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.
The question assumes too much. There is no god. It's a man-made social construct. Time for our species to grow up.
God – No God: arrogance is a two-sided coin.
is it arrogant to say the tooth fairy doesn't exist?
Until mortality stops them in their tracks.
Wow...down talk on God...and people only turn to God when something goes wrong!!!? God is God.during the bad and the good times!!! Why blame God for stupid things people do at their own will!!
Just seems like this world is fighting for the best seat in hell!
It's never too late! Jesus saves and still loves you! He gave us our own will power! Now why not use it for good!
Prayers go out to all the families!! And also for everyone who's down talking about God!
Go ahead and pray all you want. All it does is make you feel good, it does nothing else.
why give credit to god for all the good things people do? why give credit to something that no one, including yourself, have met? eleanor, you think you know, but you are wrong. there is no god of the bible. it's a story. today gives me all the proof i need.
I have no problem with people believing in their "God". If that's what it takes for them to be moral person, then I applaud them for striving to be that person. What bothers me is when people say, "I will pray for the victims and those affected". Thinking logically, that makes me feel like their "God" sat by on the sidelines while this tragedy happened, and now that the damage is done, they are going to pray to that same "God" to provide strength and forgiveness??? Take a step back and realize how ridiculous that sounds. If that is your "God", then I don't want ANY part of that!
I don't turn to god when something is wrong, I turn to my brain and start thinking about how "I" can fix things. Can't count on god to do it for me, he doesn't exist.
Eleanor Blanton is right. God is with those who accept him and lives within them. He will comfort the Christian grieved and the Christian victims are already with him. The Christians will pray for those effected and for all those who don't believe on Christ Jesus as there savior. We pray that this tragedy will help others draw closer to him. The only comfort we can get at times is the fact that we KNOW God and we KNOW that at the end of this life is the beginning of a new life with him. Christians are not perfect. We are just forgiven.
Country should also ask "where is God" when they are happy and breaking every rule of God, but do they ask then?
We're on our own. Get with it.
What a waste of time. There is no god. God is a myth. Instead of believing in a myth, we should believe in our selves and we should blame ourselves. We are responsible for our actions. Don't rely on something, or someone, else to solve every problem. Rely only on yourself so you can grow and get stronger.
2012 and people are still talking about God as if he's some guy who lives down the street. It boggles the mind how people talk so confidently about this invisible man who has never been proven to be real.
So there is Evil but no God – the logic of left-brain "know it all" progressive.
evil – while subjective... exists.
gods do not exist.
May be it's a wake-up call for those who're still defying to repent. Whether it's natural disaster or the school shooting in Connecticut, all of them could be a warning sign to the Western society which has become ignorant and decadent, and whose individuals suffer more and more under narcissistic disorder. By the way, the school is called "Sandy" Hook Elementary School. I won't call my daughter Sandy. R.I.P for all those innocent children, I know they're now in heaven!
"Western society which has become ignorant and decadent, "
That's why 80% of American claim to be Christian yet your "God" keeps killing innocent children here. Wake up all you're doing is making excuses for a God that doesn't exist.
Frankly, i don't see the value ion repenting to please a supernatural being who would have 5 year olds killed because he is unhappy with how people choose to live their lives.
Who would want to go to heaven and spend eternity with a jerk like that?
Enoch: I'll cut to the chase. You appear to be a very ignorant person. You don't appear to have a gift of knowledge, so don't share anymore.
I can't believe there are people who think like you. It's so unbelievably ignorant. How do you even function in life? You really think that this is God punishing us. You are the epitome of a religious nut job.
If he did exist, I wouldn't want anything to do with him. He would be nothing but an absolute monster to let all this happen and to encourage it even. I have no idea how anyone could worship a being like that.
The true GOD would be bring back from the dead or rise for the dead.
JESUS can do it. Jesus isn't imaginary figure. The image exists in ISRAEL.
In the back of U.S dollar says "IN GOD WE TRUST". and America has falling into FISCAL CLIFF.
Scary to believe the world's end. December 21, 2012. it is soo mystery. Maybe the Mayans tried to warned us and people not to fall into wrong path.
Was this English you were attempting to write?
The true GOD would be bring back from the dead or rise for the dead
Here's the thing... READ THE BIBLE... if you believe God exists... read the Bible. If you don't believe, maybe you should Read the Bible.
If you don't well, seriously, do what you have to do. I believe as so many of my other fellow believers do.
