By Dan Gilgoff and Eric Marrapodi, CNN Belief Blog Co-Editors
(CNN) – As he waited with parents who feared that their kids were among the 20 children killed at a Connecticut elementary school on Friday, Rabbi Shaul Praver said the main thing he could do for parents was to merely be present.
“It’s a terrible thing, families waiting to find out if their children made it out alive,” said Praver, who leads a synagogue in Newtown, Connecticut, and was among nine clergy gathered with parents at a firehouse near Sandy Hook Elementary School, where the shooting occurred.
“They’re going to need a lot of help,” Praver said of those who are close to the dead.
From the first moments after Friday’s massacre, which also left six adults and the shooter dead, religious leaders were among the first people to whom worried and grieving families turned for help.
Over the weekend, countless more Americans will look to clergy as they struggle to process a tragedy in which so many of the victims were children.
“Every single person who is watching the news today is asking ‘Where is God when this happens?’” says Max Lucado, a prominent Christian pastor and author based in San Antonio.
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Lucado says that pastors everywhere will be scrapping their scheduled Sunday sermons to address the massacre.
“You have to address it - you have to turn everything you had planned upside down on Friday because that’s where people’s hearts are,” Lucado says.
“The challenge here is to avoid the extremes – those who say there are easy answers and those who say there are no answers.”
Indeed, many religious leaders on Friday stressed that the important thing is for clergy to support those who are suffering, not to rush into theological questions. A University of Connecticut professor on Friday hung up the phone when asked to discuss religious responses to suffering, saying, “This is an immense tragedy, and you want an academic speculating on the problem of evil?”
“There is no good answer at that time that anyone can hear and comprehend and take in,” said Ian T. Douglas, the bishop for the Episcopal diocese of Connecticut, referring to counseling family and friends of the dead. “They’re crying out from a place of deep pain.”
Praver, the rabbi, will join a memorial service Friday night at Newtown’s St. Rose of Lima Roman Catholic Church.
“We’re going to have a moment of prayer for the victims,” Praver said of the service. “We cannot let it crush our spirit and we march on.”
Some national religious groups are also sending staff to Newtown, with 10 chaplains dispatched from the North Carolina-based Billy Graham Evangelistic Association on Friday.
Public officials including President Obama, meanwhile, turned to the Bible in responding to the shooting. “In the words of Scripture, 'heal the brokenhearted and bind up their wounds,' ” Obama said from the White House, citing the book of Psalms.
On Twitter, #PrayForNewton became a trending topic.
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Some religious leaders argue that modern American life insulates much of the nation from the kind of senseless death and suffering that plagues much of the world every day.
“Most of the world, for most of the world’s history, has known tragedy and trauma in abundance,” wrote Rob Brendle, a Colorado pastor, in a commentary for CNN’s Belief Blog after this summer’s deadly shooting in Aurora, Colorado, which left 12 dead.
“You don’t get nearly the same consternation in Burundi or Burma, because suffering is normal to there,” wrote Brendle, who pastored congregants after a deadly shooting at his church five years ago. “For us, though, God has become anesthetist-in-chief. To believe in him is to be excused from bad things.”
My Take: This is where God was in Aurora
Lucado said there was an eerie irony for the Connecticut tragedy coming just before Christmas, noting the Bible says that Jesus Christ’s birth was followed by an order from King Herod to slay boys under 2 in the Roman city of Bethlehem.
“The Christmas story is that Jesus was born into a dark and impoverished world,” Lucado says. “His survival was surrounded by violence. The real Christmas story was pretty rough.”
Many religious leaders framed Friday’s shooting as evidence for evil in the world and for human free will in the face of a sovereign God.
“The Bible tells us the human heart is ‘wicked’ and ‘who can know it?’” the Rev. Franklin Graham said in a statement about the massacre. “My heart aches for the victims, their families and the entire community.”
Many religious leaders also said that such tragedies are a good time for lay people to express doubts about God – or anger.
“This is a time to go deep and pray,” says Lucado. “If you have a problem with God, shake a fist or two at him. If he’s God, he’s going to answer. And if he’s in control, he’ll find a way to let you know.
I knew my brother was right when he told me not to believe in Santa. FRAUD!!!!
"Well, even Einstein and Copernicus weren't right about everything! Let ME tell you what the TRUTH is . . . "
I don't know waht you're reading. You're quoting something I never said. Show me where I said that. I said nothing about Einstein and I responded to your Copernicus quote saying science has progressed a lot since his day. Of course if you feel that it hasn't perhaps you could explain that.
it's a pity your brother didn't tell you the more important fact – there are no gods.
