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.
You mean where is God when you want to do your own thing. Sin has a price. Sin has consequences. You want freedom to do whatever you like, then there will be a price you must pay. Don't say 'where is God' when the price you pay is a harsh one. It was you as an individual and a collective choosing a million wrong things that ripples through society.
As for sin, all reality is happening all at once, all past, present and future we are experiencing in the now point... There is no sin and no karma.... Blessings...
the past doesn't exist except as a fact, the future exists as a possilbility depending on the shape it is given by the present. Sin today will become a fact tomorrow in the past but will shape tomorrow in some small way that may have extreme outcomes as it ripples down the timeline.
Time as we know it is just to separate experience... it doesn't exist beyond this level of consciousness... in the hereafter, all is happening at once...
I agree, since we live in a self created reality, we are subject to experiencing the frequency that we put out. But beyond this dimension of time, its not the same...
Stop making excuses for your absentee Sky Daddy.
There is no God.
Now grow up.
You might know in what form God doesn't reside and I am with you, but it is important to understand in what form God does reside... it will save humanity and be the end for all the fundamentalist...
My question is not, "Where is God; the question is where is Satan?" Christianity without knowing that an evil being making people insane, spreading cancer, war, etc. makes no sense. And yes most of us (the ones not too insane through Satan's work) also have the responsibility to abstain from murder, fraud, etc. Like us Satan is a free-will being with the power to make choices. We can make the choice to become bitter and torment our family and neighbors. Satan made the choice to torment us less powerful beings.
I think you are insane for believing such garbage.
Satan, doesn exist, never did and never will. The term was used by early writers to explain away the polarity conscious world we live in (through fear and guilt). To them everything had to have a label... The term Satan was used for everything that was so called bad or misguided... Any conscious individual knows, he make all of his decisions because we live in a totally self created reality.
Now you can choose to live in whatever state of mind you want, but in true reality you are a piece of the divine consciousness with all of its unlimited powers...
If God does not exist then the whole creation and the human doesn't exist too Mr ignorant ....You grow up ...its stupidity push the verse of the bible which says"the ignorant said in his own heart there is No God"...it predicted you will come this moment and says such this ...you know why...because the problem is in you ....you want to stay away from God and there is no Godliness in your life....are you on drugs?!
Where is god? Are you serious? He's in our pledge of allegiance and on our money and all up in our government. Exactly where there should be no god and no religion. Our founding fathers had it right. We've screwed it up because the mind-numbingly vapid lemmings outnumber people who can think for themselves. Religion is a joke. How much evidence do you need that there is no god?
I seriously doubt that the creatures who write this blog believe in God any more than do you. It should cater more to its primary commentors and be called the Disbelief Blog.
Where is God? Really? No one has ever seen God, never in history. You can only believe there is a God. You can't say God is in the bathroom or God is hiding or whatever because there is not enough evidence that God actually exists!!
“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
Now, correct me if I am wrong. Wasn't Franklin a rebellious biker, who became self realized when he found out how much money there was to be made as a preacher...
The real question is W-T-F was going through this young man's mind when he committed the massacre.
Now we'll probably never know since he's dead as well.
so we can take comfort in the fact the he is now in heaven with god
Anon, take it for what its worth. There are no accidents and no coincidences in the universe. Everything happens for a reason and by agreement on higher levels of consciousness. This happening was no different...
Anon, to let you know what went through his mind; is that he is clueless as for why it happened. In every situation like this all they can ever tell the police is that ... they didn't know why they did it. Its classic, and will remain that way... because the are used a pawns by the universe... and of course by agreement...
@ bill – so are you saying that this was god's will? God did this? WOW – your god is a real c-unt.
you are so very wrong- a man went off the rails in a major way and 26 people died...there was no devine purpose ...at all...
im going to make a leap and say that you d probably say that some good will eventuall come of this... if that is indeed your position, id counter with what good might have happened had those 26 lived on? on every account these were good people...how can any plan devine or otherwise, be served with their deaths?
The reality is that we all go to the same place when we die. Have you ever hear that Hitler was in heaven. Well he is, so expect to see him and as him any and all question as for the hows and whys of what he did... or any one else for that fact, Jesus is there, everyone you know or will ever know is there. We are multidimensional beings that leave reminant energy wherever we are and go... Blessings
God doesn't exist.
Just a fairy tale your parents taught you.
Sorry parents never taught me about God, my dad's in hell right now – make up another excuse
hey santa GOD exists but santa doesnt. you must think santa exists otherwise you wouldnt call yourself by that name. i think you need to move a few letters around it should be satan clause not santa clause. now go back to bed like a good little boy and wait for santa to come down the chimney. ha ha ha!!!
What gives us value?
If we evolved, then what gives us value? How can we call this a travesty if we can't base their value on something?
What makes this a travesty?
If we evolved, then who is to say that what this guy did was wrong, maybe he felt it was his way to boost natural selection. how can we give an absolute morality if we don't have a reason to believe in one?
If the only reason you don't go around killing people is that you fear punishment by your absentee Sky Daddy will punish you, you are a psychopath.
If you don't see the value of human life outside of your belief in a fairy tale, you are seriously nuts.
