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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. THE REALIST

    .

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

    and WORSE ... "IF" you believe he is real ... 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.

    .... you (as a christian) therefore WORSHIP a MASS MURDER!
    .

    December 15, 2012 at 11:02 am |
    • Bostontola

      Should your and be an or?

      December 15, 2012 at 11:05 am |
    • Bocephus

      Only Christians worship that God? Aren't those atrocities you speak of in the Old Testament which is also the God the Jews wosrhip? Why don't you say anything about the Jews? Are you afraid of being labeled an anti-semite? For that matter, the Koran advocates killing the infidel. Why don't you mention that? Christianity advocates turning the other cheek, not killing anybody so I don't know why you are attacking that religion.

      December 15, 2012 at 11:12 am |
  2. Jose

    The question is Where's God? He is definately not in our schools. He is not in our courts. My son a Marine can not pray or thank god for his food in the mess hall. He must go outside. So, we continue to remove God from all public places.... The answer to the question is he is where we want him to be.

    December 15, 2012 at 11:01 am |
    • Bostontola

      Of course he can choose to pray.

      December 15, 2012 at 11:04 am |
    • Compton Sike

      Liars like Jose should grow up and realize the real world doesn't revolve around you.

      December 15, 2012 at 11:04 am |
    • THE REALIST

      Your son still talking to Imaginary Friends? _ http://www.GodIsImaginary.com

      December 15, 2012 at 11:04 am |
    • Blessed are the Cheesemakers

      Jose you are lying.

      Liars for Jesus

      December 15, 2012 at 11:07 am |
    • sam stone

      Where do we want god to be?

      We want god to be PERSONAL

      We do not want god to be taught in schools. teach about god at home, or in your churches

      December 15, 2012 at 11:07 am |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      Jose=lying sack of poop.

      December 15, 2012 at 11:08 am |
    • Here is Real

      Which god, be specific now?

      December 15, 2012 at 11:13 am |
    • SixDegrees

      Gee – if only those children hadn't been wearing those short skirts, this wouldn't have happened.

      Your is the most repellent, odious comments to stain these boards. If you believe your god to be capable of such petulant acts, you need to answer why you worship such a being.

      December 15, 2012 at 11:21 am |
  3. Hillary

    Unlike RGIII, this kid Lanza was "down for the struggle,." In a BIG way, I guess you could say.

    December 15, 2012 at 11:01 am |
  4. lionlylamb

    Though God knows all worlds many worlds knows not God! The salvation trees are ever hung and lain waste with the bitter remnants of socialized fruits and in sarcastic generalist ways as the masses rebuke their master, God!

    December 15, 2012 at 11:00 am |
    • Here is Real

      I thought you said you were on life support some time ago yet you are still posting? Can you not reach over and pull the plug, please?

      December 15, 2012 at 11:11 am |
  5. Hillary

    I mean I deplore violence as much as the next person, but can you really blame Lanza?

    December 15, 2012 at 10:58 am |
  6. Jerry

    God is present everywhere, with that in mind it doesn't mean he controls our actions. People have it misunderstood, we were created by God to make our own decisions in Life, not so Jesus can be present when mankind screws up. So if people ask where's God or why did he let this happen its not up to him, its up to everybody on earth. So CNN stop airing stupidity about where God is or why he wasn't present. Thank You

    December 15, 2012 at 10:58 am |
    • SixDegrees

      There is no god. That pretty much explains everything.

      December 15, 2012 at 11:00 am |
    • Brian

      " So if people ask where's God or why did he let this happen its not up to him, its up to everybody on earth."

      So all the Christians parents that pray for the protection of their children by their God are useless then? So all those innocent children that who believed in your God and asked for protection and got none? Oh....that's right your God isn't a loving God but a monster that allows evil things to happen to it's followers. But, the reality is your God really doesn't exist which is why those innocent children lost their lives.

      December 15, 2012 at 11:00 am |
    • OO K?

      So he can place the universe in perfect order,create everything on earth,communicate with us telepathically-but he can't convince a single human to re-think a diabolical plan or jam a gun?Really?

      December 15, 2012 at 11:08 am |
    • AtheistSteve

      "God is present everywhere"

      So you say but how do you know? Why is every word out of a believers mouth always a litany of bald assertions?
      God is everywhere...God created you...God will answer your prayers....etc. But apparently he can't be bothered to do anything substantive whatsoever to stop evil.
      Your God behaves and acts in a way that is totally consistant with him being non-existant.

      December 15, 2012 at 11:11 am |
    • Blaster

      If you want to catch a burglar on your property are you going to let him know you're there? Or will you simply take him by surprise? That's how God will get you as well atheists.

      December 15, 2012 at 11:20 am |
    • AtheistSteve

      @Blaster

      Your empty veiled threats have no weight.

      So God is going out of his way to be invisible and mysterious to catch us heathens unaware? How delightfully evil. And yet scripture is replete with events where he demonstrates his power in unambiguous fashion. Is he now too shy to repeat the things he did to show his presence to bronze age illiterates?
      It all boils down to this. Everything you think you know about God comes from the writings of primitive ingnorant men. The very definition of gullible.

