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.
As I once read, God either doesn't exist, doesn't care, or is not all powerful and unable to do anything about it.
‘Where is God when this happens?’” God is NOT superman or batman, he is not supposed to intervene.
Then the prayers for cash/money, cards and bling are given freely. How amazing.
Not that it is able to intervene either. To intervene it needs to exist first. I guess you would agree existence is essential for intervention.
Yet he's given praise for every good thing that happens, yeah?
I think Batman is a better hero.
Our government and liberal society pushes God out of schools and now we wonder where God is when a tragedy happens.....
Blame the consti.tuition....
Over and over with this same post? Because we don't have prayer in school your god has chosen to allow children to be murdered? Sounds like a petulant and impotent god to me.
Well gosh – removing Bible reading from public schools was a 1st Amendment thing. Hmmm. Let's see – how did that come about???
Listen to James Madison, POTUS #4, and the chief architect of the U.S. Constitution:
During almost fifteen centuries has the legal establishment of Christianity been on trial. What has been its fruits? More or less in all places, pride and indolence in the clergy; ignorance and servility in the laity; in both, superstition, bigotry, and persecution.
(A Remonstrance . . to the Virginia General Assembly in 1785.)
Listen to John Adams, POTUS #2:
I almost shudder at the thought of alluding to the most fatal example of the abuses of grief which the history of mankind has preserved – the Cross. Consider what calamities that engine of grief has produced! With the rational respect that is due to it, knavish priests have added prostitutions of it, that fill or might fill the blackest and bloodiest pages of human history. "
(in a letter to Thomas Jefferson, 09/03/1816)
The United States of America have exhibited, perhaps, the first example of governments erected on the simple principles of nature; and if men are now sufficiently enlightened to disabuse themselves of artifice, imposture, hypocrisy, and superstition, they will consider this event as an era in their history. It will never be pretended that any persons employed in that service had interviews with the gods, or were in any degree under the influence of Heaven, more than those at work upon ships or houses, or laboring in merchandise or agriculture; it will forever be acknowledged that these governments were contrived merely by the use of reason and the senses.
Thirteen governments [of the original states] thus founded on the natural authority of the people alone, without a pretence of miracle or mystery, and which are destined to spread over the northern part of that whole quarter of the globe, are a great point gained in favor of the rights of mankind.
(from A Defence of the Constitutions of Government of the United States of America [1787-1788])
Listen to Ben Franklin:
Some books against Deism fell into my hands; they were said to be the substance of the sermons which had been preached at Boyle’s Lectures. It happened that they wrought an effect on me quite contrary to what was intended by them. For the arguments of the Deists, which were quoted to be refuted, appeared to be much stronger than the refutations; in short, I soon became a thorough Deist.
(from his Autobiography)
Thomas Paine was very Deistic. He witness Quakers being hung in Massachusetts by other Christians:
I do not believe in the creed professed by the Jewish church, by the Roman church, by the Greek church, by the Turkish church, by the Protestant church, nor by any church that I know of. My own mind is my own church. All national institutions of churches, whether Jewish, Christian or Turkish, appear to me no other than human inventions, set up to terrify and enslave mankind, and monopolize power and profit.
Thomas Jefferson had his own Deistic version of the Bible.
Millions of innocent men, women, and children, since the introduction of Christianity, have been burnt, tortured, fined, imprisoned; yet we have not advanced one inch towards uniformity. What has been the effect of coercion? To make one half the world fools, and the other half hypocrites. To support roguery and error all over the earth.
(from Notes on the State of Virginia)
Of course Deism holds to the belief of God as the creator of the universe. But many Deists also believed that God did not interfere with the lives of his creation. And many Deists disbelieved in all of the "magic" in the Bible – some of them refuting the Bible and Christianity completely.
Jefferson, Washington, Adams, Paine, Mason & Madison all witnessed the violent persecution between Christian sects in their home states around the time the government was being established. So it is of no surprise that they needed a secular government and they knew the only way to enforce freedom of religion was to keep religion out of the government as much as possible.
Listen to James Madison speak about the need for the need to keep religion out of government (Jefferson wasn't the only one to explicitly speak of the separation of church and state):
Every new & successful example therefore of a perfect separation between ecclesiastical and civil matters, is of importance. And I have no doubt that every new example, will succeed, as every past one has done, in shewing that religion & Govt. will both exist in greater purity, the less they are mixed together.
The Civil Govt, tho' bereft of everything like an associated hierarchy, possesses the requisite stability and performs its functions with complete success, Whilst the number, the industry, and the morality of the Priesthood, & the devotion of the people have been manifestly increased by the total separation of the Church from the State.
(from letters to Edward Livingston and Robert Walsh)
Madison as president vetoed two bills that he believed would violate the separation of church and state. He also came to oppose the long-established practice of employing chaplains at public expense in the House of Representatives and Senate on the grounds that it violated the separation of church and state and the principles of religious freedom. (Library of Congress – James Madison Papers – Detached memorandum, ca. 1823.)
