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.
Thou Shalt Not use thy Lord's name in vain. America was never a Christian nation. never a Godly nation. It has always been a country of MONEY no matter what liberals or republicans argue about. Face it.
@ Faisal: Nut, nut, nut. You're a nut, nut, nut.
God had more important things to do than deal with this kind of trivia.
King James Version (KJV)
1 There was a man in the land of Uz, whose name was Job; and that man was perfect and upright, and one that feared God, and eschewed evil.
2 And there were born unto him seven sons and three daughters.
3 His substance also was seven thousand sheep, and three thousand camels, and five hundred yoke of oxen, and five hundred she asses, and a very great household; so that this man was the greatest of all the men of the east.
4 And his sons went and feasted in their houses, every one his day; and sent and called for their three sisters to eat and to drink with them.
5 And it was so, when the days of their feasting were gone about, that Job sent and sanctified them, and rose up early in the morning, and offered burnt offerings according to the number of them all: for Job said, It may be that my sons have sinned, and cursed God in their hearts. Thus did Job continually.
6 Now there was a day when the sons of God came to present themselves before the Lord, and Satan came also among them.
7 And the Lord said unto Satan, Whence comest thou? Then Satan answered the Lord, and said, From going to and fro in the earth, and from walking up and down in it.
8 And the Lord said unto Satan, Hast thou considered my servant Job, that there is none like him in the earth, a perfect and an upright man, one that feareth God, and escheweth evil?
9 Then Satan answered the Lord, and said, Doth Job fear God for nought?
10 Hast not thou made an hedge about him, and about his house, and about all that he hath on every side? thou hast blessed the work of his hands, and his substance is increased in the land.
11 But put forth thine hand now, and touch all that he hath, and he will curse thee to thy face.
12 And the Lord said unto Satan, Behold, all that he hath is in thy power; only upon himself put not forth thine hand. So Satan went forth from the presence of the Lord.
13 And there was a day when his sons and his daughters were eating and drinking wine in their eldest brother's house:
14 And there came a messenger unto Job, and said, The oxen were plowing, and the asses feeding beside them:
15 And the Sabeans fell upon them, and took them away; yea, they have slain the servants with the edge of the sword; and I only am escaped alone to tell thee.
16 While he was yet speaking, there came also another, and said, The fire of God is fallen from heaven, and hath burned up the sheep, and the servants, and consumed them; and I only am escaped alone to tell thee.
17 While he was yet speaking, there came also another, and said, The Chaldeans made out three bands, and fell upon the camels, and have carried them away, yea, and slain the servants with the edge of the sword; and I only am escaped alone to tell thee.
18 While he was yet speaking, there came also another, and said, Thy sons and thy daughters were eating and drinking wine in their eldest brother's house:
19 And, behold, there came a great wind from the wilderness, and smote the four corners of the house, and it fell upon the young men, and they are dead; and I only am escaped alone to tell thee.
20 Then Job arose, and rent his mantle, and shaved his head, and fell down upon the ground, and worshipped,
21 And said, Naked came I out of my mother's womb, and naked shall I return thither: the Lord gave, and the Lord hath taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord.
22 In all this Job sinned not, nor charged God foolishly.
It always shocks me that anyone can quote that story and not become an atheist. That God is a petty and foolish, and easily manipulated person, who does HORRIBLE things to a good man and innocent children, just for a pointless bet with an evil creature.
The National Rifle Association, which advocates for gun rights, said in a statement it would not have anny comment on the Connecticut shooting "until the facts are thoroughly known."
The facts? So was God throwing bullets that killed all those children, or did they come from the barrel of a gun?
If you consult the dictionary, here is the first definition of God that you will find:
"A being conceived as the perfect, omnipotent, omniscient originator and ruler of the universe, the principal object of faith and worship in monotheistic religions.
Most believers would agree with this definition because they share a remarkably clear and consistent view of God. Yes, there are thousands of minor (and some major) quibbles about religion. Believers express those quibbles in dozens of denominations - Presbyterians, Lutherans, Catholics, Baptists, Episcopalians, Methodists and all faiths. But at the heart of it all, the belief in God aligns on a set of core ideas that everyone accepts.
What if you were to simply think about what it would mean if there were a perfect, omnipotent, omniscient originator and ruler of the universe? Is it possible for such a being to exist?
