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.
God is right where you left Him, outside of school, outside of government, outside of educational curriculum; if you want to see Him try getting to know Him. Jesus came not to condemn the world but that the world through Him might be saved.
Remove brain. Insert dogma.
So, god is so tiny and weak he can be shown the door?
I mean, on Supernatural they at least have to draw sigils and stuff on the floors and walls to keep demons out.
God is weaker than a TV show demon? God can be banished by his own creations? Why do you think so little of your own creator??
Frankly, who wants to take a 40 year old man that wears diapers seriously?
Jesus = Epic Fail
God wasn't outside of the school. He was watching. Just watching.
According to Christians the omniscient god is a vampire since he needs permission.
So if God is outside of school-then he says the heck with saving innocent kids. What a lousy god!
@Anon – I'm going to hang some garlic around.
For the person who mentioned gays, god and sin.
Being gay isn't a sin.
Gays and straights have equal access to heaven.
The catholic church, lutheran and other religions, oh now they have a problem with gays and it's funny because the new testament discusses very clearly what it takes to go to heaven, what God wants from us and no where in the new testament is there an exception for the gay community.
If I have to deal with gays in heaven, I'm outta there!
@blogo – c'mon, you'll love it. It'll be fabulous.
There is no god.
There is your answer.
No. There is no God in your life and you know what?
That's okay. It's your choice and kinda the point.
Drew, there is no god until you prove it and that is not going to happen. Stop believing in this absurd magical religious nonsense. You don't know how silly you sound to rational people.
Dan, prove there is no God.
Prove there is no Santa.
God created men in his image perfect in every way and men's sin brought him out of the Eden to a hush reality, a Negative paradox was cast up on menkind it was called "sin"...since then we have payed for our mistake of creating a negative paradox=sin. sin can also be called our studity...
Man created god. Don't be a fool.
Your creation myth is just another late comer from a long line of pre-judiac/christian creation myths.
So God is killing chidren because of the sin of adults.
"hush reality"? "payed"? You've unmistakably identified yourself as a fundie. Congratulations.
But I like your new word "menkind."
Heb 9:27 And as it is appointed for men to die once, but after this the judgment,
Heb 9:28 so Christ was offered once to bear the sins of many. To those who eagerly wait for Him He will appear a second time, apart from sin, for salvation.
You missed "studity"!
The holy ghost is just the word fart being mistranslated.
Make no mistake about it. God exists. He's just an ass-hole.
God is SO merciful to let you live and waiting for your repentance.
SO merciful. LOL
What deity would allow such a thing you ask? It has to be God, Satan, or....Man.
Do you really want God to force you to do exactly what He wants all the time. You want to give up your free will??? Are you beginning to see how silly your comment is? God made us creatures of free choice and we will be judged based on our choices that He has allowed us to make; choices like rejecting or accepting the plan of salvation provided by Jesus death, burial and resurrection.
Answer "So where is the purest part of the body? Go on.. explain it. Goon."
Answer, people are offering prayers in all languages, in all religions around the world, while you are offering sarcasms, of course I was wrong about you, I think your a-n-u-s is the purest place on your body, purer than your heart and mind, your heart is rented to Devil, I hope he is paying you well, goon,
The devil can go screw himself too.
Moh – do you believe the Goonies were goons, too?
THE GOONIES R GOOD ENOUGH
So you don't have a clue. Just say that.
Oh btw .. I am the devil so there's no need for me to rent out anything. XD
You clowns are hilarious with that prayer stuff.
"lay people to express doubts about God – or anger."
God did not create humans like robots.
God gave us TRUE FREEDOM, freedom to obey or disobey.
However, for every disobedience there is a Judgment waiting after death.
Heb 9:27 And as it is appointed for men to die once, but after this the judgment,
Loving God (not Allah) arranged a way of escape from our punishment.
God sent His Son Jesus to be punished on our behalf to save us from punishment.
Joh 3:16-17 For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved.
Those who put their TRUST in the plan of God will not have to fear punishment or DEATH.
Rom 8:1 There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit.
