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.
ban the mention of God in public, ban steeples, ban religious people from voting their conscience
While were at it let's ban atheism.
While WE'RE at it, let's ban illiterates.
Beat it, 1400.
Tomtom we should also ban mouthy atheist like you. If not all of them, because that's what atheists are anyway. Big mouth and powerful sitting and hiding behind a computer. How great are those atheist. Pfff
Aww, you're cute. When you get your GED, do send me an announcement.
I'll be happy to do just that Tomtom.
I am sure. I hope you can manage to do more than sign it with an "X".
I'll be proud to meet you and shake that intellectual of yours.
tom tom, u must be bored... i was here over an our ago and you were screaming. Came back and you still screaming. Get a life....
Why'd you come back? Nobody missed you.
Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son has no hope for an after life, I could understand why a person can get bitter.
ban tax breaks for the rich, ban the free enterprise system, ban inheritance
Where God needs to be is _ "in the heart of menkind" that emtyness that is filled with darness is the problem fill your hearts with the love and mercy of god let it ambrace your soul and spirits so only the love of God is espress through your presence, so God can be grorified by you among others in this way God will show his presence and shelter you and your love ones from harms – God be with you
Ummm – just asking, but – English not your first language?
God is still here, but he isn't welcomed by many. God didn't make this happen. Many forget that there is evil in this world. Satan is in this world. Many are so quick to blame God for what has happened, why is it God's fault? Where are the people to help make sure these things don't happen? where are the people to help the mentally ill? Instead of pointing the fingers at God we need to all point the fingers at ourselves. Why are WE not making a stand to make sure these things don't happen to our children, our elder, all of us? Look at the bigger picture, people. It' s not God. We are doing this to ourselves.
Sally, didn't your god supposedly create everything? Including evil and Satan? And isn't god all-powerful and all-knowing? Now, either he is all of these things, and then he's a t-wat for allowing this to happen, or he isn't, and therefore not worthy of the ti-
If god cares s/he must not be omnipotent. If god is omnipotent s/he must not care.
God cares. I give you Jesus on a cross for your mistakes.
It is a very good question, "where is God?" Did God make the gun or the atom bomb that destroyed hundereds of thousands of lives? NO, so God is God and not one like us, walking and talking with other human beings.
But the thing to remember is, during the veitnam years of USA, there were killings like this also. People became violent, and now the wars are almost 28 years old, people are building that tempo. There will be more violence, unless we the creation of God Almighty do not pay attention to what we humans do. God is God, raise your one leg and you can with your own will, while to raise the other one at the same time is not under your control, the other one needs special privileges from God Almighty to raise. God is God and is watching, He will puniosh those who perpetrate.
If god exists, he does everything, including murdering children.
Rational, so I guess God made you stupid and ignorant, right? Since you claim that God is responsible for all things.
ban school choice, ban pro life advertising, ban hate speech
As usual we see arrogant atheists at their best. I wouldn't be surprised if we find out that the shooter was an atheist.
Will that make you feel better about the kids who were slaughtered?
I wouldn't be surprised to learn that he was a 'good Christian' just like the Aurora shooter.
Either way, there are no reported facts on this matter.
As God's word says, atheists are fools, full of themselves.
So, Martha, dear, do you think atheists are at fault here? Do you wanna place a bet that the shooter was an atheist?
Put up or shut up.
What are you going to do when the story comes out that this guy was raised in a nice, middle class neighborhood, probably went to church and everyone is shocked that he could have done this? Oh, right, he isn't a true believer.
At least we're not deluded and can recognize truth when we see it. You can't.
Haven't i seen you Tomtom in other post about religion before? Is this what atheist is all about? Atheists are laughing at people and crawling like maggots all over the internet every single day in search of any comment boards that speaks about God. You are proclaiming yourselves as intelligent above others, well if crawling over the internet like you all doing all day in search of a someone to laugh at, then you sure give a good example of the intellectual level you atheists are having.