President John Adams and the U.S. Senate on behalf of the U.S.
As the Government of the United States of America is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion;
(from Article 11 of the U.S. treaty ratified with Tripoli in 1797)
Senator John F Kennedy said on Sept. 12, 1960, just prior to his winning the Presidential election:
I believe in an America where the separation of church and state is absolute.
And another vote for "God slaughtered these kids because their teacher didn't make them pray." Sicko.
Ah. God isn't being worshipped in schools, so, he lets bad things happen in schools.
That is some terrific god you have, there. What a guy!
So if you're right about atheists, then what makes Christians so much more evolved? Are they smarter? stronger? Less likely to get duped into believing in magic?
I have more money now and I'm better looking too. My wife also says I'm a better lover. God is good!
So let me get this straight, a God that doesn't interveen when he is being crusified is some how expected to open up the sky and reach his hand down to stop all wrong doing? Atheist are so simple minded.
Are you serious? Atheists DON'T BELIEVE IN GOD! So no, they're not asking any of those questions unless they want to be amused by the stupid answers that theists come up with.
cecil b. demile , made some of the most famous productions in history, moses and the ten commandments.
i can tell you right now those little children are heaven in one of the biggest plays you can imagine right by his side.
You're forgetting the children that are atheists that are going to hell. Or did you not learn anything from your religion?
children aren't as stupid as adults , THEY BELIEVE IN GOD until they finally become scathed by this world
and lose heart. My religion says their innocent until they reach an age of accountability.
The little psychological mind tricks and gimmicks that you use to grasp your delusions... good luck with that.
Children believe in Santa and elves, too, when they hear about them. Kids who are not raised in a religious household never automatically beleive in god. They love stories and fantasy and believe what they're told.
Then they get old enough to ask questions, and they know better.
Hope it's not an Abrahamic religion, 1 Sam 15:3...
at ANSWER , that's why GODS WORD SAYS " i tell you unless you become like one of these little ones , you
will not inherit the kingdom of god " that was jesus speaking while holding a child.
FUNNY!!! We only ask about God when it's time to count our sores, but never our blessings. Unemployment drops and no one brings up God. A Pakistani girl survives a shooting by the Taliban and no one thinks to thank God. Mitt Romney loses and no one thinks to thank God, yet when evil rears it's head, everyone seems quick to ask "Why God?" People of faith may know this but it is written that in the last days men would blaspheme and curse God for their pain and their suffering rather than repent of their sins. I'm begining to think that these prophets may have been on to something.
You nuts like to give those whack jobs that label..
We are not cursing God, we are just being presented with further proof that God is a figment of human imagination.
Menal181, it's a lost of energy and time trying to make atheists understanding that. They can't think of anything else but cursing God on a daily basis on every single articles where the name of God is mentioned.
Hell, I'd have prayed to anyone or anything if it meant keeping Romney out of office.
@1400 that's the kind of thing smug assholes like to say.
You could provide evidence.
That'll be great.
God has never left. But I think he is wondering WHERE HAVE YOU BEEN??? Sometimes it takes a tragedy like this to make people fall to their knees and talk to God. Perhaps this country is a little slow and needs to realize the reason why there is such hate and evil in the world is because people have made no time for God. Jesus will come again...I hope you are ready
Satan has lost because tonight when people go to bed more people will thank God for all that they have and hold their children tighter. Stop talking about the gunman. He does not deserve the publicity. He is a coward. Anyone who copycats an act such as this will receive the same punishment as this guy.
We kicked God out of school years ago that's why he's not there.
Ugh, now I'm really convinced it's the same person.
God was banned from school. Remember?
I banned him from my house too. No problems here.
So he threw a hissy fit and allowed children to be murdered?
Many people ask, " where is God ", when they leave God out of their way of life.
"God is Love"
You heard it before but what you don't realize is being love, He can't interfere with your decisions.
Love can not be demanded, if it's not willing , it's not love.
He knocks on the door of our lives but the knob is on the inside, we must open, He is polite and will not come barging in.
Huh? He loves us so much he can't interfere with the decision of a mass murderer to kill children? Not following your logic here...
Mick there's so much out there what you will never understand. Unless you change.
The definition of your word "change" is this –> "convert" to my flavor of stupidity. You see?
What about the other religions? LOL
We've tied God's hands behind His back, there's nothing He can do.
You heard me but you don't understand it's meaning. You never will anyway, why bother?
Let me translate for 1400: "I'm going to say cryptic BS as if I actually have something meaningful to say...but I'm just mouthing rhetoric because that's all I know."
Seriously? Where was God? He is no longer allowed in our schools. Enough said.
This is the most asinine reason given.
