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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. Bootyfunk

    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?

    Epicurius

    December 15, 2012 at 11:51 am |
    • elena

      It all comes to how do we see death!!! If we believe that this reality or life is all that there is, so why sending kids to school in first place, since when we died we don't take anything with us and everything is finished for ever. Why should I be a good person since anyways there is nothing else when i die?

      December 15, 2012 at 11:55 am |
    • MikeB

      Does God give us plenty of opportunity to choose the misery and tolerance of their our lives?
      In places where evil has no influence, God has taken the community up to himself; The City of Enoch.
      In places where no good can have influence, God has let them be destroyed. Sodom and Gomorrah.
      As long as we can choose what we do and how we react to evil; God will leave it to us to workout the misery or joy we choose to inflict upon or share with each other.

      December 15, 2012 at 12:03 pm |
    • Bet

      @ Elena,

      You could be a good person because you have empathy for others and you don't want to hurt or infringe on their rights. You could be a good person because you want to treat people the way you wish to be treated. You could be a good person because you want to have a positive effect on your family and friends.

      Or, you could be a good person because you're afraid that an imaginary boogie man will punish you if you're not.

      December 15, 2012 at 12:05 pm |
    • MikeB

      Bet.
      What means is there for everyone to be compelled to be a "Good Person".
      Even making it the Law does not assure compliance.
      In much of the history of being a good person; the good people are easy prey.

      December 15, 2012 at 12:13 pm |
  2. MikeB

    Parents send their children off to college for them to lean to make their own decisions and deal with their own consequences.
    Very few people want a parent or minder to hover over and dictate their 'adult' lives.
    People make decisions and we all must deal with our own decisions and those of others. Interference from a God, Extraterritorial, Government, or Parent denies us of our ability to develop personal honor, integrity, and accountability.
    We as a society can establish laws that discourage and sets social consequence to bad behavior, but it does not stop people from imposing upon others. No law or government has the ability to change a person's determination to do evil or impose misguided good intentions.
    Social values are taught in the home and community. A corrupt and self-serving bureaucracy cannot provide the personal social guidance needed to give people incentive to consider consequences beyond one's own life. Religion may be passe' for some, but when their is a belief that one has to answer for one's actions while alive does encourage civil behavior.

    December 15, 2012 at 11:51 am |
  3. bobjones2012

    None of this has to do with god or satan. They are both mythical inventions of the mind. Humans need to take responsibility for themselves, their societies, and cultures and stop believing in the supernatural as an explanation or existence and behavior.

    December 15, 2012 at 11:48 am |
    • MikeB

      On a personal level. What is the incentive?
      Most religions and organizations have been established by Apostates, Agnostics, People of Social Conscience, Atheist, and Tyrants to establish a social order compatible with their own.
      To blame religion, only, is being too narrow and does not address the cause human discord.

      December 15, 2012 at 11:55 am |
  4. mike jablonski

    thank to the aclu is why they tack god out of school that is y so blame them for this mess we are in with all ther lawsute for all the things that hurt my kids and yous so thanks to the aclu for the mess we are in

    December 15, 2012 at 11:48 am |
    • Bet

      So which god or gods of the thousands of gods should be "allowed" in school? Allah? Zeus? Shiva? You want god in school, as long as it's the god you believe in.

      December 15, 2012 at 12:10 pm |
  5. who should we blame

    it’s human nature to blame someone else when life doesn’t go the way we had hoped. Most of them we blame God for our own mistake, Stupidity or Failure. Humans never accept for their mistake, always blame some one else.

    December 15, 2012 at 11:48 am |
  6. Chad

    If God didnt exist, no one would be asking that question that everyone is asking: "Why did this happen?"

    December 15, 2012 at 11:46 am |
    • Bootyfunk

      you're logic is flawless. now which god? zeus? ra? odin?

      December 15, 2012 at 11:48 am |
    • GAW

      Yes we would. It would no longer be a theological question but a psychological one.

      December 15, 2012 at 11:50 am |
    • Here is Real

      Chad
      Even for you that is an ignorant statement.

      December 15, 2012 at 11:56 am |
    • Roger that

      If he did exist then what an evil s.o.b. he would be.

      December 15, 2012 at 11:57 am |
  7. Alex Uribe

    God said peace out. He thought you guys had your new god Barack Obama.

    December 15, 2012 at 11:46 am |
    • Bootyfunk

      at least obama is real...

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

      Go watch some nascar, bagger.

      December 15, 2012 at 11:50 am |
    • elena

      Pues con el otro dios de los republicanos a los browns como tu no les iria muy bien!!

      December 15, 2012 at 11:51 am |
    • Alex Uribe

      go blog about it libby.

      December 15, 2012 at 11:57 am |
    • Alex Uribe

      Y gracias por el aviso... pero gracias a Dios (el Verdadero) y el esfuerzo que me permite, a mi me va muy bien sin el apoyo del gobierno. :)

      December 15, 2012 at 11:59 am |
  8. JennyTX

    Why do people give god all the credit when good things happen, such as a Super Bowl victory, but then those same people don't blame god when something bad happens, such as a mass shooting at a school???

