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December 14th, 2012
06:17 PM ET

Massacre of children leaves many asking, 'Where’s God?'

By Dan Gilgoff and Eric Marrapodi, CNN Belief Blog Co-Editors

(CNN) – As he waited with parents who feared that their kids were among the 20 children killed at a Connecticut elementary school on Friday, Rabbi Shaul Praver said the main thing he could do for parents was to merely be present.

“It’s a terrible thing, families waiting to find out if their children made it out alive,” said Praver, who leads a synagogue in Newtown, Connecticut, and was among nine clergy gathered with parents at a firehouse near Sandy Hook Elementary School, where the shooting occurred.

“They’re going to need a lot of help,” Praver said of those who are close to the dead.

From the first moments after Friday’s massacre, which also left six adults and the shooter dead, religious leaders were among the first people to whom worried and grieving families turned for help.

Over the weekend, countless more Americans will look to clergy as they struggle to process a tragedy in which so many of the victims were children.

“Every single person who is watching the news today is asking ‘Where is God when this happens?’” says Max Lucado, a prominent Christian pastor and author based in San Antonio.

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Lucado says that pastors everywhere will be scrapping their scheduled Sunday sermons to address the massacre.

“You have to address it - you have to turn everything you had planned upside down on Friday because that’s where people’s hearts are,” Lucado says.

“The challenge here is to avoid the extremes – those who say there are easy answers and those who say there are no answers.”

Indeed, many religious leaders on Friday stressed that the important thing is for clergy to support those who are suffering, not to rush into theological questions. A University of Connecticut professor on Friday hung up the phone when asked to discuss religious responses to suffering, saying, “This is an immense tragedy, and you want an academic speculating on the problem of evil?”

“There is no good answer at that time that anyone can hear and comprehend and take in,” said Ian T. Douglas, the bishop for the Episcopal diocese of Connecticut, referring to counseling family and friends of the dead. “They’re crying out from a place of deep pain.”

Praver, the rabbi, will join a memorial service Friday night at Newtown’s St. Rose of Lima Roman Catholic Church.

“We’re going to have a moment of prayer for the victims,” Praver said of the service. “We cannot let it crush our spirit and we march on.”

Some national religious groups are also sending staff to Newtown, with 10 chaplains dispatched from the North Carolina-based Billy Graham Evangelistic Association on Friday.

Public officials including President Obama, meanwhile, turned to the Bible in responding to the shooting. “In the words of Scripture, 'heal the brokenhearted and bind up their wounds,' ” Obama said from the White House, citing the book of Psalms.

On Twitter, #PrayForNewton became a trending topic.

CNN’s Belief Blog: The faith angles behind the biggest stories

Some religious leaders argue that modern American life insulates much of the nation from the kind of senseless death and suffering that plagues much of the world every day.

“Most of the world, for most of the world’s history, has known tragedy and trauma in abundance,” wrote Rob Brendle, a Colorado pastor, in a commentary for CNN’s Belief Blog after this summer’s deadly shooting in Aurora, Colorado, which left 12 dead.

“You don’t get nearly the same consternation in Burundi or Burma, because suffering is normal to there,” wrote Brendle, who pastored congregants after a deadly shooting at his church five years ago. “For us, though, God has become anesthetist-in-chief. To believe in him is to be excused from bad things.”

My Take: This is where God was in Aurora

Lucado said there was an eerie irony for the Connecticut tragedy coming just before Christmas, noting the Bible says that Jesus Christ’s birth was followed by an order from King Herod to slay boys under 2 in the Roman city of Bethlehem.

“The Christmas story is that Jesus was born into a dark and impoverished world,” Lucado says. “His survival was surrounded by violence. The real Christmas story was pretty rough.”

Many religious leaders framed Friday’s shooting as evidence for evil in the world and for human free will in the face of a sovereign God.

“The Bible tells us the human heart is ‘wicked’ and ‘who can know it?’” the Rev. Franklin Graham said in a statement about the massacre. “My heart aches for the victims, their families and the entire community.”

Many religious leaders also said that such tragedies are a good time for lay people to express doubts about God – or anger.

