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.
Follow the CNN Belief Blog on Twitter
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.
CNN’s Belief Blog: The faith angles behind the biggest stories
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.
If you believe God is some sort of being sitting watching all this, then you have to decide is he active or is he not a player. When I lost two kids in 2005 in a car accident, all those questions went into the discussion. All the usual phrases 'God has a plan', "They are in a better place", "God only gives us what we can handle" etc only made me angrier. A loving 'father' wouldn't kill his kids as part of any plan.
The minister who spoke at the funeral said something that may or may not fit. His take was God had a choice, to be all loving or all controlling. If we are speaking in terms of a 'father', then like any parent, at a certain points you know the kids are going to have to make it on their own. My youngest daughter was riding with my oldest son. I didn't send them out to die, yet there was no way to control things to promise they wouldn't.
So stuff happens. I guess I'd rather have free will then know that someone was pulling the strings and decided my kids had to die. I don't have any patience for a 'selective' God. As that means he saves some and lets others die. I don't need a father like that. My kids were great kids and did nothing to deserve dying.
I learned no lesson from it. I'm not a better person. It served no purpose other then to bring pain. No active "God" would do that to his kids.
I do believe I'll see my kids again someday. And in that regard I can live with the idea that "God is Love". That doesn't make 'him' a person in a chair somewhere with a ledger keeping track of things. But it does allow for the idea that what we call love is the thing the binds us and allows us to keep going.
If there is a God in control then he needs to end this thing and let us on to the next level of 'life'. As this BS is getting real old fast. Again, no loving "Father' would allow his children to continue to suffer like this if he had the power to stop it.
It is very sad, but it is HIS will, we may never know in life, but sure we will know the reason after we are with them, remember we do not own our children, but just care taker's as parents, they are not our's, but HIS, like us, What HE chooses, is HIS will, and we do not question HIS wisdom.
"there is no other truth but truth absolute, and truth absolute is LORD AND GOD OF THE WORLD.
It is very sad, but it is HIS will, we may never know in life, but sure we will know the reason after we are with them, remember we do not own our children, but just care taker's as parents, they are not our's, but HIS, like us, What HE chooses, is HIS will, and we do not question HIS wisdom."
To the person who replied with the above to my post. If this is the 'truth', then you are saying God chose to have a mass shooting today for reasons unknown to us. Basically anything we do is beyond our control so we're off the hook? It's all part of God's plan? Might as well go and do whatever I want tomorrow as it won't be my idea anyway?
How can you believe that?
God lives inside us all upon a scale so tiny God has no way to interfere with our measures of living out our lives. We are God's buildings that he and his kind did thru his husbandry conceive us into being and once born we are God's building where all God's kind and our lost loved ones are taken up in residence deeply upon our bodies insides. Our world is not a Godly kingdom nor will it ever be. We are free to be social animals doing whatever our will does cal; us to do. I'm sorry for your children's demise and I am grieved by the issues happening today in Connecticut. God loves us all but he is too small to help our plights yet after one dies does God give us a better realm to live within upon one's families inner kingdom domains!
Luke 17:21 Neither shall they say, Lo here! or, lo there! for, behold, the kingdom of God is within/inside you.
1Corinthians 3:9 For we are labourers together with God: ye are God's husbandry, [ye are] God's building.
god didnt kill 20 kids today, it was human action. same with the dark ages, these were actions taken by mankind. if people followed the 10 commandments then they would see that one of them is thall shall not kill!
and canadian jim, god has used punishment on the jews many times in the bible for worshiping false gods, straying from the laws and other things. i wont say that god punished them with the holocaust cause thats a pretty bold statement and i dont know that for sure. at least if were going on biblical text then it shows they have been punished by god on many occasions.
and i dont know "messianic jew" if that happened because they refused to accept christ, remember that jerusalem fell in 70 AD and many were dispersed throughout the world, maybe that was their punishment
phil get your head out of your azz and read your bible – it is chock FULL of your god commanding people to kill other people
If one truly understands the following one will believe in God and know well that the lost in today's tragedy are in their families hearts to be their forever as long as they remain here upon this God forsaken world.
That is why I stand upon 4 verses of scripture and disregard the rest due most scripture is based upon unknowable terms.
1.) Mathew 6:33 " But seek ye first the kingdom of God"
niknak, I have made it my life's journey to seek out God's kingdom domains and bring my findings to be made public for all to ponder!