When the day of judgment comes... do you believe or don't you?
If you don't... well, hope your time on this God forsaken earth was fun.
I believe when my life here is over, God has a place for me.
As far as anon... are you scared God is going to know your name? Trust me, He made you, He knows every being of your body, your soul , your name.
Seriously... you talk about Him as you know He exists. It makes me sad if you believe in God and you are talking like satan.
Did you you come from God or an ape? JMO. I would rather believe God created me than I came from a monkey. JS.
Evie, based on your post, it's far more likely you are closely related to a monkey than to any god.
You can believe whatever you wish. Doesn't mean a thing.
John you are right on wrong. Leave it alone at the free will part. He's everywhere. Yes, this is very sad, but it happens every day every day, not just here, everywhere. There is a heaven.
Prove that last sentence sobad.
In fact, prove that god is everywhere.
It sure wasn't in that school stopping the shooter.
It is actually quite simple. This country has done everything it can to take God out of it. Why should we expect God to come to our rescue? Until we allow God back into this country in a serious way, we will continue in the downward, evil, spiral that we have been on for many years now. Sorry, but many of your that have commented in a very uneducated way should pick up the Bible and read it!
What an un- empathetic sociopath by turning this tragedy and fitting it into your own agenda.
I have read the babble, and it is meaningless.
So god is vindictive? What a jerk. He should be above that, don't you think?
Haha, you actually put the Bible and education in the same sentence. You actually think you're educated yet believe that an imaginary man in the sky caused this. Or way, a devil came up from hell and made someone do this. Why can't you see that what you're talking about is nonsense that someone convinced you to be real?
from believers about the lack of "Bible" teaching. Bunk. The Northern Europeans countries are almost godless, and they have no problems like this. The correlation has not been established. Rants and more rants. Nothing more here. Perfect example of what the US education system produces.
To drag God into this is tragedy misplaced. God didn't decide to allow the society to be awash with guns. Neither was there a promise by Him to rid the world of the deranged. To allow the wide access to guns will grant bad people access to them, no matter what safeguards you put into place at the 50,000+ gun shops (more than Starbucks). It is up to responsible people to make the right judgments on gun laws. For an entire nation to be intimidated by a special interest group, the NRA, is a sign of utter weakness. Democrats are chicken and the GOP is bought. Sad!
there are lots of things widely available that people can do massive damage with, lets ban those too. Lets put people who feed their children unhealthy food in jail, they are doing as much damage. Its not about the NRA its about freedom, look it up
> To drag God into this is tragedy misplaced. God didn't decide to allow the society to be awash with guns.
Yes, God did. God is all knowing and perfect and has a divine plan. Perhaps you should read your bible and understand the qualities of your God better.
> Neither was there a promise by Him to rid the world of the deranged.
God only made the deranged.
> To allow the wide access to guns will grant bad people access to them, no matter what safeguards you put into place at the 50,000+ gun shops (more than Starbucks).
Yes, people who God has specifically made to be evil will kill innocent people. Remember, divine plan, all knowing and creator of everything. It's sily to argue the creator of everything isn't the creator of something.
> It is up to responsible people to make the right judgments on gun laws. For an entire nation to be intimidated by a special interest group, the NRA, is a sign of utter weakness. Democrats are chicken and the GOP is bought. Sad!
Gun control will not resolve the issue. You're looking for the mentally lazy explanation so you can be done with the issue and move on. What about illegal guns? A person could easily get those. Just like how they can get weed or coke.
Your arguments are not in line with the God of the bible and not very well thought out. I suggest thinking about your position next time rather than posting what makes you feel good.
Why should we not bring god into this?
You fundies do it all the time when good things happen.
Or when your precious Tim Teabow scores a touchdown he brings god into it.
You claim god is all powerful and is everywhere.
Then why can't we ask for it to use some of that power to prevent these things?
Maybe because god does not exist.....
The idiot (and I use the singular because I suspect the same moron is posting this drivel under a variety of names) who claims that a massacre like this somehow our fault because we didn't kiss god's ass enough should go ask their deity to give them a brain, because he obviously didn't do so.
This is the result of an untreated mental illness and access to weapons that no one needs to have.
There's no invisible fairy involved.
Just give God the starship he wants and all will be fine.
I believe this shooter shot the victims out of anger.
For everyone who thinks that "taking God out of schools" caused this tragedy today: Had the shooter decided to attack a Christian school, would he have been magically stopped at the door?
