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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. lionlylamb

    “God is the maker and taker of all things created and many things evolved. God creates and mankind takes their leads for or against God who forever lives inside our bodies! God is our beings’ husbandries and in rightfulness wants are we conceptualized into being in and for hopes of becoming better lots of the churnings upon masses of the mobbed generalists un-righteously denying God and the godly!”

    “God is the master of all creations and of many things manifested to be evolved in being and for to be made by God’s husbandries handiworks of God’s pleasured abundances. For without creation being a manifestation, could there be any personages or could there be a world within a solar system arising in a galaxy whose clusters did establish our universe?”

    December 15, 2012 at 11:35 am |
    • Canuck

      yayaya war and guns misery, slavery tornadoes, hurricans hunger thats why he created man

      December 15, 2012 at 11:38 am |
    • THE REALIST

      GOD IS EVIL !!! GOD IS WICKED !!!

      .

      If you are a christian, ... you WORSHIP a MASS MURDER! SHAME SHAME SHAME !!!!!
      .

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

      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 11:51 am |
  2. moe smith

    "Where's God?"

    he's in the same place he's always been when tragedy strikes.

    define that however you like

    December 15, 2012 at 11:34 am |
  3. Lorraine

    Wasn't God taken out of the public schools? Sadly, they probably couldn't even hang a Merry Christmas sign in the school. God made flesh, the Word made man....and we ask where was God?!?!?!

    God please send Your Holy Spirit to Newtown!

    December 15, 2012 at 11:31 am |
    • Blessed are the Cheesemakers

      Explain church killings and clergy r@pe now.

      December 15, 2012 at 11:34 am |
    • mama k

      We are not a theocracy, Lorraine, 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 11:34 am |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      Oh, look. It's Loopy with more stupidity to blurt. Why would a school hang a sign saying "Merry Christmas?" There are numerous holidays in December that students celebrate-why should those be ignored in favor of yours? If you're going to demand that a public school recognize YOUR holiday, then it had better be fine with you if it recognizes Eid, Chanukah, Ramadan, Kwanzaa, Purim, Yom Kippur, and every other religious holiday as well.

      You twit.

      December 15, 2012 at 11:35 am |
    • GAW

      How can you take God out of school? That would make man more powerful than God.

      December 15, 2012 at 11:36 am |
    • GAW

      Lorraine is really posting for Pat Robertson.

      December 15, 2012 at 11:38 am |
    • Lorraine

      Then why are we asking where God was?
      If you tell Him He is not allowed then don't ask where He is!!!

      Or you can't see that in all your self-rightous arrogance.

      December 15, 2012 at 11:41 am |
    • Here is Real

      Which god, be specific now? Who the hell are you talking about, Lorraine?

      December 15, 2012 at 11:45 am |
    • AtheistSteve

      Most people celebate Christmas as a secular holiday. 1 in 10 houses displaying Christmas decorations have anything like a nativity scene. Mostly it's Santa, reindeer and elves, lights and decorated trees.
      Believers cry foul that we've taken the "Christ" out of Christmas and I say so what? We took the "Thor" out of Thursday. I celebrate Christmas and I'm not afraid to use the familiar traditional name for the holiday. For me it's a time to enjoy friends and family, good food and drink, and take a break from work. All good things without any of the superstitious nonsense.

      December 15, 2012 at 11:49 am |
    • AtheistSteve

      @Lorraine

      It's a rhetorical question. We aren't asking why God isn't present during such terrible events. We're asking why should we expect God to be present anywhere...period. The fact tha God doesn't appear to be present in any way, at any time, is glaringly obvious to all. But during times like this where innocent children are slaughtered it seems incongruous for an supposedly all-loving God to just stand by and watch without intervening. You end up tripping over yourself trying to provide an alibi for God not doing something to protect the innocent. It's basically Euthyphro's Dilemma.