2.) John 18:36 "Jesus answered, My kingdom is not of this world "
This verse of scripture may well have brought about the LDS movement.
3.) Luke 17:21 Neither shall they say, Lo here! or, lo there! for, behold, the kingdom of God is within/inside you.
There is only one verse of scripture that declares the whereabouts of the kingdom of God domains and Luke 17:21 is it!
4.) 1Cr 3:9 For we are labourers together with God: ye are God's husbandry, [ye are] God's building.
Our being labourers together with God tells me that both we and God are equally doing that which is needed to maintain in equal measuring; both our physical bodies and God's domains being inside our bodies and that God and his kind have made our bodies in their husbandry ways.
Because God is in a dimension so very small all of us do die in order to be reborn into God's realms of the bodies heavenly places! May those who are found losing their loved ones today in Connecticut, be found a semblance of emotional ease knowing in fath that the Kingdom of God truly is inside us all!
No God does not exist, if he is all powerful things like this would not happen.
We should have a law that all schools should have security guard, Security system like we have in all companies , hospitals, govt. offices . We have to protect these innocent children
Very important issue !!!!
ban cartoons, ban pesticides, ban gm foods, ban fossil fuels
I think God is asking why we still let the NRA determine the lives of American citizens. Massacres in churches, malls, and now elementary schools. How much longer do we let this go on?
its amazing, some people believe there is no God, until they need him
Religion is the opium of the people- Karl Marx
Where is god? In the same place he's always been: your imagination. If you challenge my assessment then you must ask yourself these questions: Why did god allow this man to kill all of these people? Or is your god so powerless and/or callous that he would allow such senseless massacres to happen?
And where did you come from?
From my mother's uterus. Why? Did you come from a cabbage patch? A stork? A swamp?
MURDER WAS AN ATHEIST!!!!!!!!!! Watch Fox News !!
ALL MURDERERS ARE ATHEISTS!!
“I am convinced that I am acting as the agent of our Creator. By fighting off the Jews, I am doing the Lord’s work.” Adolf Hitler, Mein Kampf
“My feeling as a Christian points me to my Lord and Savior as a fighter. ….. As a Christian ……I have the duty to be a fighter for truth and justice.” Adolf Hitler
ban movies, ban alcohol, ban commuter trains,
Where is God – we seem to push him out of everything we do – no school prayer, no "merry christmas" but just "happy holidays", people trying to take away the pledge of allegience, and so forth and so on.
He is there indeed and sometimes God allows tragedies like these to occur that he we comfort and love one another more and that His tender mercies may be manifest in the lives of His children.
We need to be draw closer to Him that His blessings will be poured out in more abundance.
May God bless and heal the families impacted by this massacre and sensless violence is my prayer.
God is up my ass. After all, he is everywhere.
What poor decision making ability you display. You choose to worship a god that kills kids because he's unhappy some of us say "happy holidays" instead of "merry christmas"? Wow, frighteningly poor critical thinking there, fella. Get your priorities straight. If there's a god and he kills kids on a whim like that, maybe, you know seek an alternative.
God does not exist, if he really did he would not allow such horrible things to happen.
Science and technology created every weapon and bombs and many have access to this. I BLAME SCIENCE AND ATHEISTS!
This guy was an atheists....one less dumb atheists in our world.
Another moron brays.
Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son – Just another moron fool responding.
Throw your computer away then..
"Guns don't kill, people do."
Wait... scratch that.
"People don't kill, God does."
Wait... scratch that.
"God doesn't kill, people have free will"
Wait... scratch that.
"People don't have free will, it's all a part of god's plan."
Atay in hind, darkness of hindu atheism, denial of truth absolute, hindu, secular.
Guns help people kill people.
Many of you people are sickening and terrible. This is a historic tragedy. People all over this nation are mourning the lose of. 20 children and you chose this time to crack jokes and ridicule each other over a personal choice. This blog is not news. It is designed to create what it has created – friction. If you believe in God leave the atheists alone and stop trying to 'make your point'. People don't get converted through blog posts. If you don't believe then put that aside for the sake of the hurting families and join with those who do believe to simply wish the families well. I don't know who to be sadder for – the children or some of you for your terrible behavior.
I agree with you 100%.
The innocent children are angels being with God in heaven... better place than this evil society.
We lost beautiful children unfortunately. Ban guns!
You clearly don't understand Abrahamic monotheism if you think that people become angels.
