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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. cmsiler

    When our Creator has given us: free will to ALL to choose what we do, the Bible (God inspired) as a literary guide, and Jesus as a living example, then I think we must prayerfully weep with our God (as I know He is doing today) when one of his children decides to do something as horrible as the events of today. You ask where is God when this happens? He is welcoming His children into Heaven where they will hurt and suffer no more, He is beside those that are mourning the loss of family and friends, and He is loving those that are angry at Him for what this killer has done.

    Apple Bush: No Christian can accept this atrocity. Christians do believe that we are imperfect beings because of our choices, but we also believe that in God's infinite love he forgives us of our shortcomings. We do not believe that people deserve to die, because we believe that Jesus sacrificed himself (died on the cross) to pay for the sins of every human being so that we would not die but have salvation.

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

      Do you live in one of those states that just legalized weed? You got some potent stuff there...

      December 14, 2012 at 11:57 pm |
    • End Religion

      @cmsipleton: your religion is immoral and you are a blithering idiot. Grow up.

      December 15, 2012 at 12:01 am |
  2. Ariel

    Hey you wanted free will, there you have it. What's good about the whole thing is that god also gave us the power and will to ensure it doesn't happen again. They should cremate that idiot, put his ashes on a space probe and send it to a black hole. That way no matter how advance science gets, that idiot will never get a chance of resurrection.

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

      Unless he believed Jesus was his lord and savior. IN that case, it wouldn't matter what he'd ever done, he can get into heaven. Those are the rules!

      December 14, 2012 at 11:58 pm |
    • Ariel

      @sam, the bible is a pretty good book to read as long as you understand it was written more than 2000 years ago and some things might have been added which are crap.

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

      Yeah, I know. I'm just making fun of the loopholes.

      December 15, 2012 at 12:10 am |
  3. Dan

    "A man`s ethical behavior should be based effectually on sympathy, education, and social ties; no religious basis is necessary. Man would indeed be in a poor way if he had to be restrained by fear of punishment and hope of reward after death." – Albert Einstein

    December 14, 2012 at 11:54 pm |
  4. FKMA

    Sorry, God on his three day weekend now.
    Friday for Muslims
    Saturday for Jews
    Sunday for Christians

    December 14, 2012 at 11:54 pm |
    • Anon

      Ironically religious believers days of worship are space objects without realizing it.
      Friday is Venus
      Saturday is Saturn
      Sunday is the Sun.

      December 14, 2012 at 11:59 pm |
  5. GSK

    The answer is very simple... Nowhere, he doesn't exist.... Stop making up fairy tales to try to explain random events...

    December 14, 2012 at 11:54 pm |
  6. blogo

    If god exists, who created god?

    December 14, 2012 at 11:54 pm |
  7. NowWhat

    There is no god. Just us and we have to get along and take care of each other. Please don't blame the guns.

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

      Don't blame hand grenades either. It's not the hand grenades that kill people, it's the people who throw them, so why ban hand grenades? Heck, why ban any weapons at all? People should have the right to have chemical weapons too. Hey, don't blame Sarin! Blame the person who disperses it!

      December 15, 2012 at 12:01 am |
    • Ken Margo

      If you ever get shot in the azz. I bet you'll blame the gun and everyone within a mile.

      December 15, 2012 at 12:08 am |
  8. Morbo

    What I want to know is where was Gandalf in all of this? He really let us down!

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

      Off galivanting with some silly Hobbitses.

      December 14, 2012 at 11:59 pm |
  9. DaveLake

    To CRC,

    "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."

    You are forgetting one important item. The poor children's free will was not taken into account! They did not make bad decisions in their lives-they are innocent kids. Please think about what you are saying.

    December 14, 2012 at 11:52 pm |
  10. blogo

    Religion needs to go – it just messes with our correct interpretation of reality, and the actions we take to deal with it.

    December 14, 2012 at 11:51 pm |
  11. Calcommuter

    Where is God? He's the guy in the big white robe sitting on a cloud over Poughkeepsie reading a novel while something evil such as this where children were murdered and some yahoo thinking he is comforting people says "It's God's will". What an asinine statement. News flash, no God.

