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.
...Human beings are the only species that we know of to planet-wise acknowledge a deity. Along with science. If we are supposedly the smartest species and most evolved, then why would this occur, and continue to occur? I think if we don;t acknowledge a god, we at least need to acknowledge we are spiritual beings with a sense of morality of some sort. We need a sense of direction and destiny and some sort of self- image, rather than just feeling like we're an abberant evolutionary experiment that rapidly seems to be headed for sick and callous self-destruction. And yeah i do know people can feel it without believing in God, as humanists. but either way, if one ONLY feels you're just an ordered bunch of random cells as other animals, it's hard to me to find love compassion and higher emotions in that, nor a reason to act in more civilized and higher-consciousness terms.
I feel love and other emotions, act rationally, respect my family and the other people in my community, and act civilized.
And I do it without the baggage of believing in fairy tales.
What's this nonsense about people not being able to learn such things without an invisible space god? Did you not learn other things in your life from actual people? My parents taught me to ride a bike, just like they taught me not to lie, cheat, and steal.
"God" is a whole lot of unnecessary rubbish.
yes, like i said, some people can do all this without believing in a higher force or power. But i have to say, i believe it is WAY, way more rational to think some intention helped create the universe, than the billions and billions and billions to one odds that everything just came together , from nothing, to cause life. and I do think some people will act hurtfully to others when they think they and their fellow humankind are nothing but a bunch of random cells glued together, in no way different than shooting a deer or hunting.
Let me clarify. When i say humans are more evolved, i mean in we are further ahead terms of technology, sciences, and the ability to successfully propagate our species only.
animals express love and sympathy as much as humans, yet they believe in no god.
Love and compassion are built into the system of all living creatures. believe in invisible men not required.
possibly most are not aware of the callous self destruction brought upon others by bigoted beliefs in Gods?
My God is better than yours, so I must kill you.
Prayer changes things ,
This author's essay makes it clear that there is no human emotion stronger than pride. We humans will create the stupidest logic in an attempt to validate our unfounded beliefs.
You started well. Pride is what started all of our problems.
Is your God is willing to prevent evil, but not able? Then he is not omnipotent.
Is he able, but not willing to prevent evil? Then he is malevolent.
Is he both able and willing? Then whence cometh evil?
If your God is neither willing or able to prevent evil, then why call him God?
religion is just stupid
thanks mike. without your (copied) syllogism, none of us would be the wiser.........sarcasm off.
And we must follow the conclusions of this dilemma because... why, exactly?
If God were to stop all the evil in this world then the Bible would not be true. He let us make our own decisions whether or not to believe in him as you have. Adam and Eve made the wrong decision many years ago and the Bible will tell you the rest of the story all the way to the end. You see things are not going to get better they will only grow worse as man becomes more evil just as the Bible says as it is happening word for word.
are you one of these idiots that thinks their religion isn't a copied fairy tale, stolen from one of the many civilizations that came before us?
ok, maybe if you're a Scientologist, that doesn't apply. Scientology is truly some original BS.
but, if you're a Christian? to not understand the Roman, Egyptian, and Persian religions that preceded yours, and how they all involved basically the same fairy tales ... well, that's just willful ignorance.
thanks for demonstrating your ridiculous beliefs. fact is that thousands of gods of all manner has been worship by man throughout the world, from the beginning of time. Fat is that as soon as "no one is left to believe in these Gods, they immediately cease to exist"...the mayans, an summerians all believed so fervently in their Gods, that they would practice blood sacrifices of the children, virgins etc..they believed as fervently as you fools do..
the bible is nothing more than a book of childish fables written by men that believed the earth was flat and held in place by pillars..this comical book has been written and rewritten thousands of times by tyrants that sought to rule over the peasants with fear of a mighty punishment for disobeying their rule. cast off you believe in ancient ridiculous fairytales and evolve with the rest of us
A few questions should help shed light on the relationship between religion and rational thought.
