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December 14th, 2012
06:17 PM ET

Massacre of children leaves many asking, 'Where’s God?'

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.

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.

- CNN Belief Blog Co-Editor

Filed under: Christianity • God • Uncategorized

soundoff (9,195 Responses)
  1. hla soe

    count how many was dead,then kill their family =
    i mean, until you can not control the gun selling policy must figure this way.attn; law force .because legal way does not work out, so go another way.i have a kids, i an really serious about this matter .

    December 14, 2012 at 10:47 pm |
  2. weeknow

    Amend ;Praise be to God and Jesus

    December 14, 2012 at 10:45 pm |
  3. Kanageloa

    God allows the rain and sun to shine on the good and evil. No one is granted a special pass in this wicked world. We attempt to bring some kindness, help and love to those less fortunate. God allows us to be kind to anyone, we just have to make our selfish selves to do better.

    December 14, 2012 at 10:45 pm |
    • Iceman

      You dream in color...

      December 14, 2012 at 10:47 pm |
  4. DAVID

    THERE'S NO WAY WE CAN UNDERSTAND GOD, WE JUST HAVE TO LIVE IN FAITH ESPECIALLY WHEN THESE THINGS HAPPEN AND TRUST HIM1

    December 14, 2012 at 10:45 pm |
    • Apple Bush

      THANKS BUT NO THANKS. I WOULDN'T TRUST THAT ASSHOLE TO TIE MY SHOES.

      December 14, 2012 at 10:47 pm |
    • Answer

      Ouu a screamer in text.

      Can you shout louder? thanks.

      December 14, 2012 at 10:48 pm |
    • Mark

      David let me help you a little. First off you seem to be having an issue and Can't Understand Normal Thinking so try and digress until you are not in a fugue state.

      December 14, 2012 at 11:06 pm |
  5. PR31VIV

    HOW CAN PPL ASK WHERE'S GOD WHEN SOCALITY HAS TAKEN HIM OUT OFF SCHOOLS GOVERNMENTS .
    for years we've been telling God to get out of our schools, to get out of our government and to get out of our lives. And being the gentleman He is, I believe He has calmly backed out. How can we expect God to give us His blessing and His protection if we demand He leave us alone?"- Anne Graham

    December 14, 2012 at 10:45 pm |
    • sam

      HERP DERP

      Yes, again, god is so weak and silly that he can be pushed out? Or is he just insulted?

      Either way, not a good god at all.

      December 14, 2012 at 10:53 pm |
    • Mark

      Anne Graham What you wrote makes no sense; Please let me repeat that: Anne Graham What you wrote makes no sense
      God is omnipresent and was there and every where else when this happened. Must have been his will; apparently God wanted or need this to happen; maybe he just like it. Now this is just a thought; But maybe God is sadist tendency's really going on his record..... This can not be ruled out.

      December 14, 2012 at 11:00 pm |
    • Safety of the North

      ...a gentlemen?

      Not so much...more like a not-so-omnipotent, not-so-loving, not-so-"just" god....and...a coward.

      I'm amazed that there are two forces more powerful than your god...human sin and free will...

      December 14, 2012 at 11:20 pm |
  6. Neal

    I'll just say that I find it humorous how many times I find the same people and the same arguments arguing against the existence of God on this website. They are most always simplistic, emotional and full of personal animus. Begs the question... are you trying to convince others, or yourself?

    December 14, 2012 at 10:44 pm |
    • Apple Bush

      Neal, there is no God.

      December 14, 2012 at 10:45 pm |
    • Answer

      So you've accepted the bs and you're asking why the people who don't accept it this question –>"how can you not accept it?"

      Well you're not educated if you're a believer.

      December 14, 2012 at 10:47 pm |
    • sam

      I never see believers doing stuff like that! Never! Not here and surely not on the science blogs! That would just be crazy.

      December 14, 2012 at 10:54 pm |
    • Neal

      Answer. No, I'm commenting that the same posters and posts continue to try and convince others there is no God. If that's true, then why waste your time repeating the same tired personal arguments over and over. In my mind you either aren't convinced yourself and use forums like this as a a type of psychological crutch, or your practicing reverse proselytizing. In my experience the more emotional and personal an argument is (like the anti God ones I find here), the less it's grounded in reason and fact.

      December 15, 2012 at 11:12 am |
    • Neal

      Apple . Ok.

