His protection Job would curse Him to His face. God said, “he is in your hands, only spare his life.” The holy angels protecting Job and his family were withdrawn and Satan destroyed his property, cattle and sheep, and killed his sons and daughters by storms. This tells us that those who live godly in Jesus have the protection of Holy angels and nothing can hurt them unless God especially allows.
Satan delights in war, murders, bloodshed, and degrading God’s creation any way he can. Why did not God destroy Satan in the beginnings of his rebellion? Because the angels and inhabitants of other worlds would have served God out of fear—they would not have understood why Satan was destroyed since sin was unknown then. There must be time for Satan to expose himself as a liar and a murderer—thus we see all the suffering and death in the world.
Those who put themselves on Satan’s ground will be influenced by him to commit evil—especially murder. It’s been reported that the Aurora killer was involved in some sort of mind-altering practices. When one’s reason is perverted in any way, then demons can have much easier access to the mind.
Death has been overcome by Christ’s sacrifice on Calvary, and those who put their trust in Him will live again, “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish, but have everlasting life (John 3:16).
John 8:32 And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.
So ... You think it's perfectly fine that your god destroyed Job's entire life over a bet? Especially if he already knew the outcome? Wow. ... Your god sucks.
Also, couldn't he have stopped the shooter a little bit earlier? Like ... around conception? Made him a stain on his mommy's sheets, instead of a mass-murderer?
clown, I think the story ends as Rudolph, using his shiny nose, guides Santa's sleigh from the last house back to the North Pole.
That is as likely as your fairy tale.
THIS IS STILL SO HAPPENING!!
Your comment is fake and I am not impressed at all!!!
That's cool cuz god is fake and not very impressive either.
An arrogant and petulant people thinks that God owes it to them.
God does in Fact owes them something... HI JUDGMENT.
SADLY some so called innocents are caught in the middle.
However there is none really innocent.
Salero21 licks jesus bunghole. That is his kingdom.
Do you think YOU are among the humble and meek who will inherit the world ?
And a beautiful, brown kingdom it is!
Petulance is really Flatulence of the mind, the heart and the soul.
The humble and the meek will inherit the earth.
The petulant thinks that God owes it to him.
The humble KNOWS he owes it ALL to God.
Flatulence? Now you are speaking language I understand. Who is the god of Flatulence? I will pray to him.
Tell me the fairy tale of how he came to create his kingdom.
The flatulent one is always in your heart. It's good for your heart. With an increase of flatulence, the better you feel.
SO BE GOOD, FOR GOODNESS SAKE... WHOOOOAAA! Somebody's coming!
If the devil is furious, there must be a reason of Truth been said.
When truth is proclaimed the devil becomes furious.
But not everyone goes to Heaven just because a child of hell kills them.
For most people is always dangerous to be in certain places at certain times, especially when the devil is the one being followed.
Because the devil is not good to those who follow OR fall in his entrapments.
Even the so called "innocent" fall victims to the devil guiles.
So basically anyone who is NOT a child of God is a child of hell.
Yes Ho.mo.se.xuals are aberrant and fil-thy sinners.
For that a nation is SLOWLY but sure coming under God's Judgment.
For a warring nation peace is NOT an option.
Therefore there is no peace for the wicked said the Lord.
There is no one really innocent.
This is ONE NATION UNDER GOD's JUDGMENT and God was where HE has always been and where HE will always be for all of Eternity; in HEAVEN.
Sal, you can stop being gay if you really want to change. Don't blame others for the turmoil in your own mind.
Arrogant and petulants don't get answers from God.
Ho-mo-se-xua-lity is an aberration and a filthy Sin.
So is Adultery and fornication.
So is stealing and slander.
So is murder and idolatry.
When a nation like that is brought to Judgment by God, Creation rejoices and so do the Just.
You are slandering when you call us filthy or petulant or arrogant so I guess you are a filthy sinner as well. See you in imaginary hell.
P.S. you are not too smart, are you? Figures. Most religious kooks are not.
You are posting on CNN.COM, therefore you are viewing advertisements from corporations, who give their money to the time warner congloimeration, thus perpetuating the monopolistic nature of our American economy, causing poverty, famine, and loss of faith. Your post is contributing to this. You are not innocent either. See you in hell? Doubt it. You and I both will stop living when we die. You don't even get black, you get nothing. Think about what you could have done with all that time you spent spewing your hatred. You could have received an awesome hummer from that married fatty next door to you. You know, the one you always have lusted for but had too much fear to act upon. Sad, really, she likes you too – she appreciates broken people and needs abuse now and then.
I knew it! Someone likes Salero starts spewing out idiotic things, and the atheists start pointing fingers and using people like Salero as part of their many of excuses for not believing.
