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.
Where's God? Last time I check, he's not allowed in schools.
Well said, very true.
Nonsense. What you mean is, "I'm not allowed to use government money to force my religion on others who may not share it."
Students are allowed to believe as they please. Our courts have upheld the right for students to pray for themselves; they just can't be led by school staff. Students have the right to wear religiously-themed clothing, as long as it does not otherwise violate school dress codes. Students have the right to use school property for religious clubs, as long as it's not during school hours, and all such religious groups have equal access. All of these, and more, have been upheld by the courts.
I think what you mean is, "Why can't my Christian religion have a monopoly on what is taught?"
Please try again.
You know, the Europeans stopped asking that question after two World Wars. They saw for themselves the futility in it.
God died in the 19th century, humanity died in the 20th, eh?
it is precisely because we want to ignore the existance of God in our lives, we don't love each other, we don't tolerate each other as we should that these horrible events happen. But later, we ask where is God? then, where have we had him, in the back of our closet or just non-existent at all in our lives.
How did you get to that idiotic conclusion? It happened because he was insane.
God gave us the SUN ,,,TO let The "WICKED " know this is where your EVIL!! SOUL will Live for Eternity!! The "SUN" where EVIL lives
Either an awesome troll, or just completely unaware that without the sun, all life would cease to exist?
You be the judge.
Meanwhile, enjoy your lithium milkshake, o random punctuator.
The sun will eventually burn itself out. Ooops.
rAndoM CapiTaLizaTion maKes iT TRuE!
Eathiest... You know, someone who always goes with the eathiest answers to complex problems. Such as "Why did a loving god cause this horrible thing to happen? Maybe because that god is just a myth. That's the eathiest answer.
Maybe Mike Tyson is god.
Who cares about reading your beliefs now? I have buried children and I can tell you you are using this horrible horrible time for the families discussing and only thinking of yourself and trying to give reason to something that many of you may never have to live with forever is so not caring on your part. Believe your bibles if you want but stop pushing what you believe on others, your preaching seems more important than helping these people who will live with this day forever! Why are you not angry about the fact that anyone can buy an assault rifle whether they are sane or not and why is it always an insane person who does this kind of thing? The shooter died there and he should have shot himself first. but instead he planned everything and made himself important...... 20 beautiful children and caring people were killed today in a school and no matter what anyone believes or doesn't believe there is no good reason for what happened today!!!!!
There likely isn't ONE Christian here who would have allowed this massacre if they were God. Same for atheists.
I wouldn't have an eternal torture camp either. Maybe a bit of punishment, but I would probably just enlighten them (since I am all powerful) and forgive and let them enjoy the afterlife too.
I wouldn't make entry into heaven contingent on people believing in me or obeying me. That is really shallow and unjust. Basically everyone would get in, though some might get some remedial training first.
I would not make heaven be a place where the elect sit around kissing my egotistical derriere forever, doing nothing else. I would make it full of challenges and possibilities, and let them enjoy. The Christian heaven is a bore. I woould be more like the cruise director on The Love Boat (with a lot less cocaine than that chick did).
And I would definitely have Flying Spaghetti Monster bring over his beer volcano and stripper factory. Very good idea, that.
Interesting how a lowly atheist could easily come up with a more just and decent system than God did.
Wow, see how all the devil worshipers are trying to justify what that guy did to all those children?
Be real guys?
Let's get to the real reason here, help the families mourn, stop trying to stir them away with your evil minds
If you don't believe in God, then stop talking about him!! God doesn't need any of us to prove his Existence, or any of you to speak bad about him, get back to the real point and comfort the families! And all we can do is WAIT for judgment day, then we will see the truth...and also, stop trying so hard to prove he doesn't exist, its funny, very funny...focus on other things rather...simple
there are no gods.
read the article.
why do you have a problem with people responding to the article?
why do you want to stifle free speech?
are you offended by the truth?
go read the article – then comment if you have one.
you should be ashamed to be so ignorant.
