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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. Blaster

    You just have to say the word God and abracadabra atheists from all over shows up. Reminds me of a bunch of chickens when a coyote shows up, they all go mad and running everywhere.

    December 15, 2012 at 1:08 pm |
    • Bostontola

      Nope

      December 15, 2012 at 1:11 pm |
    • THE REALIST

      SOMEONE has to stand up and STOP THE MADNESS and the LIESS

      The Biblical God is NOT pro-life, he advocates child murder, infanticide, child abuse and abortion:

      http://www.evilbible.com/god's%20not%20pro-life.htm

      .

      December 15, 2012 at 1:12 pm |
    • Enoch

      And what do the God-fearing remind you of? A bunch of people who wonder where "he" was during the event and hope the victims have found their place with "him". Some god you got there. No accountability.

      December 15, 2012 at 1:14 pm |
    • Blaster

      @Bonstontola

      Why did you show up then?

      December 15, 2012 at 1:14 pm |
    • tonk tai

      We have to amuse ourselves somehow. It just so happens that delusional Christians incapable of reason and logic are absolutely hilarious.

      December 15, 2012 at 1:15 pm |
    • Bostontola

      I show up because this topic interests me.

      December 15, 2012 at 1:16 pm |
    • Blaster

      LOL Atheists, you're so easy to play with.

      December 15, 2012 at 1:19 pm |
    • == 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 we all know this extreme homophobe as
      the disgruntled Evangelical Fortune Cookie Co. writer boot camp flunkie.

      December 15, 2012 at 1:31 pm |
    • Compton Sike

      What? Prayers still not working? Better pray harder! HARDER!
      Stay off the internet and PRAY if you think prayer actually works.

      What? You have a magical power and you don't use it and bad things happen to innocent people?
      Better get off the internet. You are wasting your time trying to convince skeptical people of your clearly fraudulent religion here.
      And maybe that's why those kids were killed. Yeah. All of us atheists are your god's True Warriors™ sent here to rebuke thee.

      December 15, 2012 at 1:39 pm |
  2. Chris B

    Signapore, a country with one of the lowest crime rates, specifically violent crime, in the world, has a population where only 18% are Christians. There are almost as many muslims in Singapore as Christian, and Buddist are the majority. So, if god prevents violence, then where is their god?

    December 15, 2012 at 1:07 pm |
    • Blaster

      You only proved that the %18 percent of crimes are committed by people who have no form of belief just like atheism.

      December 15, 2012 at 1:13 pm |
    • SImran

      Really Blaster, do you have reading issues or comprehension issues? Exactly what part of this post you fail to understand?
      Get some help, stop wasting your time on this blog!

      December 15, 2012 at 1:16 pm |
    • Chris B

      Yet another intelligent "Christian" spouting off his beliefs.

      December 15, 2012 at 1:21 pm |
    • Blaster

      Simran read again, he saying the whole country is almost all religious and the crime rates is low. That only proves that those crimes are committed by other people than religious one.

      December 15, 2012 at 1:26 pm |
  3. Jeebus Chribus

    In one year guns murdered:

    Canada 200
    England 39
    Germany 194
    Spain 60
    Australia 35
    U.S.A 9,484

    God bless America!

    December 15, 2012 at 1:06 pm |
    • Rosie O'Donnell

      42,000 killed in car crashes in USA in one year.

      America sux

      December 15, 2012 at 1:09 pm |
    • Enoch

      That doesn't prove that guns are an issue in the US. Not at all. It just means we are better shots.

      December 15, 2012 at 1:10 pm |
    • Enoch

      What about car deaths in other countries, Rosie?

      But you raise an interesting point – for those who kill while driving impaired, I say they should be charged with second degree murder and for those caught driving impaired, instead of DUI, they should be charged with attempted murder.

      December 15, 2012 at 1:12 pm |
    • J-Pap

      To be fair, you'd have to do it as percentage of capita. I'm a Canadian and the state of california has the same amount of people as all of Canada.

