Editor’s note: Margaret Feinberg is a popular speaker and author of numerous books, including “Wonderstruck: Awaken to the Nearness of God,” which releases on Christmas Day. Follow her on Twitter @mafeinberg.
By Margaret Feinberg, Special to CNN
Why, God, why? Why do you allow the horror of the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School?
Why do you allow the loss, pain, terror, heartache and death? Why do you allow evil to triumph and innocence to be stripped away? Is this kind of evil stoppable? And do we have some role to play?
In the wake of so many unanswered questions, what kinds of questions do we really need to be asking? Are you cajoling us to ask how we can prevent this from happening again? Is the answer found in gun regulations, better security or deeper changes in our own hearts and lives?
Does preventing these kinds of crimes actually begin with us? If we had more compassion on those on the margins - those who wrestle with the demons of mental illness and social exile, who may be pondering violent acts at this very moment - can we prevent this horror from happening again?
My Take: Obama's Newtown remarks show pastor-in-chief
Are you prompting us to search our own lives and hearts to identify who we need to recognize that we’ve overlooked? In our families? Neighborhoods? Schools? Workplaces? Communities? Retirement homes?
Who are the kids and adults being shoved to the sidelines of life on whom we need to extend compassion? Where have our arms been too short, our hearts too closed to embrace?
Is this a potent reminder that our call is to be more sensitive to those who feel unloved, marginalized, shunned from our society? Are you awakening us to the fact that we all play a role in these matters?
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Have we helped create troubled souls like Arizona gunman Jared Loughner, Colorado gunman James Holmes and now Connecticut gunman Adam Lanza through our failure to extend kindness to those who need it most?
What are the words we need to learn to say not just with our mouths but our actions? Are you challenging us to express, “I love you!”; “You matter!”; “You’re good at that!”; “We’re glad you’re here!"; “Want to join us?” or something more?
Will you grace us with the courage to extend a love we do not have on our own?
Why does it seem that before we can change, we need to encounter you? Will you give us eyes to see those who feel invisible, ears to hear their cries for help and hearts broken for victims who prey on victims?
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How can we reflect you and your love during this difficult time? Will you pour out your grace, strength and love on those who have lost so much? Will you wrap your arms around them? Will you be with them in a tangible way?
Will you give them unexplainable peace? Will you do something miraculous? Will you unleash your redemption and restoration in this situation? Will you take prayers we’ve offered this week and make them habits of our hearts?
Will you do what only you can do, and take our breaths away again? Will you astound us with the wonder of who you are in the midst of that which makes no sense? Will you draw us all closer to you and to each other through this time?
In the wake of your love, will you teach us what better questions we need to ask and how we need to respond? Will you help us, oh Lord? Will you let it be so? Amen.
The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Margaret Feinberg.
What is freedom without the choice to do evil? What is faith if God dictated your belief? God wants us to have faith in him, but doing so gives us the freedom of choice. It's tragic how some choose to use this freedom.
So he doesn't know everything then?
Why doesn't got respect the free will of twenty-six people who want to live over the free will of one azzhole who wants them dead? Does god favor the free will of the evil over the good? Because it sure seems that way.
moby, you took the very words from my mouth.
Apparently god only respects the free-will of the criminals to kill and not the free-will of the victims not to be killed.
I agree with you that free will may and personality (even a soul) may not be possible without the ability to choose good or bad. However this creature may have been unable to choose through madness. If we deny the existence of a Satan, then we blame evil on God. Satan is a very powerful being who has more opportunity than us to do evil, including kill our children and make them mad. I can only hope that in the next existence things are a lot better.
Moby, there is MUCH more good in the world than there is evil. You're only focusing on the bad because it's easy. When was the last time you thought things were good? 26 killed by a mad man is NOT God's will. It's not his job to save everyone from harm. If it was, he would have. Just because you don't understand God's will, doesn't mean he doesn't exist.