      December 15, 2012 at 11:35 am |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      Brophy can't even come up with a good proxy threat.

      December 15, 2012 at 11:36 am |
  7. 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 10:57 am |
    • SixDegrees

      He can't be both imaginary and a murderer. Personally, it's obvious to me that he's imaginary. If not, it is impossible to reconcile such evil events with a benevolent deity, and the only reasonable conclusion is that god exists, but is patently evil.

      December 15, 2012 at 10:59 am |
  8. Hillary

    Newtown is the microcosm of America. They kind of deserved it.

    December 15, 2012 at 10:57 am |
  9. Mzerothehero

    When are people going to realize that this crazy idea of a diety that rules over everything is just an epic storybook that ancient people wrote to explain the unexplainable back then. Nowadays if you see someone part the Red Sea, scientists will explain how it happened. Moses and the Exodus was merely a Jewish revolt touted as an exodus. How can the Bible explain dinosaurs, cavemen, etc. It just turns a blind eye as though fossils don't really exist. So would any God let something like this happened to beautiful innocent children? BABIES! Can your God explain what he was doing as this went down. Just BABIES!!! Unreal how people say go home and pray. For what? Didn't he do enough already? Or not enough to prevent?

    December 15, 2012 at 10:56 am |
    • THE REALIST

      .

      Touche'

      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 10:59 am |
  10. Hillary

    You know, like America at 9/11, maybe this town just "had it coming." I mean, really!

    December 15, 2012 at 10:56 am |
    • Bostontola

      weak

      December 15, 2012 at 11:00 am |
    • GAW

      I call Troll.

      December 15, 2012 at 11:05 am |
  11. Hillary

    Has anyone looked at what kind of video games this kid played? I think its time to start banning video games, and music, and movies.

    December 15, 2012 at 10:55 am |
    • Sam

      Same ol boring Reductio ad absurdum Yawwwn

      December 15, 2012 at 10:58 am |
    • Blaster

      Keep thinking harder Hillary, you're making progress.

      December 15, 2012 at 10:58 am |
  12. lee fact

    Asking Where is God, God is asking Where are you? In this Day in Society with many living as they deem fit ignoring teachings of wisdom and then when tragedly strikes you now wonder where is God and how did this happen but is God welcome before acts of tragedy. People will get hurt, Innocent people will have bad things happen to them. There are no answers as to Why? Christians trust God for peace that surpasses our understanding because there are some life events left unexplainable. I am simply asking if we as people refuse to live Godly why do we search for him in times of trouble and blaming him for not showing himself. He is all around to those who allow him in our hearts and if you seek him you shall find him. So where is God? He never changes and he is all around. God is here, do you even know him?

    December 15, 2012 at 10:53 am |
    • THE REALIST

      .

      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 11:00 am |
    • Here is Real

      Which god, be specific now?

      December 15, 2012 at 11:07 am |
  13. Talravan

    We asked God to leave our schools. He's gone. The better question is, "Where isn't God?"

    December 15, 2012 at 10:52 am |
    • sam stone

      "Where isn't god?"

      he isn't anywhere

      December 15, 2012 at 11:09 am |
    • SImran

      We asked god to leave ur schools... He's gone!

      Exactly how do you explain that god follows our command? Why did he leave?

      December 15, 2012 at 11:12 am |
  14. Scott

    More people in this country know the names of the Jersey Shore cast members than the books of the bible, and you ask where is God? WOW!

    December 15, 2012 at 10:52 am |
  15. Hillary

    was he ever an altar boy? no follow up questions required!

    December 15, 2012 at 10:52 am |
    • Compton Sike

      lol

      December 15, 2012 at 11:01 am |
  16. Runny Nosed Athiest

    I'm an angry loser. Please give me your attention. I want to provoke others and spew hatred. Please be stupid enough to respond to my ignorant comments. I have several idiot friends who echo my anger. I won't accept the idea that God blesses good choices and that bad choices can hurt others around me. If God were real I wouldn't be a jack @ss but I am so He must not be.

    December 15, 2012 at 10:52 am |
    • Dippy's sub

      It's "atheist."

      December 15, 2012 at 10:53 am |
    • Hillary

      you have every right to be an angry loser! You go, girl!

      December 15, 2012 at 10:53 am |
    • Cedar rapids

      The irony being that if RNA was a christian then his post would be classed as hateful and we know that god says that means a warm afterlife.

      December 15, 2012 at 10:55 am |
    • Runny Nosed Athiest

      @Dippy's sub - I live by my own rules. In my world there is no right and wrong. Join us Dippy....join us....join us.....join us....

      December 15, 2012 at 10:58 am |
    • Compton Sike

      What an immature little jesus-fucker you are.
      Let me guess: Some atheist hurt your feelings and now you have to act like a baby to feel better.
      How sad.

