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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. cmnsns

    The sooner people realize the fact that there is no god, they will stop looking for answers from that elusive, inviisble man. The fact that clergy are considered counselors is ridiculous as well. These are the same idiots that have been telling people for thousands of years that if they don't love and believe in this boogie man that he will put them in a pit of doom for eternity. That is brainwashing and child abuse. Mourn with the families for their loss. Don't rely on a boogie man to have anything to say about it. And for those of you who think you need religion to have morals. Throughout history religion has proven itself time and time again to be immoral. Look at the percentages of people in prison who are believers and who don't believe. Atheists are the most moral people in the world because they are realists.

    December 15, 2012 at 10:24 am |
    • THE REALIST

      Yes, the Christian God is Imaginary __ http://www.GodIsImaginary.com

      and WORSE ... He is a MURDERER ... as DETAILED IN HIS OWN BOOK (the bible):

      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 !!!

      http://dwindlinginunbelief.blogspot.com/2006/08/how-many-has-god-killed.html

      December 15, 2012 at 10:36 am |
    • Joe

      wow x2 ... How are you so certain? Do you believe in Aliens? God-Jesus-Holy Spirit, Holy Trinity, I pray for you and hope that you will gain wisdom and understanding. Atheists are so cute, because they believe that no God is a safe thing to say. Remember that it was based off the search for God which has driven philosophy to stumble onto great theory's that formed our mathematics, quite visibly... our natural sciences. Even in the fear of God comes great wisdom, as it says in Proverbs.. Yet there will be among us, fools which hate wisdom... rebuke them and they will hate you, wake up fool

      December 15, 2012 at 10:40 am |
    • Joe

      How are you so certain? Do you believe in Aliens? God-Jesus-Holy Spirit, Holy Trinity, I pray for you and hope that you will gain wisdom and understanding. Atheists are so cute, because they believe that no God is a safe thing to say. Remember that it was based off the search for God which has driven philosophy to stumble onto great theory's that formed our mathematics, quite visibly... our natural sciences. Even in the fear of God comes great wisdom, as it says in Proverbs.. Yet there will be among us, fools which hate wisdom... rebuke them and they will hate you, wake up fool

      December 15, 2012 at 10:40 am |
  2. Hillary

    Found out that the shooter's brother is a capitalist pig. Can you blame him? We are the 99%

    December 15, 2012 at 10:23 am |
    • Lole

      Why do u respond with stupid comments? Do not put your comment @ all dumb broad!!

      December 15, 2012 at 10:33 am |
  3. Hillary

    Think of all the CO2 those grubby little children would have spewed into the air if they had been allowed to round out a full life. This guy is an Eco warrior! Thank you Gaia

    December 15, 2012 at 10:21 am |
  4. Roberto M

    SIMPLY BECAUSE
    Your god or gods don't exist ,
    they only exist in your imagination , I find it ridiculously amazing and stupid
    how grown ups still believe in imaginary friends

    December 15, 2012 at 10:21 am |
    • Hilton Roberts

      You are wrong.

      December 15, 2012 at 10:24 am |
    • Joe

      wow... "Hide yo kids, Hide yo wife'z~ You are so dumb" ...*cough

      December 15, 2012 at 10:29 am |
    • Joe

      Sorry- not you Hilton

      December 15, 2012 at 10:30 am |
    • THE REALIST

      Your Christian God is Imaginary __ http://www.GodIsImaginary.com

      and WORSE ... He is a MURDERER ... as DETAILED IN HIS OWN BOOK (the bible):

      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 !!!

      http://dwindlinginunbelief.blogspot.com/2006/08/how-many-has-god-killed.html

      December 15, 2012 at 10:36 am |
  5. rek

    its funny when you have people who do not believe in God or never even give him the time of day, yet they want to blame God when something bad happens.

    December 15, 2012 at 10:20 am |
    • Cedar rapids

      We dont blame god for when bad happens, its you guys that never do but are prepared to claim anything good is because of your deity.
      We merely ask where this supposed all powerful deity was during these events, and why he seemingly delights in just watching them unfold.

      December 15, 2012 at 10:26 am |
    • Hilton Roberts

      Perhaps they are the same people who wanted God removed from schools. . .so He left

      December 15, 2012 at 10:26 am |
    • Brian

      "yet they want to blame God when something bad happens."

      Because supposedly your God is responsible and all knowing if that is the case it should have been able to stop this from happening – like having a cop show up right as the guy got to the school or something but yet your God did nothing and allowed innocent children die, that is not a loving God, that is a monster. The reality is your God doesn't exist which is why it happened.

