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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. Anon

    Here's the origins of your god.

    December 15, 2012 at 1:32 pm |
    • I Am God

      You know the troll elena isn't going to listen to you, no matter what evidence your provide.

      December 15, 2012 at 1:33 pm |
    • Anon

      I know the kool aid levels are strong. :D

      December 15, 2012 at 1:35 pm |
    • I Am God

      lol

      December 15, 2012 at 1:36 pm |
    • elena

      The troll Elena ha ha ha ha, you know why i laugh because you not even cant answer a simple question and yet you are so arrogant to call me troll/

      another simple question are you arrogant?

      December 15, 2012 at 1:39 pm |
    • elena

      The annunakhi from the Sumerians!! did the Sumerians taught about god to the Indians and far east ancient cultures, what about the american natives, the the summerians told them about the annunaki?

      December 15, 2012 at 1:41 pm |
    • elena

      You still dont tell me why YOU, not the Sumerians or the ancient greeks, call it the christian God?

      December 15, 2012 at 1:42 pm |
    • I Am God

      Elena you are very clueless. Get your head out of the sand you nut.

      December 15, 2012 at 1:44 pm |
    • Anon

      O..k... now we're going into David Icke tin foil hat territory.

      December 15, 2012 at 1:44 pm |
  2. lionlylamb

    Love Let Us,
    Love Lettuce,

    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!

    December 15, 2012 at 1:32 pm |
  3. Thank you Christians!

    I want to thank religious people in tough times like these for standing tall and saying what they believe. Their thoughts are the best recruiters secularism has, and we appreciate you saying your bizarre twisted ideas so that future generations can hear and say "That's bullshit!"

    December 15, 2012 at 1:32 pm |
  4. Moe Ha Med

    Funny how the ones who didn't lose a child are now thanking him.

    December 15, 2012 at 1:32 pm |
    • Bet

      As per usual, god gets credit for the good parts and none of the blame for the bad parts.

      December 15, 2012 at 1:35 pm |
    • Jim

      The way you would thank any tyrant for sparing you and yours no matter how many of your neighbors he tortured to death. It's the same way you would be thankful every time when the school bully looked past you to torment another. Fear is not love, people!

      December 15, 2012 at 1:38 pm |
    • Joe

      keep it up guys....it's people like you that make this world an awful place.

      December 15, 2012 at 1:50 pm |
  5. Get Real

    Of course both are imaginary beings, but the true story is Satan is GOOD and God is EVIL. Satan tapped God on the shoulder and asked God please don't flood the earth and kill all those innocent children. God answered and said "Bra ha ha ha! I am allmighty god and can do what I want. It would please me to see those babies drown in agony! Bra ha ha ha!". Satan said "that's wack, dude! You are one cruel, sick, evil monster". So Satan left heaven and promised to help mankind against the evil imaginary God. Then one day all the people grew up and realized God and Satan are both imaginary so they went away hand in hand as boyfriends forever. That is after God asked Satan's forgiveness for all of the mean spiteful things he did. The End.

    For proof God is Imaginary visit http://www.godisimaginary.com

    December 15, 2012 at 1:32 pm |
  6. Barbara

    Since at this time this is still a free country and at this time we still have the freedom of speech (and the right to bear arms), I am going to add my two cents worth to the mix...
    The NRA is not to blame, lack of parenting skills is probably not to blame entirely, guns are not to blame, GOD (yes He does exist and someday you will find that out for yourself) is not to blame, the blame lies solely on Adam Lanza. He picked up the gun, he pointed the gun and he pulled the trigger. If you want to blame someone then put the blame where it belongs. His mother may have had those guns locked up, who's to say now. At this time, no one knows what happened before the shooting, so just stop speculating and stop making up stories, just to have something to say.
    GOD is omnipresent and I am sure that he was right there with each and every one of those children. GOD gives us all a free will to choose what path we take in life. We have sat back as a society and allowed extremists to take Him out of every facet of life. There is coming a day whether you want to believe it or not, that we all have to answer for the choices we have made in life. It is so easy to sit back and blame GOD, the NRA, the government, parents, just whoever, but the ones we really need to be blaming are ourselves. We have sat back and allowed our country to get where it is today. We can all take the blame for yet another senseless act of violence. And furthermore, if you really want to find a place to put your blame, then why don't we blame video games? Have you stood there and actually looked at the games our children are playing? Have you examined the violence and senseless murder taking place in these games? Has anyone taken the time to really think about what this is doing to our children's minds? Or is it just easier to sit them in front of the TV with a game and not have to think about them for hours on end? This is where these children turned adults have learned to kill. If you want to remove something from society that really will make a difference, then ban these games that are teaching how to kill.