    December 14, 2012 at 11:51 pm |
  12. Drew

    By Sagan's own admission, universe big, but it's mostly a bunch of space. Yet here we are with this awesome planet, just the right distance from the sun, with a moon that keeps the oceans from being stagnant. And the water. All kinds of water here. So I agree with sagan. There is incredible evidence right here. We live in it amid a bunch of space.

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

      There are millions of planets with similar conditions.

      December 14, 2012 at 11:52 pm |
    • Answer

      Religious morons all share this same drivel of a line.

      December 14, 2012 at 11:54 pm |
    • sam

      Wow, Drew, guess what: the moon gets a a little further away every day, and earth's rotation slows a little also. At one point, the moon was much closer. At some point, it will fall out of orbit. And the earth will stop spinning. And the sun will become a red giant and expand until it swallows most of the solar system.

      Does that sound ideal to you?

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

      Just because you don't know something doesn't mean an invisibile guy in the sky did it. Put down the fairy tales and pick up a science book.

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

      Drew:
      I hope you're not suggesting that Dr. Sagan was a believer, because he wasn't.

      December 15, 2012 at 12:20 am |
  13. Dan

    I don't believe in god because I don't believe in Mother Goose.

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

      Mother Goose is going to be very mad about this and leave you in the woods with no breadcrumbs.

      December 15, 2012 at 12:02 am |
    • Sick of stupid

      LOL!!

      December 15, 2012 at 10:16 am |
  14. Anon

    Apparently according to Christians the omniscient everywhere yet nowhere god is a vampire since he needs permission to enter schools from now on.

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

      Seriously, it's when they started adding garlic to school lunches.

      December 15, 2012 at 12:03 am |
  15. Larry

    Why does God always give free choice to murderers, but never to their victims? Those kids did NOT have free choice. Only the killer did.

    Sick guy, God.

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

      The imaginary guy in the sky gets credit only when something good happens.

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

      why do you think god is involved in this ? the free will is to do what you want to. To believe what you want to.

      December 14, 2012 at 11:52 pm |
    • Dan

      Nice way to spin it Drew.

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

      THose children wanted to live. If they had free will, they would have escaped.

      December 14, 2012 at 11:59 pm |
    • sam

      He was busy listening to Tim Tebow's prayers.

      December 15, 2012 at 12:04 am |
  16. Drew

    To the non believers, death is the end, it's a failure to you. To me, death is part of my life. Death will be when I get to be with Christ himself. To me, that's a great day! That's where those kids are now. I'm actually jealous.
    If you understand what God is about, then death is just a requirement to meeting Jesus and having an eternity that's more incredible than what I/we can imagine.

    Non believers abhor death and fear it. I have no fear of it. God didn't fail today, not at all. We're all going to die, you can't avoid it. Those kids died today and that's it. The doubt people have in their minds is what keeps them from believing. And that's okay. Believing is a choice.

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

      Speak for yourself. I don't fear death. Keep up that false hope. I can see it is doing you a lot of good.

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

      I don't fear death at all. Sorry to burst your bubble of illusion, but there is nothing particularly scary about stopping beyond any pain that accompanies it. No fear of boogie men gods.

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

      It's always the believers who are deathly afraid. I find it funny that they want to spread their fears and say it isn't coming from their own voices instead.

      Hilarious.

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

      Drew,

      Please become a bodyguard for the next victims - take one for those who would like to stay around for a while, ok?

      December 14, 2012 at 11:52 pm |
    • Mums

      Drew, saying that you're actually jealous of those poor children who died today because according to your belief they are now in heaven is probably the most insensitive and disgusting thing I've read today regarding this terrible tragedy.

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

      Well actually it is you who seems to require the reassurance that you would be okay after you die! All well with you?

      Oh, and tell that to the parents who lost their children that you are jealous of them!

      December 14, 2012 at 11:56 pm |
    • Athy

      Don't blame drew. Blame his brainwasher.

      December 14, 2012 at 11:58 pm |
    • chrystal026

      Since Religion has left the Schools,Evil has Increased!!!!Bring the Bible back to School,and Satin will Flee!!!

