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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. Where is God ? good question

    First of all, to the parents, grandparents, siblings, and extended family of these 20 little precious angels, may God's comfort never leave you.

    Now for the question, of where is God ? Well, let's see. We've taken Him out of our schools, we forbid the mention of His name at many of our public gatherings, we've taken Him out of our government buildings, just about every other week, His word and commandments are slapped in the face by some federal judge or court ruling, so.......you tell me, Where is God ?

    December 15, 2012 at 4:28 pm |
    • Attack of the 50 Foot Magical Underwear

      pretty useless god you've got there. What – he couldn't stand the heat so he got out of the kitchen???

      Easy answer – there is no god.

      December 15, 2012 at 4:33 pm |
    • Christians get so miffed when their omnipotent , omniscient and omnipresent god does a no show

      It's so embarrassing to see proof that he is either non-existent or totally impotent, so they lash out and blame others

      December 15, 2012 at 4:34 pm |
    • Compton Sike

      There is no god. You are delusional. Your prayers only do imaginary things. Your lack of clear perception is common enough that we have no way of treating the vast majority of religious nuts for their schizophrenia.
      It is people like you who cause the most damage to society by ignoring reality and doing insane things for imaginary reasons.
      Religions have been murdering innocent people since religion began in ancient times. Don't act like you are morally superior when you are delusional and following the fraudulent dictates of your individual schizophrenic fantasy-land.
      You don't have morals, you have crazy talk. It is religious people who should be banned from owning guns or any sharp objects!

      December 15, 2012 at 4:35 pm |
    • Bill Utrup

      Now for the question, of where is God ?
      God is in the hearts and minds of everyone and everything that ever was. Because God is ALL THAT IS, experiencing itself on all levels of consciousness. That is why God didn't show up... was because he was already there...

      December 15, 2012 at 4:35 pm |
    • SnYGuY

      God seems pretty easy to push around, omnipotent you say?

      December 15, 2012 at 4:35 pm |
    • Bill Utrup

      Omnipresent, simply means God is the Devil and the Devil is God... That God is "all that is" and it means just that...

      December 15, 2012 at 4:37 pm |
  2. John T.S.

    For God so loved the world that He gave it guns???

    December 15, 2012 at 4:28 pm |
  3. Richard Popper

    If you believe in an interventionist God, you must accept that He chose not to intervene. He allowed this to happen. In which case, I urge you to reassess your beliefs, because you worship a child-killer. If you believe that God does not have the power to intervene, that's another thing entirely.

    December 15, 2012 at 4:27 pm |
  4. Bill Utrup

    getaclue
    We are God and God is us. There is no place where God starts and we stop, no place where we stop and God starts. God is pure consciouness experiencing itself on all levels of consciousness. You need to move beyond your lower level concept of what is and in that you will be doing yourself a favor...

    December 15, 2012 at 4:27 pm |
    • Mike

      Subjective gibberish....Please define everything you just said and give evidence for your God and consciousness concepts?

      December 15, 2012 at 4:53 pm |
  5. Judy

    God gave man free will of this planet. He invited us thru his son to have eternal life with them, but this life on earth is man's doing. God saw this deranged person murder, just as he sees every single vile thing, and all will be judged, but he promised free will. We are not puppets of our Creator, plus evil (satan) is walking among us, taking the weak as they open themselves up to him. Be soldiers for Christ, you'll be rewarded with eternal life, and know those murdered innocents are safe with Father God today.

    December 15, 2012 at 4:24 pm |
    • I wonder

      Judy,
      " Be soldiers for Christ, you'll be rewarded with eternal life, and know those murdered innocents are safe with Father God today."

      And your verified evidence that this actually happens is...?

      December 15, 2012 at 4:27 pm |
    • Attack of the 50 Foot Magical Underwear

      What about the parents of those murdered children, you arrogant, narrow-minded, self-righteous religious twerp? Your type makes me sick, you coffee-nosed malodorous t-wat.

      December 15, 2012 at 4:27 pm |
    • SCOTTA.

      AMEN JUDY!

      December 15, 2012 at 4:27 pm |
    • Religion: the less you think about it, the more sense it makes

      Insane people do not have free will.

      The victims did not have free will.

      How can god judge people he created insane?

      As many of the children are surely from the wrong religion, god is sending them to hell right now?

      December 15, 2012 at 4:27 pm |
    • Bill Utrup

      Judy,
      We are eternal beings, we are eternal in both directions, we have always existed as eternal souls. Your limited sense of understanding is leading you away from the truth instead of to the truth. Like Jesus said the kingdom of God is within, because he know everything was of God... and that God was all that is...

