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.
In the wake of this horror, everyone from atheists to pastors have asked "Where is God???" Here's my attempt, however inadequate, to answer the question: http://bit.ly/12f6D2o
God is where he always is,, everyone likes to forget that he gave us "Free Will" and then let us decide our own path.
I imagine that God is more than a little hurt by how we have failed to grow up, and how we ignore what he attempted to teach his children.
God will NOT interfere with our lives, he TOLD everyone that listened that we were on our own,,, the same way you expect your children to grow up and go off on their own!
God hasn't failed anyone, WE have failed him!
So because we've "failed" in some way, god kills 20 young, blameless children.
f uck god.
Yet there is no god to fail, or from another point of view – so many gods to fail.
Is god omniscient or not? If so, god knew what this person would do 13.7 billion years ago. Why would god be disappointed, or sad about what was known to god. Free will now doesn't mean a god wouldn't know the outcome (or the outcome of the next tragedy).
God did not kill these children, a young misguided man killed these children. What you should be doing is stop holding God responsible or trying to blame Him and instead offer compassion to the parents, children, and responders who are suffering.
_ God Is Imaginary ___ http://www.GodIsImaginary.com ___ (visit this website)
God is not the problem. Sin is the problem. At the root of this all, the issue is our sin. We live in a fallen world but God, in His rich mercy, has sent Christ to be our mediator. I can't understand claim to know why this happened but I can rest assured that God is sovereign. Those children are no longer suffering and with Him. I pray and cry with their families and friends, as well as for the children who had to witness such evil.
I believe that you're sincere. But I feel the real problem is that we let idiots and mentally unstable people run around with guns.
@Dan Sorry for the typo's- I'm at work so I'm trying to hurry up and post. People that aren't supposed to have guns will find a way to get them if they really want them, unfortunately. My dad owns guns, licensed and legally. His home was broken into and a few were stolen and subsequently used in a crime. The guns aren't the issue- the people are, our sin is! I pray for this country and world! I can't wrap my mind around this tragedy and am truly heart broken beyond belief. I cried out to the Lord for those involved. Only God can comfort this type of pain.
I agree that people are the problem. People pull the trigger. Call it what you want, sin, mental instability, that is a variable we will not eliminate any time soon. Personally I feel we need to ban hand guns and assault rifles, and impose harsh penalties on offenders. Let the hunters keep their bolt-action rifles and shotguns. The right to bear arms is backfiring on us.
The children are no longer suffering – for one, tell that to those parents and families who have lost them! And then, why dont you too end your suffering?
Again, may I ask, what did your father need guns for? Especially if you have an omnipotent god out there to protect you, why do you need guns?
"The children are no longer suffering – for one, tell that to those parents and families who have lost them! And then, why dont you too end your suffering?" -Are you seriously suggesting I kill myself? Please grow up. The kids aren't suffering anymore! The parents are in immense pain that I'm not going to try to fully understand, but I will continue to pray for them.
"Again, may I ask, what did your father need guns for? Especially if you have an omnipotent god out there to protect you, why do you need guns?" -My dad likes to collect guns. I've never understood why, but that doesn't make it wrong. My dad isn't strong on faith so I can't say what he fully believes. God doesn't promise rainbows and butterflies come along with being a Christian- huge misconception. How can we possibly think or believe that? If Jesus was tortured, spit on, and crucified, who am I to think I deserve a life of ease?!
@Dan- I definitely agree there needs to be harsh punishment and reprimand for illegal use. I'm just saying the root of the issue is not the gun or gun laws unfortunately.
"My dad likes to collect guns. I've never understood why, but that doesn't make it wrong." – So, like you said, it is just his hobby to collect guns! And then they get stolen, and someone may use them for crime. Pretty much a reason I would suggest that collecting guns as a hobby should be illegal!