      December 15, 2012 at 1:26 pm |
  4. Rosie O'Donnell

    This tragedy simply underscores why we can't allow school vouchers.

    December 15, 2012 at 1:06 pm |
    • Chris B

      Did you really throw that in this discussion? I would like to hear how school vouchers led to the massacre of 20 innocent children.

      December 15, 2012 at 1:09 pm |
  5. jimbob

    Why would anyone who was born before yesterday be asking "where's god" TODAY??

    December 15, 2012 at 1:05 pm |
    • Enoch

      I agree. Nice way to put it.

      December 15, 2012 at 1:06 pm |
  6. Rosie O'Donnell

    Maybe the killer's mother brought this on herself. Did anyone ever see Mommy Dearest or Psycho?

    December 15, 2012 at 1:03 pm |
    • DONT FEED THE TROLL!!

      kthnx

      December 15, 2012 at 1:05 pm |
    • Rosie O'Donnell

      what do those letters mean?

      December 15, 2012 at 1:07 pm |
  7. lionlylamb

    I love God and do fear God’s potential wrath! I am but a lowly evolved sinner of the lessor kinds in God’s evolved pleasantries! My hatred upon the social masses abundant displeasures toward God and our godly kinds leaves me high and dry with little waters to quench my undying angers toward those ever unleavened bitter fruits accosting God and our godly righteous! You who do vault your tempest denials for God and our godly ones are as bitter fruits to those whose loved ones lay in wasted deaths forsakenness! Such shamefulness acts and actions are deemed unwarranted and unbecoming rightfulness alimonies!

    December 15, 2012 at 1:02 pm |
    • jimbob

      And what were those children's sins??

      December 15, 2012 at 1:07 pm |
    • Jeebus Chribus

      Crazy much?

      December 15, 2012 at 1:07 pm |
    • Bostontola

      What's more likely:
      A) an all powerful god wants you to fear it's wrath.
      B) people in power want you to fear god's wrath to control you.

      December 15, 2012 at 1:09 pm |
    • Enoch

      "unleavened bitter fruits"

      word salad

      December 15, 2012 at 1:16 pm |
    • lionlylamb

      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.

      December 15, 2012 at 1:21 pm |
    • J-Pap

      Quick, give this guy an assault riffle.

      December 15, 2012 at 1:29 pm |
  8. I Am God

    Elena it is quite obvious your a troll and it is quite obvious that you are too scared to talk to a real scientist.

    December 15, 2012 at 1:01 pm |
    • SImran

      Yeah, I noticed. She disappears and then reappears elsewhere whenever I ask her a question!

      December 15, 2012 at 1:10 pm |
  9. Rick

    I obviously can't begin express how horrible this tragedy is. What that man did is just complete evil. Tragedies like this, nonetheless, makes us wonder where God is. Those who don't believe in him can easily say he's nowhere. That is their answer. However, many people need another answer. I believe in God. I also believe that we can't blame him for the tragedy that couldn't be stopped. Only one person is to be blamed, and that is the shooter. Although questions as to why "why didn't he (God) stop it?" linger, I find one answer that many overlook. God gave many the willpower to find strength in them that they did not know they had. Many teachers and students found the strength and bravery to help others, and thus reduce the number of victims. God will also help the relatives of the loved ones to cope with the loss. This is a tragedy. This is not, however, a moment for many of us to attack other's faiths. Let's just unite and hope/pray that the children and the families get all they help they need.

    December 15, 2012 at 1:01 pm |
    • Rolph

      Well spoken my friend.
      I do not believe in a god that would allow this to happen. My heart truly grieves for the parents of these children.
      If there was a god he is obviously powerless or when there was only Adam. and Eve he would have prevented Eve from taking the apple to begin with. Maybe god is the devil?
      Or maybe he's not omnipotent.
      Our presence on this earth in relation to the endless size and age of the universe is inconsequential and we better start realizing that there is only us. We are responsible ourselves for all that we do and we are a violent society. We entertain ourselves with violent sport, violent games and violent news. What outcome would you expect from this? In 2 thousand years we have not distanced ourselves from the Romans and the gladiators that entertained them.. Are we so afraid of the violence that surrounds us. Yes !!!
      Who causes that violence? We do.
      Why? Because our society is enamored of it. Is UFC a sport?
      I think not. Professional wrestling? Hah
      Using. .226 automatic rifle for target practice?
      The question is , why do we like to watch a person getting beaten to a bloody pulp? Because it brings out the beast in us that we try to hide?
      We are animals. We are not yet civilized.