“This is a time to go deep and pray,” says Lucado. “If you have a problem with God, shake a fist or two at him. If he’s God, he’s going to answer. And if he’s in control, he’ll find a way to let you know.

- CNN Belief Blog Co-Editor

Filed under: Christianity • God • Uncategorized

soundoff (9,195 Responses)
  1. Luke

    God is right where he has always been. When it rains, it rains on the just and the unjust. Just look what happened to God's son when he went to the cross. Are any of us any better than God's son that we may avoid or meet a similar fate ?

    December 15, 2012 at 8:41 am |
    • SixDegrees

      Then god has no point.

      Which isn't surprising. Because there isn't one.

      December 15, 2012 at 8:43 am |
    • Alien Orifice

      There is no God. Silly

      December 15, 2012 at 8:44 am |
    • Blaster

      Atheists have no guidelines and no morals.

      December 15, 2012 at 8:59 am |
    • Alien Orifice

      Blaster, you are clueless.

      December 15, 2012 at 9:05 am |
    • John A

      So true. The cross of Christ, is where all the evil from mankind was put on Jesus, to give us the chance to return back to God.

      December 15, 2012 at 9:10 am |
    • Serve Him

      God never promised Christians or non-believers a pain free life. However, He does promise someday He will create a new heaven and new earth to put things back to the way He intended. This place existed before mankind introduced sin and it will come again.

      December 15, 2012 at 10:32 am |
  2. Duke

    You get the same answer if you ask "where is the easter bunny" – god exists only in one's imagination.

    December 15, 2012 at 8:39 am |
    • Blaster

      Maybe atheists lacks of imagination then.

      December 15, 2012 at 8:59 am |
  3. Supafat

    We keep pushing God out of our lives. We are creating a void that is being filled with evil.

    December 15, 2012 at 8:38 am |
    • SixDegrees

      There is no god. If there were, a god that delights in murdering blameless young children is not a god worthy of worship, or of anything other than scorn and rejection.

      December 15, 2012 at 8:39 am |
    • james

      and the evil is out there looking to find an opening. keep up the good work and keep it out.

      December 15, 2012 at 8:40 am |
    • John A

      So true. The absences of good, results in evil. The absences of God (not religion, not the same) in ones life, results in evil.

      December 15, 2012 at 9:14 am |
  4. Reality

    School shootings are not new:

    Some early history: (from Wikipedia)

    The earliest known United States shooting to happen on school property was the Pontiac's Rebellion school massacre on July 26, 1764, where four Lena-pe American Indians entered the schoolhouse near present-day Greencastle, Pennsylvania, shot and killed schoolmaster Enoch Brown, and killed nine or ten children (reports vary). Only three children survived.[1]

    What to do?

    Background checks not only for the teachers but also their relatives.

    Added security for all schools, to inlcude metal detectors, ID badges, guards, video cameras and motion detectors, fences, guarded gates.

    More at-home/internet education.

    School buses transportation only. No cars allowed within three miles of a school.

    No toleration of bullying or bullies.

    And instill in all global citizens, three words: DO NO HARM!!!

    December 15, 2012 at 8:34 am |
    • Alien Orifice

      I agree with some of this. I think just having some security would make all the difference.

      December 15, 2012 at 8:42 am |
    • SImran

      Also, is it time to address firearm control?

      December 15, 2012 at 8:44 am |
    • Omen

      Mainly see the person that has mental issues, or records so that they never own a gun.

      December 15, 2012 at 8:45 am |
    • SImran

      Omen,
      Trying to identify mentally unstable personalities and making sure they dont have a gun would be a difficult task. Most of them would appear pretty normal on the face of it, many may not have sought any medical attention at all, and families may never come forward. Even if they start conducting a personality as.sessment prior to firearm license, they will always manage to acquire a firearm in someone else's name.
      Should general public have any ac.cess to firearms at all?

      December 15, 2012 at 8:53 am |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      Reality, even for you, this is an unbelievably stupid post.

      There was a security system in the school.

