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.
People in USA want to belive a GOD is taking care of them like children, and they want the govenment to take care of thier kids
Hence why these kids grow up caring about nothing
Follow truth absolute GOD in life and live by truth absolute in life, human will have no tragedy to face.
There IS NO GOD. There Never WAS A GOD. Stop the childish delusion. Evolve. Overcome the indoctrination of your youth, unless you really are stupid. If you are really dumb, believing in the absurd fairy tales may actually be best for you. It is still ALL A LIE, nonetheless.
It is time to replace all religions with a few rules like "Do No Harm" and voluntarily convert all houses of "worthless worship" to recreation facilities and parks. Said destruction followed by construction will add jobs.
For posting on all the doors of all mosques, churches and temples:
SAVING 1.5 BILLION LOST MUSLIMS:
THERE NEVER WAS AND NEVER WILL BE ANY ANGELS I.E. NO GABRIEL, NO ISLAM AND THEREFORE NO MORE KORANIC-DRIVEN ACTS OF HORROR AND TERROR
SAVING 2 BILLION LOST CHRISTIANS:
THERE WAS AND NEVER WILL BE ANY BODILY RESURRECTIONS I.E. NO EASTER, NO CHRISTIANITY
SAVING 15.5 MILLION ORTHODOX FOLLOWERS OF JUDAISM:
ABRAHAM AND MOSES PROBABLY NEVER EXISTED.
Added details available.
YOU ALL ASK WHERE IS GOD, WELL LET ME SAY THIS YOU ALL TOOK HIM OUT OF OUR SCHOOLS SO DON'T BE ASKING WHERE HE IS BECAUSE YOU ALL HAVE PUSHED HIM AWAY! BECAUSE IT'S NOT RIGHT TO THE NONE AMERICANS BECAUSE OF THERE SO CALLED GOD'S! WELL MAYBE ALL OF U AMERICAN'S SHOULD WAKE UP N SEE WHAT THIS COUNTRY WAS BLESSED UPON GOD N THERE IS ONLY ONE GOD AND THAT IS OUR HEAVENLY FATHER THAT ONE DAY U ALL WILL MEET AND WISH U HADN'T DONE THE THINGS U HAVE DO TO HIM! PUT GOD BACK IN THE SCHOOLS LET THESE KIDS LEARN AND CARRY A BIBLE TO SCHOOL TEACH THEM OR R U ALL FOOLS? DO U ALL KNOW THE REAL MEANING OF A FOOL? A FOOL IS A NON BELIEVER! THESE LITTLE BABIES LOST THERE LIFES DUE TO THE SCHOOLS AND THE PRESIDENTS OF THESE SO CALLED WONDERFUL COUNTRY OF THE USA TAKING GOD OUT OF THE SCHOOLS! BUT U WILL PAY FOR IT WHEN UR DAY COMES TO STAND BEFORE THE ONE AND ONLY GOD! WHEN GOD LOOKS U IN UR EYES AND SAYS WHY DID U PUSH ME AWAY THERE IS NOTHING U CAN SAY TO SAVE YOURSELF'S FROM HIS JUDGEMENT, WHAT R U GOING TO DO THEN WHEN UR BURNING IN HELL AND BEGGING FOR FORGIVENESS AND A DRINK OF WATER? NOTHING BUT BEGGING! I REALLY HOPE U ALL ARE HAPPY FOR TAKING THE ONE AND ONLY GOD OUT OF SCHOOLS BECAUSE THIS IS ALL UR FAULTS! THESE KILLINGS WOULD OF NEVER HAPPENED WITH GOD IN THE SCHOOLS, GOD IS THE MOST POWERFUL MAN EVER N ONE DAY U ALL WILL STAND BEFORE HIM AND ANSWER TO HIM, ALL 26 VICTIMS BLOOD IS NOW ON UR HANDS THAT U MAY NEVER WASH AWAY! HOW DOES THAT MAKE U FEEL? U WILL ANSWER FOR EVERYONE OF THEM! MY HEART AND PRAYERS GO OUT TO ALL FAMILIES IN THIS TIME OF NEED! MAY THE ONE AND ONLY GOD BE WITH U ALL IN THIS TIME N FOREVER!
Same answer again and again, didn't make sense the first time it was given, does't make anymore sense now.