You are such a liar. No one here is trying to justify what this guy did.
You said, "Wow, see how all the devil worshipers are trying to justify what that guy did to all those children?"
To be a devil worshiper you first have to believe in him. Since you are likely talking about the devil of christian lore, you pretty much have to be a christian to be a devil worshiper.
Lol...so quick to attack with your atheist beliefs...guys relax a bit...we are God believers and that will never change one bit...trying sooo hard to wipe away Gods existence won't help...ignorant are you serious?? And christians are devil worshipers? You kidding right??
I'm enjoying all this childish comments coming from the non-believers
Its very childish...yet again everyone can choose who and what they wanna belief in...and where is God? How dare you ask that! You never believed in him in the first place to ask that...
You said, "ignorant are you serious?? And christians are devil worshipers? You kidding right??"
Have you ever heard of anyone worshiping a creature they don't believe in?
The devil is part of christian lore. It is christians who believe the devil exists? It is christians who fear him. It can only be those that believe in him that worship him. That doesn't mean that all christians worship him.
You said, "and where is God? How dare you ask that! You never believed in him in the first place to ask that..."
Atheists don't ask that question because they want to know where your imaginary friend was, as they don't believe it was anywhere other than in your imagination. They ask it to get believers to explain their completely insane and contradictory stories about it.
Jon rocks, he made the religious nut STFU. KUDOS TO JON!!! JON FOR PRESIDENT LOL!
@ demon god,,,,,1) warning in your last Days on Earth The name you 'Choice" for your Post Will come to see you off to the Bottom of the SUN!!
Try again, but use cogent English this time.
"Where is God," indeed? He certainly didn't stop this tragedy from happening, did he?
Is that because mortals have the power to "ban" him from physical locations? Then he is not all-powerful.
Is that because he chose to allow it to happen to teach us a lesson? Then he is not all-loving, and is in fact horribly vindictive and petty.
More people have been killed "in the name of God" than for any other reason throughout history.
God had nothing to do with this, whether you believe in him/her/it/them or not...no more than video games, television, popular music, or poppyseed muffins did. That's just an excuse to get up on your hobby horse and make people feel worse in order to push your agenda and make yourself feel better.
Non-believers and those who do believe deserve to receive from each other respect over their convictions.
As we have been tortured, killed, and oppressed for centuries by religioous people, you really should not expect us to be off our guard with these proven totalitarians.
Why have the US politicians legalized high capacity clips ? That is the question. That is the only question. Why do Americans need these penile extensions ?
The answer is "NRA lobbyist money." They contribute huge amounts to ensure that the 2nd Amendment has even fewer restrictions on it than the 1st Amendment. All bought and paid for by the gun and ammo manufacturers as well as the prison-industrial complex. There's money to be made in keeping people scared, armed, and killing each other.
It's in he Constitution. Now you might argue that the Second Amendment needs adjustment, because it actually allows all forms of arms (not just guns) to everyone (including the insane and felons) without infringement. And it probably isn't a good idea to let people own nuclear arms.
This is why the Supreme Court always wimps out when dealing with the Second Amendment. It allows EVERYTHING, which they know is a really bad idea, but they want to keep things as open as possible.
Why do Americans need military style weapons? Well, I grew up in a gun family, got to know a great many gun people, went to a lot of gun shows. And I can tell you that some were responsible and decent and deserved the right, but a great many were very creepy people who were a taco short of a combination plate. Too many actually hoped someone would break in so they could shoot him.
When there is not one left who believe in God on earth then God will show no mercy on evil, that will be the end of menkind and sin, and judgement will come for those who choose sin reather then peace and love...for the love of one God has mercy on the the rest and allows evil to stil exist emong us for God loves those who stil claim his name and his promise of eternal life in the heavens...and for their sake he waits to save the sould of those who have choosen God's love and mercy...when the last of God's children depart this earth there'll be no mercy up on evil all who remain will not claim God as their savior, there'll be not need for God's mercy up on evil, that will be judgement's day ...God allows evil cause evil is part of our nature our sinful nature, on God can redemned us from the nagative paradox our sin has created...our departion from God to gain control has separated us from God that is the negative paradox...only through God's forgiveness and our repentance can our sins be cleaned
Are you forgetful ? You already posted this BS.