God is where HE has always been and where HE will be for all of Eternity; In HEAVEN.
Some people are going to Heaven and most people are not. Not everybody is going to heaven, not everybody is going to hell. More people are going to hell than those who are going to Heaven. Nothing complicated about it, you don't need a Ph.D. to understand that. But if you have a Ph.D. you probably will not understand that because having a Ph. D. does not make you able to understand that. Most of the people who don't understand that don't have a Ph.D. Most of the people who do understand it don't have a Ph.D. either. So the field is pretty much level. Children can understand that God is in Heaven, has always been in Heaven and will always be in Heaven for all of Eternity.
Now go and tell somebody else who needs to hear. That's a human virtue still left standing.
No, God is always with us and and know's, what we do, but HE keeps HIS promise of choice, later to be held accountable.
And Santa's at the North Pole. What's your point, buddy? You, for whatever reason, believe in a delusional fairy tale. Okay, Just keep it to yourself, please and thank you.
Your ignorance of Scripture is understandable as it has been demonstrated. So in answering to your post; NO, God is where HE has always been and where HE will always be for all of ETERNITY; In Heaven.
NO, HE is not always with us, He is always ABOVE us. We are always BEFORE HIM. When we do wrong and in our wrong doings, we do it AWAY from HIM and HE is NOT in any form, shape or way an ACCOMPLICE of our evil deeds.
Actually, atheists may be below the level of apes.
Apes, like all other animals and lower level Created creatures do have and follow routines and rituals. What apes and all other animals and Created creatures DO NOT have is, "religion".
Religion or to have and practice a religion, is an attribute ONLY of Human beings.
So, in other words, ONLY humans [mankind] can or do have religion. God, our common Creator, has granted to man but NOT to apes, to have or practice religion.
There is nothing inherently wrong with having or practicing "religion". There is something inherently wrong with being at, even below the level of apes, by not having religion and only routines and rituals.
Having and/or practicing "religion" or a simple belief in God. Or at a very minimum, a belief in the Supreme Being or a Creator is that one big thing that differentiates and separates us Humans, from the apes and the rest of the animals' et al.
ban swimming pools, ban marbles, ban cribs, ban parents
Damn, atheists are the biggest fools and the most ignorant stupid people on here. You say, I know your religion better then you, and they say, there is no God, but yet, they blame God for what's going on. How can you damn FOOLS blame what doesn't exist to you?
Are you retarded?
Rational Libertarian – Look, the RETARDED FOOL replied to me!
We blame the guy who caused this tragedy. We blame the system that allows guns to be sold to anyone with a valid driver's license and a 10 minute multiple choice test. We blame the lack of affordable mental health care in the US.
We don't blame anyone's gods.
Atheists don't believe god exists. Why would they be asking where he was? They're trying to show you how silly your belief system is.
Atheists have not evolved enough to be above the level of apes. I pray to God to help atheists to develop progress and evolve enough, so that they can rise above the level of apes.
@ his – umm, was that an attempt at wit? Or humour? Just wondering.
There are a lot of post asking, "Where is God?" Do we forget that our government wanted separation of church and state. We do not want merry CHRISTmas, we want Happy Holidays. Our Forefathers founded this nation with god in their hearts and minds. It is tragic what happen. I have an 11yr old in Intermediate school and a 2yr old going to school eventually. But this happening makes you think. Is our NATIONS values and priorities straight. Our officials need to take this event and protect the people they represent. This sad moment is not the first in our history, but what do we do to prevent this happening again. Tons of questions, the answers are going to be hard pressed in coming. Whatever the solution, we can't please everyone with what we agree to, we just have to make sure we believe in it. Enforce it.
Every time an atheist says Happy Holidays, a madman gets his guns.
"Our forefathers had god in their heart?". You need to get an education. Our forefathers were deists and unitarians, not Christians. Almost all of them had no belief in god at all and were highly criticized by Christians for it. All you Christians running in like ambulance chaser lawyers at such an awful time make me sick to my stomach. Thank goodness statistical trends show you'll all be gone in my lifetime.
I believe in free will. I am not persecuting anyone. You believe as you do, we believe as we do. Period. I do pray that for all of mankind though, that you have tolerance for your fellow human being. I still believe He reigns, I will always believe He does, and you aren't the first person to put me or someone else down because you don't have the heart to believe that there is something better than this evil in this world. Seriously, believe as you will, I will as I do. God bless.
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.