How about your start by telling me where and why Copernicus was wrong – by today's standards, of course.
Nad then, tell us all Santa – what parts of Father Georges Lemaitre's theories on the Big Bang are correct, and which parts are incorrect?
What makes scientsts famous and interesting is what they are able to demonstrat as being true. Things they think that are not demonstrable are just opinions.
And so which scientist has demonstrated that there is no God?
I didn't say he was wrong – I said that the fact that a centuries-old quote from scientist mentions god is not proof of a god as you implied. I said science has progressed since his day, meaning such things as DNA, evolution, geology, astrophysics, etc. etc. which all show that the biblical myth is not true and that there is no evidence of a god this side of the Big Bang.
And nor does a quote from you, or any other scientist today saying they can find no evidence of God make that statement true. RIght?
Of course it's true. These myths came from primitive people who didn't understand drought, floods, earthquakes, volcanoes, etc. Or life. Or the sky etc. So they imagined gods as the answer to what they did not understand. We understand all of those things. There are scientific explanations for all of them. We don't need ancient superstitions. I reject your statement that there is a god as there is no evidence. I don't need to disprove – one can't prove a negative. You need to prove your assertion.
I think you should also take a class in logic...."My statement is true because ancient people believed in myths." And that proves that there is no God. Hmm???
Santa – the current head of the Vatican Observatory, Father Jose Funes, Ph.D., co-authored a paper back in 2002 called, Star formation in the disk of NGC 5128" Would like to comment on his study on the merits of his arguments, or even compare it to Your assertion that he believes in imaginary tyrants in the sky?
So explain to me how quoting centuries-ol scientists proves a god? Or provide any evidence.
LOL, Lemaitre asks us to prove a negative and then lectures us on logic in the same thread. Pure comedy gold.
I am a troll. Please do not feed me – it only encourages me to post more drivel. Ignore me and I will eventually go away and stop cluttering the board.
Frauds, they argue with Copernicus, Einstein, Descartes, Pasteur, Augustine, Lemaitre and say "So, they weren't perfect" But claim to be representing the rational point of view.
But you are???? You know more than them? Ha ha ha!
Where is God? Wondering why we let the National Rifle Association destroy our children. How much longer?
Well, the killer's mom was a gun nut and he used her guns to kill her all all those other people. Ironic, isn't it?
SANTA is a fake and a fraud. He is asking "gotcha" questions along the lines of "When you close the refrigerator door, does the light go out? Huh??? How do you know useless you open the door. GOTCHA!"
Santo back to the North Pole and re-register in Freshman "Into to Science} class.
Show me where I've asked a question that you view as a "gotcha" question. I'd say your the one that needs to study logic, reasoning, and inference.
I"m not sure why I can't get an answer to that question...but it is a little creepy that I can't. And Tom tom, 1 word..prozac.
I am not sure I understand who is stopping them...and how?
It's one thing when Fundi Christians don't know the Bible, only to have it misquoted or misinterpreted back to them by atheists, It givea me all the more joy to quotes ACTUAL scientists back to them and have them argue with them.
Are you an atheist, agnostic, satanist....?
@jimmf -no, a troll. Do not feed the troll.
What are you?
FYI.... you're not going to prove your god's existence by being a quote-bot.
If you have time, go back one page and see all the dopey rejoinders to my quotes from actual scientists – from people who think they are "scientific" They understand neither science nor theology.
My favorite quote was from "In Santa we trust" when he brushed off the fact that Copernicus was a Catholic priest by saying, "Science has progressed a lot since then." HA! What a joke.
OK – that Santa clown doesn't even know that my screen name is George Lemaitre – Catholic priest, father of the Big Bang Theory, lived in the 20th century. I guess science has "progressed a lot" since then too. So much so that no scientists are believers and vice versa.
All of you are posers. Fakes!!!! Laughable. Get a clue and an education.
Issac Newton believed in alchemy as well as god. So what? Smart people can have unfounded beliefs just like anyone else. When you or others theists can prove ANYTHING in your dogma I will be impressed.
Why do you think that because you use the name of a catholic priest/scientist that alters the fact that what I said was true. All the quotes you've been posting are centuries old presumably your poor logic is that because a scientist made this reference to a god centuries ago – that proves that there is a god. So wrong. Science is progressing at a far quicker pace than at any time in history. Belief in a personal god is very rare amongst scientists, with no credible scientist believing the christian myth.
