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.
Maybe the shooter was reacting to the racist and anti- woman attacks on Susan Rice by mean republicans??? Did you ever consider that angle???
Hillary – aren't you getting tired? That's about 800 posts so far.
Nope! Having a ball.
Well, then – rock on. I see you haven't mentioned that evil tribe to the north – the Canadians
If ever there had been a time for divine intervention it would have been the Holocaust. Guess what? No prayers were answered because there was no deity to receive them.
I see, and here I thought they were rescued by the Allies.
Did you here about the religous fool drowning? A man with a rowboat came by to save him but he dcclined the offer saying God would save him. Later, a lifeguard swam to him but recieved the same reply when offered to be helped. Then the Coast Guard came by, but to him, only God could save him from drowning. Then he ended up drowning and when asking God why he didn't save him, God replied, I sent you a rowboat, a lifeguard and the Coast Guard. Dude, what's your problem?
Please Jesus...protect us from your followers...
You are all asking where is god, he is still there, but you all told him he is not needed any more that you all got this , he is no longer needed in the schools, business, work or even in your daily lives one hour per week is all you can give him when you feel like. you all said laws will keep us safe. faith, and love and respect is all nonsense. you have all make a muck of it and when things go wrong, horrible wrong you all lookup and ask why would he allow this to happen. he didnot you all allow this to happen.
Unbelievable! Where's God? You actually have the nerve to ask, Where's God? You spend all your time trying to push God out of our lives and then wonder where he is when a human being behaves in such an evil way. Well, I'll tell you exactly where God is, GONE. That's why evil riegned supreme. Tough love at a divine level had better be respected else God will forsake us all.
What about countries where God is nearly non-existent? If you do a bit of research, you'll find that these nations are prosperous and don't have this mass-shooting phenomenon. They also have stricter gun control laws and are more progressive in raising their children. The USA is not the center of the universe, get over yourself.
You apparently have the IQ of a fish – hence the name. There are still lots of believers around. Perhaps those killed were very religious. Yet you posit a god who gets all p-issy simply because some people use the brains god supposedly gave them to question his existence? That's a pretty pathetic god you're positing there, fish breath.
Which god, be specific now?
Dan, the people of those nations don't need God. They have matured to a level of civility that doesn't require his guidance. And to you Mr Underwear man, God's existence comes from having faith, not belief. Grow up first, then comment intelligently please. You are as embarressing to the American public as Mr Lanza now is.
"Well, I'll tell you exactly where God is, GONE.'
So your God is GONE to all the Christian parents that lost their innocent children huh? Well, now that explains it all and why your God is not the loving God Christianity claims, that's a monster.
Ahhhh, Brian? Need I remind you? God works in mysterious ways.
"God's existence comes from having faith, not belief." Okay, so you are agreeing that god IS a creation of the human mind, and only comes into existence when people believe in a god.
"You are as embarressing to the American public as Mr Lanza now is." Naw – I'd be from one of those advanced and mature countries (hint – not the USA) so I don't need fairy tales to run my life.
Any more attempts at an intelligent comment?
Mr Underwear man, you aren't listening....
People don't beleive in God, they have faith that he exists. A faith they freely choose to have.
Why must you persicute me for choosing to have FAITH in Gods existence.
Faith doesn't require proof. That's the difference between faith and belief.
You choose not to have faith. Fine. I do. Not fine? hmmmmmm. And you call yourself an American. Shame on you!!!
Oh, and fox news. ban them too!
guns, george bush, sarah palin, large soda pop, cigarettes, SUV's, free speech – BAN THEM ALL!
When we decided to
Remove prayer from schools
Remove 10 Commandments from Public places
Fill minds with violent games and movies
Decided to deteriorate as a society and live immoral lives
and you have the audacity to ask WHERE IS GOD?
Our heart goes out to the innocent children that died in this horrendous crime.
May God grant wisdom to every mind to seek him honestly and in truth. May Peace prevail in the minds of every troubled soul.
No one's version of god belongs in the public schools
Immoral lives? You know nothing about us
I doesn't say much for your god or your parenting skills if you can't instill the moral values you want to see in your children outside of public school.
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.
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 !!!
If you do want to put god back in the school, why not have a contest first where you guys figure out whose god is the real deal, and then put him back in school. I hope you are okay with the idea of a Muslim prayer being ranted in your child's school, coz there is an equal probability that the god of the quran wins the battle!
But wait, you guys have been trying to battle this out since when? Please get back to us when you figure out!
What god? oh no... another mentally challenged person who believes in some magical mythical creature telling him things... Yes you are a psycho if you're hearing some one else's voice in your head, and especially if you talk back to that imaginary being... you commenting worries me just as much, because you may be the next crazy to snap when something bad happens and you say "oh no worries i got a place in after life"
In 1927 someone blew up a school, and then set off a car bomb outside it. It killed 38 people, mostly children.
Tell me again how this is because god has been removed from schools and public places.
We miss you Tupac and B.I.G.!
Maybe the shooter was trying to emulate gansta lifestyle. What's wrong with that?? Bunch of racists!
Where is God in all of this? I will tell you. We have told God to get out of our schools. We have told God to stay out of our government. In our rebellion, we have become a nation that is very similar to the old cities of Sodom and Gomorrah and have become consumed with our sin. Our sin as a nation has caused a separation from God. God is still here and I am very sure He is heart broken over what is taking place. However, we can't simply try to keep God in a closet and pull him out only when we think we need him to do something for us. That is not a relationship! It is interesting that in our pride as a people and a nation we take credit for all the good and blame God for all the bad.
