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.
Gosh, I had no idea that god was so weak he could be immobilized by secular laws. Who knew that prohibiting forced group prayer in public schools would render a powerful being impotent to do anything?
I was pouting. So there.
I know, right? It's sad to watch believers consider god so weak and petty.
@Tom Tom.................You need to stop using logic. Common sense will get you some where.
GOD and Jesus Let All your ANGEL'S and HOLLY GHOST Gide the KID's and the Little Baby's to you. Who is in HEAVEN..AMEND
You can't even spell your favorite word "amen"?
That is hilarious.
No, no, c'mon now. The rules are the rules, and god is big on rules. The kids who weren't baptised or had not let Jesus into their lives aren't allowed in heaven.
Is that a bad joke?
Weeknow, you seem to be just a child by your writing so I'll not come down too hard on you. If you're an adult, you need some serious help with your writing skills.
Holly ghosts are what ya get during the holidays. Not sure what "guid" is tho.
We removed prayer from schools, We removed anything to do with God From the walls, book shelves and pretty much tell God we don't need you. Yet when something terrible happens we ask Where is God? He was there. We just refused his help.
It's too bad he's so weak that he can be refused. Pretty small god!
We live in a blessed nation and the more we deny why we're blessed, the worse it's going to get.
That's right. We better start making kids pray in school again or god is going to get us.
not weak Sam, God only Goes where he is invited , aka a gentlemen
There are 10 times as many churches as there are secular public schools so just shut it Nicole.
Here is the christian word that these retards are trying to get through in their rant...
- You can thank me. XD
What part of your ignorant fantasy did the children themselves play? Grow up.
Christians spout contradiction after contradiction and so on. You claim god is omniscient (everywhere) at the same time yet needs permission to be inside somewhere. I hope this delusion dies soon, the sooner the better.
Nicole, you're a sick puppy if you think your good god was simply doing his duty by punishing 6-year-old kids for something they never did.
If god were really just, he'd bash your head in for being a sadistic bit@h.
You said, "We removed prayer from schools, We removed anything to do with God From the walls, book shelves and pretty much tell God we don't need you."
No we grew up and took the fairy tales out of public education.
You said, "Yet when something terrible happens we ask Where is God?"
I will never ask a creature that doesn't exist for help, nor do I blame it for anything. It's followers is another matter.
You said, "He was there. We just refused his help."
Your imaginary friend was nowhere except in your imagination.
I never said God did this. I just said we take Prayer out of the school and deny God. And what up with the name calling you don't know me. These are just my opinions. I never once called anyone any names for not believing the way I do. You go on and believe what you believe. I don't care. I know where I'm going.
"God only goes where he is invited..."
So much for omnipresence....and Chad has confirmed through his endless cutting and pasting that god isn't omniscient, while today's tragedy confirm that he isn't all-loving and just since Steve Wilkinson has confirmed that human sin has caused his god to "lift his protective hand" confirming his immoral nature....
The Body of Christ may want to call a meeting and re-construct their god....
@Nicole – A GENTLEMAN? Are you serious?? He knocked up a virgin teenager without asking first. What a gentleman! Holy shit.
@Nicole.................You give Sh it a bad name.
So what's the big deal I bet more people were killed by their gods in car crashes today, than in CT. God is real mean. He kills all the time. He planned that 6,000,000 Jews would be killed in WW II. He makes nice plans that god. No mw, I worship Pink Unicorn. She give me cool-aid. Lots of it.
God didn't kill those 6M. Evil did.
Death is nothing to those that know God, but it's a big deal to you because you don't know him.
KOOL -AIDS KILLS
how about this....God has nothing to do with this system we're living in.....he's left it up to us smart humans.....many of you in fact say we don't need god, he doesn't exist.....so he's want you to ask yourself....How are we doing on our own?? An utter failure!!
That is why christ will return, for you to realize that only under his rulership will these events end.
Yeah right. Jeebus will return. Keep that one up. They've bought that ole line for 2000 years now. Heh heh.
So we get the "free will" argument on one hand when tragedies like this happen then we get the "god's punishment" on the other hand when a natural disaster strikes. So which is it, does god sit back and give man free will to either follow his commandments or not, or does god punish those who don't follow his commandments? The religious hypocrisy is sickening.
