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.
Catholicism is bad for children.
All I know for sure is that if I were a theologian I would want to duck this question.
Your screwed up religion is bad for children.
Where is god in NewTown, Portland, Aurora, Columbine, Blacksburg, Ft. Hood ??????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????
Atheist wanted GOD out of schools and government building. So to answer your question: Where is GOD? He stepped out of the room and Evil moved in. Put prayer back in schools then this will go down. Also by making gun illegal will not take them off the streets because if that were true then we would not have drunk drivers and drugs on the streets. They have been illegal for years and we still have a problem with it. Smoking kills more people than guns every year... Go look it up... Wake up America, without guns we will all be gunned down in the streets. I pray for the ones lost and the families.
I'M NOT RESPONSIBLE! THE DOG ATE MY HOMEWORK!
Who made guns and bullets?
This is a really emotional thing for me apparently Now that I have my own kids, I can't even think about this. ugh.. What a sad sad day.
I hope there is a God. I hope that these children are happy.... I hope there is a heaven... What can you tell the friends of the kids who survived? They are gone forever? ...how cold! if that's the truth, I don't want any of it. It's not worth it! If there is no God or heaven or happiness and justice, then there is no point of going on! It would be better if life had never existed at all!!! =(
Sorry guys, this whole thing just really hit home for me. I just needed a place to say something...
God, please reveal yourself to us tonight. We need you.
I can't imagine the heartache of those families. I lost my mom 9 year ago and I'm still not over that but she had lived her life. These were precious babies who just started kindergarten a few short months ago and who were less than 2 weeks away from Christmas: joy.
You prefer a happy lie to the truth? Really?
Do you believe this was "wrong" in any meaningful sense of the word? There's no "magic being" in the sky, but perhaps there's a magic code of ethics written on the stars.
I said I hope there is an ultimate peace... I hope that there is ultimate justice... I hope that all will be made right.
If not, then what? How can any of us justify this life we live. Even if the world became perfect today, how could we erase the horrendous blood-stains of the past? If that is all this world holds for us, then yes! Oblivion would be better than horror!! If you're right, then we are nothing but machines! A lump of cells and synapses.... Except, even machines have purpose! Even machines are created for something. If there is no creator, then we are purposeless machines. We are void. There is no worth. For even "worth" becomes a relative quality.... Doesn't matter how high of a number you multiply by zero, you still get zero. If there is no ultimate worth, then no matter what we do, there is nothing! We are nothing. So a few of us on this planet try to do good (but there is no such thing as "good" really) while the rest, ra-pe and murder their guts out... Yes, I would prefer oblivion to this illusory nightmare of a planet.
What truth? You speak of truth as if you know it? You know there is no God? How? What mantle of knowledge did you obtain, that made you smarter than the sum of all human knowledge?
Why do you even care for truth? Truth can't be "good," IF there is no "good..." right? Truth has no value, nothing can have any "real" value, value itself is temporary and relative. Why is your illusion of an existence "better" than mine? Why is your supposed "truth" (whatever you even mean by it) more valuable than my "fairy-tale." Your opinion is therefore the opinion of a lump of brain cells, and has no value whatsoever....
...but fortunately. I don't believe this is all there is. I do believe there can be ultimate goodness, and i even believe a lot of people want it! I don't understand the pain sometimes. But I really hope there is something better. I hope my "fairy-tale" IS true, because, it is a good dream to have... I think anyway.
"His parents were church going catholic Christians you deluded moron."
LOL! This explains the shootings! He was probably molested in the Catholic Church and mommy and daddy kept taking him there and supporting the DEN OF SATAN.
Is that something you pulled out of your ass?
The only reasonable answer to the question "Where Was God?" is that he, Allah, Shiva, Wotan and Zeus were off for poker night. Obviously.
When stuff like this happens, people ask, where is God ? the answer to this question is, He has been taken out of the school system...so next time before anyone ask this question, let them think about where the schools last placed Him.
@t, so god's gets so angry about that that he allows a bunch of elementary school kids to be shot and killed. What a great god you have! I can see why you'd want to grovel at the feet of such a wise and enlightened deity.
the bottom line is god doesnt exist.the bible is a work of fiction...think about it...WHY god? wwhy is it your god that you happento believe in?