      How do you plan to pay for armed guards for EVERY PUBLIC SCHOOL in the country?

      "No cars within 3 miles of a school"? You must be deaf, dumb, and blind. Schools are IN NEIGHBORHOODS. Many of them are no more than 300 feet from the nearest residence. Many of the kids walk less than a block to school. Do you expect that schools will have to be like prisons, located miles away from every residence? Idiotic. And how would you expect teachers to get to school without driving? You'd have THEM ride a school bus, too? When? Most of them arrive at least an hour before the kids do and many don't leave for hours after the students have gone home.

      Jesus, have some damn coffee before you start posting your drivel.

      December 15, 2012 at 8:57 am |
    • Blaster

      Reading posts that was made from all night, i see familiar names here that seemed to have spent the whole night doing nothing else than running their big mouth. Some atheists need to go to sleep. Or getting a life.

      December 15, 2012 at 9:02 am |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      Blaster, why are you here? Why do you care what anyone else does?

      December 15, 2012 at 9:08 am |
  5. Guest

    I am a mother of four children. My children were initially brought up in a catholic household before I lost faith because of all the corruption. My eldest son identifies himself as a christian, second child as an atheist, third child atheist, fourth child agnostic (all above the age of 17). My kids are some of the most decent human beings you will ever meet. Of course I am prejudiced but have been told that many times by others. They were taught that you treat people with respect and kindness no matter who they are or what they believe. No one should need a god to know right from wrong just a brain.

    December 15, 2012 at 8:34 am |
    • adh1729

      Sorry you thought God and the priest were the same. They are not. Bible prophecy repudiated that corrupt system long before it ever started.

      December 15, 2012 at 8:38 am |
    • Blaster

      Losing trust in God because you found out about a handful of corrupted people is not a good decision. You will not find more honest people in atheism either, corruption is everywhere, even in atheism.

      December 15, 2012 at 9:05 am |
    • TruthPrevails :-)

      "corruption is everywhere"

      Blaster, that is about the only rational thing you have said. Just look at the prison population in the USA-less than 1% Atheist, 75% or better are christian.

      December 15, 2012 at 9:20 am |
  6. SImran

    Should the question here really be about an imaginary creature and what he does, or about what the real government does about gun control?

    December 15, 2012 at 8:33 am |
  7. egtrust your father

    I ask any who will , that we might pray and hold faith that this will carry force to our leaders that they might speak in true and right change that it might save more from this heartship

    December 15, 2012 at 8:33 am |
    • SixDegrees

      Prayer is a pointless waste of time. It's little different than talking to a wall, except when most people do it they're talking to a ceiling.

      December 15, 2012 at 8:37 am |
    • egtrust your father

      Put your arguing to good use and give us your thoughts on what you see as a positive way to change our society im interested in your thoughts

      December 15, 2012 at 8:41 am |
  8. Jburd

    God gave us a free will and a chance to make decisions. Eve sinned knowing she should not, this is a tragedy, as was columbine, hitler, etc. God mourns with us, seeing people he created in His likeness doing horrible acts. God needs us to comfort the families, love our neighbors.....if more people had god in their lives, this may not happen

    December 15, 2012 at 8:32 am |
    • SixDegrees

      If we're created in god's likeness, what does that say about god?

      Incidents like this are proof positive of one simple fact: there is no god.

      December 15, 2012 at 8:34 am |
    • SImran

      Up until Eve bit into the apple, she didnot know right from wrong. So, how was she to know she was sinning?

      December 15, 2012 at 8:35 am |
    • Jburd

      An afterthought.......so many people reject god, trying to take him out of the pledge of allegiance, out of courthouses, taking Christ out of Christmas......but as soon as a horrible tragedy happens these same people ask where is God? Do you want Him or not?

      December 15, 2012 at 8:37 am |
    • Mirosal

      @ Jburd.. if your "god" is omniscient, then free will is a moot point. It cannot exist.. so which is it? Is your "god" omniscient, or do we have free will? Oh, and if we have free will your "god" will punish us for eternity if we make the wrong choice, like denying "it" even exists. That is not free will, that is coersion and duress, the sure sign of a bratty child who cries when he doesn't get its way.