Really. Do these brain-dead fvckwits not recall the mass shooting at the Amish school some years ago?
...and how can you take an omnipresent, omnipowerful, all-loving and just god "out of schools"....
Apparently his resume' needs to be investigated.
I think in reality they are not talking about a literal deity but an ideology ie Old fashioned 1950s conservatism
No matter how we explained what is going on, none of the nonbelievers would understand.
Pssst .... god is pretend ... just myth and folklore
psssttt. Do not believe that you are the fittest of the fit. That's the fairy tale.
if god was all powerful, he could have stopped the gunman.
If god was all good, he would wanted to have stopped the gunman.
Either he is not all powerful or not all good.
Epicurus said it best:
Either God wants to abolish evil, and cannot; Or he can, but does not want to; Or he cannot and does not want to. If he wants to, but cannot, he is impotent. If he can, but does not want to, he is wicked. But, if God both can and wants to abolish evil, then how come evil is in the world?
What you don't understand is Jesus defeated death. Chew on that fact for a while.
"What you don't understand is Jesus defeated death."
Actually Mithra did and is the real son of God, chew on that.
Was born of a virgin on December 25th, in a cave, attended by shepherds
Was considered a great traveling teacher and master
Had 12 companions or disciples
Promised his followers immortality
Sacrificed himself for world peace
Was buried in a tomb and after three days rose again
Was celebrated each year at the time of His resurrection (later to become Easter)
Was called "the Good Shepherd"
Was identified with both the Lamb and the Lion
Was considered to be the "Way, the Truth and the Light," and the "Logos," "Redeemer," "Savior" and "Messiah."
Celebrated Sunday as His sacred day (also known as the "Lord's Day,")
Celebrated a Eucharist or "Lord's Supper"
God is just like Santa Claus. We are here by ourselves.
Live a good life. A clean life. A giving life. A meaningful life. In the end, it's over. Really.
The existence lf a god, any god, would he have let this happen to the innocent babies murdered today? Wake up people. There is no Santa Claus.
And BTW, I am a loving father, husband, brother and friend to many.
well put. Atheism is myth understood.
People feared the most is GOD walked away from EARTH and allowed earthquakes, flood, natural disasters, others to die for nothing. Families get hurt and crying.
But according to bible. JESUS have different views about GOD. God loves people.
"God loves people."
Just not innocent children.
god is pretend
I can't even understand what you're saying because your English is horrible.
where was god???
in between the ears of the delusional people who "believe".
this was the mad act of yet another untreated mentally ill person.
I will repeat because it is worth repeating. God doesn't allow evil things things to happen He allows us a free will. America has slowly but surely kicked the Name of God out of our country and then we wonder why our society has slowly but surely grown into a cesspool of immorality. The same atheistic garbage that has been spewed within these replies are the exact reason you will continue to see more and more of these evils happening. Our society promotes the big media event and these maniacs, not fearing any sort of eternal consequences, have illusions of immortality in name alone.
No, prayer in schools or the 10 commandments in the courthouse will not stop evil from being evil, however we can have a society that is based on morality and truth and that will result in less evil instead of more.
When you have a society that kills millions of unborn children every year and is OK with it, how can you not expect more acts of murder born out of this death loving culture?
Oh, stick it, John-boy. This isn't some sort of retribution, you bozo. This was the act of a sick individual.
There is no god.
He gave us free-choice, not free-will. Will-wise, unless regenerate, we're hostile towards God, not neutral.
Also, I think we need to work on getting prayer and the 10 commandments back into our churches before we focus on schools and courthouses. If parents were trained to train their children in these things, what would be the point of having an extra sign up at the courthouse, or a minute of prayer at a school? I don't think God cares nearly as much as some Christians seem to about symbolic gestures... in fact I know He doesn't. Ps. 40:6
Steve, I agree with you about getting prayer and the commandments back into the family, our society will rise or fall on the backs of our family structure.
Tom, I'm not saying it is some sort of retribution. How would more death be the retribution of death? Think before you comment.
Where is God in all this? The same place he is when times are good. In heaven at the right hand of the father Interceding for use. I believe Until we make it Illegal to show on TV and movies what is illegal to do in real life we will have more of the same.
Sad but true. Those that honer God he will heal their Land .
We are prying for those suffering Family.
The Man that Killed. Has Faced the Great Judge of all the Earth. And will receive a just reward.
