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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. blogo

    Jesus was incontinent at 40 and wore diapers. You think something scared him when he was young?

    One answer: god did it!

    December 14, 2012 at 11:44 pm |
    • Knowerofallthings

      You seem to like posting this – yet I can make no sense of it, either this time, or the previous times you have pasted it in a post.
      Are you maybe Autistic?

      December 15, 2012 at 12:02 am |
  2. spent

    One must enjoy blaming God for what mankind has done. God did not allow this to happen other than giving mankind a free choice and this is one of the choices that man has tragically made. No worries for those that do not believe in God, in the end you will find out as to whether a creator exist.

    December 14, 2012 at 11:44 pm |
    • Answer

      In the end you're dead.

      December 14, 2012 at 11:46 pm |
    • Peter

      ... Actually, you will never find out, since by definition you would be dead. As dead, you're not in a position to know anything. Not with a dead brain and non-working senses.

      But, if you do decide to believe, then that's okay. It's just that you may be finding comfort by allowing your mind to live in denial. Sort of a coping mechanism for the tribulations of this world.

      As a matter of fact, I just realized that at the time of death, none of us will ever know that we have actually died. For to know anything or to be aware of what is, you must first be alive. Bummer!

      Live life with love and wisdom my friends. May you be one of the lucky ones in this world that is immune to evil.

      December 15, 2012 at 12:07 am |
  3. 1400

    I will pray for those families who are in much pain tonight, and i will pray for those poor kids and adults that were the victims of that poor lost person who has committed such an horrible thing. I will even pray for those arrogant atheists who have lost their way. My heart goes to those who are in need of comforts at this time. May God Bless You All and Your Families.

    December 14, 2012 at 11:43 pm |
    • Athy

      Pray away. I'm sure it will help a lot.

      December 14, 2012 at 11:45 pm |
    • Blessed are the Cheesemakers

      You just advocated "getting rid" of the atheists and said we are pure evil so I question the sincerity of your prayers...not to mention their effectiveness.

      December 14, 2012 at 11:46 pm |
    • 2012

      You look at an incident that proves that prayer does not work, and you shut your eyes and pray? God allowed mass murder and the intense suffering of their families, but he is going to suddenly do something because you tell him to? Really?

      Empty gesture. There is no God. You are only fooling yourself that you are doing something with your imagination.

      December 14, 2012 at 11:48 pm |
    • Knowerofallthings

      Prayer aligns our heart with the will of God, not the other way around. The world has a view of "prayer" as just asking god for stuff. We can do that, but in reality, the act of prayer, even when "asking for stuff", is simply giving God an opportunity to tune our hearts and minds to the path that he has laid out, the best path for the decisions in our lives.
      "Intercessory prayer" would seem to be the (biblical) exception – praying on behalf of someone else

      December 15, 2012 at 12:01 am |
  4. Dyslexic doG

    There is no God. This is irrefutable proof.

    December 14, 2012 at 11:42 pm |
    • Leslie Herrscher

      So sorry you feel this way.

      December 14, 2012 at 11:48 pm |
  5. The Problem of Evil

    No being in the history of the universe deserves hell more than god. God has a perfect record of being able to stop each of these horrors, and he chooses to do nothing. God, if he exists, is evil, worthy not of worship but scorn and disgust.

    Let's face it: there is no god.

    December 14, 2012 at 11:41 pm |
    • Dyslexic doG

      Amen!

      December 14, 2012 at 11:43 pm |
    • Knowerofallthings

      Don't be an idiot. Can you not understand the idea of absolute justice??
      The price we pay for FREE WILL also includes the freedom to bring crap into each other's lives. I would not want a God who was able to physically force me to kneel and worship Him whenever he wanted. That would be useless to God as well.
      We are free to act on our own choice, and live in a world that supports that as well. If God stepped in and supernaturally smashed the shooter before He committed the murders, he would also feel free to step in and jerk my life around whenever he damn well wanted as well.
      Humans brought evil into the world, and unfortunately, now we have to live with it. God gives us a choice – choose to wallow in evil or search for a better way.. Don't blame God for the absolute crap we have dragged into his beautiful creation.