The completely absurd theory that all 7,000,000,000 human beings are simultaneously being supervised 24 hours a day, every day of their lives by an immortal, invisible being for the purposes of reward or punishment in the “afterlife” comes from the field of:
(a) Children’s fairytales;
(b) Medieval mythology;
(c) New age pseudo science; or
I honestly believe that, when I think silent thoughts like, “please god, help me pass my exam tomorrow,” some invisible being is reading my mind and will intervene and alter what would otherwise be the course of history in small ways to help me. I am
(a) a delusional schizophrenic;
(b) a naïve child, too young to know that that is silly
(c) an ignorant farmer from Sudan who never had the benefit of even a fifth grade education; or
(d) your average Christian
Millions and millions of Catholics believe that bread and wine turns into the actual flesh and blood of a dead Jew from 2,000 years ago because:
(a) there are obvious visible changes in the condiments after the Catholic priest does his hocus pocus;
(b) tests have confirmed a divine presence in the bread and wine;
(c) now and then their god shows up and confirms this story; or
(d) their religious convictions tell them to blindly accept this completely fvcking absurd nonsense.
I believe that an all powerful being, capable of creating the entire cosmos watches me have $ex to make sure I don't do anything "naughty". I am
(a) A victim of child molestation
(b) A r.ape victim trying to recover
(c) A mental patient with paranoid delusions
(d) A Christian
You are about 70% likely to believe the entire Universe began less than 10,000 years ago with only one man, one woman and a talking snake if you are a:
(c) NASA astronomer; or
I have convinced myself that gay $ex is a choice and not genetic, but then have no explanation as to why only gay people have ho.mo$exual urges. I am
(a) A failed psychologist
(b) A fraudulent geneticist
(c) A sociologist who never went to college; or
(d) A Christian with the remarkable ability to ignore inconvenient facts.
The only discipline known to often cause people to kill others they have never met and/or to commit suicide in its furtherance is:
(c) Archeology; or
What is it that most differentiates science and all other intellectual disciplines from religion:
(a) Religion tells people not only what they should believe, but what they must believe under threat of divine retribution, whereas science, economics, medicine etc. has no “sacred cows” in terms of doctrine and go where the evidence leads them;
(b) Religion can make a statement, such as “there is one god comprised of God the Father, Jesus and the Holy Spirit”, and be totally immune from experimentation and challenge, whereas science can only make factual assertions when supported by considerable evidence;
(c) Science and the scientific method is universal and consistent all over the World whereas religion is regional and a person’s religious conviction, no matter how deeply held, is clearly nothing more than an accident of birth; or
(d) All of the above.
If I am found wandering the streets flagellating myself, wading into a filth river, mutilating my child’s genitals or kneeling down in a church believing that a being is somehow reading my inner thoughts and prayers, I am likely driven by:
(a) a deep psychiatric issue;
(b) an irrational fear or phobia;
(c) a severe mental degeneration caused by years of drug abuse; or
(d) my religious belief.
BULL SH IT ALERT
Parents participate in conditioning their children to believe in all manner of ridiculous stuff, from birth. Santa, tooth fairies. easter bunnies, boogeymen, and on and on. ever children are smart enough to at least ask questions of doubt about these mental tricks, yet the fact that "everyone else believes" convinces them that they should as well, lest they be made fun of by the "herd".
religion is just the biggest one, the one that all others are designed to solidify why you should believe in a story that has no basis in fact, not a shred of evidence that "any god" has ever existed, "just because everyone else does"...stupidity in its finest form.
religion has killed more people than all disasters and all wars are started with religious bigotry. Of course the churches would round people up by the tens of thousands and torture you into "believing"...what god needs that? What God hires pedophiles, thieves and rapist to spread his word?
Top Ten Signs You're a Christian
10 – You vigorously deny the existence of thousands of gods claimed by other religions, but feel outraged when someone denies the existence of yours.
9 – You feel insulted and "dehumanized" when scientists say that people evolved from other life forms, but you have no problem with the Biblical claim that we were created from dirt.
8 – You laugh at polytheists, but you have no problem believing in a Triune God.
7 – Your face turns purple when you hear of the "atrocities" attributed to Allah, but you don't even flinch when hearing about how God/Jehovah slaughtered all the babies of Egypt in "Exodus" and ordered the elimination of entire ethnic groups in "Joshua" including women, children, and trees!