I have a plan. Please don't screw it up with your prayers.
They have excuses for their god. It changes on the given situation.
It's nothing new. Today is just another day where the religious tools get to plug a spiel for their delusion as being "real".
Christians suffer from cognitive dissonance and Stockholm syndrome.
God doesn't punish us.
The commandments are there for our benefit as to how we are to live. Not how we should condemn others for not following them.
Here's the words from your god of "love" straight from the big book of myths aka the bible.
Some screwed up god you worship.
Whoever is found will be thrust through, and whoever is caught will fall by the sword. Their infants will be dashed in pieces before their eyes; their houses will be plundered and their wives ravished. Behold, I am stirring up the Medes against them, who have no regard for silver and do not delight in gold. Their bows will slaughter the young men; they will have no mercy on the fruit of the womb; their eyes will not pity children.
Where is God? Why, we asked Him to leave our schools, did we not? That being so, God was there with each of those angels just as he was by his Son's side as he suffered and died. And God weeped.
Or he wept, I guess.
It's just not a good idea to portray God as such a fickle creature, or a weakling, when you imply that simple humans have a way of banishing him from our lives. Does He know you're speaking so low of him? How will you fare in the afterlife?
I wept. Oh wait. That means I exist in time Sorry. I take that back. "Weeping" is what wounds do. "weeped" hahahaha.
Yes. They told me to get out of their schools. It's because they don't have a theocracy. Come to Iran Kim, you'd love it here. There they demand that they teach about me in schools.
Bet most of those kids came from Christian families.
Sorry if sepration of church and state upsets you so much.
it alway makes one wonder why the eathiest make such effort agaist the existence of God? if they dont believe why such effor to fight his existence then, in fact they believe in God and his existence, and they fight it cause they know it's real...God is in control and that scares them the most...we have free will, sometimes i think the eathiest believe in God even more then the rest, there for they spend so much time negating him...there for adknowledge his existence.
By 'eathiest', do you mean 'atheist', or do you just have a lisp?
Man, is that the only error you saw? I counted no fewer than ten glaring writing mistakes. Typical fundie writing. Too much time in church, not enough time in school.
I chose to try and save my sanity by only picking my favorite. LOL
Isn't it something that people will admit Evil exists but God dosen't.
evil – while subjective – exists.
gods do not exist.
your statement was plain stupid. you should be ashamed, masha.
Who are you? And why should listen to you. Fool
This was going around Facebook and we've even talked about it in church..here is an excerpt
'Billy Graham's daughter was interviewed on the Early Show and Jane Clayson asked her 'How could God let something like this happen?' (regarding Hurricane Katrina).. Anne Graham gave an extremely profound and insightful response. She said, 'I believe God is deeply saddened by this, just as we are, but 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?'
It bothers me when the same politicians who cry about church and state separation are the same people that say "Please pray for the families." or "Our prayers are with them."
Alright enough of my soapbox preaching. I am praying for the families of the slain and I do pray that God will walk with them.
Send them money instead. Helps out more than the useless prayers.
That has to be the stupidest thing I've ever heard. Why would you think that quote was an appropriate response to this situation?
If there is a god, she does not change. If she changes, she requires time for her existence. Woops. So much for that idea.
I am troubled by the way people cling to religion in the face of tragedy like this. I see four possible answer to the question of "where was god".
1. God is cruel: if this shooting was god's will, then he is a cruel being.
2. God is indifferent: if god could have prevented the shooting, but choose to allow it, he does not care about the suffering of men.
3. God is impotent: if god had the desire to prevent the shooting, but was incapable of doing so, then he is not an all powerful being.
4. There is no god.
You choose. #4 seems to be the most rational explanation to me.
What if God allows humans to make the wrong choices, and therefor experience pain.
where is that option on your list?
Give a good reason why a just and loving god would seek to do that, Chard. To what purpose?
Look at that word Chad.. lol
Cling.. cling and cling some more.
5. God is good all the time
God is a piece of $#it.
No....God is love
Better yet god is imaginary and was invented from deluded minds suffering from sun stroke.
The fool says in his heart there is no God...
Chad, you idea is irrational. It doesn't belong on the list. Get over it.