      December 14, 2012 at 11:54 pm |
    • A Frayed Knot

      Knowerofallthings,

      If the creating scenario that you tout is true, then this "God" knew BEFORE he created the shooter precisely what he would do when he was 20 years old - 'he' created the shooter anyway...

      December 15, 2012 at 12:04 am |
  6. Anon

    To the Christians sayings we need more god.
    Why are -1% of prisoners are atheist and 75%+ are christian?
    Try to explain that ironic fact of reality.

    December 14, 2012 at 11:41 pm |
  7. Chad

    "God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks to us in our conscience, but shouts in our pains: It is His megaphone to rouse a deaf world." - C.S. Lewis

    December 14, 2012 at 11:41 pm |
    • Answer

      What I want to know is "did you sleep with C.S Lewis?"

      Hahahaha

      December 14, 2012 at 11:44 pm |
    • Anon

      C.S. Lewis the cretin apologist who screwed up his brain with Christianity.

      December 14, 2012 at 11:44 pm |
    • Dan

      "You can not convince a believer of anything; for their belief is not based on evidence, it is based on a deep-seated need to believe." – Carl Sagan

      December 14, 2012 at 11:46 pm |
    • End Religion

      "Stupid is as stupid does." – Forrest Gump

      December 14, 2012 at 11:47 pm |
    • Blessed are the Cheesemakers

      C.S. Lewis was an arrogant asshat.

      December 14, 2012 at 11:51 pm |
  8. catsnake

    SCREW "god" and GET REAL!!! There is no "god". we need real solutions for real problems and "god" just is another way to change the subject about right of life!! Hey, if you think god is awesome and loves life, I won't abort my kid or will anyone, we just won't get tax free contraception and hand the brats to YOU!!! there's your "god"!!! you want to tell everyone else what to do so until you take all those kids get dropped off into your home, or advocate against gun violence, shut your face!!!

    December 14, 2012 at 11:41 pm |
    • Knowerofallthings

      You seem confused, angry, unhappy and lost.
      To be expected...

      December 14, 2012 at 11:45 pm |
  9. blogo

    I wonder what would drive a 20 plus year old man to do such a thing? Obviously a brain injury or brain psychopathology. No other explanation.

    December 14, 2012 at 11:39 pm |
    • End Religion

      His mother bought him a gun. He killed his mother as well. His mother was a teacher at the school.
      It seems he was very, very upset with his mother. Maybe we'll find out, maybe not.

      December 14, 2012 at 11:43 pm |
    • 1400

      Simple, he had to be an atheist.

      December 14, 2012 at 11:45 pm |
    • Answer

      Even god is an atheist because god doesn't believe he was created.

      December 14, 2012 at 11:46 pm |
    • blogo

      I doubt he kept a diary.

      December 14, 2012 at 11:46 pm |
    • PRISM 1234

      There are mult/itude of people around us that are simply possessed by demons. The "experts" will say they are psychologically disturbed, but in reality are demonized. When Jesus encountered the demoniac who dowelled among the tombs, they spoke thru him, saying they were many, a legion of them. Jesus cast them into swine. Swine couldn't hold them, but frantically ran of the cliff drowning in the sea. BUT ONE MAN could hold the legion of them. That should tell us something about the capacity of evil that one human being can hold in his/her heart and soul. Yet the experts are missing it all together.

      December 14, 2012 at 11:49 pm |
    • 1400

      Satan is a cheap magician with no power, his only power are his followers and the unbelievers. That's why he's weak. He's also a coward just like his followers. It only takes one good man with a strong faith and we will hold a legion of them by himself.

      December 14, 2012 at 11:55 pm |
    • End Religion

      "Evil" implies a religious barometer. There is no evil. There are people who act in socially unacceptable ways, the worst of which do not seem to make sense to us, however there are always causes whether chemical, mental, behavioral or environmental. There is "spirit of evil." Even those claiming action in the name of satan and evil are simply putting on a show to scare people.