    December 15, 2012 at 1:31 pm |
    • Whatever

      God and guns. Both are the bastions of dingbats.

      December 15, 2012 at 1:38 pm |
  7. NorthVanCan

    Guns, religion. This heres got the fixens for "Huckabee special " hick hick......

    December 15, 2012 at 1:31 pm |
  8. Rosie O'Donnell

    Did they ever catch that korean guy who shot up all those kids at Virginia Tech???

    December 15, 2012 at 1:31 pm |
    • Bet

      Yes they did. It wasn't hard to catch him. He couldn't run very fast, because he had committed suicide.

      Idiot troll.

      December 15, 2012 at 1:39 pm |
  9. ed mckinsey

    don't blame god we asked him years ago not to be at schools, or any school function's, or any goverment programs.and being the loving person he is he back away. Our way of life has been going down the tubes ever since we let
    a few noise'e atheists have their way the poor ones saying they were being abused. The silent christians are tired of having their rights stepped on like an old rag.

    December 15, 2012 at 1:31 pm |
    • NorthVanCan

      It only takes a few atheists cuz they are so right.

      December 15, 2012 at 1:33 pm |
    • mama k

      It's a sad excuse to blame the secular nature of public school education for the lack of parenting skills for the religious fundamentals that insist every child conceived needs to be brought into this world. Such hypocrisy.

      We are not a theocracy and we never have been. 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 1:36 pm |
    • Bet

      Which god do you want to "allow" in school? There are thousands to choose from.

      Let me guess, you pick only the one you believe in.

      December 15, 2012 at 1:40 pm |
  10. Tom

    There's no God plain and simple. No one will save you but yourself.

    December 15, 2012 at 1:31 pm |
  11. Bostontola

    What's more likely?
    A) an all powerful god wants you to fear his wrath if you don't follow the rules, but you have free will, or
    B) men exploit your fears to control you.

    December 15, 2012 at 1:30 pm |
  12. THE REALIST

    .

    The Christian God advocates ..... child murder, infanticide, child abuse and abortion:

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

    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 !!!

    http://dwindlinginunbelief.blogspot.com/2006/08/how-many-has-god-killed.html.
    .

    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 !!!

    If humans look inward for the TRUTH rather than to the heavens, we would ALL be better off.
    .

    December 15, 2012 at 1:30 pm |
  13. The Tooth Fairy

    God is just a made up fairy tail.

    Get over it.

    December 15, 2012 at 1:30 pm |
  14. Rosie O'Donnell

    I'm turning in all my weapons, just in case they kill someone:

    my knives, my car, my furnace, my hands, my swimming pool, my baseball bats, my tennis racquets, my metal wires, all of them! I'm am not taking responsibility for their wanton acts of brutality!

    December 15, 2012 at 1:29 pm |
  15. 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!

    Love Let Us,
    Love Lettuce

    December 15, 2012 at 1:29 pm |
  16. Joke

    This is too funny. They ask, "Where was God?" as if they was going to be some magic that could have happened. There is NO GOD people. There is no one who lives in the clouds and watches us. He doesn't control the weather, he doesn't guide the universe, and he doesn't know what everyone is doing. God is the creation of the most childish of fantasies, and to even believe that divine intervention was possible is just plain nuts. Maybe God was busy? Maybe God doesn't like the people who live in New Town/ Maybe he hates kids? Maybe he hates America and everyone who lives there? Maybe God is really jewish and all these christians can screw themselves? Really, just grow up.

    December 15, 2012 at 1:28 pm |
    • reality check

      'Better to keep your mouth shut and keep people guessing than to open it and remove all doubt.

      December 15, 2012 at 1:34 pm |
  17. Rosie O'Donnell

    guns are responsible for murder!

    December 15, 2012 at 1:26 pm |
    • DONT FEED THE TROLL!!

      mmm, k?!?!

      December 15, 2012 at 1:28 pm |
  18. THE REALIST

    .

    The Christian God is NOT pro-life. He advocates child murder, infanticide, child abuse and abortion:

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

    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 !!!

    http://dwindlinginunbelief.blogspot.com/2006/08/how-many-has-god-killed.html.
    .

    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 !!!

    If humans look inward for the TRUTH rather than to the heavens, we would ALL be better off.
    .

    December 15, 2012 at 1:26 pm |
  19. Jack Peters

    The NRA got to him too.

    December 15, 2012 at 1:24 pm |
  20. Absentee Sky Daddy

    Seriously folks, stop making excuses for your absentee Sky Daddy.

    Grow up.

    December 15, 2012 at 1:24 pm |
    • Joe

      Your immature, totally offensive comment has been noted. Thanks!

      December 15, 2012 at 1:51 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 and Eric Marrapodi with daily contributions from CNN's worldwide newsgathering team.