6 – You laugh at Hindu beliefs that deify humans, and Greek claims about gods sleeping with women, but you have no problem believing that the Holy Spirit impregnated Mary, who then gave birth to a man-god who got killed, came back to life and then ascended into the sky.
5 – You are willing to spend your life looking for little loopholes in the scientifically established age of Earth (few billion years), but you find nothing wrong with believing dates recorded by Bronze Age tribesmen sitting in their tents and guessing that Earth is a few generations old.
4 – You believe that the entire population of this planet with the exception of those who share your beliefs – though excluding those in all rival sects – will spend Eternity in an infinite Hell of Suffering. And yet consider your religion the most "tolerant" and "loving."
3 – While modern science, history, geology, biology, and physics have failed to convince you otherwise, some idiot rolling around on the floor speaking in "tongues" may be all the evidence you need to "prove" Christianity.
2 – You define 0.01% as a "high success rate" when it comes to answered prayers. You consider that to be evidence that prayer works. And you think that the remaining 99.99% FAILURE was simply the will of God.
1 – You actually know a lot less than many atheists and agnostics do about the Bible, Christianity, and church history – but still call yourself a Christian.
Cut & Paste city. *yawn*
as usual, a sterling intellectual reply ... "yawn"? really?
why don't you just say "nanny, nanny, boo boo"?
because that would involve about as much effort, or contemplation, as the comments you post in defense of your defenseless worldview.
As an engineer and one who life has been guided by scientific principles, I have never felt the need to question the existence of god. There is no god (lowercase intentional).
The notion that there exists some omnipresent bearded elderly gentleman somewhere in the limitless ether at the edge of our universe (who also simultaneously exists in the infinity of all other universes) and who individually guides the life of every living thing (from the least speck of self-replicating matter to the most complex assemblages of cellular material) in all these universes is simply ludicrous.
When the article say God is everywhere in Aurora after the carnage, there is a truth to it. God (the healthcare workers) is the very person who is trying to save the victim in the hospital. The very person with loving kindness, caring and compassion. We are the Gods, the evil is the one that created this carnage. Simple explanation.
Don't gorget the shooter! He was there too and is a creation of god(if you believe in such nonsense)
God allowed his son to be a victim of a sensless murder! From Adam and Eve to the murderer in Aurora, Free Will is what makes life Paradise and what makes life Hell!
read that out loud to yourself, or a friend. therapy may be something you need to look into
really?? where was god? gimme a break....he was in the same place as in Syria, Africa (with all the starving children), and every home that had a murder break-in. NOWHERE. Get a Grip. unbelievable.....WAKE UP!!!
How long are we still focusing on that Aurora matter?
Yes, regretably some people had to die and some were hurt. Yet, it is sure that if they had not died by that massacre they had died later, maybe the next day by a disease or an accident or another crime.
Our time on earth is limited. Let us accept that fact.
Better, we would aspire more for spiritual peace than for a very long life on earth. Imagine a man, sixty years old, he has eaten some thousand steaks, has seen a great portion of all countries on earth, has driven many different cars, etc., etc.. In a word, after a while every thing only repeats and life becomes boring. Hence, it cannot be the meaning of life to stay on earth for ever.
We should aspire for eternal peace which only God can give us. This divine peace will help us to die peacfully if time has come. God's peace is stronger than the biological death, and thus believers will only pass away. By the way, the divine peace is a person, it is Christ who will carry us through death if we believe in him from now on.
It is only, when we decide to live as believers we have to accept some sorrow here on earth. Jesus was rejected und suffered, the same fate has the Christian Church.
The Roman Catholic Church with here temporal glamour is merely a distortion of the true Church. Every true believer should forsake the Roman Catholic Church of the pope and join the low and persecuted Church of Jesus.
I'd think people would be able to use some logic here and realize that good and bad things happen to people regardless of their faith.
Trying to explain these events in any other way always ends up in contradictory statements, as it either makes God look as if he's cruel and uncaring – Or absent. In either case God did nothing, he just stood by as innocents were gunned down.
a lot of people on this blog need to be Sanduskyed!!!!