      December 15, 2012 at 1:26 pm |
  10. Linda

    Ahhhh ... but Max, the answer is simple: we raise our kids amidst violence, void of family values and morals. We put independence, individuality, success and money above all else, including our Creator. Then we wonder why all the misery in the world? God does not want puppets, which is why we as human beings were given freedom of choice: love the world or love God. We continually ask God to "bless America" when our country long ago abandoned God. We should be blessing God with all our being. Instead, we continue down our individual paths to destruction with our sinful, selfish actions. Let us quit blaming God for all that is wrong in the world and instead, put aside our own selfish agendas and join together with God to fulfill his ultimate purpose for humanity. Once you realize what that purpose is, you will rejoice in great jubilation!

    December 15, 2012 at 1:00 pm |
    • michael

      Great commentary, Linda! What people also forget is that God allows both good and bad to happen to everyone (Matthew 5:45). The difference between the Christian and the unsaved is that the Christian has a relationship with God that enables them to comprehend the bad and rely on God to get them through it.

      December 15, 2012 at 1:13 pm |
    • Enoch

      The shooter in this case was a devout Christian.

      December 15, 2012 at 1:18 pm |
  11. Carl

    Both sides isn't it great that we live in a free society but when either side of the this arguement or any other talks the other side is stupid. This is the same reason why our government is frozen. We have gotten exactly what we do ourselves.

    December 15, 2012 at 12:59 pm |
  12. Easter Bunny

    Your God is a made up fairy tale.

    Only the Easter Bunny is real.

    December 15, 2012 at 12:58 pm |
  13. Some assembly required

    I thought God was omnivorous or something. Yes, that's it. Omnipotent, omniscient, omnibenevolent, omnivorous. He consumes the young and the old, weak and strong. Everything, everyone.

    December 15, 2012 at 12:57 pm |
  14. Santa Clause

    God doesn't exist.

    Grow up.

    December 15, 2012 at 12:57 pm |
    • Chris B

      God
      – Lives in a pillowy white location that man is not able to locate
      – Is able to be anywhere and everyone, all at once
      – Rewards the good with gifts but penalizes the bad with products of fire
      – Keeps a list of who is good and bad
      – Had a long flowing beard
      – Has workers who do his bidding

      Santa

      – Lives in a pillowy white location that man is not able to locate
      – Is able to be anywhere and everyone, all at once
      – Rewards the good with gifts but penalizes the bad with products of fire
      – Keeps a list of who is good and bad
      – Had a long flowing beard
      – Has workers who do his bidding

      December 15, 2012 at 12:59 pm |
    • Obituary

      Santa Clause is dead.

      – God

      December 15, 2012 at 1:02 pm |
    • Chris B

      So is God

      December 15, 2012 at 1:03 pm |
  15. Chris B

    If God stood by and allowed this massacre to occur due to the removal of God from our daily lives, then that makes God spiteful and guilty of wrath. So, by asking "where is God" or by saying this action was due to our removal of God from our lives, you then are admitting to God being capable of sin. Therefore validating the argument against religion.

    December 15, 2012 at 12:57 pm |
    • Easter Bunny

      In one year guns murdered:

      Canada 200
      England 39
      Germany 194
      Australia 35
      U.S.A 9,484

      God bless America!

      December 15, 2012 at 1:05 pm |
  16. smellarat

    OK, then let's look at the other side of the coin. Do you disagree or agree that this was an act of evil? If you agree that this is evil then is there a reasonable assertion that the opposite of evil is God? Can evil exist without the presence of God? Not sure I have the answer, but it's something to think about.