      December 15, 2012 at 8:41 am |
    • Jburd

      An afterthought.......so many people reject god, trying to take him out of the pledge of allegiance, out of courthouses, taking Christ out of Christmas......but as soon as a horrible tragedy happens these same people ask where is God? Do you want Him or not? Just a thought

      December 15, 2012 at 8:42 am |
    • SImran

      @ Jburd,
      "Where is God?" – a rhetorical question, which is a figure of speech in the form of a question that is asked in order to make a point and without the expectation of a reply.
      So, nope, don't want an imaginary being.

      December 15, 2012 at 8:48 am |
    • Jburd

      God told Adam and eve Not to eat the forbidden fruit, she chose to. God punished her and Adam. I suggest you skeptics read the book letters to a skeptic, your questions will be answered, as were mine. This is the works of Satan, which the bible clearly defines. I am no theologian nor am I weak minded. I know this, god mourns for those children,adults and their families. There are consequences to our sins, as was with Eve. I pray for non believers, what a shame I will not meet you in heaven some day. The moral here is love your neighbor, if you see someone needing help, try to help, random acts of kindness may prevent things like this and may turn people to a godly life.

      December 15, 2012 at 8:52 am |
    • SImran

      @ Jburd,
      So you really think that Eve started men.struating and went thru painful childbirth coz she ate the apple that god told her not to?
      But what did the other mammals eat?

      December 15, 2012 at 8:56 am |
    • SImran

      @ Jburd,
      If god created EVERYTHING and he knows everything ahead of time, why did he create satan?

      December 15, 2012 at 9:00 am |
  9. gonzoaster11

    I try not to get too far into my beliefs because they are somewhat unconventional, but I'll say this. One cannot believe in an active God who interferes in life and people having free will at the same time. They are incompatible beliefs. God may be present in us all and in all things, but God must be passive and cannot interfere in our choices.

    December 15, 2012 at 8:25 am |
    • SixDegrees

      Then there's no point to god.

      It's much simpler to just cut out all the middle ground and simply state the obvious: there is no god.

      December 15, 2012 at 8:27 am |
    • adh1729

      Science will fly you to the moon. Atheism will fly you into the mall with an AK-47 to get rid of everyone in sight. We didn't have this kind of cr*p when America had moral values. Congratulations to those responsible.

      December 15, 2012 at 8:42 am |
    • adh1729

      SixDegrees Then there's no point to god.It's much simpler to just cut out all the middle ground and simply state the obvious: there is no god.

      Then there is definitely no point to you.

      Your religious fervor is truly amazing, but I was curious, have you gotten any rockets yet to the Andromeda galaxy to disprove any higher powers that might reside there? I mean, you are the ones who profess to hold to facts rather than faith - come on, how is the Andromeda search doing?

      December 15, 2012 at 8:45 am |
  10. Mario Fantz

    I am so sorry for the parents to go thru of this kind of tragedy.
    is not fair to see our childrens thaking away from us in this teribble way,
    I ad my doughter at 16 years old going thrue a car major tragedy, she was three monts in a coma.will?
    To the parens and family please go for help ,to deal with this kind of tragedy
    hug your childrens daily, and teach them to love god.
    don't blame God!
    Is been taking away aspecially from all schools
    Well again, I am so sorry I'll will pray for you and the world to be come better place to live.
    Mr. President God bless you, You are a great Man and a great parent. AMERICA NEED YOU
    sorry if my spelling is not proper, but! my hearth is broken
    Mario Fantz Carcioppolo

    December 15, 2012 at 8:25 am |
  11. Kebos

    Yesterday was a horrible day. It haunts us all. How to explain this is hard enough to do without introducing the silly notion that a God or gods should have been there to fend off such evil. It's the equivalent of asking why Superman, Spiderman or The Avengers didn't swoop in to stop it. Total fiction. God is where God has always been.......nowhere.