"What are you going to do when the story comes out that this guy was raised in a nice, middle class neighborhood, probably went to church and everyone is shocked that he could have done this?"
Just like the good Aurora shooter you mean?
Ooooh, guess I hit a nerve! Good on me. When you post something as asinine as your latest missive, dear, you can expect to be lambasted, and it's deserved. Tough tutu if it upsets you.
Now i remember seen you Tomtom, aren't you the guy that others were telling you that you still get support by your parents and still living in you parents house basement?
Allow me to translate 1400's posts: I have no argument. The End.
1400: You are beyond stupid. My parents have been dead for years. I own my home.
I guess you're projecting yet again, herbie.
It's funny that every single articles every where on the internet that says God or religion that it takes only a matter of seconds before it fills up with arrogant atheists to annoy people. It shows only one thing, that atheists is all big mouth and spend they life on their computer to annoy people.
What's really, really funny is how believers will blame their all everything deity for good things, but somehow their deity becomes less than everything when something bad happens.
Maybe you believers are upset because the gunman killed himself, in doing so he denied you the warm and fuzzies that you would have surely felt when he tearfully claimed he had found god in prison and was powerfully sorry for all the pain he has caused. I can see his quote now 'I've received forgiveness from my deity'. Tears would have flowed.
Don't try to turn the subject around it won't work with me. i know your coward ways of doing things when you're cornered.
Oh, yes, you're surely a clever one, 1400. I'm certain that Damocles and I are terrified of you and your intellectual prowess.
Your ability to write is *ahem* truly amazing.
If you think i'm afraid of an atheist, you better think twice.
The subject ultimately comes down to whether you believe the deity you worship is 'everything'. If it is, it is evil. If it isn't, then it isn't 'everything'. You make the claim that your deity is everything and then won't alolow it to be everything. Do you now di-ctate the terms of your deity's existence to that deity? 'Oh, you can be this, but you can't be that'. Kind of arrogant.
ban the two party system, ban hate, ban the electoral college
At least start with the electoral college. The GOP will never go for it.
Good luck with hate and the two-party system.
Evil is the absence of God. You banned God, or even the mention of His name in schools, remember? A child cannot pray without being kicked out of school, and NOW you ask, Where's God?
Martha, you're a liar.
so God punished the children then?
this God permitted it to happen:
13 Then some children were brought to Him so that He might lay His hands on them and pray; and the disciples rebuked them.
14 But Jesus said, “Let the children alone, and do not hinder them from coming to Me; for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.”
15After laying His hands on them, He departed from there.
That's what you're saying right?
Martha – Amen!!! Yet, these ATHEISTS FOOLS can't seem to see the reality of what's really going on.
Do you even read what you post or has your sloping forehead finally made you blind?
'Oh my loving deity is all butt hurt so he's going to allow little kids to be killed.'
As usual, Damocles made me laugh out loud.
Martha is a blockhead.
Ban Hillary from this blog!
A little humor with a little education isn't a bad thing. :)
Hmmm. I'll have to think on that one, Dam. I think a lot of education with a little bit of humor is good. The reverse, not so much. And religion? Not even in the running.
Baby steps. Education is wasted on those that don't want to be educated.
Very well said Martha.
I don't ask 'where was a deity'. That's like asking 'where was the easter bunny' or 'where was Richard Rahl' when all this took place.
I don't have a hard time believing you Damocles. After all there's a very thin line between atheists and communists beliefs. They're both about the same as far as i'm concern. Christmas is a good example, both atheists and communist give the same answer when it comes to raise their voices about Christmas.
how about your beloved fundie Protestant Puritans? Tell me what was their stance on Christmas again, I've forgotten it.
Oh, communism, yes let's look at that.... a place for everyone and everyone in their place, working for the common good, no want except for what you are told to want, no need except for what you are told to need, one person in control of it all.... sounds.... like... religion. Weird.
ban certain words that begin with N, ban prayer, ban freedom of religion
God punishes in mysterious ways.