Not only forgetful, he can't write for shit either. My fifth-grade grandson writes better than this dunce.
ok, just to be clear on this .. when there are no more believers in this "god", then this "god" will take vengeance upon all those who are left, simply because they didn't believe. How petty and childish your "god" must be. Throwing temper tantrums because "he" didnt get his way. Someone give this "god" a blankie and a binky, and change its diaper.
While I'm sure my answer will be circular and endlessly redundant, what is it about God's nature that makes it so great?
God can't save everyone. If he did. Then the Middle Eastern wouldn't be killing their own people and our American Troops. We do our best keeping others safe. Their are heros, and their are evils. Heros are our GODS. They save people and forgive our sins.
Had a bit too much Jack tonight, did you?
It's "there," not "their."
Oh Dippy, you are remiss in your duties. There is a whole lot more than that wrong with his post!
I know. Just didn't have the time.
Actually in this case it should have been "they're".
No, wait – he wasn't saying "they're our heroes"....good grief.
No Ed. He meant to say "There are heroes, and there are villains." He just mangled it really badly. But I see how you thought it would be "they're."
Who knows what he was trying to say? He probably doesn't know himself. But he did say heros are gods, which doesn't make much sense.
Maybe not, Dippy. In Greco-Roman mythology, heroes were half man, half god. Maybe JP is a minion of Poseidon.
On weekends and vacations, I am often a minion of Dionysus, but I always pay for it the next morning.
Atheism, in itself, is an 'invalid argument'!! Duhhh
That made no sense whatsoever.
really? ~~ That's only because you have NO sense. duhhh
The "duh" thing makes you look like an even bigger idiot than your flimsy comments.
If I say duhh, I think I sound smart, even thought I'm an idiot.
Naturally...I mean, why would something based on empirical evidence and not on blind faith be valid? It's only valid if you can't see it or have any verification of it, right?
Your silly statement shows the underlying hatred you have for your fellow man, which is very un-Christlike of you.
Again, I say 'Duhhhhh'. :-)
Perhaps we have forgotten that we no longer allow God in our schools. Violation of the seperation of church and state,from what I understand as the excuse.
"Taking god out of schools" didn't cause another tragedy. A really screwed up kid did. Maybe it's time we all stop scapegoating things our pop-a-pill style life creates on some make-believe beardy-man and start taking responsibility for the roles we play in the world. Not to mention that this kid wasn't a student at this school.
Perhaps we shoud consider that he seems to have been from a church-going Catholic family, so undoubtedly he prayed a lot. Didn't help.
All schools need metal detectors. If they won't get control of guns, it's the only answer.
I am not here to argue with the eathiest i am here for those they might misslead...I am not here to save but to bring the news of God's existence and mercy to all who want to here the good new, Jesus is the Way the light the guide to God's existence.
"God's existence and mercy"
Better skip the "mercy" part.
What's an eathiest?
And it's hear, not here. What grade are you in, onemore?
Holy fucking shit! Did you finish elementary school?
As soon as you can present a single shred of evidence that your imaginary friend exists, we'll talk. Until then, your god is no more likely to exist than the Tooth Fairy. Even Loch Ness Monster is far more likely to be real.
"onemore" nees at least one more grade to finish. I'm waiting to read all about his "proof" of the existence of his "god".
"Taking god out of schools" didn't cause another tragedy. A really screwed up kid did. Maybe it's time we all stop scapegoating things our pop-a-pill style life creates on some make-believe beardy-man and start taking responsibility for the roles we play in the world.
God can't save everyone. If he did. Then the Middle Eastern wouldn't be killing their own people and our American Troops. We do out best keeping other safe. Their are heros and their are evil. Heros are our GODS. They safe people and forgive our sins.
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.