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.
There is no god.
That is your misguided opinion. The universe, earth, and the exquisite design of the human body testify to the truth of God's eternal power and Godship. None so blind as those who refuse to see.
And THAT, Bonnie is YOUR opinion. Many scientists disagree. I'll bet they're smarter than you are.
I think it's good that people's hearts are searching for God, but here's the problem: Why are you asking now? So many people only care about God when things get rough. Any other time, they just want him out of their way. What kind of a relationship is that?
These so-called pastors in this article and their completely ignorant statements demonstrate the fact that they do not know our Almighty God at all. I invite everyone to read Psalm 91 in the Bible where our Almighty God explains that if we care enough to have a true relationship with Him, He will indeed see us as valueable family members and protect us accordingly. His promise is clear: verse 10, "No calamity will befall you, and not even a plague will draw near your tent."
verse 14, "Because on me he has set his affection, I shall also provide him with escape. I shall protect him because he has come to know my name."
Nothing makes me laugh more than one believer saying other believers 'just don't get it'.
Any "God" who would allow this to happen to innocent Children, is a fraud.
So you just claim that if any harm befalls a believer then they were not a true believer. At least it's good for a giggle.
Ha!! That's comical. If there was a god, don't you think he would have stopped that? How stupid can people be? Do you really need this imaginary friend to get through life? Then you are weak and weak minded, just like atheist say you are. The whole "god thing" is very immature and stupid.
And about that verse about "dashing the little ones upon the rocks"...
JWT, there is a vast difference between being a so-called "believer" and being one of God's true children. True children of God are those who respect, obey and love God with all their heart and soul, setting Him as their first priority, and they are rewarded accordingly. I can personally attest to that fact. The pronouncement of innocence or not belongs to God. See Exodus 20:1-6 to fully understand. Disobedience to God is handed down from generation to generation.
So, Bonnie, genius, did you know any of these children? Their families? Are you saying that NONE of these particular children were "true children of god" and for that reason, they were murdered? Are you willing to place a bet on that?
You're an idiot.
You ask where God is????? Well for starters you took him out of school, government, and country. Evil is running rampant in this country. Common sense would tell you put God back in school and discipline back in the hands of a parent !
There is no god. Isn't it obvious? You people say he's everywhere, yet we have taken him out of the schools? Your so called god is immoral and so is your bible. Maybe if you took the time to read that trash, you'd see that this shooter was probably sent by your imaginary friend. He fits the bill perfectly. Stop your whining.
Common sense would tell you to do a little research before sounding like an idiot...kids can pray in school, no school official can lead a prayer. Get over it-not everyone is still blinded by the gullibility crutch that belief in your imaginary friend offers and not everyone believes in your version of fictional character.
Face the reality...this was done by a young man who had mental health issues and access to weapons. We need to start looking at what needs to be done to prevent further tragedies like this (changes to the mental health system; changes to gun laws).
Try looking in your own F'n country and leave America to US. It is none of your F'n busness. There's your sign
CA: Really??? So a tragedy like this shouldn't affect me?? You're delusional! Do you have any moral compass at all? This is not the time to be venting your hatred for Canadian's!
God isn't allowed in schools.
God of course is allowed into all schools. All people's gods not just one particular one. People can still pray and believe in their god all they want to in school. It is just that the schools cannot promote some particular version of god.
Screw where's God how about where's Man? Wheres common sense?
Where's God? Well from what I last recall, God is being taken out of schools, money, Law even united states so do not question God question ourselves
Funny how a deity can just be removed from a place.
And because of that god decides to send his agent of death to a school of innocent children to send us a message? Believe in me or I will send holy hell your way? Why would you want to spend eternity with that? The fear of death causes this irrational belief in a god so much so that you would rather be a puppet for the chance at eternal life rather than not live forever. Humans are some sick creatures there is no doubt about it.
Don't drug cartels send those kinds of messages from time to time to keep people in line?
James, our Almighty God is under no obligation to protect those who disrespect Him, by refusing to read His own word in the Bible, refusing to truly know Him and His Son, Jesus Christ. We are born as His creations, but we do not become His children until we exercise faith in His Son. Most so-called Christians today have been misled by false preachers, ministers, pastors and priests to believe that Jesus is God, Himself. Jesus says otherwise, "But be on your way to my brothers and say to them, "I am ascending to MY Father and your Father and to MY God and to your God." John 20:17. Why would God protect those who don't even care enough to read His word and the teachings of His Son, in order to truly KNOW Hiim?