      December 14, 2012 at 11:59 pm |
    • chrystal026

      Since Religion has left the Schools,Evil has Increased!!!!Bring the Bible back to School,and Satan will Flee!!!

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

      Drew: I didn't exist for billions of years before I was born, and I don't remember it.

      chrystal or whatever: take your meds.

      December 15, 2012 at 12:05 am |
    • pntkl

      I can agree with you in part, I don't in whole. While belief is a choice, fear is not; by design. Fear isn't something that should be suppressed. I don't believe G-d made a mistake. Our emotions serve many purposes, and fear in and of itself is something almost all of us experience. In love, there is no fear left, as it is cast out.
      Suppressing fear, rather than addressing it, can also amplify its effect. The fear of death spoken of in Scriptures speaks of such fear as a binding to this world. These children and adults died holding onto a binding that isn't of this world: hope, faith, and charity.
      Sadly, our extended family, these victims, didn't just die at some school in Connecticut. They were murdered. I'm not jealous, I'm mad.
      And I don't think one single parent or orphaned child, as a result of today's callous act, is likely to share your sentiment; especially now. The Son waits with open arms, but weeps for each of them. There is no great sin lacking confidence in G-d. It is better that one should never know Him, than to know Him and walk away. >

      December 15, 2012 at 12:20 am |
    • Anon

      It's god not g-d, stop being so paranoid.
      The christian god concept is still not worth respecting since it's all myth created by delusional minds.

      December 15, 2012 at 12:27 am |
    • pntkl

      Anon, you're replying to one of the so-called delusional minds. In fact, you might find me most delusional, as my seat is next to the throne. Your thoughts are duly noted, in any case.

      December 15, 2012 at 12:48 am |
    • Anon

      ^ The kool aid levels are high in this one.

      December 15, 2012 at 1:33 am |
    • pntkl

      ^ I love and live for you too.

      December 15, 2012 at 1:42 am |
  17. Dan

    "Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence" – Carl Sagan

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

      Exactly!
      And we're surrounded by the evidence. It's everywhere. By Sagan's own admission, universe big, but it's mostly a bunch of space. Yet here we are with this awesome planet, just the right distance from the sun, with a moon that keeps the oceans from being stagnant. And the water. All kinds of water here. So I agree with sagan. There is incredible evidence right here. We live in it amid a bunch of space.

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

      Ya look at the perfect universe ... a trillion stars and only my little earth is the home of the beauty of my god. XD

      LOL

      Oh look at the beauty of my retarded "look at the beauty and associate it with my delusional god."

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

      According to Drew and other Christians their specific god Yahweh/Jesus/Jehovah is incapable of doing error.

      December 14, 2012 at 11:54 pm |
    • God Is Alive

      Will you stop!!! All this time you have been mocking God, just because you dont believe in him doesnt give you any reason to go around and make rude comments that no God exists. Yes a tradegy happened, and why are you so quick to 'blame God'? Really! So next time how about you be more respectful and take into consideration other peoples beliefs.

      December 15, 2012 at 12:05 am |
    • Anon

      We can mock all the retarded myths all we want you delusional idiot.
      Move to Iran if you like behead blasphemers if that turns you on.

      December 15, 2012 at 12:16 am |
  18. Chad

    If God didnt exist, no one would be asking that question that everyone is asking: "Why?"

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

      Chad,

      Ignorant assumption. YOU claim God exists and people ask what happened IF he existed. Get real.

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

      Man created god. Your statement is silly.

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

      You're a retard Chad. Ask yourself why.

      December 14, 2012 at 11:49 pm |
  19. Dyslexic doG

    How does Franklin Graham explain the slaying of 20 innocent children? This should be cringeworthy, but you can bet he won't waste the opportunity for some exposure. What a vile creature.

    December 14, 2012 at 11:45 pm |
  20. Davester

    This "Where is God" stuff is nonsense. People have their agency to choose evil acts. God is there.

    December 14, 2012 at 11:45 pm |
    • Jake Irwin

      Haven't you heard God isn't allowed in schools anymore.

      December 14, 2012 at 11:58 pm |
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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 and Eric Marrapodi with daily contributions from CNN's worldwide newsgathering team.