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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. Bubbles

    Maybe if the shooter believed in God then he would have obeyed, "thou shall not kill". God created the commandments to keep us from sinning. When you sin, you create trouble and trouble for your loved ones and those around you.

    December 15, 2012 at 6:17 pm |
    • Athy

      How do you know he didn't believe in god?

      December 15, 2012 at 6:18 pm |
    • Bubbles

      If he "believed" in God then he didn't have any faith in him. Unfortunately, he's finished a one way trip to Hell.

      December 15, 2012 at 6:30 pm |
    • David

      "Maybe if the shooter believed in God then he would have obeyed, "thou shall not kill". "

      Religious people have killed throughout history and continue to kill, believing in a God doesn't stop it because some kill in the name of their God.

      December 16, 2012 at 1:13 pm |
  2. Joseph

    As a country we have done everything in our power to remove God from all matters of public arena, we have shunned the very fibers of his teaching and message of love to all human kind – an yet, when tragedy strikes there are those who are quick to question "where is God". Please do not mistake this message, the events that transpired in Connecticut were unimaginable, this was the work of an evil man and this nation rightly mourns this unspeakable sadness. But how can you fault God for listening to us? Collectively we asked Him to leave us alone. Just as darkness is the absence of light; evil is the absence of good, the absence of God. So, instead of asking "Where is God?", ask "How can we get God back in our lives?"

    December 15, 2012 at 6:16 pm |
    • 0G-No gods, ghosts, goblins or ghouls

      Actually the job is not completed yet. With the assistance of right thinking courts, currently dominated by believers, we should be able to get a few more references to your non-existent gods removed over the next couple of decades.

      December 16, 2012 at 1:16 pm |
  3. Colin

    christians have two choices; (i) their god is a sadistic bas.tard who allowed a psychopath to murder 20 children and devestate the lives of their parents; or (ii) "god" is nothing more than a metaphore for "good luck" and/or "I don't know" and it is time we gave up on the childish notion of a Bronze Age Palestinian sky-god looking after us.

    December 15, 2012 at 6:16 pm |
  4. GAW

    A God who punishes people for taking him out of the schools makes for a very insecure God.

    December 15, 2012 at 6:15 pm |
  5. Girl Number 20

    Answer to question: There is no God.

    December 15, 2012 at 6:14 pm |
    • Reasonable_and_Irritated

      And you know this how? Died and came back to life did you? Oh wait, you're "logical".....and arrogant.

      December 15, 2012 at 6:16 pm |
    • Colin

      Of course there is no god. Ther is no God, Zeus, Saturn, Allah, Krishna, Yahweh, Shiva, Brahma, Appollo or any other ridiculous childish sky-fairy.

      December 15, 2012 at 6:18 pm |
    • I love GOD

      Why do you say there is no GOD?

      December 15, 2012 at 6:20 pm |
    • .

      "Oh wait, you're "logical".....and arrogant."

      The faults you see in other people are the faults you have within yourself.

      December 16, 2012 at 1:11 pm |
  6. Santa

    God allowed the execution of 20 children at close range yesterday.

    All in a day's work I guess.

    December 15, 2012 at 6:13 pm |
  7. Athy

    Judy, faith is not proof of anything, other than the insanity of the believer.

    December 15, 2012 at 6:13 pm |
    • Reasonable_and_Irritated

      You're an idiot....

      December 15, 2012 at 6:14 pm |
    • Judy

      For you to write that is proof you have never had faith in anything but darkness.. And that is your choice, a sad and ignorant choice, but yours to hold onto tightly. As you are breathing your last breath on this earth, try and remember what you put out there for the world to know about you.

      December 16, 2012 at 1:07 pm |
    • .

      Judy, pot meet kettle, kettle meet pot.

      December 16, 2012 at 1:10 pm |
  8. mason

    31,347 gun deaths in US 2011 per CDC

    December 15, 2012 at 6:12 pm |
  9. Art

    So why is the sin being punished the removal of God form the Schools? Why not financial materialism (Something most Televangelists are guilty of) I guess the real reason for the mention of God and School is that Evangelicals are afraid of loosing their power.

    December 15, 2012 at 6:12 pm |
  10. Santa

    Where was God?

    He was busy helping the NRA fight against sensible gun regulations to stop the killing of innocents.

