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.
have you atheist ever thought about how organ do we really see? have ever wonder, what mechanism in the biochemical process of the so called brain makes you desire alcohol but another tell you' don't drink is not good"?
Have you atheist ever wonder if there is indeed a moon out there regardless of an observer? ha ha ha did you ever understand where am I going?
Have you ever put together a single coherent sentence or thought?
LOL Elena, i do. Nicely said.
Have you ever thought about grammar? I know that may seem like a strawman attack, but the ability to construct a sentence does provide evidence of adult level intellect.
You know the moon only circles the Northern (or Superior) hemisphere. Theists tend to flock in the Lower hemisphere where there is no moon to wonder about.
"have ever wonder, what mechanism in the biochemical process of the so called brain makes you desire alcohol but another tell you' don't drink is not good"
You ask this as if it is some sort of complex mystery. Drinking alcohol deprives certain portions of the brain of oxygen, instigating a state that feels pleasurable due to chemical reactions. Conversely, your logic pathways are able to reason that this also hurts you. This is neither new or complex science to anyone with an IQ above 40.
Go away with pimple face. Booger eating moron. Go do something for somebody complainer.
Go away with pimple-face. Booger eating moron. Go- do something for somebody complainer.
Since you obviously KNOW so much, can you explain the UNCERTAINTY PRINCIPLE you keep blabbering about? Oh, you don't know what I am talking of now, do you? The moon thing you keep flashing?
Has anyone really been far even as decided to use even go want to do look more like?
“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?”
What do you care with your pimple face and spotty body? What do you do for anybody?
"Where's God?". Read PARADISE LOST. Tragic nonetheless.
You ask, "Where is God?" God is not in schools at the request of the nation...if you call on Him only in times of trouble, then he cannot protect you from it, only comfort you when it is over.
Teach me to live that I may dread
The grave as little as my bed.
Teach me to die that so I may
Rise glorious at the awe-ful Day.
The funny thing is atheist claiming with such conviction that Science proves a creator dos not exist when they lack the ability to understand something so important as the wave function of a particle.
Have you atheist ever realized that all we are is a whole bunch pf electrons and protons eating and pooing another bunch of electrons and protons to extract their energy? HAVE YOU?
Of course, we have. The question is – HAVE YOU???
This mass of electrons and protons (oh wait, you forget the neutrons!) don't exactly POO each other as you like to put it!
A brainwashed religious zealot lecturing other people on how science works. Now that's comedy.
so what is the poo made off?
I've never imagined that I am anything but a collection of elementary particles. It's comforting.
Simran, with your pimple face and herpes eye.
Elena you are a nut. Why don't you ask a real scientist that question? Oh, wait, you are to much of a wus to actually do that.
Aezel, just another slave of his own ignorance who lacks the ability to produce intelligent thought and have no choice but to punch like a barbarian? if you know so much about science then tell me " is there a Moon out there regardless of an observer" do you even know what am I talking about?
Elena, while I am a doctor, my brother is a quantum physicist. I can refer you to a very simplistic explanation of particle physics:
Enjoy reading with an open mind.
Well, thank you for proving how great a follower of Jeebus you are!
Where's God? He's been booted out of schools. Not wanted. Man believes he is smarter than God. Therefore God allows man to do what he chooses to do. God does not interfere with man's free will.
And you sir are about the 500th poster with that comment!
Pretty wimpy God if SCOTUS rulings can keep him away from things. Also it doesn't say much about the parenting skills of religious parents.
again got or what ever it is do not reside in man made structures, he only lives in living hearts and minds!
You hit the nail on the head. People ask where God is in the face of such horror but does anyone ask where he is when something incredible happens in life?....Free will is such a powerful thing! That is why we need God in our lives, the world is so full of unspeakable things.
Ignore this troll. He is the same individual that posted the same comment over and over again. He is just changing his profile name.
With My pimple face and my herpes eye trolling and rolling
Figured the individual was a 5 year old.
Then why pray? God answers prayers after all, right? What parent doesn't want their child to feel safe, loved, happy and healthy? Obviously God's not answering prayers at the moment. Children are being massacred every single day on this planet. Oh right, God doesn't interfere with free will, but for some reason people still pray.
There is no fairy tale man floating around in the sky.
Go eat a sandwich booger eater
Ha ha ha nice one.
God created the Universe, the Physical Laws, we are here to work it out. We are the only source of 'evil'. We create our own conditions. Our job is to express life in a positive way. If we are smart about it – we will actually create some positive outcomes from this situation/.
Screw your imaginary god.
God is there in all of this! Free will is free will, unfortunately humans use it for destruction of innocent lives. We need God more than ever in a time life this. He is there. He has always been there. It is sad for those who don't have christ in all of this, he is our rock, our salvation...Our Saviour.
Anon....Pick that mole off you pimple face
Ha ha ha ha ha
News Flash! There ain't no God, at least in the Judeo-Christian-Islamic form. People who still cling to the idea of a big cross between Santa Claus and toga-claoked Athenian patriarch need to wake up. If you look to God, you will find nothing. Perhaps it is time for us to look to ourselves and use our reason to work through these tragedies.
Imaginary things have no say what goes on anywhere in the world – yet supposedly intelligent beings still believe in such claptrap. I'd venture to say that 99% of those elected to federal and state positions, including our current president are atheists. To admit that they are, would be admitting defeat at the ballot box.
Jesus said in John 10 v 10 The Devil comes to kill,rob,and destroy but I came that you might have life and life more abundantly.
