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.
The atheists on this board are a bunch of posers. Pseudo-intellectuals in its finest form. There are many scientists and nobel laureates that support intelligent design.
No. Not true.
Which god developed Intelligent Design?
Because a stone age tribe's version of the origins of the world trumps 20th-21st century science. All the scientists dont have a clue.
Intelligent design IS pseudo-science in its HIGHEST form.
Its name is also the biggest oxymoron I've ever come across.
Please tell us what percentage of the total "many" is... 60%? 90%? or more likely 0.69%
If you want to find God....find a way to be GOOD, and do GOOD, and Say GOOD...and find a GOOD way to tell all those who are promoting and showing all of the BAD things in the world, to shut up! If you're busy waiting for a man to descend from a cloud; you'll be waiting for a long time. Hell on earth is created more and more every day. Heaven on earth CAN still happen but; it starts in your home!
So be good, for goodness' sake...
Oh, and kill all the gays. And have slaves. And sacrifice your children. Ummmm – and commit genocide. But – if you Do commit genocide, you must thereafter r-ape all of the virgin daughters of the men you killed. That's "good" according to the bible
The Christian God is NOT pro-life.
He is GUILTY himself (and approves) of child murder, infanticide, child abuse and abortion:
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 !!!
If humans look inward for the TRUTH rather than to the heavens, we would ALL be better off.
God didn't help at the school because He's not allowed in schools anymore.
Maybe that just invalidates the Bible, not an omnipotent Creator.
To paraphrase Shakespear, "The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our God
But in ourselves, that we are underlings."
Yeah Lisa, and the kids got the punishment they deserved. You are one sick individual.
That's a pretty wimpy, God, Lisa, if secular law restricts him. It's also pretty lazy of parents to assume public education should be responsible for instilling moral values in children.
God I s Imaginary and EVIL. http://www.GodIsImaginary.com
Ummm, God was allowed in that Amish school that had the mass shooting 6 years ago. Why didn't God help there?
lol You saw that t-shirt too, huh? Cute.
Read my post about evolutionarily-obsolete behaviors and the evidence they provide that God didn't even create us.
I didn't like their hair styles
I agree, we have become a Godless country.
That's a pretty wimpy, God, Lisa, if secular law restricts him. It's also pretty lazy of parents to assume public education should be responsible for instilling moral values in children.
It's so embarrassing to see proof that he is either non-existent or totally impotent
GOD should be doing this..... 20 Children with MIRACLES.
So where is GOD? Many people think he fled the scene. UPSETTING and GUN CONTROL PROBLEMS.
That, feeding the hungry in Africa, giving Ackmadeenjihad a whoopin'...the list goes on.
Sure..where is God..That way, lets absolve ourselves of our collective and individual responsibility in this event... Eaay.
An just what is our collective guilt for the acts of a man gone insane?
It's funny how people ask 'Where is God?". We've basically kicked him out of our schools, out of our homes, out of our government, and then we wonder why he doesn't do anything. The children now have no morals and no understanding of right and wrong because of that. If people don't have God to account to, who do they have? They won't listen to their parents, not their friends, nor the government. God's law teaches us to love one another as we love our selves, so when we tell children not to believe in God are we also telling them to despise others? God gave human's a choice between right and wrong, he gave us a conscience, and he gave us his law. If the government gives us a law, like 'Don't bring guns into schools.', then someone does and lots of people get hurt, do you blame the government? No, because they said not to, right? The seventh commandment is "Do not murder." So God has clearly stated his law and it is up to us to choose whether we will do right or wrong. I believe God is a loving and merciful God, but he is also a just God. "29 Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground outside your Father’s care.[a] 30 And even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. 31 So don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows." (Matthew 10:29-31). God watches over his children and he will look after the victims in his heavenly arms.We need to pray for those who suffer from this, especially the family members. Let's ask God to comfort those who mourn for their burden is much heavier then those who are gone. Psalm 23 is a comforting verse to read....
I'm re-reading the Hobbit instead. It gives me comfort.
This is the same mass murdering god who killed everyone on the planet by drowning them.
Last I checked, we still had something in this country called Freedom of Religion. Parents are free to enroll their children into a private, religious school, or take their kid to Sunday school. They're still free to go to church (I can't help but notice how many churches are out there, seems like they might not be doing their job). And contrary to popular belief, we don't need religion to give us a sense of morality. Most of us are born good-natured people, or are deterred by the law of the land.
We don't need to teach the Bible in school to inform our children not to murder others.
So your god stood by and watched innocent children be slaughtered because he didn't get enough prayers from kids in school. You are sick and so is your god.
I honestly believe that Sarah Palin is the only one that can heal and re-unify our country. But first she must return to her motorhome and resume her cross country tour. She will have to visit cities both large and small, speaking only to "real Americans", dispensing her sage advice and folksy, homespun common sense solutions. We can recover from this tragedy and become a great nation once again but we must all follow the "Palin Path"...
You must be joking. Please, please tell me you're joking. God, save us from your followers!!!!
It's evolution. It's also interesting that in lions, males of a certain age will go to other prides and kill all the cubs. Why does this happen for us as well? Well I don't think any shooter is looking to replace kids with his own, or to populate the earth with his genes instead.
Here's the thing, though – evolution shows signs of things becoming obsolete and detrimental to a species, for absolutely NO reason. This is the strongest evidence FOR it. Vestigial organs, one example – many of us have suffered appendicitis and have had to remove our appendices to remove the problem. Why would God give it to us in the first place??? Why would God give certain whales obsolete, shriveled up hind foot bones? Yes, that's right: whales have FEET.