To the author and readers: Do not ask these questions of god, ask them of yourself. Only then will you maybe receive an answer.
we kicked God out of the schools-can't even pray because less than1% are scared of prayer???? Before we kicked God out of our schools the biggest problem in school was chewing gum??? chewing gum???? we kicked God out of the U.S. government-George Washington saw this coming-and look at us now. wow. Could it be social values and everything else follows where God once walked???
Ignorance is bliss. Your imaginary friend was not kicked out of school...school official leading a christian prayer was stopped to respect other people's beliefs. I know respecting other peoples beliefs is hard for some christians but if you want respect for your belief start giving it for other peoples beliefs.
So this is what? God's revenge? Why's he acting like a spoiled brat? What a needy little child...
Could it be that your god is such a whiny little b!tch that he didn't do anything to protect those kids just because they don't chant his name a few times every morning?
Are you really suggesting that your god is such an azzhole that he would have kept those kids safe if only we stroked his ego just a bit more in grade schools around the country?
No one kicked your god anywhere. What's happening has only to do with people. We are asking that people stop imposing their religious beliefs on other people. That's all. Your god, if he exists, is free to do what he pleases.
'Before we kicked God out of our schools the biggest problem in school was chewing gum???'
not to mention the 60 school shootings that occured between 1900 and 1970, oh plus 1 blowing up the school with dynomite and a car bomb in 1927.
Bill, you are absolutely right this country removed GOD from the schools, what did they think was going to move in to replace GOD the only thing left evil..so all you people I'll dare you to ask GOD why he would allow this to happen he did not
we did. love and prayers to all those affected by this tragedy...
God was never in Canadian schools and we have never had a fraction of the violence that occurs in the US.
God is wherever his people are. We are called to live our faith in our daily lives. The government may not sanction the instruction of ANY religion in order to respect all of them. I've never been in any public school where any faith was embraced over another but I was taught at school and at home to respect the innate humanity of each person regardless of their faith. God is with me everywhere. I bring him into my school, my work, the grocery store, everywhere. I try to live His love everywhere every day. If we are concerned with a lack of His presence then we need to work on encouraging His presence within our families so that we can send each other out living our faith, bringing Christ with us wherever we go. No one can take that away and no one is trying to take that away. If our faith is so weak that we leave Him at the entrance to school or work or wherever, then that's what we need to work on.
God doesn't have a monopoly on good. To blame this on effective separation of church and state (something our divinely inspired founding fathers came up with, and which protects me in school from beliefs that are clearly untrue (Creationism, come one), and protects you from the state locking your church's doors) is so shortsighted.
I'm confident if there was a survey of the heroes in this story, and the every day heroes that protect us from less tangible dangers, we'd find a nice cross section of believers and non believers.
So let's look at the legitimate root causes, not some theoretical mumbo jumbo that has 0 correlation with what's really going on.
Why does every religion article turn into a debate?
You are atheist. Congrats have a cookie.
You believe in God. Great.
These articles have never been about bad talking or mean hearted debate.
If you you do not agree, simply attacking the opposition does nothing.
If you agree don't just cite the Bible and look like an idiot.
A (scientific) (not bible thumper) Christian
Read the idiotic post above yours for an answer as to why these message boards turn into a religious debate.
A scientific Christian? An oxymoron, certainly.
Why does the atheist get a cookie?
"A scientific Christian? An oxymoron, certainly."
God's power is behind all the scientific laws we study. The more I learn of science, the more I marvel at the intelligence of God. In science we just study His creation. Some of us don't realize that is what we are doing. But that is ok.
Of course God knew what was going to happen. Could he have stopped...certainly he could have. Why didn't he...you'll have to ask him. What else should God step in and stop? Should he stop any act that he deems wrong? If that is so then we would not be free to choose what we want to do, because there would be no choice. Interesting we do not want God in the public square and he is openly mocked, but yet he is responsible for humanities wickedness.
The only people blaming your imaginary friend are you people...not the non-believers.
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?
If what you say is true, we don't need your god.
"If what you say is true, we don't need your god."
That is exactly what i am talking about.