    December 15, 2012 at 8:25 am |
  12. sandra

    First off, don't you ever blame GOD for the troubles of this world. GOD gave us LIFE and everything we need in it. I don't think there is one solution to this particular problem and I may sound silly but I'm going to say it anyway. If having security in every school is too expensive then the security guards that are already in our schools, have them search everyone before they enter the schools. I don't care if they have a mom dad or sister who works there. Pat them all down.. even the president of the US and his kids. Everyone should be searched and it would'nt cost anybody anything extra. Somebody gotta do something. And one more thing, STOP putting guns into 6 year old hands and teaching them to kill small animals at an early age. You should never put a gun in a childs hand. If a grown person wants to go hunting then you go. Some of you adults think its cool and cute to put hunting rifles in kids hands, not knowing that one day he or she will turn them on you or innocent people. What the h*ll was a teacher doing with 3 very serious weapons anyway? Shooting down babies that don't even know to duck. It makes me sick to my stomach to think that these babies looked this BEAST in the eyes, not knowing that this was the end of their precious life. I'm so sick at heart right now. Get ready to grief some more people because it's going to happen again. I just hope that whoever decides to do evil that day.. don't take it out on little elementary kids. DISGUSTING!!!!!

    December 15, 2012 at 8:24 am |
  13. math

    (1 John 5).We know we originate with God, but the whole world is lying in the [power of the] wicked one...

    December 15, 2012 at 8:23 am |
    • james

      keep up the good work math. even with all the clowns out there, someone is listening and it makes it all worth it. j

      December 15, 2012 at 8:31 am |
    • SixDegrees

      So god isn't anywhere near being as all-powerful as his followers claim. And he certainly isn't the caring, loving, benevolent sweetie he's painted as, either.

      Sorry, but this passage contradicts so many others in the same tome it lapses into the ridiculous.

      December 15, 2012 at 8:33 am |
    • james

      this passage answers many of the questions people are asking. go to jw.org and find what the bible really teaches.

      December 15, 2012 at 8:38 am |
  14. egtrust your father

    Give some possitive advice or condolence there is no need to be selfsentered and rude at a time like this

    December 15, 2012 at 8:23 am |
  15. Virginia

    I regret any Christian who would set a poor image during this trying time. Regardless of human error which believers and nonbelievers do possess, Jesus Christ was a historical figure. He taught peace, love and acceptance. Now that core truth is and premise is what I choose to believe. People can get in the way these days of what is really simple, pure and true. In the words of Jesus, love one another. I am a follower of Jesus, call it what you will. Thank God for his mercy on me and for his Son.

    December 15, 2012 at 8:23 am |
    • egtrust your father

      Amen

      December 15, 2012 at 8:26 am |
    • james

      John 13:34,35 and there is another james out there so be careful and do not be confused.

      December 15, 2012 at 8:35 am |
  16. Chadism

    The God of Isreal is real and nothing gets done without Him....so states the Chad. One wonders why anyone would worship such a vengeful, cruel, aszhole of a God? The gods have all been made up by man in ancient times, time to get over the myths. My take on stopping these senseless tragedies is to strictly regulate the sale of guns and large amounts of ammo, other countries have a much better system in place.

    December 15, 2012 at 8:22 am |
    • Chadism

      Badly worded, not stopping the tragedies, but making it more difficult to obtain weapons.

      December 15, 2012 at 8:31 am |
  17. jB

    God is a myth. Just like the easter bunny and santa. Weak minded people need him.

    December 15, 2012 at 8:19 am |
    • Serve Him

      Actually a weak mind follows that crowd rejoicing. It is the one that breaks away from the crowd who endures the type of persecution reflected in your comment.

      December 15, 2012 at 8:22 am |
    • james

      who is not weak?

      December 15, 2012 at 8:27 am |
  18. Serve Him

    Where in the Bible does it say that if you believe in Christ that no harm will come to you. Where in the Bible does it say that humans will live in harmony? What it does say in the Bible is once sin entered the world, we would suffer (and we do). But the great promise is that Jesus will return and eventually a new heaven and earth will be created (when the lamb lays next to the lion). As far as the gun laws, you are treating a symptom by suggesting that we remove guns. The problem is the evil being promoted & embraced in our society. What I don't also understand is why someone who truly knows Christ, and believe in Christ, do Atheist find that so threatening. Not all, but some of you who do not believe in Christ seem to find all kinds of reason to detest the idea and persecute those that believe.

