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.
This country has kicked God out of our schools, the public square, and courthouses. Fewer and fewer parents are raising their children in the church, and then we wonder "Where was God?" and "How can these things happen?" They are happening because more and more people are thumbing their noses at God and His laws, which He created to protect us.
Try using that line of spectacularly flawed logic on all of those young children who have been the victims of s-exual a-ssault from priests and clergy over the years.
Tell your god to quit being such a whiny b!tch who needs his ego stroked all the time and do some actual good like preventing this sort of sh!t from happening.
^Laugh every time I see this.
^Nobel prize winner Charles Townes' view.
Atheists on this message boards are posers at best.
I have read many posts for the last hour. .My first observation is why if you are an atheist are you even reading the article? If you dont believe then why do you care? Do you think that by ranting and raving about what you call an "imagainery" God that you are going to chanve someones beliefs?
Atheists read this article and the comments and are amazed at the cold, callous stupidity of the god believers who claim that god allows these sorts of events because he doesn't get his name chanted enough in public schools or some such stupidity as that. We atheists know that this is the result of a diseased brain and not some whiny b!tch of a god who isn't getting his ego stroked often enough and in the right way in the correct buildings. When christians post that sort of ridiculous sh!t, we are there to point out just how twisted is that thinking. There is no god, and sickos do weird things-–sometimes to little kids.
This is the first post Ive read, and I would like to ask you where was your God during this horrific massacre?
The converse of these quotes are true, if we kick God out of America, instead of his protection, he "gives us over…" or leaves us to our devices, all the millions of bloggers and tweeters won't change that reality. We brought this systemic problem on ourselves. Best to heed warnings of the ones who created this country:
"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
"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 favors. – George Washington
"It must be felt that there is no national security but in the nation's humble acknowledged dependence upon God and His overruling providence." – John Adams
"God who gave us life gave us liberty. And can the liberties of a nation be thought secure when we have removed their only firm basis, a conviction in the minds of the people that these liberties are of the Gift of God? That they are not to be violated by with His wrath? Indeed, I tremble for my country when I reflect that God is just; that His justice cannot sleep forever." – Thomas Jefferson
"As nations cannot be rewarded or punished in the next world, so they must be in this. By an inevitable chain of causes and effects, Providence punishes national sins by national calamities." – George Mason, Father of the Bill of Rights
Yes, we know.
If we don't worship the God of your choice, your God will kill innocent children.
What is wrong with you?!
Why don't you go tell that to the parents in Connecticut whose blameless young children are now dead?
Comments like yours prove that christians are the most hate-filled, evil cult on earth.
Brought in on ourselves, look in the mirror
I passed 50+ churches today, how much more acknowledgment does your god require?
If you believe in a "God" who had the power to stop this but decided not to, you are as crazy as the shooter.
Thank God, for a moment there I was beginning to think Atheists were more moral that Christians. It's a good thing to know that hatred will outlive religion.
to actually post something that makes sense to anybody from any perspective.
What makes you think this had ANYTHING to do with the God of Abraham?
What makes you think some god has anything to with anything?
God is hiding behind a bunch of gun toting, frothing at the mouth, fanatical christians? Why is that so hard to grasp?
More like ban education using critical thinking.
Better not let the kids question mythological Jesus even if it's all made up.
That's what you mindless lemmings want right?
Your god punishes people for thought crimes, that is part of what makes him immoral.
I absolutely agree – ban ALL atheists. It should be illegal. Every single atheist should be put it jail until they renounce their atheism. And if they don't, they should be killed. Agreed?