I don't know. Ask Obama, Colin Powell and everyone else who ever believed in God (FDR, Eisenhower, Mother Teresa, Gandhi, J.R.R. Tolkien, etc.) why they believed in God.
You must know much, much more than all of them.
Or could you be the one who is blind?
What if you are wrong?
They're all still delusional by the way.
Only a fool will say that there is no God....
I can name famous smart atheists, Mark Twain, Carl Sagan, Stephen Hawking.....big deal.
Only a fool says there is a god.
There's no easy answer for such a horrible tragedy. As a teacher, my heart is aching. I just said a prayer for the victims. We know that some folks do not believe in God, and everyone has a right to make any choice he or she wants to make. In this case, the gunman made a choice, he chose evil over good just the same way some people do not believe in God, and they have a choice not to, However, prayer is a power tool that is used to communicate with God, and sometimes as human we do not use it as frequent as we should, however, when a terrible tragedy happens, we tend to want to hold prayer vigil. Prayer should not have been taken out of schools. That's my opinion, just like how I respect the people's opinion who do not believe in God. They have a right to believe what they want to believe, and chose what they want.
Organized prayer does not belong in schools. Schools are obliged to teach facts, not fiction. Prayer has not been shown to make any difference. What do you think prayer will do for the victims now?
I respect your right to have an opinion..... but your actual opinion on god in school is cra.p
If Allah was pushed in school would you still hold the same opinion?
If you want prayer in public schools, which god of the thousands of gods should be prayed to? And after you finish praying to each and every one of them (out of respect for others beliefs, of course), will you allow an atheist child to tell everyone that there is no god?
so disorganized prayer would be fine.
Prayer was taken out of the schools because it would be impossible to accommodate all the different religions that are represented in many schools these days. Muslims would need special prayer rooms, Hindus would need special diets (along with Muslims, Jews, and Catholics). Would everyone's prayers be allowed, or only the prayers of the religion shared by the majority of students? Most people who say they want prayer in school really mean they want Christian prayer. I don't mean to suggest that this is your view, you seem very tolerant of other faiths. I just wanted to point out the practical argument against prayer in schools.
@ Donathan....verbalized, public prayer has no place in a public school and there is nothing preventing a child from praying without verbalization...
for those who claim prayer was "removed" from public schools – no, only your need to proselytize via a verbalized prayer was and that arrogance has no place there.
Hey Christians if you deathly hate blasphemers so much just move to Iran if you like behead blasphemers.
The Muslim hate us atheists as well. :D
NO ONE wants to hear from you. YOU ARE NOT WANTED HERE. GO AWAY!!!!!!!!!!!!! You are a stupid moron. Learn to read. MOther of the monster was killed at home -NOT in the school.
Still a teacher of that school though.
Teacher's aide, not a teacher.
Well thanks the news media for mixing stuff up.
Some are saying it was Adam Lanza who did the massacre, not Ryan Lanza.
It is people like you who raise monsters like this. Obviously his IDIOT parents raised this loser. No child would shoot his mother for no reason. It is sad that he did not stop with her and then move on to YOU.
His parents were church going catholic Christians you deluded moron.
wow, who are you to say the parents were idiots, no one knows WHY this happened but to say cruel things like this makes me think you must be a very lonely person. Parents can be kind and loving and great parents and have this happen in their family so you need to rethink what nasty things you are saying. So sad this happened and hurt so many families.
And you can say for 100 percent that you won't be the next idiot parent of a loser?
It's interesting how psychologically and spiritually myopic we can get when we are confronted by a tragedy. The thousands of people including children in Syria and Southeast Congo who have been killed in those conflicts seem to not exist. It's only when we have witness to killing in our midst that we ask such a question. I pray for God's mercy for all those especially children who are killed in conflicts around the world every day.
How will prayer help them, Walter?
Why would you pray? You are asking god to change his plans for you? Kinda bold of you, eh?
any God who lets small innocent children get massacred isn't a God that i want to believe in....period...
For the people who believe, you have 3 options. Either God doesn't have the power to have prevented this. Or He does, but chooses not to. Or maybe this is part of "His Will". Which one works for Christians? Regardless, the 'message of hope' is growing thing, when its actions do nothing. Only one way to prove that prayer works – cut off your arm and pray that it comes back. See what happens.
Wow...so you think you are smarter than God and he has to prove himself to you. He already has. Look around!
I look around and see corpses.
God is good.