God gave you nothing except for that brain you obviously don't use. Why use your brain when you can believe what is written in your fairy tale book. It makes life so much easier. If you believe that crap, you'll think you get to go to some boring Disneyland for an eternity. Better you than me dooshnozzle.
Bible is the Word of God.
It is the LOVE letter for the mankind from God. Bible shows the real nature of mankind, the coming punishment and free salvation thru Jesus Christ for the lost world destined to punishment.
Please tell me which part is fairy tale.
HeavenSent, is that you? Did you get a cat stuck in your camel toe again?
I know god is real.....I was saved. God works in strange and might seem crazy, but he does things we might not understand....who knows to our end to know what the truth maybe....but my we have to come together and help hand to hand to bind the broken families back together the best we can to then bicker over what each of us believe. I am looking and praying for some good news comes out of this tragic experience we are all feeling. Christ Peace be with you all.
garth; you're delusional
They're all delusional and that worries me. Especially if their near the big red nuclear button thinking that would summon Jesus soon.
No god is real. You may have been led to believe your particular god is real, but none of them are, and there have been hundreds of them throughout humankinds tenure on this planet. You were and are currently not "saved". May Christ peace all over you and every other idiot sheep, and through his magical urine may you find and accept reality as truth instead of myth.
If someone removed God, they forgot to tell my town. Every house, every street light, every store, every school and every church is plastered with Christmas stuff. The radio, Christmas music. The mall, Christmas music. The goddamn dentist, Christmas music. There is nothing BUT God everywhere. If the Jews can carve out some space, then there is God there too. Guess what, atheists have to choke on this religious crap 360 days a year. Do you Christians really think we feel sorry for you? How would you feel if we had a month of nothing but Atheist stuff? We are discriminated against and NO ONE cares and that is ok with us because we are right. And when you are right, that is enough.
Christmas lights does not mean God. It is just a celebration people like to do. God did not tell them to celebrate birth of Jesus.
Know that the God of the Bible is REAL.
This God created everything. Your existence is because of Him.
Please start reading a New Testament.
Too bad christmas is actually a pagan holiday originally celebrated long before jesus supposedly lived.
Even some christians understand this.
Keep the SOL in SOLSTICE folks!
Know that the God of the Bible is False.
This God created nothing. Your existence is because of sex.
Please stop reading a New Testament.
Bible proves itself to be the Word of God. I am really sorry that you do not see it that way.
Can you show me a person like Jesus in history who came to DIE for us? Who lived a sinless life, never killed anyone, but got killed because He loved us.
Please read the gospel of John
Hey 'tell the truth':
God sent his son (a version of himself) to die for absolution of rules he created. He sacrificed himself to himself to atone for rules he created. That makes a lot of goddamn sense.
God is not about rules. Religion is. Particularly Catholic and Jew rules.
The commandments were given to teach us how to live. Not to condemn others.
Rules are man's creation, not God and Jesus even came to explain it all and people still miss that part, which is a pretty basic theme in Christ's life and death and resurrection.
Thank you for that!
Drew – you are delusional
God certainly isn't about helping the helpless when they need it, thats fer damn sure.
I THOUGHT GOD WAS NINO BROWN AND CHRUCH WAS THE CARTER. DAMN INTERNET. TRICKED ME AGAIN. I SOLD ALL OF MY ASSETS AND LIQUIDATED ALL OF MY OFF SHORE ACCOUNTS BECAUSE THE END OF THE WORLD IS 7 DAYS FROM NOW. HA HA YOU WONT TRICK ME TWICE.
WHERE IS GOD FOR THOSE CHILDREN IN CONGO GETTING SLAUGHTERED BY CIVIL WAR EVERY YEAR. EXACTLY, HE DOESNT EXIST. MOVE ON, ITS MIND CONTROL. NO ONE KNOWS WHAT HAPPENS AFTER DEATH.
I have no fear of the next life, just like many other believers.
Drew, I have no fear of death because there is nothing after life. You become a rotting bunch of flesh and bones. Why be afraid of that? Stop letting your church brainwash you. They just want your money.
THEY'VE BEEN COLLECTING FOR LIKE 5 CENTURIES...NOW THATS PAPER, WHO DA NEIGHBORS?