Was Georges Lematire a credible scientist?
Can a frog turn into a prince?
Does flour and water turn into Jesus?
Can a troll post anything intelligible?
Okay it's not that I agree that a diety exists, or think you should believe a diety exists. My question is why not allow religious persons to continue to talk about their gods and goddesses...as much as they want too. Just as you are free to make fun of those same characters.
For me it's because they want their point-of-view taught in schools, their religious texts displayed on public buildings and at sports events, their calls to prayer, etc. If they're so certain of their god why do they need to push it into other people's lives?
Santa – as opposed to your ignorant pseudo-science which is more informed by the Huffington Post than actual science journals!
Get off this site, you fake!
lemaitre. So reason gets under your skin. Then you should be the one leaving. If you could provide some actual proof for your imaginary friend, then maybe you'd be taken seriously.
People can and do talk about their deity all they want. I don't have a problem with that at all. You can spout off all the good, bad, loving, hateful things you think your deity is responsible for and again, I won't have a problem with that. What I do have a problem with is when you start trying to tell people that they are wrong for not agreeing with you, that you want your beliefs taken as fact with no evidence to back them up, when you tell people they are going to your deity's version of hell because they disagree with you.
Yes, we get it, some of the people that contributed to science happened to have some kind of religious view, some did not.
If we did not have rational souls, we would not be able to believe.
there are no souls – it's called thermodynamics and biophysics – look into it.
cha cha cha
“There's a big difference between kneeling down and bending over.”
All I am getting is people making fun of my typing. Seriously, I really would like to know what is the difference between atheism and censorship?
It's a little three-letter word, dear. See if you can guess what it is.
Ahhh yes, another person that equates disagreement with censorship.
What's your question?
perhaps, if you have to ask, you won't understand.
The crickets are chirping other than the mockery of a few typographical errors. Okay, look I really hope everyone thinks deeply on how much they do not want to be told what to talk about or how to think.
Wow. after ~50 hours and 7,971 posts, this topic is still posting an overall average of one post every 23 seconds.
It strikes a nerve I think.
So then the asking by many of: "Where God was?" Is not a demonstration of religion; rather is a proof of distress. However, the answer is simple faith. God is where HE has always been and where HE will always be for all of Eternity; in Heaven. That's where God was, is and forever will be, in Heaven. End of the argument.
Ok everyone, His panic (fvcking clever, that) has declared this argument is over so move along, pack it up, it's over.
You got it!! :-)
This reminds me of a friend who went to her church to ask the priest the truth about the Trinity theory of Father, Son and Holy Spirit, because someone had told her that Jesus was not God, which had horrified her. The priest's answer was "It's a mystery, my child, but you'll understand it someday." She walked out of the priest's office to find that her purse, left on a pew in the church, had been stolen. She left the church, never to return.
@ His – so where exactly IS this heaven you speak of? And how do you know that this god of your is there?
According to atheists these children are gone forever
Then let God bring the Children back right now ;-)
Maybe He has a better plan for them?
Maybe they were too good for this world?
Maybe He will bring them back with him when He returns?
Why don't you ask Him? Are you afraid that you might get an answer? And it might change everything you believe?
Your God didn't save their lives.
@was and is still
That's a terrible amount of maybe's.
Are you trying to suggest that their parents should now be rejoicing because their little children have gone to heaven?
Why is that? It's better than trying to put your own finite thoughts into the mind of an infinite being, and then arguing back and forth about which finite thought is right and which is wrong.
@I'm not a GOPer, nor do I play one on TV
"Are you trying to suggest that their parents should now be rejoicing because their little children have gone to heaven?"
You need help.
@was blind ...
According to their parents these children are gone forever,
otherwise, why would they grieve?
Lol, that's funny! I believe that believers have the lock on putting their finite thoughts into a supposedly infinite being. How many believers take the stance of 'the mind of my deity can't be known, but I'm going to tell you exactly what it's thinking'.
People; Be very careful about blaming God for taking these children in death. According to the writings of Daniel he has in excess of 100 million angels.Why exactly would he need 20 more? God didn't take these childre,n and they haven't gone to heaven. For now, they're resting in death awaiting the time when, by means of resurrection, they are awakened to perfect life in a worldwide paradise of God's making, where guns will no longer exist. Nor will gun manufacturers, or the political systems that foment war. Trick is: "What do I have to do to get to be there?" (Rev./Apoc.18:4; 21:3,4.)
Disused words in that New World: Doctor, dentist, dictator, skin-color, flag, border, passport, etc.