    December 15, 2012 at 6:10 pm |
    • RickInNY

      Where was God? God's been banned from schools. It's a bit ironic really. People don't want God in school, but those same people ask where he is when things like this happen.

      December 15, 2012 at 6:20 pm |
  11. Judy

    The proof I have is called faith, and I have felt God within my heart, known to Christians as the Holy Spirit, and he has held me when tragedy struck in our family. I knew as well as I know my name the moment he took over and kept my sanity for me, for a time later when I could handle reality.

    I believe God used human authors to write the Bible, some things may have been changed, but the message God kept clear for all of us to either receive or reject. It's your choice, free will, take it or leave it.

    I thank a loving and wisdom filled Heavenly Father many times a day for the Faith i have in knowing what will happen to me when this earth suit is worn out or some form of evil takes this life out of me, but we are spirits and they don't ever die.

    December 15, 2012 at 6:10 pm |
    • Santa

      People who believe in other Gods report the same "feelings" in their hearts.

      Could it be that they are deluded too?

      December 15, 2012 at 6:12 pm |
    • Reasonable_and_Irritated

      Santa: You're an idiot as well...get over yourself.

      December 15, 2012 at 6:15 pm |
  12. Jeff

    You are looking for God? Clearly, he was in Connecticut at Sandy Hook Elementary School on Friday December 14, 2012. Any other dumb questions. All God's work. Blame him.

    December 15, 2012 at 6:09 pm |
  13. Paul

    Innocent children die on this earth for no good reason every day. Why weren't they asking before?

    December 15, 2012 at 6:09 pm |
  14. sharky

    Where is God? Well people stopped believing in him that is where. *shrugs*

    December 15, 2012 at 6:09 pm |
  15. mason

    God did not hear the pleading panic stricken earnest prayers of the massacred little Newtown kids, because there is no God.

    December 15, 2012 at 6:08 pm |
    • sharky

      If you can prove that then you speak the truth.

      December 15, 2012 at 6:09 pm |
    • Joe

      That's your logic dood? How about, there are evil people like you in the world cursing the land and others.

      December 15, 2012 at 6:11 pm |
  16. Mohammad A Dar

    ask instead, where are functional families, goons?

    December 15, 2012 at 6:06 pm |
    • mason

      Parents of surviving Newtown kids who say God protected them should have their tongues cut out and nailed to the school.

      December 15, 2012 at 6:11 pm |
  17. lionlylamb

    I want to know how God created this world. I am not interested in this or that phenomenon, in the spectrum of this or that element. I want to know His thoughts; the rest are details.
    2.Science without religion is lame. Religion without science is blind.
    3.My religion consists of a humble admiration of the illimitable superior spirit who reveals himself in the slight details we are able to perceive with our frail and feeble mind.
    4.The further the spiritual evolution of mankind advances, the more certain it seems to me that the path to genuine religiosity does not lie through the fear of life, and the fear of death, and blind faith, but through striving after rational knowledge.
    5.Every one who is seriously involved in the pursuit of science becomes convinced that a spirit is manifest in the laws of the Universe-a spirit vastly superior to that of man, and one in the face of which we with our modest powers must feel humble.
    6.The scientists’ religious feeling takes the form of a rapturous amazement at the harmony of natural law, which reveals an intelligence of such superiority that, compared with it, all the systematic thinking and acting of human beings is an utterly insignificant reflection.
    7.There is no logical way to the discovery of elemental laws. There is only the way of intuition, which is helped by a feeling for the order lying behind the appearance.
    8.The intuitive mind is a sacred gift and the rational mind is a faithful servant. We have created a society that honors the servant and has forgotten the gift.
    9.The most beautiful thing we can experience is the mysterious; It is the source of all true art and science.
    10.We should take care not to make the intellect our god; it has, of course, powerful muscles, but no personality.
    11.Whoever undertakes to set himself up as a judge of Truth and Knowledge is shipwrecked by the laughter of the Gods.
    12.When the solution is simple, God is answering.
    13.God does not play dice with the universe.
    14.God is subtle but he is not malicious.
    15. A human being is a part of the whole, called by us Universe, a part limited in time and space. He experiences himself, his thoughts and feelings as something separated from the rest-a kind of optical delusion of his consciousness. This delusion is a kind of prison, restricting us to our personal desires and to affection for a few persons nearest to us. Our task must be to free from this prison by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole nature in its beauty.
    16.Nothing will benefit human health and increase the chances for survival of life on Earth as much as the evolution to a vegetarian diet.
    17.The man who regards his own life and that of his fellow creatures as meaningless is not merely unfortunate but almost disqualified for life.
    18.Peace cannot be kept by force. It can only be achieved by understanding.
    19.Only a life lived for others is a life worth while.
    20.The human mind is not capable of grasping the Universe. We are like a little child entering a huge library. The walls are covered to the ceilings with books in many different tongues. The child knows that someone must have written these books. It does not know who or how. It does not understand the languages in which they are written. But the child notes a definite plan in the arrangement of the books—-a mysterious order which it does not comprehend, but only dimly suspects.
    21.The important thing is not to stop questioning. Curiosity has its own reason for existing. One cannot help but be in awe when he contemplates the mysteries of eternity, of life, of the marvelous structure of reality. It is enough if one tries merely to comprehend a little of this mystery every day. Never lose a holy curiosity.
    22. What I see in Nature is a magnificent structure that we can comprehend only very imperfectly, and that must fill a thinking person with a feeling of humility. This is a genuinely religious feeling that has nothing to do with mysticism.
    23.The finest emotion of which we are capable is the mystic emotion. Herein lies the germ of all art and all true science. Anyone to whom this feeling is alien, who is no longer capable of wonderment and lives in a state of fear is a dead man. To know that what is impenetrable for us really exists and manifests itself as the highest wisdom and the most radiant beauty, whose gross forms alone are intelligible to our poor faculties – this knowledge, this feeling ... that is the core of the true religious sentiment. In this sense, and in this sense alone, I rank myself among profoundly religious men.
    24.The real problem is in the hearts and minds of men. It is easier to denature plutonium than to denature the evil spirit of man.
    25.True religion is real living; living with all one’s soul, with all one’s goodness and righteousness.
    26.Intelligence makes clear to us the interrelationship of means and ends. But mere thinking cannot give us a sense of the ultimate and fundamental ends. To make clear these fundamental ends and valuations and to set them fast in the emotional life of the individual, seems to me precisely the most important function which religion has to form in the social life of man.