      December 15, 2012 at 10:26 am |
  6. DD

    Why does it matter? Take responsibility.

    December 15, 2012 at 10:20 am |
  7. you people make me sick

    Oh man, a bunch of kids died, better debate why our imaginary friend didnt do anything. You people make me sick. The debate might as well be "where was superman when all this happened?"

    December 15, 2012 at 10:18 am |
    • Here is Real

      Superman was safe in his comic book, and jesus/god was safe in his comical book, now you know.

      December 15, 2012 at 10:22 am |
    • Superman

      I was at Church jerk.

      December 15, 2012 at 10:23 am |
  8. Ellen Lindop

    Adam Lanza was NOT EVIL. He was mentally ill. When will we stop listening to religion and start believing in science. People are good. We are born good. Humanity is not evil. But the human design is not perfect. Evolution is not complete. Mental illness is a serious issue that we have chosen to not address properly. If god was perfect then so would we. This free will stuff is just illogical and science based.

    December 15, 2012 at 10:17 am |
    • Dan

      Some people are born evil. I agree with the rest.

      December 15, 2012 at 10:24 am |
    • Independent Fred

      I believe in a higher universal power...which I choose to call God..

      I also believe this higher power allows us to make our own choices and doesn't micro manage. The Evil that Men/Women do regardless the cause are choices WE make.

      I suspect this is a mentally IL man and people either didn't notice or ignored the warning signs.

      December 15, 2012 at 10:25 am |
    • Brian

      "I suspect this is a mentally IL man and people either didn't notice or ignored the warning signs."

      Including your God.

      December 15, 2012 at 10:28 am |
    • lol??

      Lindrop, did you really mean what you said?

      December 15, 2012 at 10:28 am |
  9. thinkstright2002

    k

    December 15, 2012 at 10:17 am |
  10. Hillary

    Maybe the shooter was outraged at the anti-Muslim video??? There's a lot of that going around, you know.

    December 15, 2012 at 10:16 am |
  11. Hillary

    Where is Cindy Sheehan when we need her???

    December 15, 2012 at 10:15 am |
  12. Wootings

    Where's God? Same place every other fictional character created by man is...nowhere.

    December 15, 2012 at 10:14 am |
  13. Jacob

    "Where's God?" With Santa Claus and the tooth fairy.

    December 15, 2012 at 10:14 am |
  14. John

    To Simran... If you say there is no God, I have no problem with your opinion. In the end, that's all we have. But don't go pushing your opinion down the throats of everyone else...it makes you just as bad as some Christians. You become the thing you so despise. That fate happens to so many.

    December 15, 2012 at 10:13 am |
    • Bostontola

      I was thinking the same thing. Ridiculing is a (crass) form of persuasion. Same objective as proselytizing.

      December 15, 2012 at 10:17 am |
    • SImran

      John,
      Never tried to shove my beliefs down your throat. You state that God is misunderstood, and has nothing to do with life and death or disease or pain and I simply state that it is bcoz God does not exist. WHY DOES THAT STATEMENT OFFEND YOU?

      Nope, I don't despise anyone.

      December 15, 2012 at 10:18 am |
    • SImran

      BTW, if you don't want people to write anything you dont like against your post, simply dont post it on a public forum! Write it in a diary maybe.
      Or else, have the balls to argue your point rather than start judging others and giving them warnings of what they will become!

      December 15, 2012 at 10:25 am |
    • Attack of the 50 Foot Magical Underwear

      @ Bostontola – if I was speaking with a educated adult 21st century American, who wasn't suffering from mental illness, and they told me that they believed that Santa Claus was real, that they based their life decisions on this belief in Santa Claus, I would ridicule them. Absolutely, 100% ridiculous – therefore, worthy of ridicule.

      Now, simply subst-itute "god" for Santa Claus in the above example.

      December 15, 2012 at 10:31 am |
  15. The Truth

    The question should be..where have you been?

    December 15, 2012 at 10:13 am |
  16. Hillary

    Can we a get a quote from Tom Sellack? He's partially to blame for this.

    December 15, 2012 at 10:12 am |
  17. Rich

    Why do you ask where is God? You removed God from schools, Prayer from schools. Where were you when God was removed from Schools and Government buildings. Stop Blaiming those things that you are responsible for removing. God is not responcible, Guns are not responcible. The shooter is the only blaim here. Maybe you should look at the possibility that if one person had a concealed weapon, slim to none of this would have happened. You can't ask where's God when you have let him down! You pushed God out, so, WHERE WERE YOU !!!

    December 15, 2012 at 10:11 am |
    • Cedar rapids

      ah so god had a hissy fit and left huh?

