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? You fools took Him out of schools in America. . . . . remember? If there is a God, you kicked Him out and now you wonder where he is? If you kick your dog out of your home do you wonder where he went? Kids today can't celebrate Halloween, can't say the Pledge of Allegiance, can't even say "Merry Christmas" in some cases, and you wonder where is your protector? Schools today are so screwed up that it is affecting the children and, in some extreme cases like this, making Adam Lanzas out of them. Don't wonder why and where God is now, you all did it to yourselves.
So why isn't this a phenomenon in other countries, where God has a smaller presence than in the USA? And why did the 2006 Amish school massacre happen?
Oh, I'll tell you why. Because they have stricter gun control laws. Because their education is more progressive than ours, and they give people real skills to cope with stressors in life instead of telling them to pray.
You sir or madam are an idiot. "Thank God" they took the "babble" out of the schools. That's a little less brain washing that the kids must be subjected to.
The Christian God does NOT care about human life, adult or child.
How many has God killed? How many people did God kill in the Bible?
More than 25,000,000 people! ........................ adults and CHILDREN !!!
Grow up and go back to school and get a decent education this time.
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.
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.
well this should be interesting.
do tell us how 'removing god from schools' equals 'schools being screwed up'
we would love to see how your 'logic' works.
What are you smoking, Quat? Kids say the Pledge, they say Merry Christmas, they celebrate Halloween. You're nuts.
Do you often have these episodes?
1. children certainly can, and do, say the Pledge of Allegiance
2. they can celebrate Christmas, Halloween, etc, whatever the hell they want to celebrate.
3. if you believe in God then God is everywhere.
Religion has no place in public schools. unless you're going to teach about ALL of them. But of course that would never go over well with the Christian set.
Besides that, I guess you're trying to make some connection with lack of God and violence. Well, open up a history book, pal. More violence has been committed in the name of Gods than for any other reason in the history of mankind.
And also, have you ever read statistics about more religious regions and how there is more violence and other social problems such as divorce and teen pregnancy? Maybe you should read up a bit–you might learn something.
But I doubt it.
Religion isn't bad, but neither is lack of religion.
Proof I and god don't exist.
Wait till a few hairs start to grow on your face before you post.
We have kicked God our of school in the name of sepration of church and state, we have made prayer in school illegal, we have muzzled and silenced any expression of God in school in all ways possible, and now we are asking where is God?
He is respecting our will to keep Him out of the schools!
How many has God killed? How many people did God kill in the Bible? More than 25,000,000 people! (adults and children)
@ The Realist
Did you finally came back to your sense? Because you were in some kind of coma for a few minutes.
God was never removed from the schools – only state sponsred indoctination into one form of a god was banned. A massive difference.
So if children were reciting the Lord's Prayer in school every day, this would never have happened? Are you really that stupid? How is it that a bunch of Amish kids were murdered some years ago in their school?
God was kicked out of school because he was just a big trouble maker. In a multi-religious nation you have to allow all sorts of gods/belief systems in or none. Thats right the christian crowd does not really accept other gods, I forgot.
We should add God to the Weather channel so he will stop sending us hurricanes.
Prayer is not and never has been illegal in school. . . . MANDATORY prayer is prohibited which means, for instance, your Christian child can't be made to pray an Islamic prayer. Or, in a far more likely scenario, a Jewish or Muslim child can not be forced to pray a Christian prayer.
LOL @Roger that
And thank you, EMcK
Really? So if we had prayer in school then this would not have happened?
Genious. Brilliant, really.
God Bless All those who died in this Tragedy
This is from Evil , it's the Same Evil who is forcing Millions to Kill Unborn Innocent Babies thru ABORTION
The Christian God is the GREATEST Abortionist:
Shame on you.
Dammit Mike, we were going to airlift your last brain cell and send it to a safe place, but you just killed it until it was dead. Poor little fella never stood a chance.
How many has God killed? How many people did God kill in the Bible?
ATTENTION ALL NYTIMES REPORTERS:
DROP WHAT EVER STORY YOU WERE WORKING ON AND RESEARCH THE FOLLOWING "LEADS". ALL HANDS ON DECK!:
1) Did the shooter in CT vote for Romney?