      December 15, 2012 at 12:04 pm |
    • Shaken

      A school is a building, God needs to be taken out of the heart. I wish people would stop confusing the two and saying horrible things like those who don't pray in school deserve such horrible things. And don't deny it because at the end of the day THAT is that view.

      December 16, 2012 at 12:22 am |
  4. handovertheremote

    God has been kicked out of everything from the schools to the courthouse to the money in our pockets, yet people don't understand when He backs off and leaves us to our own devices?

    December 15, 2012 at 11:30 am |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      Spam harder, poe.

      December 15, 2012 at 11:31 am |
    • Here is Real

      Which god, be specific now?

      December 15, 2012 at 11:34 am |
    • lol!!

      Lol!!

      December 15, 2012 at 11:36 am |
    • mama k

      Many people don't understand my you go through such hoops to explain your God's every purpose whether you think he's around or not. Lunacy. Regardless, it doesn't say much for your God nor the parents of religious if all they can do is complain about public school education.

      December 15, 2012 at 11:37 am |
  5. THE REALIST JR

    My daddy's going to comment again soon with some fresh new copied and pasted posts.

    December 15, 2012 at 11:29 am |
  6. charles darwin

    The hard fact of life is, there is no god or gods.
    It's all made up folks.
    Time everyone wakes up to reality.

    December 15, 2012 at 11:28 am |
    • Blaster

      Darwin was an idiot.

      December 15, 2012 at 11:44 am |
  7. Bowdowntocats

    Really!!!???? Place yourself in God's perspective. We constantly look for ways to separate ourselves from Him. How arrogant we have become to exclude him from our lives and then ask where is He.

    December 15, 2012 at 11:28 am |
    • Blaster

      Yup, that's what happen when we get as low as atheists are.

      December 15, 2012 at 11:30 am |
    • Canuck

      He is not there really not there have you seen him lately?

      December 15, 2012 at 11:33 am |
    • Lorraine

      Amen! and God forgive us.

      December 15, 2012 at 11:33 am |
    • GAW

      "Place yourself in God's perspective".....Yup that's you trying to play God again.

      December 15, 2012 at 11:39 am |
    • == o ==

      The only kind of "trickle-down" that actually works:

      "Blaster" degenerates to:
      "pervert alert" degenerates to:
      "Taskmaster" degenerates to:
      "Chad" degenerates to:
      "Ronald Regonzo" degenerates to:
      "truth be told" degenerates to:
      "Atheism is not healthy ..." degenerates to:
      "tina" degenerates to:
      "captain america" degenerates to:
      "just sayin" degenerates to:
      "nope" degenerates to:
      "WOW" degenerates to:
      "!"
      and many other names, but of course I prefer to refer to this extreme homophobe as
      the disgruntled Evangelical Fortune Cookie Co. writer boot camp flunkie.

      December 15, 2012 at 11:40 am |
  8. Epicurus

    Is god willing to prevent evil, but not able? Then he is not omnipotent. Is he able, but not willing? Then he is malevolent. Is he both able and willing? Then whence cometh evil? Is he neither able nor willing? Then why call him god?
    Epicurus

    December 15, 2012 at 11:27 am |
    • Blaster

      Do you at least comprehend what you're saying?

      December 15, 2012 at 11:29 am |
    • myVu

      God gives every single human being a free will.

      December 15, 2012 at 11:31 am |
    • Bostontola

      Blaster, the argument above is logically sound, do you disagree?

      December 15, 2012 at 11:31 am |
    • Joe

      Please recall, that we Americans have made a focused effort to remove GOD from our schools, society, etc....

      By the recent actions, I would say we are making some progress.

      December 15, 2012 at 11:31 am |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      You do know who Epicurus was, don't you, Brophy?

      December 15, 2012 at 11:31 am |
    • Bostontola

      MyVu, human free will is not relevant to the above argument.

