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.
Where is God? Remember, we kicked Him out of schools and we don't allow teachers and students to pray anymore!
God is Good, He is Good all the time He is Good. He stands by ready to move on our behalf; but He will not force Himself upon us. The more we turn from Him as a nation the more we will see evil acts like this. It is time to humble ourselves and turn back to our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. He offers to true hope, healing, and wholeness for all humans.
So God let these innocents be slaughtered because "we kicked him out of schools"?
Did we kick God out of shopping malls too?
What is wrong with you?
Liars for Jesus
It's time to burn all the churches, synagogues, temples, mosques, etc. to the ground and to put all the delusional religious idiots into a special area where they cannot hurt anyone but themselves. Then we can move forward and make real progress.
It is clear that the Bible says that God resides in us when we open our hearts and minds to it. If we close then then all we are is sole less beings
Bishop you clearly lack understanding! or you want to distort what other say!
There are thousands of gods, which one should be "allowed" in schools? I doubt you'd be so pro-prayer and pro-god in schools if you didn't get to choose which god was "allowed".
very well said, thank you
Bet – you hit the nail on the head! Well said and thank you!
i mean very well said @ Deborah!!
How many names are you going to use to post the same nonsense?
deborah: the schools are not the place for organized prayer. as far as your predictios of gloom and doom...blah blah fckiing blah
The question where is God is inappropriate because God is always where he is. The question is where are we? God was removed from all schools and he cannot be where he is not wanted. You have to ask for his presence for him to be there. It is a pity that this has to happen but God is still on His throne
Weak argument alert.
Where is God when innocents are allowed to be slaughtered?
Oh, you think he's sitting on the toilet? Nuff said.
if that is the case, then where was god when all the kids were being molested by priests? nope. your logic doesnt work. you think that most of the kids in that school didnt go to church? I would be that they did. and i am sure that not a single one said when walking into school "time for me dump god now"... nope. sorry.
Yes, God is still there, God did not create this violence, man and satan did. Everyone always blames him, but he is not to blame. He is there to pick us up, he is there to help us through, he cannot always prevent his people from falling though.
Right, if only we prayer was allowed at school then this wouldn't have happened.
How naive can you be. Assuming you are right, god seems like an awfully stubborn and demanding being. The kids' prayers at home or church weren't enough to keep them safe at school too? And is that even the point of prayer?
I haven't read through the comments but I know what's in there. Those struggling to ask, "Why did this happen" only find this single resolve: It was part of gods plan/it was their time/ etc etc. So why pray? Why believe? If its all part of the plan it seems as though all our efforts to deviate from that plan are futile.
Please keep your faith with you and your family and don't blame others for this tragedy because god was taken out of school.
A very genuine question you may want to reflect over – Why did God create Satan?
God doest not reside in school or churches, it resides in people's hearts and minds. if those priests that molested those kids have had God in their hearts and minds they would have never done such thing.
Is that clear enough!!
More bullsh!t from the same troll.
"James 1:13 When under trial, let no one say: ‘I am being tried by God.’ For with evil things God cannot be tried nor does he himself try anyone.
What I hate the most is reading atheist saying science proves, this shows how ignorant these people is really about science!
What do you know about science?
That is because science does prove. Enough said.
Enough to know what science its about and ho much scientist actually know!
and what do you know?
when the the scientific community gave a public statement saying that have the prove a creator do not exist?
Do tell. Which scientific discipline are you referring to?
I'll bet you aren't so quick to dismiss science when you get sick.
which claim about science angers you, elena?
when did the scientific community come out and say they have proof about the non existence of a creator?
come on, elena...give us a link to that story
in order have faith or lose Faith need to understand what Faith is
Heb 11:1 faith is the assured expectation of things hoped for and the evident Deminstration of realities not beheld
Faith is not crudility not a blind beleif.
And all the more nut jobs come out........please people get a freaken clue will ya?
Perhaps Lanza learned to MURDER innocent children from reading of god's acts in the Bible?
YES, – if you are a christian, ... you WORSHIP an EVIL MASS MURDERER! _ SHAME SHAME SHAME !!!!!
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 !!!
It is better to acknowledge the TRUTH, ... that God is Imaginary ... http://www.GodIsImaginary.com
The other alternative is believe the LIES ... that he exists, ... AND that he is EVIL and WICKED !!!
I'm proud of my Dad!
How ironic that you fault the judgement of God in the Scripture upon nations that were sacrificing their children to idols! In fact, burning them alive! After giving these societies 400 years to repent, God used the armies of Israel to wipe them out. History shows that the women and children usually fled ahead of the Bible. Those who didn't were killed.
I believe there is scriptural justification that children who die go to God (Heaven). God spared the children in these ancient nations the horrors of paganism. God gives life, and God reserves the right to take life. We don't (unless it's in self-defense, etc). Atheists cannot call anything "murder". Murder has moral ramifications. There are no objective moral facts for the atheist.
Where's God? Same place he always is.
In our imaginations, because he's just a figment.
In reply to the question where is God. If you were to ask Him, perhaps in an accusatory manner, his reply might just be,
"You took me out of the schools a long time ago!"