    December 15, 2012 at 11:46 am |
  9. Run2day

    There is no answer to the existence of God folks. This debate can go on forever. There is no proof that he does exist and there is no proof that he doesn't exist.

    It's just a waste of time arguing this. No one can settle this argument except "God" himself.

    December 15, 2012 at 11:45 am |
    • Compton Sike

      Nope, we have plenty of proof that your god does not exist. Prayers not working yet? Do tell.

      December 15, 2012 at 12:15 pm |
  10. Puzzled in Peoria

    God gives every human being free will to sin, Mr. Lanza, me, and you. If God struck every person dead when they were about to sin, there would be no human life left on earth.

    God gives us a choice. He does not coerce anyone into following him. If you ask where God was, you don't believe in God. God is more saddened by events like this than the victims' families.

    One more thing. God cannot be known by science or by reason, atheists. He can only be known through faith. You have no faith so you don't know God. It's as simple as that. You can mock and ridicule Christians and even blame them for this tragedy, but unless you sincerely seek God, you will always believe there is no God–because for you that's true.

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

      lol

      December 15, 2012 at 11:47 am |
    • I Am God

      Just because I have no faith in God doesn't mean I don't have faith in something. Also science proves the existence of things unknown while faith just believes in something unknown. I'd rather choose the science.

      December 15, 2012 at 11:50 am |
    • Wheninrome

      I concur. "Faith is the substance of things hope for – the evidence of things not seen"

      December 15, 2012 at 12:04 pm |
    • Compton Sike

      There is no such thing as sin, so your argument is pretty worthless.

      December 15, 2012 at 12:16 pm |
  11. lionlylamb

    The Holy Spirit of Godly Almightiness is the grand seas of Nothingness. In submissions of leavened faiths there are many adorned declarations of Godly physicality’s bemusements for the commoner’s better welfares in ever aging trials to be so tested! We all do yearn to know God and be of godliness principles but our faiths declare to most a dying tribulation of ever unfolded generalities made against God of the One to be as the Only; made out of sheer Nothingness!

    December 15, 2012 at 11:45 am |
  12. Santa

    It could have been worse if God hadn't been there. It's a Christmas miracle.

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

      what makes people think that " God" what ever it is, controls humans actions.We were created free and with free thinking. God will never intervene in human history unless it is the day the entire life existence is at risk of extermination!

      December 15, 2012 at 11:47 am |
    • Bet

      That just shows you what happens when you end up on god's naughty list.

      December 15, 2012 at 12:16 pm |
  13. palintwit

    Teabaggers will use this tragedy as an excuse to drive up the price of autographed copies of Sarah Palin's 'crosshairs' poster.

    December 15, 2012 at 11:40 am |
  14. Lyssa Bally

    I love how all these athiests think their opinion matters. One of Gods greatest gifts that was given us was free will. I guess these brilliant people don't get that, and what that means. It's not Gods job to control everything, he left that in our hands and we are doing a real "bangup" job of it. You can have your opinion and so can I, so don't think your anymore "right" than anyone else. If I am wrong, nothing happens, if you are wrong you will burn in hell. I will stick with my beliefs and you with yours. What free will leaves in it's wake is to make people take responsibility for their actions. But we know that people don't, they want to blame someone else. We as human beings need to stop trying to outsmart the truth and just let the truth have its day. I do have the answer, I believe, to all our problems. This is not a new idea, Jesus had it first. LOVE! Love is the power that can make the world a place where we all can live together in happiness. So attack me all you want, I will choose to love you. Peace

    December 15, 2012 at 11:40 am |
    • GAW

      Wow you sound like a mighty fine deist there.

      December 15, 2012 at 11:42 am |
    • JJ

      You're smoking crack you deluded idiot.

      December 15, 2012 at 11:46 am |
    • mama k

      @GAW – I prefer to think of the kind of Deist that we see in John Adams:

      The United States of America have exhibited, perhaps, the first example of governments erected on the simple principles of nature; and if men are now sufficiently enlightened to disabuse themselves of artifice, imposture, hypocrisy, and superstition, they will consider this event as an era in their history. It will never be pretended that any persons employed in that service had interviews with the gods, or were in any degree under the influence of Heaven, more than those at work upon ships or houses, or laboring in merchandise or agriculture; it will forever be acknowledged that these governments were contrived merely by the use of reason and the senses.

      Thirteen governments [of the original states] thus founded on the natural authority of the people alone, without a pretence of miracle or mystery, and which are destined to spread over the northern part of that whole quarter of the globe, are a great point gained in favor of the rights of mankind.

      (from A Defence of the Constitutions of Government of the United States of America [1787-1788])

      December 15, 2012 at 11:47 am |
    • I Am God

      So if God gave us free will, then I can not be punished for being an Atheist, for that is free will.