Imaginary Friends should not be encouraged to exist.
God is Imaginary __ http://www.godisimaginary.com
and WORSE YET ...
If you're a parent, the I suggest you find other ways to teach your children values.
Bryan, why aren't similar massacres occurring all the time in countries like Denmark, where children don't say a prayer in their schools? How about Ja pan? Don't see this sort of thing happening there, either, and Ja pan is quite secular.
I'll be waiting for you or own of your sock puppets to explain.
We in being Christian idolaters are still yet ever to be scorned by disbelieving scornful lots in life's passing. Although we ever are tested, none of us who remain steadfast will never find social solace and comfort among this world's empty of faith. Only by dying are we reborn back into the very places we did once take harbors and refuges before our being born and conceptualized here in a realm fraught with evil ways and evil doers. Societies wreak of unpleasant odors in eulogies sarcasms abundances.
The sower does sow the lands with many likened seeds aplenty. Each day of harvest does the sower reap. Some harvests stay with the sower. Some harvests go to the land's owners and the rest is scattered to be sold. For I tell you this to see if one is able to understand a parable. Who is this 'sower' What is meant by seeds and likewise the harvests?
The sower is God. The seeds are of mankind's birth. The harvests are mankind's demise. The lands are ever awash with seeds and harvests aplenty.
I also blame George Bush.
God is not to be blamed for man's foolishness. When man takes God out of the picture, these are things that happen. To have taken prayer out of the schools is one of the worst things ever done. This country has opened many doors of things against God. God gives us the choice to choose Him. The horrible things that are happening are from the sins of our forefathers. Our nation really need to Repent and fall on our faces to Just God. Its unfortunate that children are killed in the process. God Help US ALL!!! These are just the sign of the times. We are truly living in the last and evil days. Jesus is soon to return!!!
Another failed christian prophacy....and logic
Prophacy? You can't spell anymore Cheesemaker? Go to bed, you need some sleep. Wait i have a better idea, get a life and stop spending your life on your computer.
Why don't you set an example, Blaster/Brophy, and leave? Or is it you who has no life?
I blame guns, Sarah Palin's electoral map with targets, and the anti-muslim video
Yeah, but Sarah Palin has nice knockers. How about you, Hillary? I'm as-suming man b-oobs?
Our society has to stop brushing the mentally ill under the table. I wonder how signs were given off before this incident. We can't even blame guns this time because the guns weren't his. We need to seriously look at how we treat the mentally ill, and begin to design better security for our schools. Make it better than the security designs for banks.
God is outside the schools because we allowed for it to be,
Or country in order to accomodate some individuals who cry wolf on their beliefs have back away from our basic principles
Parents are not allowed to correct their children (not talking about abuse) nor are their teachers they can say anything to them, for fear of loosing their job, where is the morals and ethics classes, why arent the so call experts writing about the consequences and effects of their methods, why can a child go to the principle office and get a supervise fight with the kid that picks on him give them gloves and let them go at it for a minute or two three rounds. A bully would be ease to spot that way by the teachers and help can be provide for them, The bullied should be able to stand for him or herself.
Instead he os she has to suffer day in and day out till in desperation finds a very violent solution.
wake up people this is common sense we and our lack of action are doing this. GOD want in our lives but we have shut him out. Stand up for your ideals this is the effect of getting away from religion, morals and ethics classes
what praying at school no matter what you religion may be we should teach tolerance not acceptance of others beliefs should be our prioroty, and then the so called experts those who said we are not allowed to correct our childrens (not abuse) but
For the true believer, God is omniscient and resides in the hearts and minds of man. You can't kick just God out of schools or even shopping malls for "He" always present within us.......... For the the non believer it shouldn't matter!
Our government has pushed so hard to take god out of school. God will not enter a place uninvited. God was tending his children this evil man had sent to him. This entire situation people are asking why god, or where's god. This was the work of an evil man filled with the devil, it was of no doing of god... But as a country we are so quick to shove god out of everything... But then berate him when bad things happen. I could be wrong but that is like shutting off the heat in the middle of winter and complaining because it is cold.
Well I am sad too about the incident, but also sad that the religious want to blame our secular government for their shortcomings as parents.
So according to you church killings and clergy r@pe never happen.....oops
So your deity is a vampire? Interesting.
Your Christian God is Imaginary __ http://www.godisimaginary.com
and WORSE ... He is a MURDERER!
Lots of religious schools around. Try using the term PUBLIC school, god doesn't like fibbing.
God. Creator of Everything. We can push him out?!? And even if the 'pushing-out' was done by American society, God's going to act like a jilted human and turn his back on these kids?!?
And this is why 'humanizing God' is problematic. We all need to humble ourselves and just admit we; 1) don't know jack about God; 2) have been basically speaking from imagination when detailing God; 3) Can't prove anything either way.
People want the 'absolute' answer. Some definitive proof of everything having a neat beginning and ending. Let go. There's probably no complete answer, because we can't know all things at all times.
Unfortunately for mankind tragedy seems to be the only way to awaken him to his own inner turmoil. Forget about trying to understand what is outside you. Start looking at what is inside you. Then you may begin to understand "God".
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.