I could see way more than four possibilities, but here is a fifth: God is incomprehensible. In my opinion, what is most troubling is when people find stories like this as an opening to introduce a cyclical debate that seems more of a veiled attempt at modifying the reader's psyche and emotive force. Nobody is going to prove a negative here, or likely anytime in the near future. What we're all going to do is all we can do: grieve. Shedding innocent blood, to me, is way more incomprehensible than afforementioned dialogue.
Yet -1% of prisoners are atheist and 75%+ are christian.
Try to explain that ironic fact of reality.
Ah yes. God works in mysterious ways. There is nothing "incomprehensible" about it. Guns kill people. In the hands of psychos guns do bad things. Psychos are psycho. No gods are needed.
This article has some pretty profound words from clergy of various denominations and I have to hand it to the professor for hanging up after saying an academic explanation of evil is not appropriate at a time like this. Don't lose faith America. The Light of God is still with you. The children are in heavan and not even this heinous deed can separate you from the Love of God.
No god, no heaven. Just broken hearts.
I'll sum up your words..
You: "Oh please let there be a heaven. I want that heaven to exist. These children are just dead now.. but I want that place for them."
The wicked have no understanding. They live for this world and their hearts are darkened. May the God of grace free you from your blindness.
Yes, we Christians do want there to be a heaven. We also pray for His will to be done on earth as it is in heaven. Material atheism will be crushed.
Materialism will never be crushed.. you want to eat.. you want to drink water. You want to have property.
So unless your wish is for everyone to be dead.. XD
The human spirit will not even begin to try to surrender self-will as long as all seems to be well with it. Now error and sin both have this property, that the deeper they are the less their victim suspects their existence; they are masked evil. Pain is unmasked, unmistakable evil; every man knows that something is wrong when he is being hurt.”
― C.S. Lewis
Trying so hard.
Poor Chad. He tries so hard to justify the bull.
C.S Lewis was a POS cretin.
I love these threads.. like God is some lottery like scratch off win or break glass in emergency deity.. God set Eternity in motion... we are the ones making choices.. good and bad.. and each person, society, civilization has to LIVE or DIE with those choices.. and besides, Didnt the goverment KICK GOD out of schools cause it's offensive to non-believers? if you get rid of your spiritual/supernatural loving protector and epitomy of all that is good.. what do you expect to happen.. its like telling the guards, guarding your life to go on a coffee break.. bad things can and will happen.. so believe in God or NOT..I would NEVER dare to persuade anyone of their beliefs or lack of.. but if you don't believe, you have NO right to invoke "why this or why that" when bad things happen..
It's funny. There were a lot of horrible and crazy things done and said by figures in the bible. Commanded by and for the sake of god.
Today though, people attribute everything good they like to the will of god, and everything bad they dislike to the will of satan.
That seems a little misplaced.
The "Crazy" person who murdered someone because god told them to do so. They were crazy right? Of course.
It doesn't fit your sense of morals, so of course thy are loony.
Good wholesome clean people see god, and they have been blessed with a vision.
A homeless creepy looking guy sees god, and he is just nuts an should be shunned!.
God would never command someone to kill someone else.. again. Not like he has before, in the bible. Not in this day and age anyway, right?.
There was a song over a decade ago by the Primitive Radio Gods. The line of lyrics from it, is so true. "Sit outside and argue all night long, about a god we've never seen, but never fails to side with me."
God has never spoken, never made his presence seen and has never made a clarification about the cryptic writings in his handbook. (And No, the bible wasn't written by god like so many people believe. it was written by the Council of Nicaea in 325 AD, by the order of Roman Emperor Constantine the First, as a political move to bring together people across his divided country through a unified and government approved and controlled religion. He wasn't even a christian himself.)
Without god actually appearing and making his will know, that leaves us.. mankind to decide what god wants. Due to our human nature and no one to argue otherwise, that just means that gods will is what we want it to be. What ever agenda and views it is we may have, that's how god sides.
Listen. There is no ultimate good and evil in the world. There is no complete right and wrong.
This shooting was a tragedy. I feel for the parents and families of the victims. I'm so sorry for the precious lives that were taken from you.
This will never make sense though if we look to a divine reasoning for it.
There was a reason for this happening, but it wasn't as simple as evil.