      December 15, 2012 at 11:48 am |
    • GAW

      @ mama k I'm just playing on the fact that some theists seem to revert back into deism once they are presented with an ideology that makes their God look bad.

      December 15, 2012 at 11:53 am |
    • lionlylamb

      Lyssa Bally,

      Even of mankind's lost and forlorn are their compromises for God to be ever had. God wants no one to burn in a hellish fire made for the first evil doer and all said evil doers family! As our souls depart us come death's passing along ways, we are all taken up by God's almightiness seas of absolute Nothingness, then we are washed clean of our bitter memories here and given a new body in places deeply inside our ongoing generations' bodies! The wills of all people is in their souls' nothingness that wraps up all material matter known and made knowable to mankind. We are as seeds to Godliness virtues and death is but a gateway to the abundances of ever-lasting life in a plain and realm deeply inside all measuring of each and ever manifestation of all things created and also evolved!

      December 15, 2012 at 11:57 am |
    • Claire

      Lyssa, I agree with most of what you wrote.
      What I cannot 'go with' is judging who will go to hell....

      December 15, 2012 at 11:58 am |
    • mama k

      OK, GAW – I understand, I know exactly what you mean.

      December 15, 2012 at 12:01 pm |
    • esperanza

      Wait, so an atheists opinion doesn't matter? So only a religious person's opinion matters? Wow, that's just a tad arrogant, isn't it? Those who want to believe in their god can talk about free will all they want. But if god is all-powerful, how come he has no issue letting someone express their "free will" and kill a bunch of innocent kids? And yet the same religious person who loves to spout about free will will give examples of god stepping in and doing things like stopping a bus from hitting an old lady or intervening in some other way. When some tragedy is diverted, they give god credit, so where's the blame when it isn't diverted?

      December 15, 2012 at 12:02 pm |
  15. Tom Tom The Crack Piper's Son

    Dude, you're still posting crap? Enjoy your weekend comment marathon. You must have no life.

    December 15, 2012 at 11:40 am |
  16. sidnqwipon

    ahha god...u fools

    humans are the most disgusting species in the universe no ones gonna help us

    were destroying the earth and the animals and our fellow humans every single day nothing will help us until we realize we need help

    December 15, 2012 at 11:39 am |
  17. Where is God

    We can not blame God for our mistake. God informed us to choose the right path, the path were you can be sucessful in this world and the world after, however, we choose the wrong. We should blame our selves not God

    December 15, 2012 at 11:39 am |
  18. Matthew

    Only the intellectually compromised could still think there was a god in the 21st century. I call them little-brains because that's what they are! Religion...ALL RELIGION...is man's attempt to squash down the unavoidable fear of death...PERIOD! We the human species have invented these deities ans systems of empty ritual to calm that nagging fear of the nothingness of eternity that awaits us all. The sooner you deal with it, the better off you'll be. I ain't waiting for no savior to show up, and as long as this oh so arrogant country keeps the 2nd AMendment on the books, our streets will run with blood! FACT!

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

      The Bible says, where there is no light, there is darkness, meaning evil. If we ban God from our classrooms, not even allowing simple prayers, we have chased away the light and allow in darkness. God does not go where He is not invited, it is written.

      December 15, 2012 at 11:38 am |
  19. Joe

    June 25th,1962,Supreme Court banned prayer and Bible reading in public schools. 50 years, 5 months, 20 days ago....

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

      And now we have mass killings in schools and atheists think that is a mere coincidence.

      December 15, 2012 at 11:39 am |
    • mama k

      And there was a ruling in 1963 as well. And there were incidents at schools before that time.

      We are not, and never have been a theocracy. 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, Mace, 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 11:44 am |
  20. Emilio

    You ask "And were is God?" Well, I've been in this country since 1961 and I've seen God taken out of our schools, God taken out of our public building, God taken out of our laws, our country declared "Not a christian country"......... Now I ask you, "Would you be in a place you are not welcomed?? But I will say that God is the king of our home.

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

      So, if your children ask you to leave and then start killing each other, will you sit by the fence and say – "Oh, what can I do? I am not welcome anymore!"

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

      Move to Iran if you want to live in a theocracy then.

      December 15, 2012 at 11:41 am |
    • I Am God

      This is the main reason why God will never show himself. People like you presume what God wants to happen, when in reality you do not know what God wants.

      December 15, 2012 at 11:47 am |
    • JJ

      You Christians never cease to amamze me with your delusions. So, there was no murder or crimes prior to 1961?

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

      Emilio

      My friend, take your blinders off and really look at the world...look at its history worldwide....all the many cultures..their god.
      All the various versions of christianity...and every single one convince that their version is the only one....

      look at how just about every religion has acted...not what they ve said. but how they have acted.

      It should be obvious that we created God.... and he is exactly what that particular religion needs him to be...
      Need your enemies destroyed but having problems getting the local populous on board? no problem..an in coming call from god that says people need to die...

      There is no god to be in schools...never was..never will be..

      December 15, 2012 at 11:53 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 and Eric Marrapodi with daily contributions from CNN's worldwide newsgathering team.