      December 15, 2012 at 11:33 am |
    • Me

      @ Blaster,
      This is one of the most intelligent posts I have read so far today.
      The question is do you comprehend what Epicurus has written? Maybe you need help with words like malevolent, benevolent, omnipotent.... Look up a dictionary, write down the sentence and read it again and again (like you do the Bible) and it will make light!

      December 15, 2012 at 11:33 am |
    • Bostontola

      Joe, are you saying god was not in that school?

      December 15, 2012 at 11:34 am |
    • Josh

      There is an entire tradition within Christian theology called process theology that affirms Epicurius' first question and regards omnipotence as a theological mistake.

      http://processandfaith.org/about/what-process-theology
      http://www.ctr4process.org/

      December 15, 2012 at 11:37 am |
    • myVu

      Bostontola, the above is not a argument at all, it is nonsense. And human free will has everything to do with it. The young man "chose" to do evil...period!!!

      December 15, 2012 at 11:38 am |
    • Bostontola

      But Josh, omnipotence is from the word of god.

      December 15, 2012 at 11:39 am |
    • Bostontola

      MyVu, the man chose, but the omniscient god knew before the man chose.

      December 15, 2012 at 11:41 am |
    • myVu

      Bostontola, this is true. And God also knew that the world would need a Saviour before it was even formed. He has come and was crucified on the cross for your sins. So will you receive him? or reject him? This is also a free will choice.

      December 15, 2012 at 11:44 am |
    • Bostontola

      MyVu, I respect your choice. Of course I don't accept mythology. As in the original post, that would be illogical.

      December 15, 2012 at 11:47 am |
  9. Hillary

    Can you believe that there are actually people who believe that gun ownership is a "right"? These are probably the same kooks who don't think that the government should force churches to provide sterilization and abortions to their employees. This country gets stranger and stranger every day

    December 15, 2012 at 11:27 am |
    • GAW

      The little voice in your head says "Take your meds!"

      December 15, 2012 at 11:31 am |
    • Canuck

      What are you saying Hillary stranger and stranger Im glad I live in Canad we are only one strange not two that would horrible!

      December 15, 2012 at 11:35 am |
  10. red

    Dear reader Gods not allowed in schools
    so keep Him in your Homes

    December 15, 2012 at 11:26 am |
    • Here is Real

      red
      That would be PUBLIC schools, you couldn't get his asz out of Notre Dame with a crowbar.

      December 15, 2012 at 11:32 am |
    • Looking For God in All The Wrong Places

      Kids can pray in schools – it just can't be organized by the school.

      December 15, 2012 at 11:33 am |
  11. lionlylamb

    “God is the master of all creations and of many things manifested to be evolved in being and for to be made by God’s husbandries handiworks of God’s pleasured abundances. For without creation being a manifestation, could there be any personages or could there be a world within a solar system arising in a galaxy whose clusters did establish our universe?”

    December 15, 2012 at 11:26 am |
    • Bostontola

      Did you author that?

      December 15, 2012 at 11:29 am |
  12. Looking For God in All The Wrong Places

    We have to stop turning to new blogs, Hollywood, MTV and politicians during times when we need spiritual leadership and guidance. They are just as confused as everyone else and even worse – they use the situation to boost ratings and sell advertising dollars. And we need REAL answers, not religious filler language and dogma. These folks have helped a lot of people during times of national transition: Spiritual: http://www.joelosteen.com, Financial: http://drjamespierce.com, Social: http://www.tdjakes.org – Real leadership = more answers

    December 15, 2012 at 11:25 am |
  13. Josh

    Totally inadequate responses from the conservative and fundamentalist pastors cited in this article. CNN has been working very hard at including a broad base Christian response in its religion articles. I wonder now, just when we need it most, why they are falling back on a univocal fundamentalist presence. Perhaps Ernest Becker was fight. Death is just too terrifying for us.

    December 15, 2012 at 11:22 am |
    • Joe

      Josh, maybe you should explain where satan was at this time.......