S mast, you're right in that something needs to be done about the culture of death in America. We are definitely praying for those families affected as well as the shooter's family. We can feel confidend that His Divine Mercy has taken them to the home he has prepared for them.
Hi John. Atheist Kent here. What if the shooter was a Christian? Does that help or hurt your hypothesis?
Just curious, but which God should we allow into our schools?. I'm guess the Christian god since that is the one you believe in. Well how is that fair to Muslims? Or Hindus? Oh, I guess their God isn't as real as. Do you know how stupid you sound to people who don't believe in God? You sound like you're talking about Santa Claus. It's actually very disturbing and sad considering that it has the power to make you hate other people. Yet you think the person who shot up the school is dangerous.
> I will repeat because it is worth repeating. God doesn't allow evil things things to happen He allows us a free will.
The claim that Christians make that we have free will is quite frankly stupid an uninformed. God's ability to know all, including the future excludes our free will. They both cannot exist. The future is dependant on the past, therefore if God knows a future event, the previous events must be set. And if God knows the future and created us knowing that future, he created us knowing what we would and would not do. Because we cannot choose an action that God did not intend, we're not responsible for our actions.
> America has slowly but surely kicked the Name of God out of our country and then we wonder why our society has slowly but surely grown into a cesspool of immorality.
That's why crime rates are down since 1970.
> The same atheistic garbage that has been spewed within these replies are the exact reason you will continue to see more and more of these evils happening.
What garbage would that be? The garbage that there's no real reason to believe in a God?
> Our society promotes the big media event and these maniacs, not fearing any sort of eternal consequences, have illusions of immortality in name alone.
The concept that people would avoid doing things because they'll be punished in the afterlife is silly. There's no justice in Christianity. Let's say this maniac lived and then said "Jesus, please forgive me, I'm sorry." He'd be saved. He'd be forgiven. Where's the justice there?
In fact, if I was a Christian, I'd think that doing wrong is easier. I can do wrong as long as I ask for forgiveness. And it's not me making up the rules, it's God. The ultimate rule maker. So if he forgives me for doing wrong over and over, why not do wrong and then ask for forgiveness?
> No, prayer in schools or the 10 commandments in the courthouse will not stop evil from being evil, however we can have a society that is based on morality and truth and that will result in less evil instead of more.
Most of the 10 commandments are trash. And you're forgetting the other 603 laws. Of course that'd require you to actually read your bible, and I don't think you've ever done that.
> When you have a society that kills millions of unborn children every year and is OK with it, how can you not expect more acts of murder born out of this death loving culture?
If you're equating abortion to actual murder, you're mentally retarded. That's all.
Kent, I don't believe that simply being a Christian can stop someone from performing an evil act. So whether he was or wasn't, I'm not sure. Some things you simply can't explain. We can only try to create a society and environment that promotes truth and goodness so we see less of these types of evil acts.
Marty, I didn't propose any specific god that should be in schools. Maybe we could have a course taught in each religion perhaps by the local priest, rabbi or religious head. If we can teach morality and values then people have the option to pick which religion they believe contains the greatest truth. As a Catholic myself, I don't hate other people nor hate them if they believe differently from myself. In fact I try and follow Jesus' teaching of praying for those who persecute you, especially in times like these! I'm not against you Marty.
Rundvelt, I'm not going to take the time to reply to every comment you made but I think you are assuming way too much about God, as if you looked Him up in the dictionary and know everything about Him. In fact, you would be gravely mistaken to do the wrong thing over and over because I do not believe you can live sinfully and not be subject to the justice of God. I'm not going to tell you what happens exactly though because I'm not psychic and don't claim to know more than God. Finally, if you believe that a child in the womb is in fact a human being, as I do, then abortion would be murder. Not retarded.
I should "think" before I comment? Why? You don't, John-john.
Your idiocy knows no bounds. Abortion has existed since women got pregnant. It's not the cause of a shooting by some mentally ill man, you dolt. If anything, your religious nuttiness likely causes more mental illness than atheism ever could. The most mentally unstable folks I have ever met are rabid believers. They are a menace.
Okay Tom, calling me an idiot, nut and a dolt really win me over to your way of thinking. I'm not saying abortion caused this guy to do what he did. There is no simple cause/effect. It's simply one example of our death culture that breeds this type of evil act. The thought process of this individual is what caused him to take his actions. I don't think it's radical or mentally unstable to think that a society built on objective truth and morality is what we should move towards instead of against.
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.