@ SImran I'm sorry but I disagree. In that case a lot of things would need to be made illegal. For instance, driving. Obviously driving under the influence is illegal, but people still have access to vehicles and do so- many times hurting or even killing someone else or themselves. Does that mean we should outlaw driving? No! It's my dad's right to collect guns if he does so legally and responsibly. The issue is not that my dad collects guns.
Who lives in a place that no man can find? Who has a long flowing beard? Who rewards the good ones with joyful gifts but gives the bad ones products of fire? Who can be in all places at one time? Who do you send your wants and wishes to, in hopes he will fulfill them? Who is all knowing in regards to who is good, and who is bad?
Santa Jesus, that's who.
_ God Is Imaginary ___ http://www.GodIsImaginary.com ___ (visit this website)
- http://www.GodIsImaginary.com -
Asking "where was god" is just as useful as debating how many angels can dance on the head of a pin... prayer is just like a child's teddy bear...
Banning Prayer in Public Schools Has Led to America's Demise. We told God we didn't want him in our schools.
So, you admit that God is a spiteful God and guilty of wrath? How you people this blind?
Since "God" doesn't exist, why should anyone refer to "him" in an educational setting, other than in a comparative religion class or in a course that deals with fiction?
How does this account for the mass shooting that happened at an Amish school? And please don't tell me that they're not real Christians.
Banning the teaching and indoctrination to one particular version of a faith has done nothing but good for america.
I see. So those 20 young, blameless children are to blame for this horrible incident. That's why god smote them. And that's why the school administrators, school board members and state board of education members are all sage at home with their families today.
Yours is one of the most compelling arguments against god's existence it is possible to construct.
You're full of crap, jazzzmma.
We are not and have never been a theocracy. Therefore mandated prayer and Bible readings are not allowed in public schools where there is currently a ~23% non-Christian population. That is the Establishment Clause of the 1st Amendment in action (ruled in 1962 & 1963). Go live in another country if you can't live by the Constitution and its Amendments.
James Madison, 4th POTUS, chief architect of the U.S. Constitution, the Bill of Rights, and several Amendments including the 1st:
Every new & successful example therefore of a perfect separation between ecclesiastical and civil matters, is of importance. And I have no doubt that every new example, will succeed, as every past one has done, in shewing that religion & Govt. will both exist in greater purity, the less they are mixed together.
The Civil Govt, tho' bereft of everything like an associated hierarchy, possesses the requisite stability and performs its functions with complete success, Whilst the number, the industry, and the morality of the Priesthood, & the devotion of the people have been manifestly increased by the total separation of the Church from the State.
Our most recent constitutional Amendment, number 27, adopted in 1992, was first introduced by James Madison in 1789.
You took prayer out of the school and you don't love me any more so I had to kill some innocent children. That's how I roll.
God did not kill these children.
Nor did he protect them.
Funny how people look for God when things go wrong in our lives... yet kick him out of our lives on a daily basis, because we have FREEDOM. We think of God as an errand boy, at our service to do as we please... look at our mess, take our insult, and protect. We forget that God is sovereign, that we are subject to laws of reaping what we sow in a world where natural laws are superseded by the supernatural, not based on one prayer born of scorn, but based on a prayer of faith. IF you have nothing else to write on, quit your day job.
I've killed a lot of children, but you people made me do it. Don't make me come down there and go tsunami on your ass.
I hope the families and survivors' belief help them cope with this horrible situation.
As an atheist, I wonder why other atheists can't see the power of religion. If you recognize evolution, you must see religion as a cultural evolution win. It's not just a win, it is a dominating win.
In what way is religion as win ?
I see it as a social club – brought on by upbringing and a result of where and to whom you were born.
JWT, populations are dominated by the religious, and the most dominant groups (eg theUSA) are dominated by the religious.
Not all societies are dominated by the religious and in fact more and more are no longer being dominated that way. Which is a wonderful thing.
JWT, no doubt there is a recent trend. But religion as a meme has dominated for thousands of years. It's not just a coincidence.