@professor – whoa, there buddy – too many coconut cream pies that Mary Ann made – sounds like you've been in the sun too long. So this magical resurrection thingie – you know this will happen why? And How?
Let me guess – you read it in a book?
Is that what they said? Every one of them?
"People; Be very careful about blaming God for taking these children in death. According to the writings of Daniel he has in excess of 100 million angels.Why exactly would he need 20 more? God didn't take these childre,n and they haven't gone to heaven. For now, they're resting in death awaiting the time when, by means of resurrection, they are awakened..."
Better get back into that book abit more there, professor.
To be absent from the body, is to be present with the Lord. Their bodies may be resting in the ground. Their spirits, are not.
-2 Corinthinas 5:8
I certainly did not mean that God "took" them. What I did mean, however, is that He is very much in control and He allowed it to happen. Possibly for any of the aforementioned reasons.
"And Enoch also, the seventh from Adam, prophesied of these, saying, Behold, the Lord cometh with ten thousands of his saints, To execute judgment upon all, and to convince all that are ungodly among them of all their ungodly deeds which they have ungodly committed, and of all their hard [speeches] which ungodly sinners have spoken against him. These are murmurers, complainers, waling after their own lusts; and their mouth speaketh great swelling [words], having men's persons in admiration because of advantage." (Jude 1:14-16)
Tom tom...there I fixed my typo. I'm not an idiot btw I just typed too fast.
Also Tom Tom I am not Jim F. I am a female. I am not a Christian and I do not have a true understanding of who Jesus was nor feel it to be necessary. I do however wonder why anybody should have to keep quiet in public places about any matters they feel they'd like to discuss.
She still thinks you're an idiot. Anybody who does not think and act exactly the same way as her is an idiot. Gotta luv those ever-so-loving, ultra-tolerant, live-and-let-live liberals LOL!
Get a hobby, children.
According to atheists, these children are gone forever. They will never be resurrected
That's what religion considers a value-add – your life has a divine purpose. Each religion does it differently though.
Do you have any evidence of those children or anybody else being in heaven or hell? Can you explain how your life is improved by believing stories about religion and after-life that are totally lacking in evidence? Obviously you believe your myth and superstition is right and the others are wrong; so you could be out of luck even if there were a god.
Yup, that's the truth AJ...... when we die, we go into the ground, worm food, nothing more..... no life after,
No heaven, no hell, no pointy ears and pitchforks, no man in the sky,.... just mythology and fairytales.
According to Atheists, these children are gone forever and they will never be resurrected
So why don't God resurrect those children NOW ?
Is that a better answer???
@Atheism is not healthy for children and other living things
Why don't you ask Him?
Does this we can't mourn their loss any less? Does this mean we can't grieve along with the families that were touched by this tragedy? No. Stop being a the gigantic crowbar in the toolbox of stupidity.
@blind: you should since you pray to God ;-)
Already did :)
Still blind, there's no difference between talking to yourself and talking to an imaginary friend.
I don't know that much about religion but isn't it just thought and speach and singing? If people oppose religion isn't that just a form of censorship? Am I misunderstanding the whole atheism movement?
I'm an Atheist, and I don't care what you do on your Sabbath. I don't care what you think or what you teach to your own kids. Believe whatever you like, sing it at the top of your lungs. Just do not legislate to its teachings. Do not teach it to my kids in the schools. Do not erect idols in the public spuare. Seems very simple, keep it to yourself.
I am not religious either. But why can't people errect whatever they want to in a public square, Jesus, elvis, Santa. I dont understand why people should have to keep any speach to themself.
We not only have a freedom of religion, but a freedom from it. I have no issue with speech here, or any debate. I meant more in the legislative or educational areas for limiting the preaching.
If you keep spelling it "speech" I don't think you're ready for a lesson in civics.
Dang autocorrect. If you keep spelling it "speach".
Who was Jesus?
Good question. Personally I've heard mixed reviews. A jewish activist who lived a few thousand years ago, a mythological story, it's all a blur really.
jimmf, learn to spell "libertarian," idiot.
Sorry. I'm not liberterian. Who was Jesus?
More bullsh!t from Brophy/Blaster/Loser.
Tom Tom, Get back on your meds man. We don't want another massacre.
Who's "we," little boy? You have a gerbil up your tailpipe?
Are you an atheist or just a hostile agnostic?
A mythological piece of $#it.
Your sock puppets would be more believable if they didn't misspell words exactly the same way.
Hah, Bet. He's lame even as a troll!
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.