Let me make sure I have this straight, then – since there's no prayer in school, and the bible isn't taught – god has turned his back? Is that what you're saying? God is a sulky teenager that stands back and says "Oh well?"
What a dick.
Is your theory that because kids aren't told to pray in class God sent someone to slaughter the kids? That's a pretty sick atti.tude.
Only dumb atheists are asking where was God. They remind me of when you pour holy water on a possessed person that person goes into convulsions. Atheists too go into convulsions when they hear the name of God.
Only dumb atheists eh?
"“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.
Lucado says that pastors everywhere will be scrapping their scheduled Sunday sermons to address the massacre."
That's not what the article says.
You're reading too much and not thinking enough.
@1400 I've yet to see that happen literally or figuratively...but hey, whatever floats your boat.
Yeah – that Bible reading and prayer thing in schools was a 1st Amendment thing. How did that come about I wonder......
1400, your comment gets my vote for the stupidest comment on here. No atheist is asking "Where is God?" for obvious reasons. It it a completely pointless question that gets asked every time something tragic happens. I've never heard of anyone screaming from holy water, because it's just water. The latest science is uncovering a rare disorder and is what was most likely considered demon possession at the time. And the idea that atheists go into convulsions when they hear God's name...well what is God's name? Allah? Yahweh? Psy? That too is just embarrassing. Why would I go into convulsions from hearing a word?
I really hope that you're 12, if you're an adult, I can guarantee that your job requires no intelligence.
@mama k – fundies have reading comprehension problems when it's anything but a bible quote. Can you summarize that in tiny words for them?
Let's come together today for once.
Even when Evolution believes humans evolved from monkeys God created the monkeys to beggin with...God is the beggining of evolution the Alpha and the Omega...Evolution is but the expression of God's doings...
A basic Anthropology class would teach you that evolution *doesn't* say humans evolved from monkeys. You would learn that we evolved from a *common ancestor*, a cousin of the monkeys. Imagine the difference represented in the letter "Y" where the two individual arms are connected together at a branch point that is the "tail". Humans and monkeys are their own separate branches, paralleling eachother but do have a common origin, AKA a common ancestor. Don't argue from the position of evolution,as if you understand it, when you clearly don't.
Your last brain cell called, it wants to be put out of its misery.
Evolution doesn't believe anything, it's a process.
human evolved from monkeys????? But the god created monkeys making god the alpha and omega????
Are you high on pot (which of course is also created by the God)?
Evolution is the lie that divides not only our country, but the world.
I just wanted to say that your English is really good.
Without reading all 1424 responses, my only comment to the headline is this.... most of the people asking this question is the ones that have helped remove God from school to begin with. Amazing how people want to know where God was during this.... He was right there with those children and staff members that lost their lives. He was holding their hands and comforting them when they were scared. He is now taking care of them in his home.
You're a joke.
You're the joke.
The thing is that there's no real evidence this is suddenly a question for anyone. This whole topic is just coming out of the author's head.
I'll borrow a line from "nope" ..
So you're telling me that if we allow prayer in school, specifically the christian god, that he would have physically stopped the shooter but since our country has decided to respect all other religions and made public schools non denominational god decided to respect human laws and allow this horrendous act to occur?
I see this type of comment over anad over. And it implies one thing: that god may have helped if he was part of our public education system.
But because there's no school prayer, and the bible isn't taught, well, god turned his back.
Why do you think so little of your god that you make him out to be a pouty nutjob?
funny how you claimed to not have read any of the comments, yet posted what so many of the other nut jobs said. I'm starting to wonder if it's the same person.
I don't care what your beliefs are, but if this one incident is raising this question for you when the thousands of children dying horrifically daily hasn't, you haven't been paying attention. This is a horrible, awful day for anyone affected and it's terrible to see. But pretending like this is the first horror implies what...that no one was paying attention in the Norway shootings and the nightmare itsunamis never occurred? I don't mean to say we shouldn't respond in shock now, but no media person is remotely shocked unless they had their head in the sand. This kind of writing ireeks of pretentious condescension.
You are so right. Look at these statistics:
21,000 children die every day:
That is equivalent to:
•1 child dying every 4 seconds
•14 children dying every minute
•A 2011 Libya conflict-scale death toll every day
•A 2010 Haiti earthquake occurring every 10 days
•A 2004 Asian Tsunami occurring every 11 days
•An Iraq-scale death toll every 19–46 days
•Just under 7.6 million children dying every year
•Some 92 million children dying between 2000 and 2010
The silent killers are poverty, hunger, easily preventable diseases and illnesses, and other related causes. Despite the scale of this daily/ongoing catastrophe, it rarely manages to achieve, much less sustain, prime-time, headline coverage.
They cast God out of their midst, teach the children that there is no God, and that we have become our own gods, and have no need for God and His laws being displayed in our schools and public places. And then they ask WHERE WAS GOD?