Next time you pray, please ask him to stop acting like a newly-dumped teenager for me...
'If that is so then we would not be free to choose what we want to do, because there would be no choice'
what about the choice of the children not to be slaughtered? dont they get a free-will?
why did god not allow this guy the free-will to committ the act of trying to kill them but save the kids? The intent would still be there.
"what about the choice of the children not to be slaughtered? dont they get a free-will?
why did god not allow this guy the free-will to committ the act of trying to kill them but save the kids? The intent would still be there."
No...those children did not have a choice in the gumans decision. The children live in this world where we are all affected by others actions. In what situations should God stop evil? What moral obligations does God have to humanity?
The emperor has no clothes
In all the years since that was first posed, nobody has has come up with a satisfactory, logical answer. :)
Omnipotence is an absolute idea. Malevolence is not. The flaw in your argument is therefore in the malevolent line. This requires definition of what is malevolent which is ultimately dependent upon personal choice. What you define as such might not be what I define as such which might be entirely different from what a supreme being who is all knowing might define as such. Your argument is therefore not based in fact but opinion and as such is an invalid argument.
He is both able and will and has forever taken sin and evil away by the death of his Son. Now, in this little parenthesis of history since the cross, he's asking us to decide... his way or our own. Evil is us.
"Omnipotence is an absolute idea. Malevolence is not. The flaw in your argument is therefore in the malevolent line. This requires definition of what is malevolent which is ultimately dependent upon personal choice. What you define as such might not be what I define as such which might be entirely different from what a supreme being who is all knowing might define as such. Your argument is therefore not based in fact but opinion and as such is an invalid argument."
Killing or letting die a bunch of grade school children. That is malevolent. Let us know if you don't think it is.
The options you present are not a full set of available options, therefore your assumption that this is a valid choice is incorrect.
Third option is: You have assigned those children's death as bad. If you believed that they would be resurrected perfectly and that everyone involved would learn and grow because of the experience, this "bad" thing would turn out to be a good thing as everyone progressed and they lost nothing. My counter argument is that your perspective of what is, is not correct. You are blinded by only that which you see in the world and are unable to see that which is spiritual. True malevolence would be a God that forces us to not act badly by killing us if we tried. Then we do not learn. We do not grow. We do not progress.
I know the arguments you will spew back at me. Search them carefully and if any of them are based on your opinion or un-substantiated fact they are invalid. Just as my view of what is malevolent is different from yours therefore the argument proposed is invalid.
I apologize, I somehow left off an important thought...
I see His actions as loving beyond the capability of any of us. My belief is that He sees far beyond what we do and understands far beyond what we can right now. He knows everything will be all right in the long run and so this is much less of a horror and much more of an opportunity for His children to learn and grow. It might sound harsh, but I don't believe He sees it as such.
'what kinds of questions do we really need to be asking?'
how about 'when are people going to wake up and realise there is no god instead of writing off such events as this as being some kind of grand master plan and that the slaughter of these kids was all part of god's will?'
When are people similar to you going to come up with new material that might actually be convincing evidence of the nonexistence of God? Oh, and don't try to push the "burden of proof" off on someone else. If you have a claim to make, then prove it. I don't feel it necessary to come into a public forum spewing off my believes as proven fact. The burden of proof isn't on he who claims something does exist, it is on he who feels he has something to prove, or disprove in your case. So please, enlighten us with your vast knowledge.
'The burden of proof isn't on he who claims something does exist, it is on he who feels he has something to prove, or disprove in your case'
er, no, the burden of proof is up to the person trying to claim something does exist. If the natural state is to have nothing there then I have nothing to prove, if you want to claim something is there then you have to show it.
Thats pretty much a given, and as much as you dont want anyone to come back with 'you prove it', sorry but the onus is most assuredly on you.
is this an auto generated news article..i read this every time there is some disaster
I look at Margaret Feinberg smiling picture and read her credentials. Does she have no shame using this tragic event to promote herself.