    December 15, 2012 at 8:17 am |
    • SixDegrees

      And once again, we hear from the "No True Scotsman" contingent. It's been a while since I've seen that ancient fallacy deployed. Thanks for playing.

      December 15, 2012 at 8:22 am |
    • Serve Him

      And you are hiding behind some empty term that provides you comfort. The more you spew hate, the better you feel. And it is hate the reveals that heart.

      December 15, 2012 at 8:25 am |
    • Me

      Serve Him,
      Try treating lunatics like this killer with your blabbering. The problem however is that they are not evil, but mentally ill. So, guess what, your Christ can't heal them. Maybe, psychiatrists can help.
      Whatever you do, lunatics will always remain. At least what one can do is to understand how these lunatics get hold of weapons of mass destruction, and how to restrict their access to these weapons? This would be a realistic approach.

      December 15, 2012 at 8:31 am |
  19. Dan

    If you worship a god that could have saved 20 innocent lives from slaughter yesterday but didn't because his nose was out of joint over not allowing prayer in school than you need to find a new god because the one you're praying to is a dick.

    December 15, 2012 at 8:16 am |
  20. Wandar

    God is where God has always been,,,but for a long long time now God has been removed from everyday life,,,removed from schools and everyday aspects of our lives. God just isn't allowed anywhere in today's society,,,,,our government has removed Him,,,Ask most small children the question "Do you know who God is ?"..and they have no idea who you're talking about. I can say proudly I met and learned about God as a small child,,My parents made sure that I was taught who God was from the time I could understand language and continued until I became an adult. I wasn't forced to believe in something I couldn't see, or touch or audibly hear. I just knew God was there,,He was in my heart,,and as most anyone that has that relationship with God will tell you, it's a spiritual journey,,it doesn't happen overnight..but you just know He is there. The world is in terribly sad shape these days,,,don't see it getting any better either. What sustains me in all the evil that has taken over is knowing that God is with me,,,He comforts me,,He has made me a better person from having my own personal relationship with Him.God didn't cause this horror that's taken the lives of so many children,,,The LACK OF GOD DID !! Irresponsible parents did. Our society did !!

    December 15, 2012 at 8:14 am |
    • SixDegrees

      Funny. I thought god was everywhere, knew everything and was loving and compassionate. Instead, it turns out he's a petulant, self-absorbed as shole who delights in killing blameless young children for something done by others who are safe at home with their families today.

      Thanks for clearing that up. It's clear that, in the unlikely event that god actually exists, he's not worthy of worship. He sounds a lot more like that other mythical figure, Satan, in fact.

      December 15, 2012 at 8:20 am |
    • Ari

      I agree with you 100% God is where He has been left, by the wayside. You cannot expect to remove Him from your lives, but then ask where He was in an emergency! God is with us always, but you must live the way He intended, love the way He intended, show others love and respect the way He wishes. I pray for everyone this tragedy has touched, I hope and pray that they will find God, and let Him be a source of comfort and strength to them now and for the rest of their lives. God Bless America, and may they allow Him to be part of their lives once more.

      December 15, 2012 at 8:20 am |
    • Terry

      I agree with you Wandar. If we as a nation had not kicked God out, we would not be as bad off. But it is sad to see people blaming God or asking why God would allow something like this to happen. When they should be asking what evil possessed someone to stoop so low as to take the lives of so many children- this is not Godly. @ sixdegrees, God is everywhere and so is the evil that was in place yesterday. God has created us above all else in this world to have an ability to think for ourselves and to make our own choices. If he did not allow us to make a choice, and this 20 year old had a choice yesterday, then we would be nothing more than puppets and we would not know the difference between right and wrong. I hope one day in this life time you will see God for who He is. If not, I guess you will see satan for who he really is.

      December 15, 2012 at 8:41 am |
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The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.