The ONE who came from heaven (JESUS) knows what happens after death.
Heb 9:27-28 And as it is appointed for men to die once, but after this the judgment,
so Christ was offered once to bear the sins of many. To those who eagerly wait for Him He will appear a second time, apart from sin, for salvation.
I think i know where God was this morning–He was protecting the hundreds of kids and many adults who were not injured in the shooting. Yes, He allowed some to die, but I do not question His presence in the whole event.
Maybe God was busy looking into people's windows to see if gays were sinning.
seriously:F O A D
comments like yours are disgusting
And why don't you question his presence?
THATS HILARIOUS. I GUESS GOD ONLY BLESSES FAIR SKIN PEOPLE IN THIS WORLD BECAUSE THEY HAVE ALL THE MONEY. HE SAID BLACKS AND BROWNS, LMAO. HERE'S SLAVERY, AIDS, POVERTY, AND REPUBLICANS.
Shouldn't you be at church donating 10% of your income to the child molesters there?
Then why the fvck didn't he protect them ALL?
What kind of stupid reasoning is that???
Seriously, that's just moronic.
You'd be questioning him PLENTY if it was your kid that got shot!
Good grief, that has got to be one of the stupidest, most appalling statements I've ever seen, even on this blog. You honestly believe that your god protected one child but let the kid at the next desk get shot in the head? I honestly can't even think of a response to something that utterly cruel, idiotic, and immoral.
Such lovely logic...God "allowed"....
If any of you parents had the power to stop a tragedy from happening to your children, and didn't, you would be a coward and rightly held accountable....
And yet, your Father- god "has a plan"...
To Adam he said, “Because you listened to your wife and ate fruit from the tree about which I commanded you, ‘You must not eat from it,’
“Cursed is the ground because of you;
through painful toil you will eat food from it
all the days of your life.
18 It will produce thorns and thistles for you,
and you will eat the plants of the field.
19 By the sweat of your brow
you will eat your food
until you return to the ground,
since from it you were taken;
for dust you are
and to dust you will return.”
... So the Lord God banished him from the Garden of Eden to work the ground from which he had been taken.
Oh look.. a babble quote.
I knew you could do it Chad. XD
Looks like God was showing the same level of concern for children that he did when the torturously killed every pregnant woman, child, baby and fetus on the face of the earth.
The introduction to doubting his truth.
I'm ashamed of those of you on this site that are trying to rip others down for their beliefs. This is supposed to be a free country with freedom of religion. I understand that you have freedom of speech, but that doesn't give you the right to rip others down. The fact is that the only thing you are proving is that you are ignorant, and you are making yourself look like an ass. Think before you post, please! It's comment sections like this that make me lose hope for humanity. Here we have this horrific tragedy, and you people on here are having a raging and rather undignified debate about whether or not God exists. To all my fellow Christians: stop wasting your time facilitating these arguments, and start focusing on praying for all those affected by this tragedy. To all non believers: please show some respect to those affected, and stop blaming God for what people choose to do. There has already been enough pain and hurt this Christmas Season... Please put aside your enmity for one another for at least a day...
Ya post more of "let's get along now"
Believe what you want. Rock on. But don't try to put up a BS smokescreen – there is no right guaranteeing you the freedom to hold whatever belief you want free from criticism.. If you are so offended and disconcerted by people questioning the foundations of your beliefs, perhaps you should be looking at your beliefs.
A major sign of end of days.
Everyone has the right to their beliefs, no one has a right not to be offended.
" I understand that you have freedom of speech, but that doesn't give you the right to rip others down."
Actually it does.
Do you speak against those who claim things like this happen because of non-believers and gays?
But are you not "tearing down the beliefs" of those who say that their belief is that there is no God? Who made you the arbiter of what is allowed to be discussed and what is off limits?
The end of days can't come fast enough. Better yet, the rapture, so the rational people on the planet can finally get some peace.