2) Were any of the victims black?
3) Was he against teachers unions?
4) Was he ever in the military?
5) Was he against gay marriage?
6) Was he a member of the Tea Baggers?
7) Did he know any of Sarah Palin's children?
8) Was he a victim of the Bush economy?
9) Was he a member of the NRA?
10) Did he listen to conservative radio?
If the answer to ANY of those questions is "YES", we have our lead story until New Year's! If the answer to ALL of those questions is "NO," continue to cover our current lead story that Obama cried during a presser
God is in heaven angry against NRA whom for the sake of money are pushing laws to make people by guns in USA, like "Stand your ground" and for lifting the ban for automatic weapons.
NRA (National Rifle Association of USA)
Atheists are sad people with no goal in life. Please pray for those lost sheep so they find the path to happiness,
Atheists are as happy as non-atheists. Happiness has nothing to do with any of the gods.
Nah. I'm quite happy and have lots of goals. One of them is to annoy people like you who presume to know all and think you have an obligation to dictate how the rest of us should live, when you can't even write a simple sentence.
I'm sorry "Blaster", but everything you have asserted to date is unfounded. Using my Idiomatic Expression Equivalency module (IEE), the expression that best matches the degree to which your assertions may represent truths is: "EPIC FAIL".
No need for an IMAGINARY FRIEND
and GOD IS IMAGINARY
@Tom The Piper
You finally admitted that your goal is to annoy religious people. You need to grow up some more and switch to something else.
No, sweetie, one of my goals is to annoy religious zealots who are stupid. Like you.
I'm good at it, too. See? You're annoyed.
Blaster: You are ignorant. You come here and at some point condemned Atheists for speaking out against christians but yet you are no better. The only real difference here is that we don't believe we can pray for forgiveness from some fictional character, instead we are forced to take responsibility for our own actions in the here and now (the only thing we can be guaranteed of)...you figure by condemning us, all is good b/c your god will forgive you-gullibility is a major part of your belief.
Why are you calling everyone sweety or princess? You don't even know what gender we are. Are you some kind of a freaking q u e e r or what?
Because I like annoying twits like you. You don't know what my gender is, do you?
Oh, and I never called anyone "princess." But thanks for the suggestion: I'll incorporate it into my repertoire, Princess.
My bible (King James versions) tells me there is God's will and man's will. Such as this is NOT God's will. My children attended school from the 60's through the early 90's. Had I had to worry about such a horrible act as this latest one, they may not have gotten an education. Thank goodness, back then we saw a small amount of violance in the movies and on TV, but not nearly like it is now. Some of the shows that are seen now are just blood, guts, cruelty and you name it. It seems every episode of "Criminal Minds" gets more gory each week; to the point that I have to stop watching it.. The images children and adults see now can give one who has a mental or emotional problem a recipe to kill, maime and become bullies. I hope and pray the families of the victims can find peace as time goes on, and this little town will heal soon from this horrible event.
Read the Bible of the Flying Spaghetti Monster instead because
_ the Christian God Is Imaginary ___ http://www.GodIsImaginary.com ___ (visit this website)
and "if" you still chose to believe in your god ...
_ "YOUR" God Hates Children _ http://www.centerforinquiry.net/blogs/entry/god_is_the_greatest_abortionist/
How many has God killed? How many people did God kill in the Bible?
More than 25,000,000 people! ----- (adults and children)
Now you're on to something. (Exposure to violence non-stop in children's lives – i.e., video games, internet, etc.) I'm against censorship, but kids these days are just exposed to violence from too many sources and at too high a rate.
The key in this unfortunate tragedy is to avoid the extremes. Arguing that this is proof that God does not exist is an exercise in futility. Our number one focus should be on the victim's families and how we can support them going forward in what is arguably the most difficult period in their lives.
We can point to free will and the wickedness of the human heart as the culprit behind this tragedy, but the question of why God allowed this to happen cannot and will not be answered in this life. I am a minister who believes in God with all of my heart. While my faith remains intact, my spirit is troubled because I realized that today more than ever before, that being a Christian does not exempt me from the acts of wickedness that occurs in this world. If we are spared, it is by and only by the Grace of God. Why are some spared and others are not? I wish I could answer this, but unfortunately, I cannot. One thing is for certain, regardless of my outcome, my allegiance, devotion, piety towards God, will remain intact.