    Quotes from Albert Einstein

    Courtesy of http://www.simpletoremember.com/articles/a/einstein/

    December 15, 2012 at 6:05 pm |
    • Reasonable_and_Irritated

      Can't you come up with your own rants?

      December 15, 2012 at 6:17 pm |
  18. Andy

    Trash article

    December 15, 2012 at 6:05 pm |
  19. Colin

    Dear Christians:

    God here.

    Let me tell you where I was while this disturbed young man slaughtered 20 beautiful little children and devastated the lives of their parents. I was in the same place I was when 2 kids murdered 20 others in Columbine, when 19 terrorists flew 2 planes into the World Trade Center and killed 3,000 and when Nazis systematically killed 6 million Jews during the Holocaust.

    I was nowhere. You see, I do not exist. The concept of a 13,700,00,000 year old being, capable of creating the entire Universe and its billions of galaxies, monitoring simultaneously the actions and thoughts of the 7 billion human beings on this planet is ludicrous.

    Second, if I did exist, I would have left you a book a little more consistent, timeless and independently verifiable than the collection of Iron Age Middle Eastern mythology you call the Bible. Hell, I bet you cannot tell me one thing about any of its authors or how and why it was compiled with certain writings included and others excluded, nor how it has been edited over the centuries, yet you cite it for the most extraordinary of supernatural claims.

    Thirdly, when I sent my “son” (whatever that means, given that I am god and do not mate) to Earth, he would have visited the Chinese, Ja.panese, Europeans, Russians, sub-Saharan Africans, Australian Aboriginals, Mongolians, Polynesians, Micronesians, Indonesians and native Americans, not just a few Jews. He would also have exhibited a knowledge of something outside of the Iron Age Middle East.

    Fourthly, I would not spend my time hiding, refusing to give any tangible evidence of my existence, and then punish those who are smart enough to draw the natural conclusion that I do not exist by burning them forever. That would make no sense to me, given that I am the one who elected to withhold all evidence of my existence in the first place.

    Fifthly, in the same vein, I would not make about 5% of the human population gay, then punish them for being that way. In fact, I wouldn’t care about how humans have $ex at all, given that I created all of the millions of millions of species on the planet, all of whom are furiously reproducing all the time. Human $ex would be of no interest to me, given that I can create Universes. Has it ever occurred to you that your obsession with making rules around human $ex is an entirely human affair?