      There are no ghosts, angels or demons; no gods or supernatural anything.

      December 14, 2012 at 11:55 pm |
    • 1400

      And then you have atheists who are pretending to hold an explanation for everything and yet not one of them offer one single solutions for a single problem. They want to get rid of something they don't even believe exist in the first place. Fighting something which doesn't exist or something invisible is a sign of schizophrenia.

      December 15, 2012 at 12:07 am |
    • End Religion

      I will lobby CNN to have the religion blog written in crayon so you have a better chance of understanding what is taking place here. This is where the adults gather to talk. You may prefer Barney.com

      December 15, 2012 at 12:29 am |
  10. legemeaux

    God let his own kid be nailed to a cross you think gives gives a crap about yours?

    December 14, 2012 at 11:39 pm |
    • Dan

      Why can't Jesus eat M&M's?

      Because he has holes in his hands.

      December 14, 2012 at 11:40 pm |
    • blogo

      Jesus was incontinent at 40 and wore diapers. You think something scared him when he was young?

      December 14, 2012 at 11:40 pm |
  11. Peter

    Every human knows that there is evil amongst us. It is because of this evil that Man has created God.

    After all, we all want protection from the realities of this harsh world. What is more reassuring and comforting than to dream that something outside of ourselves is loving and cares for us.

    Such is the longing from deep in our subconscious. The longing to feel protected in an otherwise mad world.

    IMO, there is no God, but there is evil. That is a certainty that on a day like today we can't deny.

    December 14, 2012 at 11:38 pm |
    • End Religion

      "Evil" implies a religious barometer. There is no evil. There are people who act in socially unacceptable ways, the worst of which do not seem to make sense to us, however there are always causes whether chemical, mental, behavioral or environmental. There is "spirit of evil." Even those claiming action in the name of satan and evil are simply putting on a show to scare people.

      December 14, 2012 at 11:54 pm |
  12. Dan

    It's amazing how some people still believe in mythology.

    December 14, 2012 at 11:38 pm |
    • Dave

      The most dangerous myths I can think of are that truth is relative, that there is no God, that souls don't exist, and that all of life is the result of pure accident and has no meaning whatsoever.

      December 14, 2012 at 11:42 pm |
    • blogo

      The power of brainwashing cannot be underestimated.

      December 14, 2012 at 11:42 pm |
    • KNowerofallthings

      If you had seen what I have seen, you would believe.
      Or at least understand

      December 14, 2012 at 11:43 pm |
    • Answer

      If you have evidence that would be more convincing.

      December 14, 2012 at 11:45 pm |
  13. Dave

    God is so disallowed in public schools, even the traditional Pledge of Allegiance has been edited to remove any reference to His name. To revise a tradition in this way is to surrender to forces which are against God.

    What could possibly go wrong?

    December 14, 2012 at 11:37 pm |
    • Dan

      How long have you had this imaginary friend?

      December 14, 2012 at 11:39 pm |
    • Blessed are the Cheesemakers

      The traditional pledge had no reference to god, christians are the ones who perverted it. Your ignorance is appalling.

      December 14, 2012 at 11:40 pm |
    • CPS

      The god bit was actually forced in later, the original had no reference of a fairy tale

      December 14, 2012 at 11:41 pm |
    • Dave

      Once the reference is in, better have a very good reason to take it out.

      December 14, 2012 at 11:43 pm |
    • Dan

      Do not pray in my school and I will not think in your church.

      December 14, 2012 at 11:44 pm |
    • TheGoodKnight

      So let me get this straight because "god" is out of schools this was the end result?

      December 14, 2012 at 11:44 pm |
    • Observer

      Dave,

      "even the traditional Pledge of Allegiance has been edited to remove any reference to His name"

      God wasn't in the ORIGINAL Pledge. Get an education.

      December 14, 2012 at 11:44 pm |
    • Oldster

      Dave,

      "even the traditional Pledge of Allegiance has been edited to remove any reference to His name."

      I remember when "under God" was ADDED to the Pledge in 1954. And no, it has not been edited to remove it - although I'd support having it done.