... so He takes it out on 20 or so inncent children? What a putz.
Caps lock = Lunacy and Attention seeking
Were all of the victims atheists? It would be a real shame if God made waste of his own people just to make a point.
Your god is petty and mean. Pray for better medication.
Turn off your caps lock, Martha. It makes you look childish. Are you? Your beliefs seem to be rather childish, so not being able to use lower case fits you perfectly.
It's sad when sociopaths take a tragedy like this to push their own religious agenda. No Empathy!
Martha, Firstly, you are as dumb as mud. The more you type, the more you reveal how stupid you are. The grammatical errors make your post difficult to even read. Did you know that an apostrophe, followed by an "S" means possession and is not plural? You talk about school a lot, but it seems that you never spent much time in one. Seriously, people who are stupid (like YOU) should shut up and let others make decisions for them. Try to learn how to read and write. There is no god. There has never been a god. It's just a fact.
How old are you Martha? You write like a 12-year old.
Lanza! This is what you get when you let Italo-American loose into the the general population
Does no one watch Supernatural?! God is dead, folks.
I'm not current on this season, but I thought He was just MIA, not necessarily dead.
Since when did we think or believe that God is in control of evil, he couldn't even save his own son. That's not the message written in the bible. Spend some time reading the bible to avoid such ignorant comments.
"I form the light, and create darkness: I make peace, and create EVIL: I the Lord do all these things." – Isaiah 45:7
We are here on earth as sinners. When the time comes, we shall all be judged for good and for evil.
I said it last time (after the Colorado movie massacre)...whether or not God actually exists, doesn't this prove once and for all that he/she DOES NOT intervene in the ways of man on Earth? We have free will, so our choices be they good or evil are left up to us. Furthermore, whether you quote an apostle or some book or anything, there is no proof in this life that God exists. You are free to believe so, but you cannot prove it... period. You and I will find out the truth upon our exit from this life...then and only then will we know for sure.
An invisible do nothing god that only might appear upon death. Seems like a carrot on a stick for incredibly gullible people.
there is no personified interventionist god that saves some and kills others....... that is childish nonsense
no I'm not an atheist but it doesn't take long to see thru the veil of the abrahamic religions and this need to believe in a judgmental deity that will pick and choose who to protect or condemn
god, for lack of a better word, was there and in the love shone in many instances on that day
Which god do you mean – there are so many!
Truth absolute God of Abraham is always present, but lay it not on HIM is not true, but human choice, he granted to every human to be in obedience of truth absolute in life, not in hinduism, denial of truth absolute GOD, cause of mayhem among humanity.
You threw God out of school, remember?-So now you will have to deal with the gools and goblins yourself. Humanity has turned God into a punchline, threw him out just about everywhere and you ask "wheres God?" He is where he always been you just have your iphone jammed in your face too much to notice him.
You've got it Pat. Many people never think of God until they want to blame him for not doing something. The fact is he gave us this world under our own control because we wanted it that way. Now we have it.
Pat, it's "ghouls," not "gools." And students in school are free to pray while in school, the schools are not allowed (rightfully so) to teach such nonsense. And god (if he existed) is a useless twit if he lets 20 children die because they didn't pray enough.
Pat, Be advised: You are ig-nant. God is a creation of man, not the other way around. It probably helps people like you to believe otherwise, but that doesn't change the facts. There is NO GOD. There has Never Been A GOD. .....true story, people.
Yet another gun tragedy. Even more heartbreak and pain. Fear, paranoia and anxiety now more a part of our everyday lives. And again, all we and politicians seem to do is ‘offer our prayers’. We waste time appealing to some myth-based old guy in the sky. People . . . we are all on our own here! When will we begin to address this type outrage ourselves, with reason, logic and common sense? We have been praying to various ‘gods’ around the world for centuries to stop wars, end violence, calm storms, relieve famine, cure illness and help us with countless other fearsome challenges to all humanity. How has that worked out for us?
And we still point to the heavens and thank ‘god’ when our football team scores a touchdown.
How delusional, screwed up and sad are we?
> How delusional, screwed up and sad are we?
We are all of the above. that's why I pray for guidance and it's saved me a lot of grief.
Spend less time in church and more time studying human psychological and sociological behavior so we can learn how to prevent this from happening in the first place by treating the illness.