"It would be better for him if a millstone were hung around his neck and he were thrown into the sea, than that he would cause one of these little ones to stumble." We know God cares, the question is why doesn't he intervene? God wants us to choose life while at the same time choose to do good over evil. This man chose evil and sealed his fate. The world he altered today will never be the same, who knows what those twenty six individuals could have done in this lifetime. May they rest in peace. The same God that we feel was not there, is the same God who can provide the only shred of comfort to the families and that is a belief that one day they will see their loved ones again.
Actually, god does have to prove himself to the world and endless generations past and future...that is, if he exists.
And, he should send his son back to die again, this time to die for the sins of his Christians.
I totally understand where you're coming from. I'm a believer, and I wrestle with this too–especially on days like today. However, the anchor of hope I hold on to are the repeated promises promises in the Bible that God is good, and that his love endures forever. Further, this statement by Paul, in 1 Corinthians 13, helps me when I'm wrestling with the "why" questions: "Now we see things imperfectly, like puzzling reflections in a mirror, but then (i.e., Heaven) we will see everything with perfect clarity. All that I know now is partial and incomplete, but then I will know everything completely, just as God now knows me completely." All that said, I, like countless others, am devastated by what's happened, and my heart goes out to the family and friends of those lost in today's tragedy.
The bottom line is this.....this is a fallen sinful world...the Bible makes it clear that the heart of mankind is "wicked" and "who can understand it"...society and humanists will try to paint man as naturally good and some of us in our sheltered lives will never see the true horrors that occur each day in all parts of this fallen planet...the reality and truth is that mankind is born in sin and rebellion against God and is naturally inclined to evil and every wicked and selfish ambition..in fact the Bible makes it clear that "no one is good..no not one"...the consequence of a whole world trying to ignore and actually get rid of the Creator is calamity, disasters, disease, death..and that currently the world system is under the control of Satan whom the Bible calls "the god of this world" and "the prince of the power of the air"...God allows it for reasons only He knows but He will not allow it forever...He offers salvation, forgiveness and reconciliation with Himself ONLY through His Son Jesus the Messiah...and will one day judge and makes things the way they were supposed to...His way.....He is there to heal the brokenhearted and bring comfort...but don't play with God...you either obey Him and go His way...or go your own way and disregard Him or not take Him serious...which will lead to your ultimate destruction and eternal separation from Him...you choose
The bottom line, sir, is that the bible is a fraud and there is no god. Now get on with living your life without wagging your finger at anyone else.
@fsmgroupie Dio l'ama tuttavia
@End Religion: I don't know you..but God still loves you and wishes to save you...this is not a blame game this is the truth...the world is the way it is because of the poor choices of mankind and you know it...God does not cause wars we do...He does not cause starvation...we do because world governments withhold food from people and greed causes others to suffer....God allows evil for a time but will one day judge...I gladly will go on with the life I've been given to live it for the God who created me...loves me...and sent His Son to save me
AbFart: "God still loves you and wishes to save you"
There is no god. There is no reason to save me from anything.
"this is not a blame game this is the truth"
This is one of the many places where your insanity kicks in. Your belief in god is not "truth" it is a belief. You understand they have different meanings? I mean, a child understands the difference, so hopefully you do as well.
"the world is the way it is because of the poor choices of mankind and you know it"
The world is coming along just fine. I know of no overwhelming amount of poor choices, aside fomr all those who've chosen to talk to imaginary sky fairies.
"God does not cause wars we do"
God controls either everything or nothing. You don't pick and choose. You are nothing. If God controls nothing then there is no need of him. He is weak and pathetic. Fortunately we don't even have to make a guess at this since he does not exist.
"He does not cause starvation...we do because world governments withhold food from people and greed causes others to suffer...."
He cause everything or nothing. Take your pick. He created good and evil and controls the whole thing, supposedly.
"God allows evil for a time but will one day judge..."
Why would you worship a god who can stop evil but chooses not to? Your critical thinking skills are lacking.
"I gladly will go on with the life I've been given to live it for the God who created me...loves me...and sent His Son to save me"
No such thing happened. The bible is a fraud. There is no god. You are delusional.
@End Religion: the world is fine? Are you serious? So the fact that this tragedy happened shows the world is just fine along with the wars continuing, people starving due to corruption, crimes a common thing, and the world is fine??? And I'm the delusional one?