      December 14, 2012 at 11:47 pm |
    • Akira

      The reference was put in LATER, it was merely being reinstated to its original form, Dave.
      Better question would be, what was the reason it was forced into the pledge in the first place?

      December 14, 2012 at 11:49 pm |
    • Dave

      @Observer
      In short, yes. More specifically, it's not the problem that He is out of schools, but more the problemthat any reference to Him has been driven out. That speaks of a certain positively atheistic mindset, as opposed to at least a healthy agnostic mindset. We're systematically closing our kids' minds to the notion that people are anything more than material without value. From that perspective, why not go on a rampage? What's the loss of a few dozen lives, if they're meaningless anyway? Can't you see?

      If this makes zero sense to you, consider that you may be using the term / name God loosely, while I might not be.

      December 14, 2012 at 11:56 pm |
    • Blessed are the Cheesemakers

      Dave,

      So first you were angry because you thought the "traditional" pledge had god and we were wrong to change it. Now you want to keep the edited version....hypocrite

      December 14, 2012 at 11:58 pm |
    • Blessed are the Cheesemakers

      Dave,

      It is not the gov'ts job to indoctrinate children with supersti.tous beliefs and not doing so does not push atheism, it just makes it secular. The gov't is to be nuetral on the question of religion....period. If you don't like it blame the framers of the Consti.tution.

      December 15, 2012 at 12:02 am |
    • Dave

      @Blessed
      I certainly agree on that point, I am totally for a secular government. But what happens when something is revised, is that the new version is taken as new and improved. It's as if to say that we don't need this reference to God in our pledge anymore, because people know better today in our age of modern science than to believe in such a myth as God. That is what removing it says to kids, and even to adults. But in fact, the nonexistence of God has never been, nor will ever be, disproven, and to imply otherwise is to take an actively atheistic stance – which is the very same folly as religiously indoctrinating kids, just in the other direction, and we should not be surprised when we see ourselves reaping what we have sown.

      December 15, 2012 at 12:13 am |
    • Dave

      EDIT:
      c / disproven / proven

      December 15, 2012 at 12:16 am |
  14. Atheists_Need_A_Good_Cry

    Is this mic on?

    December 14, 2012 at 11:36 pm |
  15. Jamie

    I think non believers have to remember when something horrific like this happens you have to start pointing the fingers at ourselves instead of saying where is God now? If you truly do not believe then these events are a reflection of mans barbaric ways because if theres no God then there's no God to make this happen.
    Ultimately regarding both sides of the issue, now is not the time to even look at whats right. An event like this is bigger than beliefs and faiths. This is indescribably terrifying and horrifying. We all need each other righ not. We need to love and be there in any way that we can for anybody that we can

    December 14, 2012 at 11:36 pm |
  16. blogo

    Why ask stupid question?

    December 14, 2012 at 11:36 pm |
  17. JamesTheJust

    Lets get this straight; you want God out of everything, out of every school, off of every city block, you want us to alter our Faith because of your secular social agenda-or we are branded hate mongers, THEN YOU HAVE THE GALL TO ASK "WHERE'S GOD?????" EPIC FAIL!!!!

    http://www.yahwehyeshua.com

    December 14, 2012 at 11:35 pm |
    • Really?!

      God was there.

      December 14, 2012 at 11:39 pm |
    • You are an idiot

      Uh, really? Atheists are not the ones asking "where's God?"

      December 14, 2012 at 11:43 pm |
    • Akira

      For the 800th time, those kids were most likely from good Christian families, and if God is so benevolent, he shouldn't have taken separation of church and state out on a bunch of little kids.

      December 14, 2012 at 11:43 pm |
    • 1400

      Sometimes i wonder if atheism could be just another psychological problem like any others. I see Atheist asking Where Was God When That Happened and then i see those same atheists saying We Are Not The One Who's Asking That Question. Someone got to hit me because i don't get it.

      December 14, 2012 at 11:50 pm |
    • Athy

      1400, you couldn't get it even if you tried.