Oh, by the way, you Do believe in the following deities, right? This is just a list of Hindu deities:Aditi, Adityas, Ambika, Ananta (Shesha), Annapurna (Annapatni), Aruna, Ashvins, Balarama, Bhairavi, Brahma, Buddha, Dakini, Devi, Dharma, Dhisana, Durga, Dyaus, Ganesa (Ganesha), Ganga (Ganges), Garuda, Gauri, Gopis, Hanuman, Hari-Hara, Hulka Devi, Jagganath, Jyeshtha, Kama, Karttikeya, Krishna, Krtya, Kubera, Kubjika, Lakshmi or Laksmi, Manasha, Manu, Maya, Meru, Nagas, Nandi, Naraka, Nataraja, Nirriti, Parjanya, Parvati, Paurnamasi, Prithivi, Purusha, Radha, Rati, Ratri, Rudra, Sanjna, Sati, Shashti, Shatala, Sitala (Satala), Skanda, Sunrta, Surya, Svasti-devi, Tvashtar, Uma, Urjani, Vach, Varuna, Vayu, Vishnu (Avatars of Vishnu: Matsya; Kurma; Varaha; Narasinha; Vamana; Parasurama; Rama; Krishna; Buddha; Kalki), Vishvakarman, Yama, Sraddha
You DO understand that, if there is ANY deity you do not believe in, that makes you and atheist with regard to that deity, correct?
Here's a question: does religion make people stupid, or is it that stupid people are attracted to religion?
Are you still bragging about God Atheists monkeys? How much lower can you get? Atheists are just a bunch of cry babies. Deal with atheists nut job, God do exist, like it or not, just deal with it.
I just forgot to put an :"it" to my Deal with it Atheists nut job sentence. I say so before you start crying over it.
Now fix the sentence: "God do exist."
You have no proof. Deal with it.
Wow, someone was beaten with the dummy stick when he was young.
God has given us free will. That is why God does not intervene.
If you believe in a "God" who could have stopped this but didn't, you are as crazy as the shooter.
Then god is pointless.
If your god can't stop the most vile violent acts against children, your god is utterly useless.
according to evangelical preachers...god is boycotting schools because they don't have school prayer and I'm sure we will hear the gays had something to do with it too
I find it simultaneously subtle and bold that many are asking for God's location and participation in world tragedies when some of the same individuals are being looked for by God Himself. Not that He is unaware of all whereabouts, but I believe He would like to see those who claim to know Him make occasional appearances in church services, be seen flipping pages of out His holy word (Bible), or better yet, living a Christian life. God is called upon considerably after shootings, floods, bombings, and other mass murderous inconveniences to human masses, but is then ignored when the bleeding has stopped and the wounds start to heal. I don't understand why people can believe they can use God for their issues but cast Him aside like some "contingency" kit until the next situation. Furthermore, God's location is not suddenly out of atmospheric range because of a sudden tragedy. God knew this would happen before Adam Lanya purchased the first gun, and yet this is the same God that watched His own Son be crucified for the sins of the world. In fact, He offered up His own Son which prompted Jesus actually spending 33.5 years tabernacling here on Earth. Then, like many parents, He watched his Son die on a cross, and made a sacriifice of which many are not cognizant nor appreciative.
Your god could have stopped this tragic event and he didn't, so he's a fvcking azzhole. What a disgusting creep you serve.
Theology Major – yeah, right! Let's look at what you said: "Then, like many parents, He watched his Son die on a cross, and made a sacriifice of which many are not cognizant nor appreciative."
You are saying that your god is like many parents? The omniscient, omnipotent creator of the universe is like Jane and Joe Smith down the road????
Jesus wasn't his "son". According to your big book of beliefs, this omniscient, omnipotent creator of the universe sent a tiny piece of itself, in human form, to earth for a tiny bit of time, knowing in advance that this tiny piece would live as a human for a few years, die (but not really), be resurrected and then reunited with itself. How is that the ultimate sacrifice, let alone ANY sacrifice? Those poor parents will be going through far more pain and anguish, for a much greater period of time, than any pain suffered by Jesus. Their sacrifice – if you can call it that – is far, far greater, because they have actually lost something.
Clap trap. Can it
Mathew 6:33 "But seek ye first the kingdom of God "
Why is it not worded to seek first the Lord Christ Jesus?
I am a closet Christian. I have quarrels with church going folks but this is not the time to squabble over religious controversies. Seek all God's kingdom and know it exists and keep searching for it for it is very real!