People like Salero shouldn't even be heard. Why would you debate someone like him? There are plenty of believers out there who actually are intelligent. Have the guts to speak with them.
" There are plenty of believers out there who actually are intelligent. Have the guts to speak with them." Why don't you go find one and bring him back? We'll wait.
"the atheists start pointing fingers and using people like Salero as part of their many of excuses for not believing"
Why, that would be as bad as using some angry atheist's post to generalize about all atheists. Sure hope nobody does THAT.
Not everyone who dies goes to Heaven. Universalism is NOT happening.
There is NOT such a thing as christian nations.
There is NOT such a thing as as America a christian nation. Is NOT happening.
This is ONE NATION UNDER GOD's JUDGMENT.
God was where HE has always been and where HE will always be for all of Eternity; in HEAVEN.
If the Devil is furious I'm happy!
If you're not a child of God you're a child of hell.
Dying tragically IS NOT a ticket to Heaven.
The Official name of this nation is NOT America.
The Offcial name of this country is: The United States OF America. Therefore the slogan "America is a christian nation" is a myth. This is really ONE NATION UNDER GOD's JUDGMENT.
Only fools, naive, uniformed people ask that question.
More Judgment to come a la Carte, quick or slow. Dust bowl again anyone?
God's Judgments sometimes are quick sometimes are slow but in God's view they're always right on time.
You are a FOOL... an arrogant, petulant, pompous, angry and hate-filled FOOL.
Ha be you ever considered Valium ?
"If you're not a child of God you're a child of hell." So you are making up your own Bible verses now? Get help.
I see a lot of Atheists responding to the last 2k years worth of mankind's legacy of irrational fear in trying to explain who God is, using those silly fears interpreted in the Bible (although yes I agree, they stated them as fact) as justification to deny the existence of God,& not the concept itself. That's not unlike trying to disprove God to a cave man by only using the pictures they drew on cave walls to represent their understanding at the time, & not the bigger picture. We can never fully know the unknowable, only point towards it taking baby steps. Your entire life/growth process is the exact same procedure. What you once thought (just knew for sure) was true always mocks itself as you get past that (door) onward to the next – infinitely. Remember your youth? It's always like that.
Atheists are like kids in the checkout line wanting that candy bar but can't take no for an answer, throwing fits. Only now your fukin ADULTS & are still viewing life from the same position. Can you say duh? Go ahead, you can do it.
For example, I've seen a lot of "man was created in God's image" interpretations to help you think you've validated your position, but I can clear that one up for you right now.
Who are you, your body? Are you your foot? No? Oh I see, you think you're your entire body. That's an immature understanding. The you that's you (the phrase being referred to) is in your head – your brain. God's image IS our brain, & if we could shrink ourselves to the size of a brain cell & go inside & take a look around, I imagine it would look a LOT like the universe does to us from Earth now.
Thank you for explaining nothing. Your analogy of the kid in the checkout is awful. It is more like, "'Momma says grab that candy bar' as she points to an empty space on the shelf. The kid, after a few rounds like this, realizes there is no proof that a candy bar exists and stops listening to momma. He thinks for himself and goes to another aisle to enjoy what he can actually see and grab."
And I never believed "man was created in god's image." I have always believed god was created in man's image. That makes a lot more sense. Take your god and all of the cancer, AIDS and birth defects he is responsible for and go tell it to impressionable young children who you can lie to for another 10 years.
So God is a brain? A mind? Does god need to think? Does he require a brain to think? Thoughts require time. Is god limited by time? We think through association of memories. Does god need to remember? same logic applies. The image concept is the way out of the chains of untruth.
Peace be upon all of you....
I see human has very limited knowladge about The Creator... not having enough knowladge makes us think the way we want as we have been blessed with 'free will'.... please read the books that we have around us and then use your brain to chose the truth as everyone can not be truth but truth should be only one.... how you gonna do it? only by using your intellectuals that you have been blessed with... here are few criterion that i could share... 1) if this is the creation can The Creator be in it? in other words 'would i believe in any creatures like human, trees, stones, idols etc that has not power to live by itself that are my God(s)?' if not then you have look for a book which talks about tottaly absolutely monothiestic concept which is 'I believe that there is One worthy of worship and I submit myself ot the same ONE and not any of HIS creation like human...' which is Al Quran... here is one verse i like to mention...
Al Quran Chapter 4: Verse 1
O mankind, fear your Lord, who created you from one soul and created from it its mate and dispersed from both of them many men and women. And fear Allah, through whom you ask one another, and the wombs. Indeed Allah is ever, over you, an Observer.
I pray to The One to help and guide us all the entire mankind to understand and submit to HIM only HIM...
Saying that there is NOT such a thing as "America is a christian nation", must have infuriated some.
So instead of showing proof to the contrary, someone opted instead for posting comments under my nick.