    December 15, 2012 at 12:56 pm |
    • Anon

      According to the big book of myths aka the bible, your specific god Yahweh created evil.

      December 15, 2012 at 12:58 pm |
    • Chris B

      That's is one of the most idiotic "philosophical" statements made so far.

      December 15, 2012 at 1:01 pm |
    • smellarat

      Thou shall not kill. #1 on the list of myths, I guess.

      December 15, 2012 at 1:02 pm |
    • Mace

      Did God create your ham sandwich? No, you did. God did create evil, an angel who rebelled named Lucifer did. Grow up and stop blaming God for your own miserable life.

      December 15, 2012 at 1:03 pm |
    • Anon

      Which your specific god Yahweh already knew first hand.
      Bah it's all made desert myths anyway.

      December 15, 2012 at 1:06 pm |
    • Enoch

      Your second statement is illogical. There is absolutely no connection that if evil exists then God is the opposite.

      December 15, 2012 at 1:08 pm |
    • tonk tai

      "If you agree that this is evil then is there a reasonable assertion that the opposite of evil is God?"

      Your argument is essentially: 1) Evil exists (care to define this, by the way?), 2) Therefore a supernatural deity exists.
      So, uh... no, that's not a reasonable assertion. It's a complete and total non sequitur. The opposite of evil (a subjective concept anyway) would be "good", not "God."

      December 15, 2012 at 1:11 pm |
  17. Pluto Animus

    We atheists don't have the issues with reconciling an all-good creator with this kind of carnage.

    We just mourn, and extend our sympathies to the people of Newtown.

    December 15, 2012 at 12:55 pm |
  18. Kami Lian

    Opposites are in everything. Where there is up, there is down. Where there is in, there is out. Where there is hot, there is cold. Where there is strong, there is weak. And where there is creation, there is destruction.

    December 15, 2012 at 12:54 pm |
    • Pluto Animus

      And this one applies to this comment board:

      Where there is ignorance, there is also stupidity.

      December 15, 2012 at 12:57 pm |
  19. Wayne

    Social engineering by Hollywood and media news, not gun control are the reasons for these happenings,God not allowed in schools. We as a nation are going down! Fight back by not buying the products associated in commercials with the negative programing that the media and Hollywood are throwing at us! Declare War on satans biggest tools, TV, movies and games of violence! Wake up churches where are you?

    December 15, 2012 at 12:53 pm |
    • mama k

      The religious right want to reproduce and not have anything hamper with that. Then they don't want to assume responsibility for the children they bring into the world. So who do they blame. Public schools. Ludicrous. Poor parenting skills are no excuse for you to try to thrust your religion on everyone else.

      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 12:57 pm |
    • smellarat

      Yes, there is great irony in the sewage that comes out of Hollywood which glorifies mass killing, the most gruesome horror, guns, and murder. Yet these A-list hypocrites are the first ones yelling and screaming about gun control and peace & love.

      December 15, 2012 at 12:59 pm |
    • michael

      Actually, the schools aren't to blame since they're only a reflection of society. The reason why God was taken out of the schools was because society demanded that God be taken out of the schools, not the teachers or administrators or school board members.

      December 15, 2012 at 1:19 pm |
  20. jim

    For everbody that says keep religion to yourself, this is a free country we live in and without freedom there could be many terrible things like this happen everyday if it wasn't for freedom.

    My heart goes out to all the victims a terrible day in history.

    The only time people blame God is when something goes terribly wrong otherwise we want nothing to do with Him.

    December 15, 2012 at 12:53 pm |
    • michael

      That's so true. People are quick to blame God when things go wrong and yet refuse to acknowledge Him when things are going well.

      December 15, 2012 at 1:15 pm |
    • Bet

      Since christians give god all the credit when good things happen, it's perfectly reasonable to blame him when bad things happen.

      I don't blame god for this, though. God doesn't exist. I blame Adam Lanza for this, and no one else.

      December 15, 2012 at 1:18 pm |
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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.