Please notice the double standard that theists use to exonerate God from all this evil. We're told that God is loving, kind, and just, and intrinsically good. But when someone like myself points out the rather obvious evidence that God is rather cruel and unjust because he visits suffering on innocent ppl, on a scope and scale that would embarrass the most ambitious psychopath, we're told that God is mysterious, or who can understand God's will. This merely human understanding of God's will is precisely what believers use to establish his goodness in the first place. If something good happens to a Christian, such as feeling bliss while praying, or they see some positive change in their life, we're told that God is good. But when children by the 10's of thousands are torn from their parents arms and drowned, we're told that God is mysterious. This is how you play tennis without the net.
It is not only tiresome when intelligent ppl speak this way, it is morally reprehensible. This kind of faith is the perfection of narcissism. God is so good. He makes me feel good while singing in church. And just when we had given up hope, God found a banker that was willing enough to reduce my mother's mortgage. Given all this god has not accomplished in the lives of others, given the misery that is being imposed on some helpless child at this instant, this kind of faith is obscene. To think in this way, is to fail to reason honestly, or to care sufficiently about the suffering of other human beings.
Very well stated.
I find contemplating the Holocaust to be instructive regarding the nature of God. Either he does not exist at all, or he is very definitely a hands-off sort of deity who does not intervene no matter how ghastly the scale of horror unfolding down here on Earth. Personally I consider myself to be agnostic but I can say that God _as he is presented in mainstream Christianity_ requires, ahem, a suspension of disbelief.
Yes. Either he can do something and chooses not to; can't do anything; or just isn't around. Hard to reconcile this constantly moving target.
When I was a believer, I found these events even more intolerable, since an all powerful, loving god, could of course step in and do something and certainly would. The only sane answer for me was that there is no god. That doesn't make it that much easier, but at least it is less sadistic. We are all part of the natural order, which sometimes seems cruel as it is uncaring, unfeeling – it simply is. I currently have advanced prostate cancer after having colon cancer. I said to my oncologist, "that doesn't seem fair," and he said it wasn't fair. It is simply how it is. We need to stop putting our faith in faith, and put more faith in ourselves to solve some of these problems. No one (or god) is going to do it for us. We are alone in the cosmos – we only have each other, but that is at least something.
There is nothing to say here. I am usually a troll, but this event is beyond belief even for me. Just evil, pure evil. If there is no God, then really its no big deal. I killed dozens of ant colonies yesterday. If God is some advanced alien, you really think he/it cares what happens to us? Just like I care about those ants? My bet is that either there is no God or he wants us all dead. I don't really know. Those families, I don't think they believe in God anymore. If some grandma was killed or some adult, okay, but kids, thats just cruel.
"Just evil, pure evil"
those statements only make sense if God is real. An atheist doesnt believe in such things as "evil".
Without God, to say something is "evil" is a nonsensical statement.
I know. If we're nothing but ants anyway, then he is a strange and insane creator. If he exists, we'd be right to try and get away.
Chad, go away.
You are the model of why the Body of Christ is without courage...you are incapable of seeing another's viewpoint because yours (or, as you will say, your god's) is the only valid one...
You have helped me to understand how, during the first three decades of my life as a born-again believer, I was such a self-absorbed, selfish, uncaring individual hiding behind my faith...I was as you are and most all Christians: narcissists
"Those statements only make sense if God is real"...really?
Your arrogance is only superseded by such wilfull ignorance....but that is the life of one who lives in the context of a faith founded and built upon fear....
If the God of Israel is not real and the universe/life is as anti-theists claim the random by product of chance collisions of inert matter, there simply (by definition) is no overarching morality or meaning.
"Evil" is a statement about morality, it is a statement that needs an absolute standard by which actions are judged.
In a purely random, senseless and purposeless universe, there simply is no such thing as "evil", there are only chance events.
Put the apologetical texts down and actually do some thinking for yourself...your textbook definitions don't portray the world as it actually is....
I know it's safer up there in your head...but your need to hide in the text has robbed you of any measure of a heart, any measure of integrity, and any real meaning or purpose....
It takes more courage to walk on dry land than it does on water, a wise Buddhist monk wrote not long ago...
Atrocities of this nature are nothing new. They have happened in every generation since the existence of man. Their recurring nature doesn't make them any less awful. The obvious answer to why God allows things like this to happen? He doesn't exist.
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.