      December 15, 2012 at 4:30 pm |
    • Yeah

      Wow, what a cosmic superman you are, Bill! How humble!

      December 15, 2012 at 4:36 pm |
    • g2-3f7f92ef66bcc533018cea4d722b337c

      Everyone is asking why, God? Take a good look at yourselves. Christians are encouraging Jews to kill Palestinians, Muslims are killing other Muslims. All religions have the same God, just different Prophets. Yes, Christians, even Christ was a Prophet. Everyone forgets God's message of Thou Shall Not Kill, and follows mans interpretation of the Bible, Koran or Torah. All written by man, read by man, and interpreted by man. Does man serve God? No! man lives to serve man. So, when mans free will leads him to murder innocent children, he cries out 'Why God'? Why indeed!

      December 15, 2012 at 4:41 pm |
    • Mike

      Your explanation changes nothing, your God STILL DID nothing!

      December 15, 2012 at 4:47 pm |
  6. Bill Utrup

    amazedamerican, I understand how you feel. So much of our reality is played out on other levels of consciousness, in order to help evolve us as human beings...

    December 15, 2012 at 4:23 pm |
  7. Security

    For the few Americans that comment, this notice is to inform you the deluge of postings by Iranians and Russians will continue until further notice.

    December 15, 2012 at 4:23 pm |
  8. James

    The question is," not where is God"...rather, where are we as a people. God didn't move. We never experienced this kind of behavior on a large scale, until we went into the moral sewer. This nations courts have ruled God out of our courthouses, schools, social functions, etc., .....and we wonder, where is God?

    December 15, 2012 at 4:21 pm |
    • MEI

      Congratulations, you are about the 1000th poster with this Oh! SO ORIGINAL comment!

      December 15, 2012 at 4:23 pm |
    • Attack of the 50 Foot Magical Underwear

      James, I take it you are not a history scholar.

      December 15, 2012 at 4:25 pm |
    • elena

      ME1 I God is the energy of life, the crating force behind the illusion of what we think is real! bye now

      December 15, 2012 at 4:29 pm |
    • GAW

      Or perhaps God is punishing us all for the sins of Christians, greed, materialism, mega churches, lack of concern for the poor, hypocrisy, alignment of God with a political party, hom ophobia. oppression of women, arrogance, self righteousness, legalism and so forth

      December 15, 2012 at 4:30 pm |
    • I wonder

      MEI,

      It's printed on the slip of paper they get with their fortune cookie wafers at communion.

      December 15, 2012 at 4:30 pm |
    • MEI

      Elena,
      Fortune cookie definition??? You want to go with that?
      So God is energy – which one – light, heat, electric, dark......
      Now how did god come into existence?

      December 15, 2012 at 4:34 pm |
    • MEI

      Sorry, never been to a communion! Dont know what they distribute. Have eaten fortune cookies at Chinese food joints though!

      December 15, 2012 at 4:36 pm |
    • I wonder

      MEI,

      Sorry, I was referring to:
      "Congratulations, you are about the 1000th poster with this Oh! SO ORIGINAL comment!"

      December 15, 2012 at 4:52 pm |
  9. GAW

    Looks like this comment section has been hijacked by the Religious Right.

    December 15, 2012 at 4:21 pm |
  10. Bill Utrup

    Amaze, I understand your view. It is just that everything is by design, and unfolds to move us to higher levels of consciousness... It is the best platform, that we choose as souls, in order for us to evolve... The main reason and the only reason we are here... is to evolve, and we will at all costs...

    December 15, 2012 at 4:20 pm |
  11. getaclue

    I guess these Americans may have had some insight into what makes a society work. Humm...

    “It is the duty of all nations to acknowledge the providence of Almighty God, to obey His will, to be grateful for His benefits, and humbly to implore His protection and favor.” – George Washington

    "God rules this world. It is the duty of nations as well as men to owe their dependence upon the overruling power of God, to confess their sins and transgressions in humble sorrow... and to recognize the sublime truths that those nations only are blessed whose God is the Lord." – Abraham Lincoln

    December 15, 2012 at 4:19 pm |
    • Attack of the 50 Foot Magical Underwear

      Nope.

      December 15, 2012 at 4:20 pm |
    • mama k

      As did these (and I prefer these since it is closer to the issue of the laws that we live by today)

      Listen to James Madison, POTUS #4, and the chief architect of the U.S. Constitution:

      During almost fifteen centuries has the legal establishment of Christianity been on trial. What has been its fruits? More or less in all places, pride and indolence in the clergy; ignorance and servility in the laity; in both, superstition, bigotry, and persecution.