The true reason was lost in the complexity of a very disturbed young man.
If you want to make a statement, Don't sit here on your computer adding comments of pointless argument. Go do something to help soften the blow that has been forced on these grief stricken families.
I don't know if there is a god or not. I do know i have the ability and power to go out and do something to better myself and the lives of others. You do too.
The Council of Nicaea wrote nothing. They were not even very instrumental in canon formation. That bunk is simply false. The Babble was assembled by humans, but not at Nicaea.
actually you are incorrect.. the bible was written by man, 40 authors inspired by God.. over 1500 years on 3 different continents.. and since our MINDS are not infinite like Gods, but just finite.. due to those limitations and since we do NOT see everything thats going on around us in light of eternity. we can NEVER know why good/bad things happen.. all we can do is bash those that dont agree with us. and type from behind a computer against those same people.. that's my .02 now I'm broke
The Council at Nicea merely decided what books would be included in the Bible, and believe me, they left out a LOT of books that didn't conform with what they wanted the masses to know.
Justinian was as nuts as they come.
I think all of you are missing the point and arguing over trivial whatnot like this
While I appreciate you helping to inform me of some factual errors. Those things weren't the point of my comment.
This is a big, and scary world at times. Some people like the comfort that a religion brings them. Others feel it's nothing but a blindfold over peoples eyes. All that doesn't matter.
People need to stop arguing over things like this, and actually do something to help others in need.
I was an abducted young teen and thought during my horror I would be murdered. I begged for God to rescue me while crying for my mother and begging my abductor to set me free. I became an atheist as I could not understand how God could allow what happened to me to happen to children. After almost 40 years of non belief, panic attacks, PTSD and fear of suffocation I begged one night in despair for God to prove to me he existed. He did although I did not know that night he had answered my prayer. It was the next day I was telling what happened that a Christian man explained what I heard and felt (a rushing wind came through my window when the summer night was so still) was God answering my prayer. There is a story of doubting Thomas who is shown the same thing when he had lost all faith. I now have no doubt there is a God and understand God did not create evil. He created a perfect world, (explain how everything, including how the the human body works, is so perfect). It is as said in every religion from the beginning of time, it is man who can become evil. No matter what religion you are, or not, at the end of our own lives we all will know the truth. We need to respect each other belief or none, and support each other in such horror. Prayer helps us get through.
Tell the kid with cancer just how "perfectly" the human body works, oh deluded one.
When you life is over, your brain will stop functioning. You will "know" nothing. Your consciousness ceases. Get it ?
Isaiah 45:7 I form the light, and create darkness: I make peace, and create evil: I the LORD do all these things.
He absolutely created evil.
Such a fake story.
There are "rushes of wind" all the time. You were looking for a response, so you took that wind as god. Had the same gust of wind happened at any other time, it would've gone by unnoticed because you weren't looking for a sign. If there truly was a loving, caring god, he would not have allowed what took place today to have happened. There is no god, grow up, accept it and move on.
To "Nope": You are wrong my friend..... I have been clinically dead three times from heart attacks...... There IS life beyond this one on earth..... I've been there :-) and when you get there, you definately KNOW it !!!
To "Akira": God created man and gave us self-will. He allows us to use our self will even to do evil. He will allow us to rip apart all that he created.... Look around.... We're doing everything to ourselves and he allows us. We can choose "right" or "wrong".... He gave us that freedom.....
To "London": Where is God when things like this happen? He's right where we as a nation, and where our government (elected officials) and courts have left him. He's absent because we have rejected him, rejected His help, rejected His guidance, rejected His teachings...... He doesn't stay where he's told He's not welcome.....
Christians can accept this atrocity because they believe we are all, children included, sinners. They deserved to die. Those of us who are alive are only alive because God is merciful. Right Christians?
No, Apple Bush, those children did not deserve to die. You couldn't be more wrong about Christians.
Well, most of them were old enough to have been baptised or to have declared their lives for christ...if they didn't they're in hell now, I guess. Great system!
Susan, huh? Why are they dead then?
It's the free will he gave all of us. Some of us learn his wisdom to produce righteous acts and others are confused by lies and look at the outcome.
Sam, those children were not at the age of accountability.
@ + :
Really? What age is that? And where in the bible does it say so?
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.