Hahahaha funny. God is a evil sob if that is the case. Vicious and evil as the devil HE made
So the innocent children were deserving then?
Chad has no problem with child sacrifice. He can't have kids, so he doesn't give a crap about these children.
Chad, God didn't punish anyone, it was this punk who punished many before taking his own life, so stop posting nonsense comments.
@GOPer "So the innocent children were deserving then?"
We are deserving as a nation of far worse for having turned our backs on God. The Jewish people have suffered. Others have suffered. Sometimes it's our turn.
I'm not talking about the rest of us. I'm talking about 6-year-olds whose last mortal memory is that of fear and searing pain ending in death.
Nice God you've got there.
I wonder, Chard, would you have sacrificed yourself to save even one of these little kids?
No atheist that i know would have given their life to save another one, they're too coward for that.
LOL.....where was God? Oh, so God is ONLY remembered during tragedy and ignored when nothing is happening? American has driven God away from our nation and then you have the nerve to ask, "where was God????"
I am so sorry, but America is reaping so hard for the sins that we are involved in to the point that even our children are dying behind it. We need Christ in our nation like never before. Only he can set the captive free from their own self-wisdom and self-destruction. May God have mercy on us and help us.
Religion is dying. Your god is thankfully departing. Feel free to cling onto your security blanket for as long as you need.
Just Me, you are right on the money. Well stated. Pompous atheists could never understand what you wrote, but many, many God loving people do. Thank you.
Is it just me or does anyone else here think this person hasn't received an education past high school?
End Religion – God is only departing from fools such as yourself, but as for us who remain faithful to God, He stays close. If it wasn't for God's faithful people in America, America would have been destroyed a long ago.
No way. We need Thor, he totally would have stopped that shooter with his hammer. Or maybe Zeus, he could have thrown a lightning bolt at the shooter.
Or maybe what we need is to be adults and stop believing in myths?
Religion is destroying the country, contributing to the divisiveness. If togetherness is your goal, let's just drop the religion thing. Sound good?
People come and go. Nations come, and they go. Thankfully God is eternal.
ban smoking, ban transfats, ban liquor ads
ban fox news, ban rush, ban sugar
ban free speech, ban talk radio, ban tea partiers
This was a horrible tragedy committed by a young man who obviously had issues with his mom, and took out his wrath on her and other innocents. Those are the facts. I will pray for the families left behind.
By the way, in response to earlier comments listed, I know that Jesus Christ is real. He answered my prayers and does so every day. Maybe not in the way I imagined he would, but then He is God, not me!
If you haven't experienced this, then you have never had a relationship with Him. That is why it is difficult to understand.
Want to have peace and know that you are more than skin and bones that will rot after death? Then seek Him in the Bible, or go talk with someone who is a Christian.
By the way, God is just. This means he allows mankind to act freely. It was a man who committed this act, and he will pay with etermity. If you don't believe in anything other than your own understanding than I would be real scared right now. Think about it, ignorance is no excuse.
Stop praying and see if anything changes.
Amen my brother/sister!
Unfortunately, religion is the single most common excuse for ignorance.
Josh – I see your ignorance very clear as Christ is NOT about RELIGION.
Atheism = Religion (known to be the most hateful group and the most rejected religion in America)
HistoryHistory, sounds like you have it all figured out. Just be warned that your mind can make anything real. The more you pray, the more you gather with other people about this "God"... eventually, it becomes a part of your existence and your psyche and you stop questioning it. Problem is, there is absolutely no proof that what your experiencing is real or just in your mind. You seem to have complete faith that you won't die when you ....die. You sure about that? I guarantee that if you moved to a country where there were no Christians, it wouldn't seem as real anymore.
Joe Pesci answers my prayers. If you've never felt a special connection with Joe Pesci, then you can't understand what it is like. I feel really bad for you for not having a deep, meaningful relationship with Joe Pesci like I do.