May God bless the city of Newton and give them all the grace and the strength to go forward.
_ God Is Imaginary ___ http://www.GodIsImaginary.com ___ (visit this website)
and "if" you still chose to believe in god ...
Then of course your omnipotent god could get off his asz, roll back the clock and have the maniac blow his brains out before he got into the school, too much to ask of an all powerful god, pity.
The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want.
He makes me lie down in green pastures.
He leads me beside still waters.
He restores my soul.
He leads me in paths of righteousness
for his name's sake.
Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
I will fear no evil,
for you are with me;
your rod and your staff,
they comfort me.
You prepare a table before me
in the presence of my enemies;
you anoint my head with oil;
my cup overflows.
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me
all the days of my life,
and I shall dwell in the house of the LORD
(Psalm 23 ESV)
Yes, Johnny, I agree you are a sheepie.
Great piece of literature.Gives solace to people in times of sorrow,no doubt.
God is the same place where He has always been: more and more forgotten by most people around the world everyday!! Because people want God to show up when there's a problem or situation men cannot resolve. The rest of the time, most people want to be their own god.....
If there is a god, he/she is one sick and twisted S.O.B.. Fortunately, there isn't one.
TRUE _ God Is Imaginary ___ http://www.GodIsImaginary.com ___ (visit this website)
I grew up Believing all that crap. That is really what it is. This is just a big crap shoot and there is no majic jeanie to save you.
I don't understand why everyone is so invested in attacking others for their beliefs. Is it not clear that a culture of attacking each other is what breeds hatred? Why do any of you care what the other believes? What is it to you? We should all be concentrating on doing the best and being the best we can. I'm appalled that with all the suffering caused by this and so many other tragedies that people look to use it as an excuse to attack. Do we ever learn anything from pain and suffering?
God has barricaded himself in Heaven as it's just not safe down here.
That one slipped right passed God. He was busy smiting someone for being skimpy with the offering.
The never ending argument about God is silly. I believe and that is my choice. I have been granted that choice. So, tell me I am wrong or not, I choose to believe. As far as those who do not believe, my question is what does this tragedy say about Humanism? If there is truly not a God then even religion is an excercise in Humanism and all war and bad things done in the name of God is really, you tell me, a Humanist act. So, if that is the case, why do you fear believing in God? Is that not a Humanist activity and you claim Humanism is preferred. Hmmmm???? This is a tragedy on many levels as it shows the freedom we have been granted to do horrible things to each other. It is also a gift that will show the freedom we have to do wonderful things for each other. Individually we get to choose and decide what this tragedy will mean and how we will see it. We have been granted that freedom. You may choose to use it to fight and attack those who think differently than you, that is your choice. You may also decide to be kind and empathetic and understanding and alleviate the pain living in this world often brings with it. That is your choice too. Byou one who believes in Humanism or Theism, it really boils down to how we wish to treat others. Have a good Day.
Realist...got you off your mantra. That line you wrote says a lot. Hope you find some peace any way you can.
'So, if that is the case, why do you fear believing in God?'
There's your problem to your argument. Why makes you think people 'fear' believing in god?
I acknowledge everyone's right/need to question where God is at times like this. And I believe it is fair to question and right to be honest with your feelings. I would like to suggest something to those who are absolutely convinced that there is no God. I thought that way also in my past. Then a friend challenged me to do something. She challenged me to say "IF there is a God who created me and who created the world and is over and above all then I ask you to reveal yourself to me. If God isn't real what do you have to lose? And if God is real and you are honestly open to truth – whatever it is – then I believe truth will be revealed.
Here is another thought – take it or leave it. Many are saying if God has the power to stop such a horrible tragedy and doesn't then they want no part of him. If God stopped every evil act from being committed where would free will and choice be? We would be robots/puppets. Do you prefer that kind of existence? A God who controls everything and everyone? And if you say God should just take people out if they are going to do evil then who draws the line on evil? Does God take out the bully in the school who is getting ready to call you a name and bring deep wounding to your heart? Does God take out the teenager who is distracted while driving and about to cause an accident that kills five people? And if not, how do you explain God's choices to those who are hurt or lose precious loved ones?