While suggesting that God has "left us to ourselves" because "we've kicked him out of our schools" feels good for us as Christians to say to a society that has rejected him, it is not at all in alignment with the New Testament. In the Old Testament, God did deal in direct judgement with his people, just as he required the law. Today, however, he deals with us in grace and love. His language to us at this period in history is "Come unto me" (Hebrews 1). We have an open door of grace. For sure, He does say that there will be judgement for certain, and that door will close when His son returns to the air with a shout, but that time is not now. Now, God is not saying "You've rejected me, so I've left you alone." The judgment of Romans 1 and Revelation have their place and time, and that time has not come to pass. Please stop suggesting this tragedy is a punishment or Godly reprimand (Luke 13:1-9 is a solid reference for this.)
The only reason why such large scale killings didn't take place back when prayer was allowed in classrooms is that those people had the good sense to leave battlefield weapons at the army bases.
Interesting that, often when faced with the prospect of almost certain dealth, many people as a last act turn to prayer – even those who choose to not pray prior.
that's just an assumption with no credible basis
Many people also poop their pants when facing certain death. Should I worship poop?
Even if every last person on earth calls out to God when facing death, it doesn't mean he actually exists, just that people need to believe in him.
God has you in his book. He has a plan for each of us. He knows when you will be born and when you will die.
He is therefore responsible for all death, murder and destruction for all of history including every abortion ever performed, every rape, every murder, every miscarriage, every atrocity.
He is perfect. He is omniscient. He is omnipotent. So how could this not be so? It is God’s will.
B.S. It's so frickin' obvious why God allows this to happen-there is no God, no sky king. A god doesn't allow death and destruction. This massacre was an act of man, not an act of god. Hello? Wake up, people. 1 man is responsible. Your god can't stop these shootings or hurricanes because he does not exist.
He sees you when you're sleeping,
He knows when you're awake.
He knows if you've been bad or good, so be good for goodness sake.
ITS NOT WHY Because this Nation has steeped away from God b all means! and the protection of God will decrease, there are not more morals in this country. America by any means is most blessed country in Planet Earth but this is about to discontinue due to lust and sin of this nation.
A belief in god has never been necessary for good morals. And a belief in god is no surety of good morals.
No, I live in Canada and we don't see this type of thing or not often anyways. It has nothing to do with your imaginary friend, in fact the psycho who did this was catholic. This has to do with a psychotic mind...a person who managed to gain access to weapons that should not be in any home. It wouldn't matter if this person was christian, hindu, whatever...mental illness does not pick and choose.
oh wake up and smell the roses.
lol you're crazy. God doesn't exists. Do you honestly believe that if God existed he would choose America as the only nation to bless?
There is an out for those who still believe in god but they will need to back off on said god's omniscience.
As per the famous contemporary theologian, Edward Schillebeeckx, god (if one exists) is not omniscient. Please read, pause and contemplate the following by Schillebeeckx:
Church: The Human Story of God,
Crossroad, 1993, p.91 (softcover)
"Christians (et al) must give up a perverse, unhealthy and inhuman doctrine of predestination without in so doing making God the great scapegoat of history."
"Nothing is determined in advance: in nature there is chance and determinism; in the world of human activity there is possibility of free choices.
Therefore the historical future is not known even to God, otherwise we and our history would be merely a puppet show in which God holds the strings.
For God, too, history is an adventure, an open history for and of men and women."
So we're like reality TV for god? No real need for god then.
I see three options here. (1) god exists and is powerless to prevent these tragedies, (2) he exists and is unwilling to prevent these tragedies, or (3) god doesn't exist at all.
If (1) or (2), I don't see how god can be admired or respected as he is evil and manipulative. If (3), many people are just wasting their time in church and could do so much more with their lives.
That is Epicurus' famous problem of evil.
My church visits hospitalized elderly patients. We have a food pantry for those in need. We have to stock it with our own funds. We provide food to the homeless. We allow the neighborhood to hold neighborhood meetings in our building. We repair homes for people affected by floods, tornadoes and storms. We try to be in the places where people hurt the most, for they are God's people.