God's reasons for the pain of humanity has recently been revealed... You are invited to consider the Holy Mural Lecture Serieis... Go to You Tube and search Holy Mural...
Go see a shrink.
Brainwashing via youtube...kudos to you for being gullible!
Mr. Brendle, Thank you for such a poignant writing. I don't attend church but I was deeply moved by your piece. Sometimes, in the face of unspeakable tragedy, there simply are no words-only feelings of disbelief leaving so many numb with grief. May God bless you and give you strength during the difficult times that are ahead of you as you go about helping to heal your community.
Another REAL AWESOME article from a liberial atheist CNN. Lets go find a old german man from WW2 and ask him to write an artifcles on *Jews in todays world*........same thing :D:D
Best explaination I could find.
the funny thing is........most assswipes like you repent on their deathbed.
Yeah, you're right. There's nothing to make somebody believe in fairy tales like: (a) being in a situation where you're about to die anyway, so you might as well "throw a hail mary", (b) being sick, (c) being old and likely not fully in command of your rational functions, and (d) ... this is the big one ... afraid.
Religion is born out of fear. That's all it is. Man is afraid of a world he doesn't understand, so he makes up stories that help explain what he's too ignorant to know, and to make him feel good, that the most powerful being in the universe cares about each and every one of us.
Get over your childish emotions and wake the heck up.
a dose of faith (better defined as belief without evidence): Where is the evidence to back such an outrageous claim? That is simply not true. When you are able to provide evidence based on peer reviewed studies to back your inept claim of an after life (ie; show one person who has returned from the dead to state an afterlife exists without using your imaginary friends illegitimate son...the product of your immaginary friend ra.ping a young child), then we may have reason to accept your delusion...until then you might wish to contact the local mental health department and seek some help for the religious psychosis you are suffering from.
Where was God during the Holocaust when over 6 million people were massacred? Where is God in the Sudan? What kind of God creates a universe, has the power to do anything, but instead stands back and watches and still expects all creatures to say, "thank you, God!" It makes no logical sense and theists want it both ways. God is right there! No, God gives man free will and doesn't interject. But still, remember to thank God and praise him. For what? For not helping? For allowing evil to proliferate and not giving anyone a clue on how to end evil? "You can't see God, can't know him, can't know his ways or his logic, but here, follow these stories written over hundreds of years by a bunch of humans who all have agendas and oh yeah, these stories were edited and re-edited by humans too and if you don't you are bad, bad, bad and will forever be tortured." Oh and remember to say "thank you God!" Who is this God who is so narcissistic s/he/it requires praise at every possible turn and could help, but doesn't?
Why does man allow such things?
I think the question is, "Why does God allow such things?" Man apparently doesn't know any better and never learns from the past or think it has anything to do with him and his needs/desires/wants.
stalin killed over 20 million of 'his' people....nazis killed 20 million too...i know 6 million....20 million...whatever....your point stands....just saying.....it was far more than 6 million people! people who believe in a supreme being are babies who need a parent 'watching' over them even though they are adults....pathetic....religion is one area that proves we, as human animals, are still very primitive animals with very limited brains....pathetic!
Of course it was more than 6 million people killed. I have neither the time nor the space to detail every atrocity in the history of mankind. The numbers aren't the point of my comment.
All these sky pilots can do is weasel and squirm when they try to explain how the Big Sky God stands by and does nothing about needless human suffering.
So, either this omnipotent deity is perfectly OK with needless human suffering, or cannot stop it.
Big Sky God = sadist, or wimp. Nice choice. Explain that away, Sky Pilot!
the weak minded explain it always in this way....it can be used at any time and any place...'god works in mysterious ways'...pathetic!
God was at the same place he was when those priests were molesting those kids.
Cheap rationalizations for weak minds.
Want to hear something weak? Listen to an athiest attempt to explain the universe.
yea, atheist use something called science..what losers they are....religious people use...ahhh...no reasoning or logic....they call it faith.....bend over you faithful and let your priest have his way with you....losers!
Yes, because the "explanation" that an invisible space man conjured it out of nothing in 7 days (sorry ... 6 days ... to have worked 7 days in a row would have been just excessive!) ... that's a real "strong" explanation.
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.