You mean that groveling on your knees worshipping some non-existent sky creature won't help? That'll come as a shock to the fundies and vangies.
To all you non-believers for God,
Just exactly what is your base ideas for there to be no God? Even within the "framed" workings of evolutions, the complexities for the establishments of an ever evolved world such as ours can no more happen by luck of the draw tactics. Sheer complex-ism of declared the naturalized is so vast in scales that only the foolhardy folks dare to dream that no God could so establish a world of such extreme complexities of biogenetic abundances with a biosphere also being very complex! Even A. Einstein did believe there to be a God!
and only a fool would use the term god as the answer what they don't understand .. with no explanation at all of said god.
Your evidence for a god is?
God created man in their present form, that is why we do not believe. I can't say that their is no God who could have created the big bang, and created the chance for life, but that is not your christian God. Tell me why the Greeks were wrong believing in Zues, or Muslims in Allah?
Sheer complex-ism of declared the naturalized
Just because it seems too complex to you, does not mean it didn't happen.
"Even A. Einstein did believe there to be a God!"
Everyone has their faults.
Einstien was absolutely an Atheist .. move on.
God was right there the whole time. God made a bet with Devil to see who he could torture the most without them snapping just like Job. That's where God is. Now he can show just how awesome he is by letting the Devil torture the survivors.
I love the Job story. The devil outsmarts god and gets him to torture the bejeebies oout of his faithful follower.
If you believe in God than you know that everyone has their day. It is tragic that so many children had to pass away but I believe it was their time. Sorry.
or .. there simply is no God(s) and this is simply a tragedy period.
There is no god or goddess who looked after these children. Period.
Russell's teapot cares
Where is God, people dare ask where is God????
God is exactly where today's decaying society has asked Him to be! Away from schools, away from government, away from your lives! God will not be where He is not wanted and denied. He gave all of his creatures free will... even to deny His existence. Why is anyone blaming God for what humans do? God is not a dictator nor an all-controliing God. He will be where He is wanted and sought with earnest and repentant hearts.
God exists solely in the minds of believers. As has always been the case.
I didn't ask where was god. That's a meaningless question since he doesn't exist.
Congratulations! You are the 3,000th Christian to make that absurd statement!
How are all of you jumping to the same ridiculous conclusion? God slaughters children in revenge for not having enough sycophants? God slaughters Americans for no god in school, but in Europe, where they also have no god in schools, nothing?
How are all of you coming to the same conclusion? Is it on Fox News, or did Rush puke it out this morning?
So God allowed the killing of innocent children because the adults in this country passed some laws?
How pathetic your God seems.
Then Lisa, there is no purpose for your God(s) to even exist .. they are useless.
So many people only believe what they see and what they were taught in school. Anything different from that just can't be true. I became a Christian at nearly 60 years old when I finally began to witness the Word of God after living a life without meaning. I'm so glad I opened my eyes and ears to the truth because now I understand how we got where we are.
Well said, Lisa.
Where is God? Please, will somebody stop the Nonsense. This question is always asked AFTER a tragic event but never BEFORE. You wanna know where God was? This is where God is and was; God was in the bathroom with those kids crying in the dark. He was with me as I drove my kids home on the Interstate. He was with my brother in Afghanistan. He was with ever attempted suicide that didnt end as the enemy had hoped. God was with every Airline pilot as they flew to and fro across the globe.
He was with ever single child that made it out of that building Alive. And Yes, He was and IS even with the ones that didn't walk out alive...and as a BELIEVER ..I believe that "To Be absent from the body is to be Present with The Lord ".
Mankind has been given Dominion on this Earth and the Tragedy occurs not because "of God" but rather the LACK THEROF.
The truth is he wasn't anywhere. Get used to it.
wow people that dont believe in GOD are the nut jobs they even give themselves stupid NAMES LIKE ATTACK OF THE 50 FOOT MAGICAL UNDERWEAR WHAT A FREAK!!!
Try a little punctuation next time Scotta. Those are the little marks over on the right-hand end of your keyboard. You do know what a keyboard is, right?
Athy, are you the self-appointed "punctuation police"? Why don't you let those who are perfect cast the first stone? You didn't put a comma immediately after the word "time".
Anon, punctuation goes inside the quote marks, not outside.
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.