The Scripture says that we cannot understand all God's ways because we see through a glass dimly – we cannot see everything that God sees. However, without the Holy Spirit there is very little hope for understanding anything because it is God's Spirit inside of us that brings illumination and revelation. That is why a person has to be willing (imho) to allow God to be revealed. It is still a work of grace – God initiates. But we also have choice. Without choice and free will there would be no meaning to our existence – in my opinion. Being a robot to me is not life. I suppose it could be less painful. But there would be no meaning. Just some thoughts from someone who has walked the road of unbelief – and is now gratefully in love with God. And yes, the massacre was horrific and i am grieving along with so many. And I am asking ....How long Lord? And yet I will praise Him and trust Him.
Blessings and grace to all.
If there is a god, he/she is one sick and twisted S.O.B..
I am an atheist. Even when I did believe, I believed in free will with the occasional divine intervention. I say that because I sit here and watch people try so hard to shoehorn this incident into their belief system, and they're embarrassing themselves. I would tell those to face reality, we have something called free will. Even if God does exist, he is hands-off and allowing us to live our lives, for better or worse. He is allowing shootings to even happen in Amish schools, where prayer definitely exists. The sooner we face reality, the sooner we can come to a collective solution on the problem. God may be able to console you after the fact, but he's not going to prevent stuff like this from happening.
'If God stopped every evil act from being committed where would free will and choice be?'
where was the free-will of the kids not be murdered?
why is god only interested in granting free-will to criminals and not to their victims?
why cant god allow the shooter the free-will to shoot but protect the victims from being killed? the action and intent is still there so your 'free-will' still exists.
Everyone is asking "where was God in all this" what we have to remember is God gave us free will, he gave us the opportunity and choice to live our lives in his grace or not. So the question should be not where is God but why are we so God-less. Don't blame God for what happened blame a society that has turned away from him/her
To the realist, yes, all things real are found on a website Suggesting that is kind of like pulling the trigger before taking it out of your holster dude. LOL
Whenever something wonderful happens, it is god's grace, and when something bad happens, you give him a cop-out! Do some thinking about where u r going with this!
How does this account for the 2006 shooting at an Amish school? Or the fact that this problem doesn't exist in nations where God is far less present than here in the USA?
Good point Dan,
I fail to recoolect any incident in my country where multiple god exist, and the god of the bible is the least cared for!
The problem with you atheists is everything that happens is God fault. A car hit a telephone pole you go saying its God fault. Someone broke his leg by falling again its God fault. A fly hit the windshield and its God fault. Too much paranoia within atheism.
Blaster, I don't believe you quite understand the meaning of the word "atheist." Look it up.
I repeat for you – "Whenever something wonderful happens, it is god's grace, and when something bad happens, you give him a cop-out! Do some thinking about where u r going with this!"
I do Tom The Piper. It's not hard at all, just seeing what you atheists are posting is enough to know.
No, Blaster, you don't. If you did, you wouldn't have posted what you typed above.
Let me draw you a map, since you're so dumb: Atheists can't "blame God" when they don't believe in one. When they ask where god was, they mean the wonderful being you say exists and claim is all-powerful and all-knowing. I'm sure this point missed the top of your head by miles.
No Tom The Piper, you atheist a brain dead, you asked Where Was God and then you're saying we never asked that. Then you turn around and blame God for everything and again you're saying we don't blame God. You see there is a very obvious problem with atheists. Either you are so deeply painted with hypocrisy. Or either you are completely depraved of being able to keep track of what you've just said.
God gave us free will to worship him or not?Nice!According to the religious folks among us-if we choose NOT,we will burn in hell for eternity.Thanks for the free will big guy.Nice,warm and fuzzy concept eh?
Blaster, princess, try to use your two brain cells. You can't figure out the meaning of posts because you're an uneducated kid. I'm not here to teach you; ask Mommy to help you with the big words.
Funny how you seem to be posting non-stop this morning. What, have you no job and no life?
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.