Epicures thought about it in 300 BCE, and he came up with this:
"The gods can either take away evil from the world and will not, or, being willing to do so, cannot; or they neither can nor will, or lastly, they are both able and willing. If they have the will to remove evil and cannot, then they are not omnipotent. If they can, but will not, than they are not benevolent. If they are neither able nor willing, then they are neither omnipotent nor benevolent. Lastly, if they are both able and willing to annihilate evil, how does it exist?"
In other words, if you sit and think about who God is supposed to be, you realize that such a being is impossible. Ridiculous, in fact.
All religious believers suffer from cognitive dissonance and Stockholm syndrome, that's why.
According to the OED:
I 1 a. A superhuman person (regarded as masculine: see goddess n.) who is worshipped as having power over nature and the fortunes of mankind; a deity.
We exist in a world of both good and evil, are meant to choose. Where was God during the Holocaust? Rwanda? 9-11? Where is he now as children are trafficked in Eastern Europe? As families are killed in Syria? As people starve in Uganda? He is in the selfless dedication of emergency responders who make the difference between families welcoming survivors or bury loved ones from disasters. He is in the hearts of people struggling to bring clean water to African villages and the joy of every parent who will not lay to rest a child dead of preventable water diseases. He is in the unsung heroism of community workers who prevent such tragedies by intervening in broken lives and turning despair to hope. He is in the altruism of those who contribute to medical research and immunizations and save lives before they become stories of grief. He is in the offices of criminally underpaid social wokers trying to better the lives of forgotten children. He is in the patience of priests and clergy who we ignore until we need someone to console our grief. He is in the tireless activism of people who dedicate themselves to causes that will never benefit themselves, but simply because it is right. And most of all, he is in the determination of all those who believe that good exists, is worth fighting for, is worth living for, and is the inevitable march of history from a time of barbarism and cruelty to a time of enlightnement and compassion; never to be fully achieved, but always a goal we unapologeticaly march toward.
God hates obamanations. Fact.
But does not delight in the punishment of the wicked
This is what I was waiting on.....someone to blame God...........You take God out of schools, and out of the country......and now you are wondering where he is......YOU TOOK HIM OUT! HE NEVER LEFT, YOU DID........
On the other spectrum, of those who actually do believe in God, God gives you a choice to serve him, or not to serve him. This young man, made his choice, to murder. . God says if you love me you will keep my commandments, murder is one of the commandments. God is the only thing that is GOOD in people. We are all evil, if we have the Holy Spirit (A piece of God), that is the only thing good! HIs choice was to go into a school and murder children, and his mom. God did not have anything to do with that. God cant make us do anything. If you ask God to protect your kids during the day he will, YOu have to ask. HE cant just unwillingly go into your life and do something you dont want him too....come on? What kind of God is that, to force you......SerVE GOD, he will protect your children, he will protect your family. HE is the only thing good in this world. ONLY THING. OPen your eyes, we are living in the times. That is all.
Your God is an evil asshole. If he was real I would beat the shit out of him for being so stupid.
"SerVE GOD, he will protect your children, he will protect your family" So, Anna, you're saying that absolutely NONE of the victims or their families today believed in and served god?
Do you know Jenny, back at the top of page 5 of the comments? The one with no brain? Wow – twins!
You know, if there was a god, i'd ask him not only why he let this happen today, but I'd also ask him why did he make so many staggeringly STUPID people? Like Anna. And Jenny.
What a twisted, pitiful way to go through life.
What a load of dingo's kindeys.
Where was god during the flu pandemic of 1918, Plenty of god in America then, How's about the Bubonic plague that eviscerated Europe, plenty of god there or cholera in 19th century England. Strong faith there.
Shall I go on?
God can bite me.
Thank you Anna. That is so true and so many people do not understand that they are the ones that turned their back on God, God didn't turn their back on them. Wake up people. Actors, actresses and all that glamor does not matter. There are so many bad things going on in this world right now that the only one that is truly happy is Satan. Everyone is giving in to Satan. Wake up everyone!!