      December 15, 2012 at 11:13 am |
  7. lionlylamb

    The sower seeds the lands aplenty in all like seeds. The harvests do await the seasons for to bring in the crops bounties, Some crops are for the seed sower and some for the land owner and the rest is to be sold off. All harvests are from the seeds sower and only the sown seeds will reap come harvest times.

    December 14, 2012 at 10:44 pm |
  8. Paul Durham

    No prayer in schools, God has been taken out of books in schools, not allowed to post 10 Commandments, No prayer at public events, So what do you expect?

    December 14, 2012 at 10:43 pm |
    • Marty

      already been said a million times. give it a rest.

      December 14, 2012 at 10:44 pm |
    • Gordon Singh

      We expect you to do it at home and at school if you want, but not force me to do it.

      December 14, 2012 at 10:44 pm |
    • mama k

      Some wacko does this and you think it's because of separation of church and state? Leap much?

      December 14, 2012 at 10:45 pm |
    • Iceman

      Bull Crap. God Taken out of Schools. God is supposed to be everywhere butt head. Where was he when this carnage was happening? News flash: No GOD...all bull.....

      December 14, 2012 at 10:46 pm |
    • the AnViL

      you seem (like a lot of people) to have a problem understanding the concept that – not everyone is xian... not everyone believes in your imaginary man in the sky.... state mandated prayers and gods do not belong in public schools, sport.

      stop being ignorant.

      this was the act of a severely mentally disturbed person. for all we know – his imaginary man in the sky told him to do it.... wouldn't be the first time – now would it?

      evolve.

      December 14, 2012 at 10:47 pm |
    • Anon

      You're an idiot.

      December 14, 2012 at 10:49 pm |
    • sam

      So god is such a bitchy, pouty jackass that he just stands back and lets this happen because he's not taught in school?

      Sounds like you don't like god much if you think so little of him.

      December 14, 2012 at 10:55 pm |
  9. Actually

    mama k – now do your search and find all the other quotes of our founding fathers which indicate most of them were God fearing. Go to the Capitol and look at our monuments with their inscriptions.

    http://religiousliberty.com/article-washington-dc-monuments.htm

    December 14, 2012 at 10:43 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      Inscriptions? Are you stupid? Do you think our system of government is based on INSCRIPTIONS? Do you think it's based on the opinions of individual founding fathers?

      Get a friggin' clue, bozo.

      December 14, 2012 at 10:45 pm |
    • mama k

      Actually not many of the key founders were that God fearing because they were highly Deist. Many Deists believed that God didn't interfere with our lives at all. What is represented in dedications, holiday speeches, etc., reflect their outward demeanor – not trying to stir up their more fundamental constituency. Many of my quotes reflect their writings about their opinion of the founding of the government. The Deism shines through for many of them in that regard.

      December 14, 2012 at 10:51 pm |
    • mama k

      important typo correction: were not that God

      December 14, 2012 at 10:52 pm |
    • sam

      Wow, you can totally trust a site called religious lliberty .com!

      Whatever, fundie.

      December 14, 2012 at 10:57 pm |
    • I'm not a GOPer, nor do I play one on TV

      @Actually,

      religion was pervasive in colonial society. That most of the founders were some denomination of Christian is unremarkable. They were a product of their times and society.

      What is remarkable is that they framed a const!tution (by committee, despite their supposed religiosity) with NO reference to God. Given the times they lived in, this is amazing.

      They wanted nothing to do with the divine right of Kings. They wanted a government of the people for the people by the people.

      The Const!tution begins with "We the people", not "By the Grace of God Almighty" which was more normal at that time. This is what is so remarkable.

      December 14, 2012 at 10:59 pm |
  10. sherry

    Remember...this country had a basic step "trust in God" before. Now everything changed, they took out prayer from public schools, making laws against God's creation and His Will. And they inviting evil to their daily life. Only when big problem comes, they remembering God. Now look at that innocent face's. They don't know anything about these people doing around and now they are the innocent victims.As a country we faced somany crisis. Aleast this time, trust in God, Depart from all the evil things. Call upon Jesus's name. He is the only saviour and redeemer. And obey his commands.Get your blessings from God.

    December 14, 2012 at 10:42 pm |
    • Answer

      Bend over honey!

      December 14, 2012 at 10:45 pm |
    • Marty

      already been said a million times. give it a rest.

      December 14, 2012 at 10:45 pm |
    • Gordon Singh

      I agree that the Word of God should be taught in schools, but we're going to have to start printing a whole lot of Qurans.