      December 15, 2012 at 11:33 am |
  14. Roger that

    I'm glad that God watched over and protected the kids that weren't killed.

    December 15, 2012 at 11:22 am |
    • yikesboy

      What a ridiculous thing to say: "God was looking after those who weren't killed". I trust that this was bitter sarcasm. God was and is where he always is, safely ensconced in man's imaginations.

      December 15, 2012 at 11:27 am |
    • Roger that

      Yikesboy

      I'm sure there were parents thanking God for keeping their kids safe that day.

      December 15, 2012 at 11:36 am |
    • Sane Person

      Physics watched over them. There is no god. Maybe when you people wake up and start taking responsibility for your life and your world instead of relying on imaginary cloud people, we can start to make a better place.

      December 15, 2012 at 11:44 am |
    • Roger that

      Sane person,

      You must be new here.

      December 15, 2012 at 11:51 am |
  15. Sad day

    Mr realist if you beleive that which you write you obviuosly have found somthing better then the creater of all good things please share it.

    December 15, 2012 at 11:21 am |
  16. @earlier post

    "God is not spiteful"???? Really, the same god that allowed the inquisition, and mass genocide of flooding the earth. The same loving god that at the request of Elisha had bears come down and maul 42 kids. The god who turned Lots wife into salt just because she looked behind to witness the "loving" god killing hundreds. The same shameful god that actually engaged in a bet with the devil over Job and then processed to destroying his life....over a bet. All this spitefulness, over two people for eating a piece of fruit. Your god is quite spiteful to allow millions of kids to die year after year.

    December 15, 2012 at 11:21 am |
  17. richunix

    To the victums, my heart goes out to the familes.....truly a sorry day in America. As for a deity...get a grip there was a GOD...only what we created. You do not need religion to have moral values, that comes from all of us. Evil done is what evil men do.

    December 15, 2012 at 11:18 am |
  18. Reformer

    The question here should be "Where are the coward law makers of America"? God is not mocked: Whatever a man sows, let him reap. America sowed the seeds of "guns and bullets". America is now reaping the harvest of "guns and bullets". Unfortunately, these incidences will continue-until all the cowards in Washington DC are voted out of office, replaced by courageous reformers-men and women who are not afraid of the "NRA" and the "ACLU".

    December 15, 2012 at 11:18 am |
  19. lionlylamb

    “God is the maker and taker of all things created and many things evolved. God creates and mankind takes their leads for or against God who forever lives inside our bodies! God is our beings’ husbandries and in rightfulness wants are we conceptualized into being in and for hopes of becoming better lots of the churnings upon masses of the mobbed generalists un-righteously denying God and the godly!”

    December 15, 2012 at 11:17 am |
    • richunix

      What is the name of your deity and please tell the world how different he is from AN or ZEUS?

      December 15, 2012 at 11:19 am |
    • lionlylamb

      richunix,

      My God is ever to be a nameless God and his Holy Spirit is forever the Great Seas of absolute Nothingness! All the other Pagan endorsed gods are sons and daughters of the One God who in physicality lives deeply inside our bodies!

      December 15, 2012 at 11:32 am |
  20. MAK

    The religious leaders can not figure out why so many people are losing faith. Here is perfect example. So where was God and using is divine intervention to make those weapons malfunction? Al they want to do is speak from the bible, but actions speak louder than words. Maybe all of those religious leaders need to pray to the supreme being and show everybody that he cares. Not just in horrific cases like the school shooting, but also in normal everyday events.

    December 15, 2012 at 11:16 am |
    • Ian

      People are always so quick to attribute god to good yet when evil occurs of this magnitude they are not around praising god and his omnipotence i've noticed.

      December 15, 2012 at 11:23 am |
    • Me

      @ Ian,
      They dont praise his omnipotence coz they realize his impo/t.ence!

      December 15, 2012 at 11:26 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.