    Sixth, I would have smitten all you Christian activists, and all evangelicals and fundamentalists long before this. You people drive me nuts. You are so small minded and speak with such false authority. Many of you still believe in the talking snake nonsense from Genesis. I would kill all of you for that alone and burn you for an afternoon (burning forever is way too barbaric even for a sick, sadistic bast.ard like me to contemplate).

    Seventh, the whole idea of members of one species on one planet surviving their own physical deaths to “be with me” is utter, mind-numbing nonsense. Grow up. You will die. Get over it. I did. Hell, at least you had a life. I never even existed in the first place.

    Eighth, I do not read your minds, or “hear your prayers” as you euphemistically call it. There are 7 billion of you. Even if only 10% prayed once a day, that is 700,000,000 prayers. This works out at 8,000 prayers a second – every second of every day. Meanwhile I have to process the 100,000 of you who die every day between heaven and hell. Dwell on the sheer absurdity of that for a moment.

    Finally, the only reason you even consider believing in me is because of where you were born. Had you been born in India, you would likely believe in the Hindu gods, if born in Tibet, you would be a Buddhist. Every culture that has ever existed has had its own god(s) and they always seem to favor that particular culture, its hopes, dreams and prejudices. What, do you think we all exist? If not, why only yours?

    Look, let’s be honest with ourselves. There is no god. Believing in me was fine when you cringed in fear during the Dark Ages and thought the World was young, flat and simple. Now we know how enormous, old and complex the Universe is.

    Move on – get over me. I did.

    God

    December 15, 2012 at 6:02 pm |
    • Pastor Mike Palevo

      Where's God! I'll tell you where He has not been. It's in the Public School system. They've thrown Him out long ago. It's time to bring Him back into it.

      December 15, 2012 at 6:08 pm |
    • jerry

      a fool has said in his heart that there is no GOD

      December 15, 2012 at 6:10 pm |
    • Colin

      Yes Pastor, that explains why your "all loving" sky fairy killed 20 elementry school children perfectly.

      December 15, 2012 at 6:11 pm |
    • 0G-No gods, ghosts, goblins or ghouls

      I agree, let's bring back god into our schools, as long as it is the god of islam and we use verses frin the koran.

      December 15, 2012 at 6:11 pm |
    • Colin

      So Jerry, what did you think the Bible would say, "A smart, articulate free thinker who has his own mind says in his heart there is no god?"

      December 15, 2012 at 6:12 pm |
    • Reasonable_and_Irritated

      ...another idiot here as well. You guys are all over the place.

      December 15, 2012 at 6:17 pm |
    • A Frayed Knot

      jerry
      "a fool has said in his heart that there is no GOD"

      A quite old and sometimes effective tactic – declaring that those who do not believe your story are 'fools'. Nobody wants to be considered 'dumb' for not seeing the Emperor's new clothes, or a 'bas.tard' for not seeing the Sultan's new turban, or a 'cuckold' for not being able to see the Miller's gold thumb.

      Even Joseph Smith used it when he gathered his 'witnesses' to his golden plates. He told them that only those with 'true faith' would be able to 'see' them.

      The ancient, primitive Hebrews who originated those Bible stories were quite adept at manipulative mind-games.

      December 15, 2012 at 6:37 pm |
    • gfy63

      i don't know who you are,but i'm an adult 48 year-old male and this is one of the best comments ive ever read,if you would have run for president you would have got my vote on that speech,but no,i had to vote for some guy in w.v. who was running,so think about 2016,i'll be your campaign manager.

      December 15, 2012 at 6:56 pm |
    • ME II

      @jerry
      "...anyone who says, 'You fool' will be in danger of the fire of hell." (Matthew 5:22)

      December 15, 2012 at 11:16 pm |
  20. Bahamut

    Funny thing is, if God suddenly appeared and walked the Earth telling people he was God, he would be called crazy and persecuted all over again. It's a joke, you religious folk.

    December 15, 2012 at 6:02 pm |
    • gfy63

      hey dumb-ass,what are you talking about,if there was a god,why would he walk,unless it was on liquid water of course,woundn't he be able to hover over us and kill us indiscriminately like it says in the bible,but until i see it,i'll stick with evolution.

      December 15, 2012 at 6:40 pm |
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About this blog

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 and Eric Marrapodi with daily contributions from CNN's worldwide newsgathering team.