When my dad was a boy in public elementary school living in a racially mixed, poor area with all the kids being Christian, Jew, or others that didn't care, the 23rd Psalm was read every Friday. We have purged God from our society. We are killing our babies at a record pace through the horrors of abortion. Our own president would not come down on the infanticide that is partial birth abortion and he refused to sign on to a bill that would provide care to a human child that survived a botched abortion. Leave IT on a shelf to die! And you ask where God is!?! We are a nation in decline. It's time for America to pray.
cindy: organized prayer does not belong in the public schools. why is that so hard for you nutters to understand? teach your kids about god at home, or in your church. keep it out of the public schools.
Two aspects to the Problem of Evil: the Intellectual Problem and the Emotional Problem. The former asks whether an all-good God and evil are compatible. The latter notes that either way it still hurts! Right now, we must comfort one another, especially those in CT.
Please check out Dr. William Lane Craig of Reasonable Faith for more on the Problem of Evil.
Though it’s true that they will be missed by their loved ones; but it will not be forever. Man has always been fascinated about life after death. Where do we go; when life for us as we know it, ceases to exist? According to the Holy Scriptures it assures us that though death can be tragic, there will come a time when it will be reversed. It also assures us that those that have died are at rest until resurrection day. How do we know this? Take note: “For the living are conscious that they will die, but as for the dead, they are conscious of nothing at all, neither do they anymore have wages, because the remembrance of them have been forgotten. Also, their love and their hate and their jealousy have already perished, and they have no portion anymore to time indefinite in anything that has to be done under the sun.” (Ecclesiastes 9:5, 6) This proves that when we die we are at rest and have no knowledge of our past existence. When will that knowledge be remembered? “Do not marvel at this, because the hour is coming in which all those in the memorial tombs will hear his voice and come out, those who did good things to a resurrection of life.” (John 5:28, 29) Just trying to shed a little light of hope; my sincere condolences to the families for their losses.
Seriously folks......if there is a God, he is either impotent or just doesn't care about the murder of innocents.
God was taken out of schools and anywhere else the minority did not want Him.
This just in: still mythical.
It is better to acknowledge the TRUTH, that God is Imaginary ... http://www.GodIsImaginary.com
The other alternative is believe the LIES ... that he exists, ... but that he is EVIL and WICKED !!!
If you are a christian, ... you WORSHIP a MASS MURDER! SHAME SHAME SHAME !!!!!
That's my Dad! Look him copy and paste just like a pro!
why should I believe you, your statement is not more or less valid than saying "God Is not imaginary"
When things like this happen, some people realize, "Wow, religions are human inventions, aren't they. I've sure been fooled." This happened to me after that horrible tsunami in southeast Asia in 2004. An evangelical friend sent me an article trying to explain why god allowed so many people to die in that tsunami, and that's when I realized how ridiculous it was. Religions are man-made.
The Christian God is Imaginary __ http://www.GodIsImaginary.com
Yeah my daddy is back with some fresh copied and pasted posts.
Your dad's wicked smaht.
Given God's existence, prove that God does not or can not have reasons for allowing evil. FWIW, Christian theology predicts evils like this will occur, and offers the remedy in Christ.
Non-theism cannot justify calling anything "evil" or actually morally wrong! The shooter was just more "fit for survival" than the teachers and children! It's just molecules in motion!
Given God's existence
God's existence is not a given. There's no valid evidence of the existence of any of the thousands of gods that are and have been worshipped throughout history.
So, Emilio, you're saying God is a petulant 12 year old girl who throws temper tantrums because not enough people are talking about him anymore? While I think Matthew may be on to something in his denial of God's existence. Another possible explanation is we've been going about understanding our divine creator for thousands of years. After, not a single author of any book of the Christian Bible ever spoke to or met God or Jesus. Moreover, most of the books were written centuries after the events they describe transpired. So – Where was God yesterday? Why did he let it happen? Does he really want us to go to Church on Sunday? Does he want us to outlaw abortion? Does he think gay marriage is wrong? The answer to all of these questions is "I have no idea, so please stop telling me what God wants, feels or needs"
Yes, Mark, exactly. Thank you.
Totally agree. However the Chad has entered the blog and I fear you will feel the wrath of his disingenious logic any moment.
Wheres god? He's out there. But he doesn't control your lives like you think. Mankind keeps putting expectations that cannot or will not be fulfilled by god then when those expectations are not fulfilled they get mad at god. Its like expecting a gerbil to turn into a cat. Not gonna happen. This world is based on reality. Not fantasy. Once you get past the point that you have to live with the results of you and other peoples actions then you will start to realize that your dependent on the system to help you. When some one chooses to kill innocent people then that choice was based on his actions alone. God didn't tell him to do it. Satan didn't tell him to do it. His diseased mind told him to do it. Why ask your self "why did god allow this?" He didn't allow it and he didn't cause it. It just happened. think of god as your parents far far away. They cant stop a speeding car from hitting you can they. Only you can prevent yourself from stepping in front of the speeding car. Sad enough though some times a random act happens. Its like you not knowing where the lightning bolt will strike. We are 7 billion people on this planet. One act out f 7 billion is quite small.
Your brain is quite small.
"where's God"? God has provided guidance and values. Sadly there is noone teaching those values. Evangelical christianity has done nothing to improve the social and moral direction of this country. It is a false religion, totally distracted from the true teachings of Jesus. Their dogma has been morphed and modified over the decades to now serve the will of greed and corruption. If these so-called religious people spent only 1/10th of their time they now spend as puppets of corruption – if they spent it actually teaching true Christian values – this world could be a better place. Sadly, they do not have a clue.
You are the clueless one, Mike. There is no god and never was any god. Oh, prayers not working yet? What a shock.
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.