And as far as our behavior goes, our mental anatomy, we have lion-esque males that feel like the only option when they're not succeeding in life is to kill lots of people. Hardly ANY females have committed these mass murders? Hardly any older people or very young people? Can it be MORE obvious? It has no use in any modern society, it is usually suicidal, but that's the reason. An evolutionarily-obsolete expression of male struggle for dominance.
No, he was insane. His biology malfunctioned.
So we need Man-laws alongside Gun-laws. Got it.
@resonably: I didn't say we didn't. I suppose you construct the typical liberal in your head and imagine arguing a different point that proves I'm not self-consistent would prove the original point to be wrong?
Nice logic, there. lol
@Teddy: exactly what I'm saying. Didn't I mention appendicitis? It's not exactly a commonplace behavior in other animals to go berserk... but in certain species, ones without the kinds of civilizations that we have, there is an evolutionary benefit, from the genes' perspective and from the perspective of a dominant species, in violence toward one's own species. Though, like an appendix, it has absolutely no use anymore.
The real solution would be to find what part or parts of the brain trigger a response like this, and to remove it. I think we're a ways away from be able to do that, though... I don't know the answer, if there even is one. Success always pushes down those trying and failing to succeed.
I choose not to believe in a god that would "take these children into his hands" and leave the grieving parents behind to wallow in sorrow for the rest of their lives.
For those that would assume I am an atheist I would stop you from assuming first because no where in my statement – nor any of my myriad previous posts – do I say there is no god, nor do I not believe in one.
For those that blame keeping your god out of school I would ask you which gods will you allow children to pray to? Also, no one is stopping you from removing your child for our secular publicly paid for schools and enrolling your child in a church-run school.
For those that think that your god has left America I would ask, where did he go and why aren't you going there?
I'm not a Bible believing Christian, but regarding "why didn't God save them", I would have to say because we are all destined to die. God, by his very laws of nature, has already killed us all. Why save children that can't really be saved? Younger and more die from our complacency in other countries each day. Where's God for any of them? All humans, young and old, are doomed to leave this Earth. What does it matter when, or how?
Hm. I kind of jumped on your reply to my post – I may have misunderstood your meaning as using 'Man-laws' i.e. the 'people kill people' argument in order to prove an inconsistency in position. Maybe my misunderstanding.
This is a joke that many people will never get.
Just another ignorant christian who thinks he speaks for everyone.
Will people ever turn away from the fiction they call, "God?"
The question is NOT "Where is God" but "What is God"? and http://www.GodIsImaginary.com
It amazes me how we are so quick to credit ourselves when good things happen, and so quick to blame God when bad things happen. God granted each of us free will. To love or hate, create or destroy, worship or blaspheme... Each of us choose to reinforce good or evil through our decisions. This man made his decision, to inflict pain and carnage as his final act in life, and now his soul is lost. That was not God's will, it was free will.
No you have it backwards- glory to god, all hail the church for good things....fallen state of man and Luciifer for evil.
My heart goes out to the parents of the children who lost their lives yesterday in a senseless tragedy. Its a shame that it takes 1 person, 1 senseless act, 1 lack of empathy, 1 poor judgement, to bring an entire nation to its knees. Every tragedy that has occurred in the United States has only brought our country closer, to each other, closer to our neighbors, closer to our families, closer to our communities. Why is it that we as a country, seem to only come closer when there is a tragedy. why not all the time? september 11, we all stood together as a nation. Columbine, we all stood together as a nation. during the bad storms we have recieved, we all stood together as a nation. We are the United States, for the people, by the people, even in the times that we dont have any tragedies, we still need to hug our neighbors, help feed the homeless, reach out to our local communities and give what little we can, if every single person in this country gave even 1 penny to a local shelter, or local food drive, we would not have any homeless and hungry citizens of the United States. we need to pay more attention to Our Own country, Our Own citizens, and Our Own problems, so that senseless tragedies such as this, may not happen.
We need to seriously look at the gun control laws in this country. period.
The firearms were purchased legally by the mother of the shooter. Unless you wish to repeal the 2nd Amendment, there is nothing to be done. Guns come with responsibility, as do motorcars and chainsaws. Do you blame the car when there is a terrible accident? "We need to take a close look at cars and enact sensible automobile control laws".
Wake up daft Americans and look in the mirror!! This is systemic and we are reaping our collective hopeless, belief-less ideology. Belief is a compass, too bad America has smashed theirs. Feel sorry most for the kids, but you and I are equal to blame as the shooter.
Which god shall we follow?
Yes, the world was so much better with religion in charge. Ah yes, the good old days of slavery and inquisitions and subjugated natives and torture and oppression and crusades and religious wars!
I miss the old religioous morality!
and all of western Europe was christian.
We call this time the dark ages
so they lash out and try to blame others
Is God allowed in Strip Clubs? Nothing better than a prayer before getting a lap dance.
North Carolina Evangelical bible thumpers, stay home! Connecticut doesn't need your help. Their own religious community will take care of those who choose to seek comfort with them.
Sadly that's how Evangelicals work....Take advantage of the hurting and those who are the most vulnerable.
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?
GOD WAS EXACTLY WHERE HE WAS AT AUSCHWITZ, ON SEPT. 11, 2001 AND OTHER SIMILAR VENUES. THIS IS THE TRUTH.
Despite your all caps – you are totally correct.
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.