He left us, and is leaving us to our own devices! The only thing to hope for is just more of it, till we hav enough of it and humble ourselves before Him crawling in the dust, crying out to Him. There is NO OTHER ANSWER!
So let me get this straight – you're hoping for more school shootings?
So your loving father beats you and murders you until you come to him and say 'I love you and I deserve all the things you do to me'. Sick.
You could have gotten it straight the first time, but your mind is twisted!
I understand your frustration- but a word of encouragement would be nice. Besides, Christ said he would never leave or forsake His people. There will always be hope for the hopeful. Let's give lots of love and support and not anger. It's such a sad day my heart cannot stop crying for those families.
Please explain to me how you know that all of those 20 children and their families taught that there is no God and cast god from their midst? Actually, don't try to explain it, because you already look enough like a damn fool.
My loving Father warns people He created not to leave Him out. But when they think they don't need Him and walk away, they walk into the camp of the enemy. Is that hard to understand for an inteligent mind?
So that means god is a pouty jackass who has decided to stand by and watch because he isn't getting his way. Does god know you're slandering him like this?
Nope, I totally get it and my first post still rings true. You like the kin-ky, S&M thrills your belief allows you to have. You want the father figure in your head to rough you up a bit, smack you around, hey that's your bit, I don't judge.
This kind of evil does not happen overnight. It is a process, and it simmers deep down inside of human souls. God says to even flee from the appearance of evil.But we are a nation that glorifies and glamorizes evil and violence.When someone speaks against all those evil things that influence the minds of our young generation, they are attacked as if they were enemies of freedom and ridiculed as if they were fools.
So, what fruits do you expect from the seeds you sow? Why then do you blame God, and demonize those who speak the truth to you?
God had nothing to do with this tragedy. He said those things will happen in times nearing the end when iniquity abounds and all imagination of human heart would become evil like in the days of Noah. But He also said, WOE is to him and those by whom the offences come.
Those people who know the Lord in times like these WILL have Him at their side because He will not leave them nor forsake them. Their little ones are beholding the face of God in the presence of multi/tude of angels. That is our comfort and consolation. And it is NOT 'THE END'!
My loving Father warns people He created not to leave Him out. But when they think they don't need Him and walk away, they walk into the camp of the enemy. Is that hard to understand for an inteligent mind?
It is extremely difficult for an intelligent mind can understand that allowing the slaughter of children because they or their parents don't show their need for him enough can be called a loving father. Yes, that is incomprehensible to anyone with an ounce of intelligence. We finally agree.
Hey, Prissy! Is your idol Samuel Barber in Heaven? You do realize that your hero was gay, don't you?
Then some of the scribes and Pharisees answered, saying, “Teacher, we want to see a sign from You.”
But He answered and said to them, “An evil and adulterous generation seeks after a sign, and no sign will be given to it except the sign of the prophet Jonah. 40 For as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the great fish, so will the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth. The men of Nineveh will rise up in the judgment with this generation and condemn it, because they repented at the preaching of Jonah; and indeed a greater than Jonah is here. The queen of the South will rise up in the judgment with this generation and condemn it, for she came from the ends of the earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon; and indeed a greater than Solomon is here.
********"When an unclean spirit goes out of a man, he goes through dry places, seeking rest, and finds none. Then he says, ‘I will return to my house from which I came.’ And when he comes, he finds it empty, swept, and put in order. Then he goes and takes with him seven other spirits more wicked than himself, and they enter and dwell there; and the last state of that man is worse than the first. So shall it also be with this wicked generation.”************
So it is with any nation and its people. Bit because the Lord was once known honored in our midst, this nation's sin is far greater after He was cast out of it. And the demonic powers unleashed in it are far greater then in those that have not known Him and made their covenant with Him .
Nothing is done without consequences!
Really...people are asking "Where's God?" We kicked God out of public schools years ago... can't teach creation or mention the Bible in public schools. But when there is trouble we dare ask where's God!
Wake up people.
"We" don't ask where god is. Christians and journalists do.
Yes, you're supposed to get the myth education at home. Here is some helpful info since you seemed to have slept through high school government class.
Enough of the atheist nonsense of never providing full disclosure or accountability to any of their posts. Separation of church and state means the government can NOT mandate a religion that everyone needs to abide in order to live in our country. With that said, erasing God's truth from our schools and public locations is forcing the atheist's religion down our throats.
I encourage all readers to research each of those posts. Read the full documents, letters from which they were taken.
God is still here. You could see the atrocious a man could be without God, how much more the world without Him?
Would you like to try that again in English?
Why God should answer your question? You never trusted HIM!
Who is this God that you want us to trust? Is it your Koran? or the Bible? If they have some contents, then what do Christians and Muslims fight over? If they are differ in their content, then which path should we choose and why?
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.