      December 14, 2012 at 10:50 pm |
    • sam

      Gosh, he's still mentioned on our currency, though! Isn't that enough??

      December 14, 2012 at 10:57 pm |
  11. darrenhankins

    It not God it us....we won't gun and the right to have fire arms. So at the end of the day, this is the cost....screw the NRA and the right wing conservative that believe a country full of gun is a good thing, shame on them.

    December 14, 2012 at 10:42 pm |
    • Marty

      your English skills are fantastic!

      December 14, 2012 at 10:46 pm |
  12. Chad

    While nothing can fill the space of a lost child or loved one, all of us can extend a hand to those in need - to remind them that we are there for them, that we are praying for them, that the love they felt for those they lost endures not just in their memories but also in ours.

    May God bless the memory of the victims and, in the words of Scripture, heal the brokenhearted and bind up their wounds.

    President Barack Obama

    He heals the brokenhearted
    and binds up their wounds.
    4 He determines the number of the stars
    and calls them each by name.
    5 Great is our Lord and mighty in power;
    his understanding has no limit.
    Psalm 147

    December 14, 2012 at 10:40 pm |
    • Apple Bush

      Chad, you left out the part where He kills your children and shits on your dreams.

      December 14, 2012 at 10:41 pm |
    • Damocles

      @AB

      Priceless!

      December 14, 2012 at 10:44 pm |
    • I'm not a GOPer, nor do I play one on TV

      NEWSFLASH: Immediate.

      Barack Obama is a Christian.

      December 14, 2012 at 10:44 pm |
    • Akira

      President Obama is a deeply caring individual.
      He's totally got my suuport, even when I don't agree with him 100%.
      He was eloquent, and spoke from a parent's POV.
      Thanks for reminding these people just how empathetic our POTUS is.

      December 14, 2012 at 10:47 pm |
  13. Dave

    Asking "where's God?" is the right response vs. "Where is the hope in a Godless void?" Those looking for the personal God of the universe will find Him mourning with those who mourn. Those looking for hope in the void will find it staring blankly back and saying "who gives an F about your tragedy?"

    December 14, 2012 at 10:39 pm |
    • Marty

      And that's exactly why you CHOOSE to believe in God. It has nothing to do with whether God exists or not. You want to believe that there is something out there who controls everything and brings meaning to life. Well, what if there wasn't a God? Could you deal with that? What would be your reason for living? Btw, humans are more evolved so they care about this stuff. Dogs couldn't care less.

      December 14, 2012 at 10:42 pm |
    • George

      Thanks for your opinion.

      December 14, 2012 at 10:44 pm |
    • 1400

      @Marty

      What is the meaning of life for an atheist. i mean other than spending their life sitting in a front of a computer more than 12 hours a day in search of finding religious people to pick on.

      December 14, 2012 at 10:47 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      What's the meaning of life for a troll like 1400? I mean, other than posting illiterate drivel from his mommy's computer every waking moment that he's not taking a toke on the crack pipe?

      December 14, 2012 at 10:49 pm |
    • Smukers

      Personally, I do not care if or if not there is a god. This murderer was a mental case who did not know who or what "it" was. Nothing about god here.

      December 14, 2012 at 10:54 pm |
  14. sam

    God was at Chik-Fil-A having a value meal with Elvis and wondering how to keep those pesky gays from getting married. That's where he was.

    December 14, 2012 at 10:38 pm |
    • George

      Maybe he was letting gay people die of Aids.

      December 14, 2012 at 10:46 pm |
  15. Bobbynou

    God is in heaven. He has nothing to do with evil. To ALL MEDIAS: We need less violence shows on TVs. POLITICIANS: We need regulations against guns control; PARENTS: raise your kids better, they cant be watching TVs late, listening to rough music and may we all get closer to God. AMERICANS: visit your doctor more often including psychiatrists, take your medications and excercise more often.

    December 14, 2012 at 10:37 pm |
    • sam

      Rough music.

      Jesus Christ.

      December 14, 2012 at 10:38 pm |
    • Answer

      Another defender of the religious bs. So funny.

      December 14, 2012 at 10:39 pm |
    • Marty

      Where is heaven? Is it outside of the time/space continuum?

      December 14, 2012 at 10:39 pm |
    • Akira

      Isaiah 45:7 I form the light, and create darkness: I make peace, and create evil: I the LORD do all these things.

      Gee, I'm confused now.