      (A Remonstrance . . to the Virginia General Assembly in 1785.)

      Listen to John Adams, POTUS #2:

      I almost shudder at the thought of alluding to the most fatal example of the abuses of grief which the history of mankind has preserved – the Cross. Consider what calamities that engine of grief has produced! With the rational respect that is due to it, knavish priests have added prostitutions of it, that fill or might fill the blackest and bloodiest pages of human history. "

      (in a letter to Thomas Jefferson, 09/03/1816)

      The United States of America have exhibited, perhaps, the first example of governments erected on the simple principles of nature; and if men are now sufficiently enlightened to disabuse themselves of artifice, imposture, hypocrisy, and superstition, they will consider this event as an era in their history. It will never be pretended that any persons employed in that service had interviews with the gods, or were in any degree under the influence of Heaven, more than those at work upon ships or houses, or laboring in merchandise or agriculture; it will forever be acknowledged that these governments were contrived merely by the use of reason and the senses.

      Thirteen governments [of the original states] thus founded on the natural authority of the people alone, without a pretence of miracle or mystery, and which are destined to spread over the northern part of that whole quarter of the globe, are a great point gained in favor of the rights of mankind.

      (from A Defence of the Constitutions of Government of the United States of America [1787-1788])

      Listen to Ben Franklin:

      Some books against Deism fell into my hands; they were said to be the substance of the sermons which had been preached at Boyle’s Lectures. It happened that they wrought an effect on me quite contrary to what was intended by them. For the arguments of the Deists, which were quoted to be refuted, appeared to be much stronger than the refutations; in short, I soon became a thorough Deist.

      (from his Autobiography)

      Thomas Paine was very Deistic. He witness Quakers being hung in Massachusetts by other Christians:

      I do not believe in the creed professed by the Jewish church, by the Roman church, by the Greek church, by the Turkish church, by the Protestant church, nor by any church that I know of. My own mind is my own church. All national institutions of churches, whether Jewish, Christian or Turkish, appear to me no other than human inventions, set up to terrify and enslave mankind, and monopolize power and profit.

      Thomas Jefferson had his own Deistic version of the Bible.

      Millions of innocent men, women, and children, since the introduction of Christianity, have been burnt, tortured, fined, imprisoned; yet we have not advanced one inch towards uniformity. What has been the effect of coercion? To make one half the world fools, and the other half hypocrites. To support roguery and error all over the earth.

      (from Notes on the State of Virginia)

      Of course Deism holds to the belief of God as the creator of the universe. But many Deists also believed that God did not interfere with the lives of his creation. And many Deists disbelieved in all of the "magic" in the Bible – some of them refuting the Bible and Christianity completely.

      Jefferson, Washington, Adams, Paine, Mason & Madison all witnessed the violent persecution between Christian sects in their home states around the time the government was being established. So it is of no surprise that they needed a secular government and they knew the only way to enforce freedom of religion was to keep religion out of the government as much as possible.

      Listen to James Madison speak about the need for the need to keep religion out of government (Jefferson wasn't the only one to explicitly speak of the separation of church and state):

      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.

      (from letters to Edward Livingston and Robert Walsh)

      Madison as president vetoed two bills that he believed would violate the separation of church and state. He also came to oppose the long-established practice of employing chaplains at public expense in the House of Representatives and Senate on the grounds that it violated the separation of church and state and the principles of religious freedom. (Library of Congress – James Madison Papers – Detached memorandum, ca. 1823.)

      President John Adams and the U.S. Senate on behalf of the U.S.

      As the Government of the United States of America is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion;

      (from Article 11 of the U.S. treaty ratified with Tripoli in 1797)

      Senator John F Kennedy said on Sept. 12, 1960, just prior to his winning the Presidential election:

      I believe in an America where the separation of church and state is absolute.

      December 15, 2012 at 4:25 pm |
  12. otis

    WHERE IS GOD
    Well when you take him out of our schools, Guess what he is not there . GOD TODAY IS ASKING AMERICANS TO PLEASE LET ME BACK IN YOUR COUNTRY AND FOLKS IF WE DO NOT THEN THIS SORROW IS ONLY THE BEGINNING.
    ALSO IF YOU DO NOT PRAY TO GOD OR BELIEVE IN HIM THEN WHY ARE YOU BLAMING HIM FOR THIS....THE BIBLE TELLS US THAT ONLY A FOOL SAYS THERE IS NO GOD.