So by your statement, you would be ok with a lifeguard letting you drown because you didn't learn to swim, but enjoy being in the water.
This is a great opportunity for religion. Yes indeed... Now let's look at the threats shall we.
While the tragedy of yesterday may linger for some time to come, The best thing I can do as a parent and believer is to pray for those family's who have been so tragically and randomly devastated by this senseless act of cowardliness. Its at times like this I realize that Jesus Christ was right there to take his children home as they had their lives taken away. This same Jesus will be there to comfort and over time heal the deep hurt and voids left in those who lost so much. The political debate will continue over gun control, children will continue to go to school, evil will still be in our midst and yes, God is still in control. I often wonder how numb we get to tragedy by the bombardment of media attention and constant rehashing of any given event. When was the last time the evening news had even 5 minutes of good news? We are a people driven by bad news our media thrives on it, our government runs on it and as Americans we've become accepting of it. I believe its time for a great awakening of the american back bone in this country, perhaps this tragic event in Sandy Hook can birth in each one of us a burning desire to effect change in each of our communities in a small or great way so that future generations can live in better environments.
Randy, with all due respect for you as a person, I must provide the truth of the matter. At John 5:28&29 in the Bible, Jesus said, "Do not marvel at this, because the hour is coming in which all those in the memorial tombs (graves) will hear his voice and come out, those who did good things to a resurrection of life, those who practiced vile things to a resurrection of judgment." See also John 11:21-29 regarding not only Jesus' promise of resurrection on the LAST DAY, but also it is brought out once again that Jesus is the Son of God, not God. Jesus is God's Son and Heir; Hebrews chapter one.
I don't ask where is God just as I don't ask where is Santa Claus. These kinds of events always send believers into fits of rationalization as they try to explain yet again why there is no evidence of a God influencing anything in our lives. They always have some justification, but as far as I can tell the simplest answer is the correct answer: there is no God.
Exactly. Yet again god stands by and watches the blood of innocents shed. Just so that he can take them home?????? Sounds like a greedy a$$ if you ask me. Nowhere else would such an explanation fly.
You can be mad at God, he's big enough to handle your anger and disbelief. He still loves you though.
Don't know about the Mayans – but the Bible says in the "last" days – it's going to be the WORST time in history – yes, even worse than the Dark Ages – coming to past looks like.
Why would you expect God to be present? You have banished him from everything in your everyday lives. If you didn't talk to your earthly father for years would you expect him to be there when Tragedy happens? I guarantee you that God is very much there for those that have a real and continuing relationship with him.
Weird. So I guess I should expect firemen and paramedics to not respond during a crisis because, well you know, I haven't spoken to most of them, ever.
Don't forget the winged unicorns!!! Their powers can offer as much protection as God. Oh I almost forgot – the god like beings of planet Nibru, we can all pray to them for guidance too. I always pray for comfort to the three. Im ure too their contuined combined wisdom will guide me properly through life......
Dear people of faith. Please remember to pray and not get too distracted by those who do not believe in the power of prayer. These families are hurting and need our prayers and support. It is easy for us to argue endlessly on this forum instead of spending time on our knees.
Dear people with no faith. I know that it is hard to understand how a loving God could allow tragedies like this to happen. I appreciate your willingness to ask the hard questions. There are no easy answers. It's difficult to understand why God would allow this to happen but I am convinced that he isn't just sitting back and enjoying watching people suffer. Think about this. Could it be that Jesus Christ is who the Bible says that he is? If he really died a tortuous death on the Cross isn't that proof that he cares for mankind? If he did it to pay for our sin debt, doesn't that show his desire to rescue a hurting world?
I do not believe that God is afraid of hard questions. Is it possible that God may just be out there? It wouldn't hurt to ask. I believe that God speaks through the Bible so I would encourage you to read it with an open mind. Talk to God and ask him if he is there and to reveal himself to you for who he really is.
There as so many better things to do that read the bible.
I have a concussion now because I slammed my head into my desk at the idiocy of your post.
Showing a desire to help people in the world is accomplished by *doing something* about it. You don't help someone by twiddling your thumbs and saying 'gosh golly wow I sure wish I could help you'.
Another Christian trying desperately to rationalize that the obvious answer isn't the correct one: there is no God. No one hears your prayers. No one is using his supernatural powers to influence events in the world around us. Once you accept this reality you won't waste any more of your life spinning excuses to explain why the world isn't like your faith says it should be.
Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain. Instead put your hard earned cash in my collection plate! I need to spread the word. Being god ain't free.
My heart goes out to everyone who has been affected and as a christian and gun owner i ask that everyone needs to wake up and realize that we are definitly in need of stricter gun laws and also need to take steps to keep our kids from seeing guns amd violent influence such as video games and telivision who glorifie violent behavior and not blame god but look at ourselves to see were the short comings are that create these problems. Again my heart goes out to all those affected and also my prayers and that my coments are not ment to be mallishes but only those of a parent in shock thank you and god bless
I've read a few of the comments here and most are totally depressing. I fully believe God sent a host of his angels to be with those children. Maybe not to protect them, but to comfort them knowing they'd be coming home to Him. God has given us free will. That doesn't mean he'll step in and prevent something from happening, but it does mean He'll be with us when it does. Even though He's been taken out of the schools, doesn't mean He isn't still there in the hearts and minds of students, teachers, and administrators. It's not that He doesn't want to stop what happens. He does. But He wants to see what we do with what happens. How many times have we pulled together as a nation after something horrific like this happens. Only the stories to come will allow us to see how God is working in us and through us.
Explain how god was taken out of the schools ?
Believing something doesn't make it true. You choose to believe those things for one reason and one reason only: you like that narrative better than the alternative. The truth, that bad things happen to good, innocent people and that there is no justice in some future life is just too painful for you to accept, so you embrace fairytales about a God and angels that make everything all better.
You said, "It's not that He doesn't want to stop what happens. He does. But He wants to see what we do with what happens." Answer: if He created the Universe, he ALREADY KNOWS what we'll do with what happens" which actually makes little sense. And if he WANTS to stop what happened, He could easily do that if he created the universe. He decided Not to Stop it from happening, for whatever reason.
God,why didn't you do anything to help? God's answer... I am no longer welcome in schools anymore.
You sound uneducated here! Kids can pray and read their bibles-that is the freedom of religion. Teacher/school personnel simply can't lead the students in prayer or teach from the bible. This whole thing is to meant to respect those kids who don't share the belief in your imaginary friend....equal treatment for all. Given that there is no evidence to support that your god exists or that the stories in the bible ring true it is best left out of the school system...we don't teach them to pray to Santa or leprechauns, why teach them to pray to another fictional character?
Gee, you can speak for your "god", huh? Please.. tell us more. Well, so do a lot of people on my TV on Sunday mornings. Guess you have "god" on speed-dial, or Twitter? You're also an idiot if you don't know about the court case that stopped PUBLIC prayer in school. You can still pray before that big Chem final, but the class doesn't need to hear it.
Yet you want to spend your eternal life with him. A deity that allows for this cr@p to happen. Hmmmmm, don't you think that reunion will be a little awkward at the pearly gates? Yeah, sorry I let that lunatic slaughter your innocent children years ago... but hey welcome to heaven try looking for you lost loved one over by the punch bowl.
Some "smart" adults in society keep removing God from our children, our schools and our public places. We spend so much time, effort and money on this in the name of progress....and then we wonder "Where is God?"
In time, your "god" will join the thousands of other "gods" throughout human history. You'll be able to check out a bible from your local library .... just look in the mythology section.
Your focus is off base my friend. God is not in book or picture. It is in every core element of the human soul. Only peole that can't look themslves in the mirror and truthfully assess themselves deny God exists in others.
"god" exists nowhere. And just WHICH "god" would it be. You have at least a 6000:1 shot of picking the right one. As of yet, not one has been shown to exist. You'll readily dissmiss 5,999 of them, what makes yours so special? And, I can look at myself in a mirror, quite clearly, I seee the realities of this world, not a fairy tale Utopian world, that, according to your own "holy texts", we don't deserve in the first place. Gee what a nice childish, petty "god" you have there.
Quite possible that if the young man in CT would have embraced just one of the 6,000 GODs we would stil lhave 20 more children in America opening presents on CHRISTMAS this year.
As sad as this Crisis is we do question our faith in God. However we have to also ask ourselves The More that our sociaty as a whole has removed GOD from almost every part of our culture. We don't plege alegance to our country because it mentions GOD, We don't say merry chistmas because that is a acknowledgement of christ so we now say happy holliday. We remove him from everything and then we ask where is he. He is in that comforting word you hear when you cant understand the Evil. We ask wher is God but don't acknowledge this evil. I pray for the parents and famalies. I pray they they can Find peace. The answer is there are evils in this world and people determined to follw that way. But you can be assured that these Children are in their father hands now and that they will not suffer this life watching the evil things that men do. God Bless you all and may we all find some form af peace in the Midst of all this.