I've seen enough miracles to be convinced. My telling you of them won't convince you, though; I'm quite confident that if I were to recount that on the fifty or so occasions where I asked for specific weather, I got it (I stopped counting at about there – no failures, I had a sufficient sample size for my own needs, although the Biblically listed requirements for doing that sort of thing have the rather annoying effect that while you can ask such things when you need to, He won't do it for you when you're doing it to test Him... which is a bitter pill for those looking at gathering empirical evidence... although it's not insurmountable). For the goal of convincing you, it doesn't matter that I can recount multiple instances where by all rights the house I grew up in should have burned down, and simply didn't. Likewise, the little matter that I've got an uncle with before & after X-Rays that left three doctors completely puzzled for hours on end because what happened for him simply did not fit the doctors' worldview is going to be completely unconvincing for you. It will be completely unconvincing if I recount a tale where I found myself in a split-second life-or-death situation on the road that I had never thought about, never trained for, and where I watched my hands and feet do exactly what was needed to keep me completely unharmed... without me actually giving them instructions. I've got more things I could tell you, the evidence of my own senses, but it doesn't matter. I could recount a simple exercise where combing the established laws of physics with accepted logical forms and the existence of the universe leads to a contradiction. That would convince nobody.
I am fairly sure I will be called a liar, a fool, a deceiver, or maybe someone will say I've been tricked by rampant coincidence and/or have some form of psychological trouble. After all, as far as anyone here can tell, I'm nothing more than a pattern of electrical impulses down a wire. If I write anything that doesn't fit with a reader's world view, that reader will pretty much always reject what I write as invalid in one form or another.
I, however, have the testimony of my own senses which tell me that God exists, and that the Bible is His Word. And for me, that is enough.
"And for me, that is enough."
Great, but that's not enough for most rational people. So please keep it to yourself. Thanks.
Why should I keep my beliefs to myself when you clearly do not?
Adam C: Oh yes, and I also find it amusing that in response to my talking about trusting the evidence of my senses, you mentioned that it's "not enough for most rational people". I'm curious: What standards should be used if a person's senses aren't considered reliable for a rational person?
We need prayers back to school ASAP
Those damn atheists are annoying as hell !!
Not half as annoying as your lack of writing skills.
Thanks to these evil atheists, we are now losing children in the hands of evil atheist who are killing dozen of innocent children and people.
That's what we need, more fiction.
Fiction – Sure because teaching children that we "evolved by apes" isn't fiction, eh?
I completely agree. Allah must be allowed back into schools.
No? Why not?
Atheists are fools, like the Bible states. Complete, stupid, ignorant, petty little miserable fools.
Don't you see? Atheists are god's will. Unless they do something really bad. Then it was Satan's will. But if an atheist does something good, like donate to a charity, then god touched that atheist for just a moment. But if that atheist does something bad again, clearly Satan at work.
If ignorance is bliss, you must be incredibly blissful.
As a reverand, now I beleive the religion we stick to is fake!! REAL christianity does NOT exist any more.
it's easy to know atheists trolling and pretending being religious leaders lol
You are no Rev, but a child of the devil.
haha, he's the Revil!
It's well know that its an atheists game, they're a bunch of cowards that love to hide themselves among religious groups and politicians that pretends to be religious people and create wars just to make religion a bad name. They're playing this game for centuries and they're only goal is to make all religions being wiped out. Atheists=Evil..
Some Jews have rejected their faith after the holocaust.
What they do not realize is that the holocaust is the punishment from God for refusing to accept Christ.
What about the millions of Christians killed during the war?
That is bizarre, to say the least. You are a truly sick individual. And what kind of a psychopathic God would inflict the holocaust as a punishment. Thank you for the most compelling reason this year to be an atheist.
You have a sick mind.
Very sorry for all families and all children who can not reach to high school. They do nothing wrong and have to die too early.
So sad for for whose nation.
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.