I don't ask god's location or participation because god has nothing to do with this or any other event, good or bad, on this earth. God doesn't exist. This happened because a young man lost all contact with reality and did horrific things. I'm very sad, but I don't ask why. There is nothing that can explain it.
I do find it interesting to see the lengths people will go to to validate their belief in an all-seeing, all-knowing, benevolent god, who says he answers prayer and loves his creation to the point of giving them freedom of choice, or free will. This god gets credit for everything from winning football game to a parking place. He just loves us so much. But when something terrible happens, suddenly his ways are too mysterious for us to understand but it's okay because it's part of some master plan that we won't know about until after we die. How convenient.
There is no reason for this. It's a horrible, devastating thing but there's no grand plan that eventually explains it all.
Never give-up on God. He's with us in the darkest of places.. I will not attempt to give a reason this happened.. I cried tears as many others did over this event, but we all must pray for every family affecting by this event and trust God's calming hand is firmly there... Isaih 55:8 – "My thoughts are nothing like your thoughts," says the LORD. "And my ways are far beyond anything you could imagine.
Which god are you talking about? The Abrahamic Biblical God? The one who condones slavery, ra-pe, murder, child sacrifice, and genocide?
Nope – that guy is way too much of a psychotic, murdering c-unt
god sure as h ell wasn't with those children.
I can tell people exactly where God is (and was) during this time. He was OUT OF THE SCHOOLS, because everyone put Him out.
Really?? Folks take God, prayer, the Ten Commandments out of the public school and then want to know where He was when a tragedy happens? You either want Him there all of the time or you don't, it's that simple. Take that into consideration for the future. God isn't going to be where you don't want Him, and you didn't want Him in your schools.
Spunky, you are retarded. Plain and simple. Stupid as a sack of hammers. IQ of about 75. Maybe. Useful as a sock full of soup.
You are at least the 500th person to say that. I'm sure it sounded clever and like such a sick burn in your head, but it's bullish!t. God hasn't been banned from churches, shopping malls, beauty salons and theaters. Of seven shootings in 2012 where more than four people were killed, only one, this one, was in a public school, where your god has been "banned". One was in a christian school. ten people were killed. So really, not so clever after all.
When a tragedy like this happens, Christian leaders will be on the scene ASAP to comfort and grieve with affected family members and help them in their time of loss. And godless atheists will ask; where is God? Typical. Where are the atheists? Are they helping those families members, or more concerned about shaking their fingers at God? It's obvious to me...
It is obvious to me you are talking out of your ass...you have no idea who amongst those who are helping are and are not believers.
If you think that atheists are asking where god is, then you're a fvcking moron.
Many of those who are asking are believers...
Really? Wondering where's God now?
There has always been bad things happening to good people since the
beginning of history. If you believe in God who doesn't punish innocent
people, the verdict is out there, there isn't one.
This kind of tragedy can only be prevented or minimized by meaningful gun control.
We just gotta choose between our freedom to own guns or accept senseless
violence victims as a cost to our freedom. We don't need to ask for a God to solve
What about banning vehicles when someone gets killed? Knives? Hammers? Chain saws? Gun-control will allow criminals to possess guns and disarm honest citizens...
no need to ask Where is God because there is no God.
Not helpful CNN. You know mostly atheist come to the Religion blog.
Where are the conscience of people made and rudiments ordained from? Does the brains of the masses seek out? Where does the hearts' fondness feel and grieve aloud? Why are atheists not sullen with sadness and regrets for such a travesty? Only the righteous make founding their huddled masses in the stillness abatements of scurried thoughts set adrift in the moment as time slips on. The wells of despair and desperately clinging together shall always and forever be as points of time in a season left anguished by the barrowed wheels set adrift as if on borrowed time. Love the lost ones and remember them always onto forevermore!
What makes you think atheists are not saddened by such events? That's absurd.
This what happens when your stick your dick into crazy.
If atheists were sullen with despair, they would not be making gests to do harm to the religious and their unwavering dreams.
I did not ask where is God.
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.