      December 14, 2012 at 10:40 pm |
  16. idiophobia

    where is an alien invasion when we need one?

    December 14, 2012 at 10:36 pm |
    • sam

      I second this.

      December 14, 2012 at 10:39 pm |
    • Loki

      I tried. The Chitauri were poor soldiers at best.

      December 14, 2012 at 10:39 pm |
    • hal 9001

      I could speak to my contacts on IX on your behalf.

      December 14, 2012 at 10:42 pm |
  17. the AnViL

    if you're asking where the imaginary man in the sky is.... or contemplating imaginary devils and subjective evils...... you're moving in the wrong direction – and you're part of the problem.

    how about:

    where were the people who were close to this kid before he pulled this heinous stunt?
    why didn't they notice something was off with this punk?
    how come this kids mom didn't know he was going off his ends?
    why didn't she have the forethought to rid herself of – or at least secure her weapons?
    why are people so tolerant of mental illness?
    where was the system that should have discovered that this kid was mentally unstable before he had a chance to commit this atrocity?
    where were the people in this school who are authorized to carry firearms who could have taken this mentally ill, repugnant fool out before he could have done so much damage?

    asking where the imaginary man in the sky was is just foolishness, ignorant, delusional, useless, stupidity.

    suggesting we clamp down and control firearms is absurd, ignorant, and childish.

    you should all be asking "how can we weed out these potentially dangerous, mentally ill people before they ever get a chance to do harm?"

    boop!

    December 14, 2012 at 10:36 pm |
    • Answer

      Need more information to be reported of this incident to find out.

      December 14, 2012 at 10:38 pm |
    • the AnViL

      ok... obviously... we need more information....

      but they're good questions people should be asking – as opposed to crying "where's god!???!?!?!"

      December 14, 2012 at 10:40 pm |
    • LP

      Thank you, AnViL – these are indeed the questions we as a society should be asking and seeking the answers to. Preferably BEFORE the next tragedy. All this questioning and speculating on theological and mythological issues after the fact is useless. We need to ask real, pertinent, tangible questions that there are actually answers to, and then act upon those answers.

      December 14, 2012 at 10:47 pm |
    • Marty

      But the more important question is..."Where's God?"

      j/k most down to earth thing I've read on here so far.

      December 14, 2012 at 10:50 pm |
  18. Akira

    “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."

    Sounds like this guy is unsure if God's in control...

    December 14, 2012 at 10:36 pm |
  19. Answer

    The Spaghetti Monster should be re-instated to all public and private schools! It should be mandatory.

    December 14, 2012 at 10:36 pm |
    • mama k

      See the Spaghetti monster; feeeeel the Spaghetti monster; eat the Spaghetti monster. Chef Boy-R-Dee am I hungry now.

      December 14, 2012 at 10:39 pm |
    • sam

      R'amen.

      December 14, 2012 at 10:40 pm |
    • the AnViL

      all hell's breaking loose! calamities!!! terror!!!! natural disasters!!! global warmings!!! cats and dogs playing together!!

      WHERE IS THE FLYING SPAGHETTI MONSTER!!!!!!??????

      December 14, 2012 at 10:44 pm |
  20. Mohammad A Dar

    Stop asking where is god, God is everywhere, inside you too, but when Evil steps in YOU, GOD STEPS OUT OF YOU, goons

    December 14, 2012 at 10:35 pm |
    • Answer

      Ya so when you take a leak ..god is the stream of urine.

      December 14, 2012 at 10:36 pm |
    • sam

      God shouldn't be getting in people without asking first. God seems to be a little too touchy feely. Mary was a teenager, FFS.

      December 14, 2012 at 10:41 pm |
    • Mohammad A Dar aka Answer To Answer

      God resides in the purest place of you, in your heart, goon

      December 14, 2012 at 10:48 pm |
    • Answer

      You mean my a-n-u-s? Ok gotcha.

      December 14, 2012 at 10:49 pm |
    • Marty

      @Answer haha!!!

      December 14, 2012 at 10:51 pm |
    • Anon

      Your god allah aka yahweh is in my toilet.

      December 14, 2012 at 10:51 pm |
    • Mohammad A Dar aka Answer To Answer

      do you have a-n-u-s? I thought you rented it to your Devil friend

      December 14, 2012 at 10:56 pm |
    • sam

      @Mohammad – does that joke play well to the poppy farmers in Afghanistan, goon?

      December 14, 2012 at 11:02 pm |
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About this blog

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.