Thankfully that trend has been reversing fro decades now. Govenments don't ask the church what to think and what to do.
People are no longer afraid of stupid social pressure to agree there is not only a god but some particular version of a god. Religion has had it's day and good bye and good riddance.
It still brings some people a comfort in life and will survive that way. But there is no longer a need to believe or belong.
JWT, we'll have to disagree on the minimization of the role of religion. I think it is a much more powerful agent to create coherence in a groups motivation and behaviors. That will be tough to beat. Something else will need to replace it as effectively.
There will always be those that are followers or feel an irrestiable need to belong to something. Religion will always be able to find adherents there. On one level there is nothing really wrong with religion – like any any other club its members can do good things and bad. But it is not necesary for anything. There is no universal need to believe on some godand that I think is where we are seeing the difference – people are beign more free to choose what and who they believe in and thats a good thing.
That is my point. A group with strong followers will win out over a group of loosely aligned, think for themselves, individuals.
Followers of convenience or habit are hardly strong followers.
We can disagree, I think the objective facts are on my side, you're speculating on what might be.
God is angry at this world. Do we follow the Ten Commandments? I only really find two that I follow, if I'm being truthful. Read the Bible. At least watch the movie...The Ten Commandments.
Where is God when bad people are blessed with good things.? This whole thing is tragic. Lift up the victims loved ones, I know the victims are safe in Heaven.
Hitler was a Christian. The real point is both men were crazy. Being an atheist or being a believer had nothing to do with their insanity. Stalin could have just as easily been Christian and Hitler an atheist.
Sorry, these was a response for a post about Stalin. I think I need some coffee.
Jesus (not Wikipedia or anyone else) defines a Christian
There's a big difference between being a religious Catholic and a born-again Christian filled with the Spirit of God.
Putting the final kibosh on religion/god in less than ten seconds: Priceless!!
• There was probably no Abraham i.e. the foundations of Judaism, Christianity and Islam are non-existent.
• There was probably no Moses i.e the pillars of Judaism, Christianity and Islam have no strength of purpose.
• There was no Gabriel i.e. Islam fails as a religion. Christianity partially fails.
• There was no Easter i.e. Christianity completely fails as a religion.
• There was no Moroni i.e. Mormonism is nothing more than a business cult.
• Sacred/revered cows, monkey gods, castes, reincarnations and therefore Hinduism fails as a religion.
• Fat Buddhas here, skinny Buddhas there, reincarnated Buddhas everywhere makes for a no on Buddhism.
Adde details are available upon request.
A quick search will put the kibosh on any other groups calling themselves a religion.
"The origins of Taoism are unclear. Traditionally, Lao-tzu who lived in the sixth century is regarded as its founder. Its early philosophic foundations and its later beliefs and rituals are two completely different ways of life. Today (1982) Taoism claims 31,286,000 followers.
Legend says that Lao-tzu was immaculately conceived by a shooting star; carried in his mother's womb for eighty-two years; and born a full grown wise old man. "
In a hundred years, there is no "Reality"
this is only a test
If this is a direct result of removing God from the classrooms, then why is it that these massacres don't happen in countries where God and Christianity have much less of a presence than here in the USA?
Also: why are 20 young, blameless children dead, while the school district administrators, state school board members and judges all safe at home with their families?
This is a patently stupid, hateful argument that attempts to blame the victims. It is loathsome and odious.
Americans always seem to have an urge to possess guns to protect themselves. Let's face it, its only cowards who feel an urge to want to possess a militia in their homes. Too often after such a deadly rampage, I hear gun advocates say well...people don't kill people, guns kill people. Well, let me see if I get this right...guns get prosthetic legs and arms, then reload, walk out the gun store, jumps into a vehicle and start shooting people??? Then the other senseless argument I hear from these inconsiderate gun advocates is that cars kill more people than gun. After the Oregon shooting, some idiot said that last year alone there were some 30,000 automobile deaths in the U.S. in comparison to a much lesser statistic for gun related deaths. Well, that is such a silly and irrational comparison. First of all, Americans don't get behind the wheel to kill fellow Americans. And while Americans don't necessarily buy guns to kill fellow Americans, the idea is more or less for that reason when you come to think about it. Secondly, there are approximately 2 billion cars on Americans streets daily ( in comparison to 1 million guns in homes) and with many teenage drivers behind the wheel and bad weather factoring into the equation, then its likely that there would be more auto related deaths than deaths related to guns.