John, massacres have occured all throughout history even when the popular belief in god was strong. If all people were good people we wouldn't have violence, but that will never be the case whether we all say we love and follow whichever manifestation of god or not. This has nothing to do with whether god is in our hearts or not. Mentally ill people exist and they do bad things. It really sucks but let's not pretend that belief in god cures all things. There will always be unstable people who do things like this.
Kids can still pray to the respective god. Teachers/school officials can't lead prayer. People are not being told they can't say Merry Christmas...that is people like you conjuring up more bs (btw Christmas isn't christian and was in fact stolen from the pagans).
This type of tragedy could have happened at any location, the fact that it happened at a school brings out the uneducated to speak of things they obviously are too blind to see the truth of.
I don't begrudge these people for holding on to the smallest thing but the bottom line is that this young man snapped mentally and gained access to weapons that he should never have had access to. His punishment will never come because he is dead...no heaven or hell for him to be judged in...just a grave and too many left behind to pick up the pieces and try to put their lives back together.
I think it was selfish of him to take his life and I think it's selfish of christians to use their belief at a time like this.
I am not as worried about the children that died as I am about the ones that survived this massacre. Much therapy will be required for the survivors. They may not understand now what happened, but as they grow up the import of this evil event will come more into focus. The dead are dead. The living still suffer. It is hard to get over the sadness of such a tragic event.
In times passed when we had more God we also had slavery, child labor, and lynchings. You don't like reality, so you embrace fairytales to make you feel better. Our society has evolved in many ways since the country was founded. A lot more has happened than simply ending school prayer. The only role less belief in God plays in an uptick in bad behavior is that fewer people are prompted to do the right thing for fear an omniscient God will know and punish them. But that doesn't require God to exist, only that people believe he exists.
@skytag I am an atheist. I believe that if belief in God (notice big G) helps people through trying times, then that is a good thing. It is not for me, but others find much solace in the worship of a almighty deity. That can not be a bad thing.
Prayer is great to help yourself heal in times like this, but it is a human tool for human use, not to conjur up some magical being who provides eternal life. God will never protect you because he doesn't exist in the sense that humans have come to want to believe. There is no protector except yourself. Believe in god if you want to if it helps you to sleep at night but don't beg god for help just help yourself.
uh, someone calling for me?
the question should be God is asking where are you if we all love him and worshiped him this type thing could never happen
Cannot worship a non-existant being.
WRONG!! Belief is your god has caused many a death. To use belief at a time like this is absurd...this was a madman gone wild and 26 innocent lives were lost.
Prayer deflects bullets? Oh man, you have to post your video proof of that on youtube. Can you imagine how many hits that would get?
And existing ones that demand worship do not merit it.
You are correct, Mike. I invite everyone to read Psalm 91 in the Bible where our Almighty God explains that if we care enough to have a true relationship with Him, He will indeed see us as valueable family members and protect us accordingly. His promise is clear: verse 10, "No calamity will befall you, and not even a plague will draw near your tent."
verse 14, "Because on me he has set his affection, I shall also provide him with escape. I shall protect him because he has come to know my name."
I'm confused, help me out here. So the kids were murdered because your deity didn't see them as family members? Kids are part of families, right? Oh, wait, maybe they weren't old enough yet to have had a true relationship with him? How does a deity expect to have followers if it keeps killing them?
So your position is that God punished some kids I don't know in Connecticut because I'm an atheist in Florida. I'm sure that makes all kinds of sense to you people.
Yes, their deity wants you to know that being an atheist displeases it, so it will murder kids until you see the error of your ways. Clear as crystal.
You have to remember that these people cannot Worship God, They are to busy Worshiping themselves since that all think that they are the highest form of intelligence in the Universe.
Isn't lying a sin?
@Damocles – Thanks for the explanation. ;-)
The reality is that Christians invest an enormous amount of time and energy rationalizing why the real world doesn't reflect any of their beliefs.
We live in a mortal world. We are all subject to mortal ails. We all die–some, far too soon. This doesn't make things right or wrong. It's simple reality. The only one to blame for this tragedy is the killer. It doesn't make it any easier, no matter how we tote it up.
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.