Ok. You talk as if the parents of the children or the children themselves turned their back on "god". How do you know these people? How do you know they were not good "christian" parents who prayed for their safety while at school everyday? They might have even been a more astute believer and follower of the lord than even you assert to be. How would you explain that? I can pretty much bet that if you asked one of the good "christian" parents that lost a child, "Well if you'd pray for him to protect your children everyday..." you would proceed to be punched in the mouth. Therefore your argument is invalid and YOU are therefore an IDIOT. Oh and if this were true, then your "god" did nothing to protect them. Care to explain exactly WHY? Its the whole point of the article. It's not belittling anything, its asking a question i'm sure the parents have questioned in the back of their minds.
Pray for these people that have lost children or the principle who leaves behind 6 kids. Cherish your times with your kids, your loved one's... Instead of questioning where was God in this...Think about those parents...
As for the why ?
Ephesians 6:12 – 12 For we are not fighting against flesh-and-blood enemies, but against evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world, against mighty powers in this dark world, and against evil spirits in the heavenly places.
To do what this guy did takes someone who has been influenced by evil as this Bible verse declares. Yes, he did this, but the devil is behind it 100% – he hates us because we are made in the image of God.
Why don't people ever look at that side of it...Instead they point there fingers at God. Those children are with God right now in heaven being loved and cared for by God who always gets the blame. He has nothing to do with this and I garantee if we were to catch a glimpse of those kids right now in paradise they would tell you that without any hesitation.
Evil did this and the one behind evil is the devil, so start looking at that for once. God did show up today bigtime! Just ask any one of the parents that have their kids with them right now who attend that school...
Jesus does not love you. I know, it hurts. but you're an abomination.
Where is God... you mean the God that the main stream media and liberals have asked to leave... "get out of school" you chanted... well, where there is an absence of light there is darkness. Without God this will be, or maybe already is, the new normal.
Seriously, grow up.
Grow a pair will ya?
"God" doesn't like gun totating, rich people loving (if they pass through the eye of a needle), angry name calling people anymore than "he" or "she" likes anyone else. No one's God would dish out this type of punishment on children. The reason these things happen if the very mentality you espouse.
God has not gone anywhere. You're merely getting back what you dished out as a corrupt, deceived, satan-worshipping nation.
Well THAT must be it, now isn't it ?
I already killed all the people I need to. So sky dude isn't preventing me from doing anything.
God hates you with the same hatred you have shown to the rest of the world. Did you forget that there is no favoritism in God, you hypocrites? Now you ask where has He gone? LOL
I'm sure your country is so much better. Please, Sir, tell me of the magical world you inhabit.
"For God so LOVED the world that he gave his only begotten Son". Hatred is what causes these issues in the first place, hatred does not come from God, don't kid yourself about who's guiding your posts
Now you asked where is God, when you are taking out of your lives ,buildings , schools, etc. you should start by following God first then questioning ....
God is too invisible to be followed and you know it.
God is looking down upon us thinking "Maybe I made a mistake?"
You still think there is a god "up there". What are you ? Like 2 ?
Time for another flood.
Wow – a new post every ~13 seconds. This topic is a swarm.
Where is God? How can people ask that question when God has been removed from School. We cannot even put a cross or even mention His name. We cannot even decorate schools with nativity scenes since there should be " Separation of Church and State"?
Bring back Christian America ! Bring back God into the lives of children and stop asking Where is God because violence is so rampant today due to lack or religious formation. It never was like this when Christianity was taught in the classrooms
You want a theocracy, move to Iran. We'll see how that works out. YOU are not an American, Maria. This is NOT a theocracy. People came here to escape people like you.
Christianity should be TAUGHT in public schools? And I suppose the Jewish, Muslim and Hindu kids shouldn't be left out, right? They should be made to stand up in front of the class for general ridicule!
You have ZERO concept of the philosophy underpinning the founding of this country. So, specifically, you're not OK with even teaching ethics, you need to have JESUS is the only true god taught to all kids? Why not mandate the teaching of Hinduism? Do you have a basis for the government flat out FAVORING what happens to be YOUR religion?
Comparative religion would be good to show kids that their own religious parents are delusional.
"Thou shall not kill" – believe it and problem solved.
God started it by killing all those people and babies during the flood! And think of the little kittens!!!!
You forgot all the Egyptian first borns. Killing is OK when Yahweh does it.
And Jephthah when god tricked him to sacrifice his own daughter if he won a battle.
God is real, He just hates you and I don't blame Him.
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.