      December 15, 2012 at 10:59 am |
    • Runny Nosed Theist

      Sniff Sniff (Blows nose in C flat)

      December 15, 2012 at 11:00 am |
    • Blaster

      Sound like a real atheist to me.

      December 15, 2012 at 11:00 am |
    • Dippy's sub

      C flat=B

      December 15, 2012 at 11:02 am |
    • Runny Nosed Athiest

      @Cedar rapids - are you suggesting that I am going to hell for posting a comment on a crappy blog?! You're a clown. Shut your fat trap and stay in your Cedar rapids hole in the ground...and have a nice weekend :-)

      December 15, 2012 at 11:03 am |
    • Cedar rapids

      'Runny Nosed Athiest – @Cedar rapids – are you suggesting that I am going to hell for posting a comment on a crappy blog?! You're a clown. Shut your fat trap and stay in your Cedar rapids hole in the ground...and have a nice weekend'

      Oh yes, yes I am suggesting it because what you are posting is what is in your heart, and that hate is a big no-no. This blog is just how you are expressing that hate.
      Better pack light.

      December 15, 2012 at 11:07 am |
    • GAW

      Was is an Athiest?

      December 15, 2012 at 11:08 am |
    • OO K?

      I'm a happy winner.I don't understand why god didn't intervene in this(or any other)tragedy,but I'm sure he had a VERY good reason.I will find out when I fly to heaven and sit by his side.I have faith,so,it's all good.I am soooo happy!

      December 15, 2012 at 11:19 am |
  17. Vickey

    Where is HE? We tell HIM HE is not allowed in school and then when something happens we ask where HE is?! How stupid are we? We were made for HIM, HE was NOT made to be here for us when WE want HIM to be. How arrogant and foolish people are. Keep pushing HIM out of our nation, just keep it up. Keep asking where HE was during the horrors that are coming faster and faster, and keep pushing HIM away. Say HE doesn't exist and then get made at HIM for not answering your prayers. Wake up! You want to be protected from things like this? You HAVE to have JESUS in your heart to be protected. Otherwise you do not belong to HIM and HE can not help you. Simple as that. If you don't believe in HIM, DON'T BLAME HIM!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! After all, you've got what you wanted, HE does not exist in your world.

    December 15, 2012 at 10:52 am |
    • alopez

      Let the Holy Spirit speak...I thank my King Jesus for people like you.

      December 15, 2012 at 10:58 am |
    • GAW

      Don't expect the state to babysit you and your children. If you want to instill Christian values in children isn't that the role of the Church and Sunday School?

      December 15, 2012 at 11:03 am |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      How many times are idiots like you going to post this tripe, Vick?

      December 15, 2012 at 11:03 am |
    • Here is Real

      Vickey
      No, no you don't. I've seen jesus on a stick around some peoples neck, and beanies on some jewish peoples heads, and muslin people in long robes and pastafarians that drank to much beer, but I am guessing you only see the world through christian eyes, too bad.

      December 15, 2012 at 11:04 am |
    • Cedar rapids

      so these kids were all unbelieving atheists huh?

      December 15, 2012 at 11:04 am |
    • Blaster

      There you are Tom The Piper, i kind of miss you for a little while.

      December 15, 2012 at 11:06 am |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      You poor thing. No friends? Can't get a date that doesn't need a bicycle pump?

      December 15, 2012 at 11:07 am |
    • mama k

      If HE is the almighty thing you think he is, then no one can keep him out of schools. And if religious parents are failing at instilling in their children the values they want to see, then don't blame the public schools.

      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 11:08 am |
    • GAW

      Wow and all divine pronouns are written in all CAPS. I am impressed!

      December 15, 2012 at 11:10 am |
    • sam stone

      vickey: why would anyone pray to a being in which they do not believe?

      December 15, 2012 at 11:14 am |
    • Blaster

      Well i can always get my first date if you would just give me a chance Tom The Piper. lol

      December 15, 2012 at 11:15 am |
  18. 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 10:51 am |
    • GAW

      Well if God's imaginary than the deaths narrated in the Bible didn't happen. So what? Most Jews and Christians don't seek to carry out genocide because their holy book gives accounts of it.

      December 15, 2012 at 10:56 am |
  19. Hillary

    Did Lanza drive an SUV?

    December 15, 2012 at 10:51 am |
    • Blaster

      Don't pay any attention, she's in a coma.

      December 15, 2012 at 10:52 am |
    • puzzled

      Slow down and get to the point ya kook.

      December 15, 2012 at 10:53 am |
  20. Hillary

    Back to the issue at hand . . . .

    Lanza was an eco warrior, a freedom fighter, an anti-zionist, reacting to wasteful american and anti-muslim videos

    December 15, 2012 at 10:49 am |
    • Keep the Tip

      Hmmm – I'm thinking he was the victim of a post-adolescent circ-umcision

      December 15, 2012 at 10:59 am |
    • GAW

      I think someone forgot to take their meds. Take em quick before you end up on the CNN headlines.

      December 15, 2012 at 11:12 am |
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About this blog

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.