God does not control our actions and choices, He allows them and allows the consequences of our choices longing we will come to our senses and realize our need of Him.
I worship Him cause He created me and loves me and the issue here is TRUST that He knows what He is doing and will make good on His promise to judge al things both good and evil.
Whether you like or not you do need Him and He does wish to save you but it is your choice whether or not to allow Him.
I know it happened...my life is a witness of that...and so is the life of billions who have trusted Jesus and followed Him..He lived in me..you can't tell me otherwise (I'm smiling inwardly because I am so grateful that nothing can change that..not you or any power in creation)
@End Religion : He loves you...and this is the truth not cause I believe it but because it just is regardless of me or anyone else's acceptance of it...He does not need our approval
"For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, por 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 to save the world through Him, and he who believes in Him is not condemned but he who does not believe stands condemned already because He has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God' John 3:16-18
God is exactly where People have put him. Out of everything. And no, he didn't cause this, free will caused this. We're not robots taking his orders. S maybe to prevent this, we need to say "where is God, and how can we get to him" instead of wandering off wherever we want to and wondering why he isn't around. Oh, and we live in a fallen world too. FYI.
There is no god. You or we can't put him anywhere.
Does an insane man have free will? Of course not.
Did those children have free will? No. Why would god give a killer free will but deny it to the victims?
Free will is a total cop out, a way for Christians to deny the obvious: that god does not exist.
So what "free will" did these kids do to deserve this type of punishment? Or is this a punishment for the adults? You're an idiot.
Some of us don't believe in free will.
Telling others that G-d has left them, because they pushed Him away–that is far removed from being charitable. "Your journey of faith has brought you far–but it means nothing, because, you asked to be left alone that one time."
I thought god was all loving no matter what. Why are you slandering god like this? He will be mad.
Kyra, which do you prefer? We have grape, orange or fruit flavoured Kool-Aid.
CDC,,I blame you. for the EVIL!!! YALL do there in the Name of Jesus!!! Please stop ""SPREADING DECEASE " AND SPREADING VIRUSES!! tell the truth. To The Public and the people of this AMERICA.
Use English, please.
That's some high-quality crazy.
If I had a school-age child you better believe I would send them to school packing.
Why come dat dude not just kill his own self an leave da restof us lone?
What does God have to do with this???????? What about the LOSER parents who raised this MONSTER?!
Or didn't get him committed when they should have.
One down and one to go.
The so called monster was a teacher, his mother and was killed in school as well you idiot.
Actually, he killed his mother at home, then went to the school.
Why didn't god stop him then? Or cure him? Isn't he omnipotent? Apparently he just watched carelessly as he massacred the children. There's your "loving" god.
Blame blame blame.
You do realize that insanity is not taught, that institutions rarely keep all but the most insane for any period, and that by all reports, absolutely nobody who knew this kid ever imagined that he could be capable of something like this.
Blame, blame, blame.
There is no God.
if teach had a glock ain't none of this happen. Mo guns, mo betta
Yep, keep a loaded gun in a room full of kindergarten kids.
Typical of the thinking of NRA supporters of weapons of mass killing. Bright.
Wouldn't that be nice: a militarized school system. You can't pass Kindergarten unless you can hit 20/20 bullseyes and remain undetected within school grounds, among an active threat, for at least two hours. I hear Johnny is going to call his buddy 'The Destroyer of Life'.
Blame this on Satan, the one who hates good, God, people, and truth.
You can do that, but that means your god is powerless or doesn't care.
There is no satan. There is no god. Wake up and see the truth.
God, just like Satan, apparently watched.
but god created satan and knew exactly what satan would do
Or let's not blame it on any imaginary people at all. If your god is so omnipotent why doesn't he stop him? He already knows he's going to do it, right? Why doesn't he just eliminate "Satan" from the world, if he does not like him doing evil things, then why does he continue to let him do whatever he pleases. The answer is simple, there is no god or devil, if there were your god wouldn't be "almighty", but it's all a story from an ancient book written by primitive people called the Bible. Might as well go blame Hades or any other mythological god too while you're at it, they're as imaginary as the Christian god.
I think, God is afraid of Satan.
God and Satan, ridiculous.
Humans have been killing humans since the beginning of time, and it will never stop.
GOOD ONE,,, FOR THE GODLY one's ,,,THANKS for that Fruit of thou?
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.