      December 14, 2012 at 11:55 pm |
    • 1400

      It's pretty hard to understand someone with a mental problem, only those who suffer that same mental problem would understand each others. I guess i'll never understand atheism, i don't have the same mental problem they have.

      December 15, 2012 at 12:00 am |
  18. Question

    What if God actually eliminates most of the possible evil there is in the world and what we experience is only just enough to give us a taste of what hell is like? If there was no such thing as evil, how would you know (and appreciate) good?

    December 14, 2012 at 11:35 pm |
  19. CanOnTo

    If you were (a) God, would you sit idle while this was happening? Would you let mentally ill people exercise their demented will at the expense of innocent children's lives? And didn't those children have the will to live? What happened to their will? Why is the free will of a killer more important than the free will of a victim? If you think about these questions (and all others concerning religion) really honestly there is only one conclusion that you can come to – there is no god.

    December 14, 2012 at 11:34 pm |
    • Faithful

      You say there is no God...well I know different. So you see, about 10 years ago, there were some changes made in the school where prayer and God were no longer allowed in schools. So they ask, "Where was God when this happened?" "Why didnt God do anything to stop this?" Well, you see, he was at the door knocking but no one would let him in! The incident that occurred is nothing less than horrific! I pray for peace in the hearts of the families who lost their children, parents, and friends. Maybe its time our "government" go back to what this country was founded on "GOD"
      - God Bless You All

      December 14, 2012 at 11:45 pm |
    • Ken

      Your claim is valid. You think that a loving God would not let such a thing happen. It breaks my heart to see these things. But I believe it breaks His heart too. Try to see if this makes sense to you at all. If what you say is true, then Christianity itself would not be so popular. Here's why. God so loved this world that He sent His one and only son Jesus to die so that anyone who believe in Him would have everlasting life. That is a love so beyond comprehension. Do you know anyone who would have their own flesh and blood die for the sake of others? And why did Jesus have to die? Because our hearts and minds are born evil. There's no rational for it. Our base characters are defiled. We think only of self (Jesus didn't). We lie, have lustful thoughts and countless other debase things are set to our credit. It's not that God made us wrong...he gave us the ability to know what is right, but we still do all these things that we know are wrong. So what saves us? Jesus dies as a sinless sacrifice for all who believe. It's not a fairy tale...it's as real as it could possibly get. Consider the possibility.

      December 14, 2012 at 11:48 pm |
    • Athy

      Organized prayer was eliminated in schools. Students are free to pray individually anytime they want. Does god listen better to organized prayer, or to a single student praying? Please enlighten us, wise one.

      December 14, 2012 at 11:51 pm |
    • Athy

      Ken, it is a fairy tale. You need to grow up.

      December 14, 2012 at 11:53 pm |
    • Ken

      I'm more grown up now that ever. It just took God removing my will and my desires for the way I saw life for me to see who He truly was. I was too proud to do that before. I consider my life worthless for His sake. There's not better life than that.

      December 14, 2012 at 11:58 pm |
  20. Life

    To each his/her own, I respect that. If you want to believe in a higher being, more power to ya' but in my life, until there's proof instead of misconstrued fairy tales of stories conjured up from drunk descendants from hundreds of years ago, whatever. I sometimes wish there was a higher "something" but there isn't, never was,never will be...that's just common sense – but then again, where did the universe come from? And what about the galaxies past ours? What about what the Voyager are seeing 11 billion miles away whereby Nasa thinks that one may reach the outskirts of the galaxy in about ten years? It's mind-boggling to think about science, but as far as magic potions and invisible beings whereby with the hundreds of religions and hundreds of gods, believe as you wish, but just enjoy life while you're alive because once it's over, that's it and in about 100 years from now, everyone presently living will cease to exist...it makes me sick to think about but it is what it is. Take each day and live it up. As to the tragedy at the school, it's sickening and perhaps the good ol' US Gov't should do something proactive for a change and not reactive.

    December 14, 2012 at 11:32 pm |
    • Ken

      What if your life didn't end when you die?

      December 15, 2012 at 12:06 am |
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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.