How can there be 2 billion cars on American roads when there are only 300 million in this country, and 1/3 of them aren't driving age yet?
Removing guns is not the answer. Creating a culture and society where guns are not revered would be a step in the right direction.
Well, that's because many American families own multiple vehicles. That's where that statistic came from. Three hundred million times multiple vehicle ownership would give you over two billion.
as of 2009, there were approx 254,212,610 cars in the U.S. that's 254 million.
not stopping the thrust of your argument, just helping with facts.
Thanks for your statistics. But the only point I was trying to make was that there are more auto related deaths in the U.S. than gun deaths because there are more automobile on the streets than guns and that is without taking into account inclement weather and teenage drivers. And my other point was that people don't get behind the wheel with intent to kill others, that is unless you're a drunk driver with repeated convictions.
I don't understand why when there's a tragedy people are quick to blame it on GOD or question where HE was when tragedy strikes. Have you all forgotten GOD is not allowed in the schools?
Repeating a lie that's been spammed here at least 100 times will not make it true, fool.
So god got his heavenly nose out of joint because someone limited his supposedly limitless power, and killed 20 young, blameless children in retaliation, while the local school board members, state educational committee members and judges remain safe at home with their families? Am I getting your argument right? Because what you're saying about god certainly isn't very flattering, and is absolutely no cause to worship such a stupid, petulant and hateful being.
It's not that God is not allowed in schools, it's silly childish beliefs that are not allowed, of which God is one.
"god" is allowed in schools, just not PUBLIC schools. If you don't know why that is, read the court case, and use a bit of logic. Then you'll understand why. If you want your child to study "god" in school, you are more than free to send him/her to any number of private religiously affiliated schools of your choosing.
Actually anyones version of god is allowed in the public schools. It's just that those schools cannot promote any form of god. After all who would choose whch form of god to teach ? there are so many.
Looks like Ted here needs some basic education in U.S. government.
We are not a theocracy, therefore mandated prayer and Bible readings are not allowed in public schools where there is currently a ~23% non-Christian population. That is the Establishment Clause of the 1st Amendment in action (ruled in 1962 & 1963). Go live in another country if you can't live by the Constitution and its Amendments.
Ted can't seem to grasp the notion that an omnipotent, omniscient being should not need to have 700 people pray aloud in unison in order to hear them. It is ridiculous for people like Ted to yammer about their god being "kicked out of school" simply because the school doesn't force everyone to pray to the same god Ted does.
You're an idiot, Ted. Go back to high school and get a decent education this time.
Where is God? Simple. He doesn't exist. If God did exist, and intervened in matters of this sort, that would go against everything the bible stands for, to include free will. For Christians to lash out and ask "where is God" during times like this, if he is real then he is doing exactly what he said he would do. Religious beliefs have run their course.
Yesssssssssss! I'm so tired of the religious and their ever-changing explanations. If God is all-powerful and all-knowing, he could have said "this guy is going to kill innocent children, let me hit him with a bus so he never arrives." Or the other "when you lose something, it's because God has something better in mind for you." Something better than having your child alive? Really?! There are too many things in my life that no Loving Father would inflict on his beloved child. Too many things where even having dozens of people praying for me has not improved matters.
You have a shallow view of what good and evil is. If you want to live where there is no evil, that is Heaven. If you don't want evil on Earth, then you and I will not still be here.
That makes absolutely no sense.
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.