You sir cannot deny that evil manifested yesterday and if you thought the Devil was a cartoon character,you are deceived.He's very real,and very evil.Likewise,God is very real and altogether good.You may not know Him,but I pray you will
That only proves how atheists are hypocrites.
Merry Christmas from the NRA and Sarah Palin and her gun-loving teabaggers.
Idiot. Go eat a sandwich and get that mole off your face.
Stu pid , is all i can say about your comment
God gave us Grace, and also the ability to kill each other. The Laws of physics and Psychology are effectively – we are here to figure that out. In a way it's kind of foolish and shallow to ask the question 'where is God'? If God created a situation of absolute perfection we wouldn't need to exist – we would live in a dimension of absolute perfection which would not exist. Good and Evil are part of the game we have to deal with. This is just a shallow attempt to foster Atheist beliefs. And Atheism IS a belief, no question about it.
More rationalizing from a believer.
atheism is a belief? no ...its the default setting for any human born..... that child has to be taught the religious line... funny how it varies from region to region dont you think?
Really? That's your reasoning? God cannot create a perfect world so why not murder 20 kids. That should throw off the balance. I'll show them. Wow, nice God you have there. Really what you're saying, is that your God is responsible for this. I find that quite ironic.
THE REALIST MUST BE A PART OF THE ACLU OR HAS A SICK MIND I AM A PERSON WHO DOES NOT GO TO CHURCH BUT EVREY ONE NEED SOME ONE TO LEEN OK YOU HAVE PEOPLE WITH LAWSUTE FOR GOD NOT BE HERE OR THERE ONLY IN CHRUCH OUR FORFARTHER ARE ROLLING OVER IN THERE GRAVES BECAUSE OF ALL THE FIGHTING THEY STARTED THIS GRATE COUNTRY WITH THAT IS Y WE LIVE HERE FREEDOME NOT THERE
I think you just went full retard.
Even more are asking – where is gun control? why is social services for mentally ill being cut to give tax cut to the rich? Of course, if you raise these questions, Republicans will call you a socialist.
What blather. So you would have the numerous women defensive and just wait for the police when an intruder crawls in their home with a knife.
Perhaps the best we can give to those in Newtown, Connecticut, is a moment of silence.
We could use that moment to be present and aware of our own thoughts, feelings and perceptions of this situation.
We could use this to be aware of an onrush of opinions, feelings and judgments and to realize that suffering and death are a part of this world, and that things like this happen, will continue to happen.
This does not sway my “faith in God”, because God is who we are. God is there, even within the heart of those who commit murder, because the mind is free to make choices. Especially unconscious choices.
God so does love all things God did manifestly create and made Godly things to ever evolve into becoming that which time does honor in done measured deeds towards rightful means of and toward highly evolved creation-isms still yet, for God’s pleasures to be so had. We cannot rightly live without life’s pains nor can we know of God and godliness without life’s pleasing measurability’s commonly held holdings of our nurturing godliness ideals ever fomenting onwards toward life’s unknowable futures.
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?
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!
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 doer’s 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 embodied 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 every manifestation of all things created and also evolved!
Captain the kool aid levles are too high, it's gonna blow!!!
This is a very comforting bunch of fiction.
don't be too hard on the lion. You have to understand he was reading Thoreau when he was bit by a rabid dog. Somehow he survived.
I am only going to say this once. For all you so-called Christians. If you put Christianity as law of the land then you are basically destroying the 1st amendment rights of this country. "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof."
What is destroying our freedom is atheism. How do you tell a big mouth atheist to shut up when words are not enough to shut him or her up? A slap? Naw they will cry and accuse you of violence. It's pretty hard to shut a convulsing drama queen without any freedom of actions.
I thought there was no God. Where was this kid's father? Where was his brother who kept away for two years?
God is where He always is. In the hearts of those who believe in Him through faith.
God's intention was heaven on earth. He created it to be without all the suffering that has been present since the original man sinned against Him in the garden. When sin entered the world the slow decay of His creation and the wicked and evil intentions of man was unleashed. No one knows the heartache of loss more than God. He sacrificed His Son Jesus so that the sin of the world for all time could be forgiven us. He aches every time one of His creation goes to Hell through rejection of the love sacrifice He gave us. There is coming a day when this wickedness and evil will end. All people will be judged by their creator. Some for rewards and some for condemnation to Hell. Are you ready?
As for the current evil event, it is apparent that the perpetrator of this act was sick. His brother has said this. A man would have to be sick to shoot his own mother in the face point blank. Then murder innocent children.
We should be praying for the peace and restoration that only God can provide those who are suffering in this terrible situation.
God is imaginary like it has always been. You propagate brain cancer.
Compton Sike, you sound a little jealous that over 3.6 billion people worship God. Believers in God are the most powerful people, just look. And atheists seem to be the weakest, not only in numbers, but in spirit. Adam Lanza is the perfect example of a worm questioning the existence of God. No matter how hard you try to downplay religion, you'll never succeed, and your life will end meaninglessly, as you and your kind still have no solid proof or evidence. It's so sad. I hope you enjoy your lifeless death, you obviously have nothing to appreciate. Your life must be awful. I know mine isn't!
Haha Atheism and Agnostics are growing. You seem to be ignoring that information.
Sounds like you are the one with a problem here. So your god of love is guiding you to act like an angry child filled with hate towards me? lol
Thanks for proving your god is worthless and imaginary.
You see me rollin.
Thanks for playin.
haha you make a fantastic Christian
I hope religion dies soon to see the Christians squirm like the idiots they are.
You sound like someone who is trying to convince himself he's better than other people.
A billion flies can't possibly be wrong: Eat feces!!!!
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.