      December 15, 2012 at 10:13 am |
    • Here is Real

      Rich
      Didn't really mean to push your god out as much as get allah, vishnu, mormon, the FSM, etc. worship in the schools. The backlasn from the "only true god is the christian god" crowd was so severe that no gods would be allowed in PUBLIC schools. You want to attend a religion based school feel free to do so and you can pray your asz off.

      December 15, 2012 at 10:18 am |
    • mama k

      Rich. Go back to school. Learn about government. Learn to spell.

      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.

      December 15, 2012 at 10:20 am |
    • Christa

      If you are a true chrtistian you would never ask that question, god is with us all the time, he is not here to provent bad things from happening he is with you to help you when the bad stuff happens, Yes, as a mother of two young children myself, this is a tragedy, and I cant even fathem how I could go on if my children were murdered, but I hope I would cling to my faith and depend on god to heal my broken heart, now is not the time to abandon god, did job abandon god when satan took every thing from him and afflicted him with illness?NO, your children are waiting for u in heaven.I pray for all those who were affected by this tragedy, dont let this destoy your faith if anything let it draw u closer to god

      December 15, 2012 at 10:24 am |
    • MR

      Rich, the shooter was a product of his genes and environment. Thus, his genes and the environment are to blame. The environment is all of us but the most important environmental influences are those close to home. You didn't know the guy that did this or his family. I had a friend kill his mother when he was twenty and from what I could tell from seeing the kid a few months before is that he was totally crazy from doing too many drugs – the guy had no clue that he was killing his mom. But, rightfully so, he was still locked up until he was no longer a threat. Judge not lest ye be judged.

      December 15, 2012 at 10:25 am |
    • Cedar rapids

      'did job abandon god when satan took every thing from him and afflicted him with illness?'

      oh yes, when god deliberately let evil things happen to Job for a bet. so much for love and so much for free will.

      'NO, your children are waiting for u in heaven'

      And imagine the fear in those kids before they were killed. Imagine how a minute earlier they would have been busy playing, having fun, as young kids are want to do. Then the teacher is most likely killed first, and the tears and panic and not understanding of these poor kids as the killer goes around shooting them all. No escape, just the terror of 20 children. Not all die instantly, some take a time to slowly breathe their last, some make it to hospital before they die.
      But hey, its apparently ok because those kids are in heaven, with the same god that did nothing to stop it, so you really shouldnt question him.

      December 15, 2012 at 10:35 am |
  18. badnews

    God is with us and He grives too. His gift to us is free will. How we use that gift is up to us. If we pray he will hear us and heal our land. We need it so very badly.

    December 15, 2012 at 10:10 am |
    • Bostontola

      The man had free will, but god knows all, therefore god knew the choice this killer would take. Why would god grieve now when god knew this would happen for billions of years?

      December 15, 2012 at 10:14 am |
    • Mary

      yes we need prayer and penance ... but to answer the question about WHERE'S GOD ..... we kicked Him out of schools and our public places, don't you all REMEMBER?!?!?!?! :-(

      December 15, 2012 at 10:17 am |
    • Cedar rapids

      'but to answer the question about WHERE'S GOD ..... we kicked Him out of schools and our public places, don't you all REMEMBER?!?!?!?! '

      so he had a hissy fit huh?

      December 15, 2012 at 10:23 am |
    • Brian

      "If we pray he will hear us and heal our land. We need it so very badly."

      The problem with your argument is that the Christian parents of the children that died probably did pray daily for their children and yet your God ignored it repeatedly. The reality is your God doesn't exist.

      December 15, 2012 at 10:30 am |
  19. Beliver

    Where is God? Why does it take a tragedy for CNN to run tidbits like this? God is everywhere. God is in the kind words to a grieving mother. God is with the emergency workers who respond to the pure evil that took so many lives. Why do so many non-believers (Atheists) need to attempt to discredit God because he "allowed" this evil to occur? God is not some guy in the sky who "SHOULD" fly down and stop bad things from happening. That's Superman's job. God is NOT Superman, Batman, Spiderman, etc... God endowed all of us with free will, and that free will allows for such tragedies to occur. Don't agree with it, go ahead and make your own universe, populate it with life, and then you rule it. Just don't try to rule over this one. Even though you don't understand the why's and how's of God's rules, doesn't mean he doesn't exist.

    December 15, 2012 at 10:10 am |
    • Cedar rapids

      heres the thing. if you were a diety, why would you create a universe, planets, and then life? for what possible end? was he bored? an egomaniac that liked to control 'ants'? what?