Santa – you give me an absolute morality, but you have no reason to believe in absolute morality. Your borrowing from a Biblical Worldview, which you say you don't believe in. Your using the truth of the Bible, to disprove the Bible, it's like your trying to argue against air, while using air. Look up some logical fallacies, count how many you use in your arguments, fix your arguments, then answer
Morality and values are evolutionary traits that humans evolved as a result of starting to live together in larger groups. It is a form of domestication, similar to what happened as wolves evolved into dogs. Why don't dogs, as a general rule, kill and eat the infants in their households?
If you are getting your morals from the bible, then your moral code would say that, not only is it ok, but it is commanded that you must kill, ra-pe, commit genocide, and own slaves. THAT is the morality of the bible
Murder was considered "immoral" long before the Bible ever existed. Try another dumb argument.
The above statement is simply another case of the blind leading the blind... Evil has never existed outside of the mind of man. But because most, if not all religious leaders are CLUELESS. This is understandable... and par for the course.
No human is capable of understanding or solving the divine equation.
That is both an ignorant and cowardly opinion. Ignorant because it can be answered – there is no God, no evidence for him, not trail of reasoning that holds water. That answer is also cowardly because it shows you are unwilling to think for yourself and to realize maybe real human compassion and love are infinitely more valuable than the crap you let your God call his "actions" of the same name – he does nothing, and that is nothing compared to what any capable compassionate, loving person would do.
Al, one if you are clueless. Consciousness follows intent... Hope that helped...
God might look like this.
God might look like this too
EVERY SCHOOL SHOULD HAVE 2 ARMED SECURITY GUARDS...
I've known enough security guards to know they should not be armed.
I agree. It does seem crazy that we have all this security for other things – airports come to mind first – but not at schools.
Well I'm assuming they would be specially trained for that. But from where Jose? National Guard, other military?
You must not travel by air much, because homeland security has gone way too far, without improving safety doing so.
I often wonder how a government agency can search when the Constitution bans search without probable cause.
Hey, what about the one-armed security guards??? Don't you discriminate!
praise youself because by the end of the 21st century we will have reversed the aging process and we will be immune to all disease and death so basically when it comes down to It were all just thinking up ideas of how we'd like to see ourselves once we become god. WE ARE THE GODS
NO JESUS= NO PEACE. KNOW JESUS= KNOW PEACE! PLAIN AND SIMPLE.
Simple as in dumb.
Dumb as in bumper sticker theology.
Get over it.
WRONG!!!! knowing jesus is the lead factor in genocide and murder throughout the world of thousands of years religion is still causing the wars today jesus is the same as any other god your all the same and your all causing the problems stop following a solidified belief and there will be PEACE!!!!
@ Santa – you believe in God yourself, the very reason your speaking up tells us that you do believe in God, but you are desperately trying to get yourself not too
MEI, DIDNT YOU HEAR IN THE VIDEO, THE OBSERVER COLLAPSES THE WAVE FUNCTION. WE DO WE SEE! HAVE EVER WONDER THAT! LIGHT TRAVELS THOUGH SPACE AS A WAVE, WHEN ITS HIT THE RETINA OF THE EYE IT COLLAPSES INTO ELECTROMAGNETIC IMPULSES THAG TRAVEL THROUGH THE OPTIC NERVE TO THE PARTICLES IN THE BRAIN WITCH IN TURN IT TRANSLATE THE INFORMATION CARRIED IN THE IMPULSES INTO IMAGES AND SOUNDS AND BLA BLA.
THAT MEAN THAT LIGHT FROM THE SUN BOUNCE OFF THE SURFACE OF THE MOON, THAT IS THE PARTICLES THAT FORM THE MOON OR WHAT WE SEE AS THE MOON AND TRAVEL THOUGH SPACE TILL THEY REACH SOMETHING THAT CAN TRANSLATE THAT INFORMATION CARRIED IN THE WAVE AS AN IMAGE . IF THERE WERE NO LIVING BEING CAPABLE OF ABSORBING LIGHT WAVES THOUGH A OPTIC NERVE AND TRANSFORM IT IN TO IMAGES, THE LIGHT BOUNCED OFF FROM THE MOON WILL KEEP ON TRAVELING THROUGH SPACE AS WAVE ONLY AND WILL NEVER COLLAPSE INTO THE IMAGE OF A GIANT BALL!!!
I MEAN IS THERE IN THIS FORUM SOMEBODY AS INTELLIGENT AS I AM?
Here's your tinfoil hat you loon.
Typing in all caps is a sign of great intellect.
My head is imploding
Perdón. Eres analfabeta.
Eres sumamente tonta. Cual es tu punto?
I'm sorry, "elena", but you've given me a headache.
to Mike, y para que te voy a dar puntos si ni siquiera entiendes las comas!
GOD ???? ANY ONE SEEN HIM AROUND ?????
Thom, I am not here for acceptance, the shooter was just another aspect of God. Like Shakespeare said all life is a stage play and when the play is over, all the victoms and victors stand up.... and shake hands with each other. He understand all facets of reality. This recent story line is no different. Death is always to bring us to our knees so that we will ask WHY...
And in the asking we evolve ourselves to the next level of our evolution... Each death is an awakening... and will stay so until we evolve ourselves past our limited ideas and ideals of what is... Blessings Bill
There is no God. Only Republicans that support guns and don't want abortions so that the kids can be later used for target practice.
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.