Give them a DoD medal.
Mmmmm, where can I sign up for a "D!ck on D!ck" Medal? Do they give those out after entry to the eternal kingdom? What if I want more than one? Or what if I want a "D!ck on Mouth" Medal?
The possibilities make me creamy.
Was god in the projection booth? He is the light!
I want to take it in the p00per in the eternal KINGDOM from JC. Hopefully, they have an eternal supply of lube in the KINGDOM.
And of course anyone can copy my nickname!
God reads blogs.
Are you so dull that you did not see somebody elses comment using my nickname.
Dude this is Pizza Hut, not Dominoes. You Called Me.
so confusedfuzz fuseface,
Doing that, copying my nickname makes you fell very brave huh! And you previously called me a charlatan and a coward, wow what a brave american are you!
You'll probably earn a DOD medal for such bravery of postings comments using my nickname. How about that for charlatanism?
Burp! You talking to me or the other guy? Vomit!
I don't know who I am talking to or what I am doing!
I will not bend to pressure unless my lord and savior is applying it to me from behind and then, when he has come all over my back, again pressure down my throat. That is my vision of heaven and eternal salvation.
I have decided to renounce my faith and start supporting gay marriage and vote obama. Thanks everyone for setting me straight. F God.
In addition to the arrogant and petulants who demand from God an apology.
There are also in the crowd those who believe in universalism. That is the belief that all go to Heaven. Not so, NOT happening! Others believe that just because people die tragically, that in and by itself is some sort of virtuous way to go, that will enti-tle them entry into God's Kingdom. Not so, NOT happening either!
And of course, how could they not be in the middle of it all. There are those who believe the myth of America as a "christian nation", whose citizens ALL do have a Ticket to Heaven. Really, really people!
BTW, the Official name of this country is THE UNITED STATES OF America.
When you type, do you wear your red clown nose and big red shoes? Or do you save those for sunday mornings when you join with other christards to lie to children?
You must be looking at a mirror when you typed!
Submission of chosen targets (American Indians, Muslims, blacks, gays, females of every race, Mexicans, etc.) are gradual as they adopt the T.almudic concepts as being Christian, thus producing a J.ewish society. It is what Rabbi Martin Siegel call, "the J.udaization of Christianity.")
There you go, Confused, using Salero as an excuse to make all believers out like him. You know it's not true.
Should I say that you and all atheists are like Jim Jones? And no, Jim Jones was not a Christian.
It takes more faith to believe that this universe and creation was created by accident than to believe that it is the devine work of God.
Not really. We are here simply because we are here. Take billions of years into play and uncountable amounts of matter, and things like life are simply bound the arise. It didn't take much time at all, relatively speaking, for life to form and begin evolving on earth.
it is not an act of faith to say "I do not know" when asked about the origins of the universe. If the universe is so complex and wonderful that it could not occur on its own, how then do you account for your god? If your god has always been here, then the universe could always have been here. You simply push things back one level without explaining anything. "God did it" explains nothing and is on the level of a fairy tale answer.
Jim, save your breath. This Salero21 is an indoctrinated zombie. You would have better success explaining particle theory to a 2 year old.
I believe in Jesus, the son of God, and of the Holy Trinity. Let's say you are right and there is no God. I die and I become nothing like you all say will happen. But, if I'm right........oops!
Wrong. If you are right, then your god, whose love knows no bounds, who is all forgiving, would forgive me for actually using my intellect. At least that is what you hysterical christians say. And what of the millions of people who believe in the "wrong" god? Are they doomed also? What a disgusting statement made by a disgusting christard.
More importantly, belief to avoid some punishment in the afterlife is not a virtue. That is sucking-up; you are then a fraud. Just like your religion and your god.
Well said, face.
Submission of chosen targets (American Indians, Muslims, blacks, gays, females of every race, Mexicans, etc.) are gradual as they adopt the T.almudic concepts as being Christian, thus producing a J.ewish society. It is what Rabbi Martin Siegel call, "the J.udaization of Christianity.")..
And let's say the Moslems are right...Oops for you and me, let's say the Booga-booga, the god of a tribe wiped out in the 1800's is the right god...Oops for everyone it would seem,
This is a classic false dilemma, if I am wrong does not mean you are right and vice versa. I see no more reason to spend my life placating your vengeful god than I do any other vengeful god (and there have been so very many created by humans).
Believe in One God and there is no partner with him, No son or any creatures and Jesus was just a messanger sent to Children of Israel who was born thru virgin Marry and no father, this is another miracle of God that He can create a human without father as HE created Adam and Eve without parents... what if you found yourself in 'wrong' by believing in multiple Gods? so think and decide... may The Almighty help us all to understand that HE does not need any associate to run the entire universe as HE is alone self sufficient...
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.