      December 15, 2012 at 10:14 am |
    • Dan

      Ummm, CNN runs tidbits like this all the time. As an atheist, it disturbs me to know that people choose prayer over implementing real solutions to problems. In almost all these mass-shooting cases, someone snaps; they were picked on too much, or fired from a job. In addition to stricter gun control laws, I think we should teach stress management and coping skills in schools. We should be real with these kids and let them know that life isn't going to always be fair. If, after having these skills, people still want to run to churches to pray, so be it. At least they'll have a real skillset they can use to cope with stress.

      December 15, 2012 at 10:16 am |
    • Attack of the 50 Foot Magical Underwear

      @ Beliver – if we were given free will, as you say, then god WASN'T in the kind words said to a grieving parent – that was a free will choice made by the speaker of those words. And god WASN'T with the emergency responders – they were making free will choices as well to help out. A god with the power to stop such horrendous acts, but who just sits back with a large popcorn to watch the carnage unfold is a horrible, immoral creature. If you can;t see that then perhaps you need to re-examine your personal moral code.

      December 15, 2012 at 10:27 am |
    • Beliver

      Dan, why does believing and praying contradict thoughtful discourse and ideas? Atheists seem to be under some misguided idea that people of faith are blindly following the whims of what they believe God tells them to do. This is a symptom of mental illness and has nothing to do with prayer or God. Believers are quite intelligent and do pray for help in developing answers to questions you pose as well as asking to develop more questions which need answers as well. We just believe we need "help" to get those answered best.

      Cedar Rapids – Why do you need an answer to that question? Is that all that stops you from believing in God? Do you really think God magically makes things happen immediately or is it possible that YES, he did take 13 billon years to make a universe and a place we call earth? Since he is everlasting and provided the rules the universe is governed by (SCIENCE/MATH) his vision and plan for the universe is something we are still trying to understand. I just don't let my limited human intellect state there is nothing greater than human existence. If and when we do find intelligent extraterrestrial life, I will be perfectly able to assume that their existence is also a creation from God.

      December 15, 2012 at 10:29 am |
    • BlahBlah

      They run tidbits like this for the same reason they run tidbits on racial tensions and blacks in America during the whole Treycon Martin incident. Race-card, Religion-card, it's all the same. Whatever drums up the most hits and views. CNN's sponsors must have made millions over the course of the last 48 hours.

      December 15, 2012 at 10:31 am |
    • John

      Nice post. I agree completely.

      December 15, 2012 at 10:35 am |
    • Cedar rapids

      'Why do you need an answer to that question? Is that all that stops you from believing in God? Do you really think God magically makes things happen immediately or is it possible that YES, he did take 13 billon years to make a universe and a place we call earth? '

      why do i need an answer? because if you want to convince me there is a god then tell me why he does things that make absolutely no sense.
      And do i think he can magically make anything instantly? well hell yes, of course he is a diety then he would be able to do anything instantly else he is not a god. Why on earth would you think it would take a god billions of years to do anything?

      December 15, 2012 at 10:39 am |
    • Beliver

      Cedar Rapids, unlike Atheists, I do not need to need to try and convince you of anything. God's free will works with you as well. My beliefs do not require you to believe as I do. I find it interesting that some folks who try to disprove God, only describe shallow arguments and those who try to prove his existence only describe belief and trust in something greater. 13 Billion years is a long time in terms of human existence and comprehension. God is different. He can and does things on his own timeframe, not yours, not mine. I still believe.

      There is no tangible evidence. There doesn't need to be.

      I believe Science will ultimately describe the nature of the universe via a mathematical equation. Perhaps we need to discover a new mathematical method first... It doesn't exist right now. I still believe.

      December 15, 2012 at 3:39 pm |
  20. Hillary

    Did the shooter ever go to church?

    December 15, 2012 at 10:09 am |
    • Blaster

      Nope, he was an atheist.

      December 15, 2012 at 10:13 am |
    • MR

      I never go to church and I would never do this – what is your point? Also, Blaster, I am an atheist and would never do this. So what is you point? A lot of serial killers had religious wackos as parents. Does going to church cause this? Maybe, since it leads to delusions in some people. The whole point of this article is offensive. Whether you believe in God or not, God had nothing to do with this. And if you believe God did then perhaps you need a new God.

      December 15, 2012 at 10:19 am |
    • Dan

      Not sure if he was an atheist, or if it's the case of another Christian bearing false witness in order to further a flailing agenda. But regardless, it is reported that he had a form of autism; not sure if that factored into this. Plus, if you look at crime stats on atheists, atheists are much less likely to commit crimes than theists.

      December 15, 2012 at 10:22 am |
    • Blaster

      Wanna bet he was an atheist?

      December 15, 2012 at 10:33 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.