    December 15, 2012 at 4:17 pm |
    • Attack of the 50 Foot Magical Underwear

      Only a fool TYPES IN UPPER CASE!!!!!

      ps there is no god.

      December 15, 2012 at 4:21 pm |
    • amazedamerican

      So you ve got God right there with you? i know he takes Mastercard, Visa and Discover as well as cash.....does does he take Amex? - could you ask him for me?

      thanks in advance

      December 15, 2012 at 4:22 pm |
    • I wonder

      otis

      Have "God" type a line or two here... ok?

      December 15, 2012 at 4:23 pm |
    • Jairn

      Where is god? God is not real. I am atheist and people have to realize that there is no god or a higher power above them

      December 15, 2012 at 4:24 pm |
    • Rick

      Let me understand...your god exacts revenge on 20 grade schoolers because you think god's been kicked out of the school? You're unstable.
      Religion is the greatest source of hatred and mayhem throughout mankind's history.

      December 15, 2012 at 4:28 pm |
  13. getaclue

    “It is the duty of all nations to acknowledge the providence of Almighty God, to obey His will, to be grateful for His benefits, and humbly to implore His protection and favor.”
    – George Washington

    December 15, 2012 at 4:17 pm |
    • Attack of the 50 Foot Magical Underwear

      What's your point? An appeal to authority doesn't prove anything. So GW was a religious nutbar as well. Or maybe he was an atheist, but was merely trotting out the biblical line to please the voters. Ever hear a politician say something purely because it is politically expedient?

      December 15, 2012 at 4:23 pm |
  14. lionlylamb

    Sociologic confrontational mechanisms were made the doers harbinger of deathly results; though influentially masked and thusly done ills by said perpetrator who did the maniacal deeds. Guilt runs the gauntlets of socio-maniacal configurations amid all confrontations wrongly held permeations of the many who do still yet connive others for the main intent to belittle and forsake others to just laugh upon those who are felt weak and small in views of other's suggestive sights.

    God is not the one to blame for such vileness of ill deeds so done for it is mankind's sociologic bemusements that push many off the proverbial deep ends of and against and away from, sane mindedness!

    God and God’s godly beings live deeply seeded inside all mannerisms of sentient life, much like a matrix affixed and transformed. We all are ascended beings of the matrix within our bodies. We are affixed in semi translucent opulence in material matters ascendancies giving our conscientious welfares the illusions of life in a realm so suited for our own degradations austerities.

    Unable to break the bonds of material complacencies will live out our life until we die and are deadened bodies ready for the pillars of cremations contentment. Live life therefore and do good and well one’s deeds for socialized conscience sakes!

    December 15, 2012 at 4:15 pm |
    • the fox

      Lionlylamb. Your psychiatrist must have canceled your appointment for today.

      December 15, 2012 at 5:03 pm |
  15. ArthurP

    There is nothing more evil and despi.cable in this world than a fundamentalist christian who blames the parents for the massacre because prayer is not permitted in the schools.

    December 15, 2012 at 4:15 pm |
    • Attack of the 50 Foot Magical Underwear

      Amen to that.

      December 15, 2012 at 4:24 pm |
  16. peggy sue smith

    God is there the people choose not to acknowlege him. Also Gods way is not our way. Seek him and you will find him.

    December 15, 2012 at 4:15 pm |
  17. Byrd

    Where's god? Well, I'll tell you where god was: In Connecticut getting in his last licks. Who and what the h*ll do you idiots think you've been worshiping all this time anyway? A bit of wrath never hurt anyone and is just and fair if god's doing. Now isn't that right, sheeple...?

    December 15, 2012 at 4:14 pm |
  18. getaclue

    The converse of LIncoln's statement is also true, we are not blessed as a nation and are quickly imploding.

    "God rules this world. It is the duty of nations as well as men to owe their dependence upon the overruling power of God, to confess their sins and transgressions in humble sorrow... and to recognize the sublime truths that those nations only are blessed whose God is the Lord." – Abraham Lincoln

    December 15, 2012 at 4:14 pm |
  19. scientificpoetry

    Such a tragic event. I hugged my kids a little more this weekend. Even athiests love their children.

    “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?”

    Epicurus

    December 15, 2012 at 4:12 pm |
    • GAW

      Yes atheists are just as human as non atheists. Everyone is trying to make sense out of this mess although some of the explanations leave a lot to be desired like us being blamed for bringing this on ourselves because we kicked God out of the schools.

      December 15, 2012 at 4:19 pm |
  20. ArthurP

    Go was busy helping those kids who did not study pass their finals because they prayed for his help..

    December 15, 2012 at 4:11 pm |
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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.