We believe we have been blessed to be a blessing to others.
We are not wasting our time in church. We are doing so much with our lives. We follow Jesus.
Nikita, you can do ALL those things without praying to an imaginary being that isn't going to help you in any way. Community service doesn't require religion, although sadly many will not volunteer for anything unless they are afraid that god will punish them if they don't.
We are not acting out of fear that God will punish us for what we do. Not at all.
And God helps me in many ways.
We are not really that religious. More spiritual. We share and have concern for everyone. Not just those who believe like us. Just like Jesus!
How can one argue that God has been removed from schools when:
1. You CAN pray in school, but you can't step all over the rights of those with other faiths.
2. There are Christian and Jewish and Muslim clubs and groups that gather in prayer.
3. Every school sports team in America prays before games and recites the pledge of allegiance which includes God.
4. There are Christian and Jewish and Muslim schools.
It is all moot because there is no God but if you are believer you can have add it. No one is stopping you.
You might as well say that a grilled cheese sandwiches cause gravity.
Besides, the world ends in a few days anyway.
I love when all of the twenty year olds who haven't even yet begun to carry the weight of life speak for all of humanity. If were to borrow from something secular even, like Confucianism, we might pause before assuming we think we have the answers to the hours ahead, as that system of though, like many others that have survived for thousands of years, states pretty clearly that it'll be a good four decades before you know life for what it is. Similarly, your choice of old book spells out that we should not be so foolish as to expect a party for each of our average spanning lives–that it gets ugly. Now if someone is born with the collective wisdom of a few thousand generations, then he or she, unlike the hundreds of people brought to their knees in Newtown, will figure out the way through the wildnerness of the human heart alone. It's pretty clear from the the footage in Newtown that when people are brought low by life that they turn to the old teachings. Do they have their hang-ups and contradictions? Naturally, as does life. Do they come with baggage. Unfortunately. Are they, on the whole, better than the modern remedies–debt, drugs, prescriptions, and piles of food, all of which are consumed by this adult cohort at unprecedented levels, all of which should be recognized as effortless solutions to life's troubles.
Yes, you are correct about points 1-4... BUT there are people like yourself who regularly fight tooth and nail against it. Years ago, I was in a Christian club at my high school, we bothered nobody who didn't want to participate, but that didn't stop local atheist organizations (that weren't even from our county) from filing numerous lawsuits trying to put a stop to it. They made it clear it was their intent to totally erase organized religion from the public square. Fortunately, they lost, and our group's religious freedoms were preserved. Strangely, they didn't go after the Jewish or atheist groups that also were present on our campus.
Something to think about next time an atheist group in Wisconsin (with way too much time on their hands) goes after a group of cheerleaders in Texas for having banners with scripture, or even Tim Tebow for having verses on his sun-glare paint. Religious kids don't hurt anyone. It's the gothy ones dressed in black who have never stepped into church a day in their life that cause the problems!
Amen. I used to hate Christianity. But I had to admit they do a lot of good. Not all, but most are actually nice and helpful.
I am one now, so I'm biased. But I see now that I was close-minded. I refused to see where religious people were right. They actually have a lot to offer. They help me.
What about the innocent men, women & children we've senselessly killed over the past 200 years – this is not unique, nor the last time. Violence is our religion & entertainment, guns & bobms the sacrament. Let's not fool ourselves into thinking it has ANYTHING to do with God – it's US people who kill
But if there is an omnipotent god, it is his fault.
You might have a point if it were only Americans doing any killing...but you would be incorrect, so your point is moot.
Have you ever noticed how multiple monikers appear at the same time to argue the same point? Methinks me smells sumtin fishy.
Can any xtian answer a question? Can any believer reflect as to how naive their belief system is?
cannot you see the blind obedience and ignorance are the corner stones to religion? cannot you see that your god allows this to happen because is either NOT all powerful or NOT all knowing? cannot you see that this was demanded by god in your bible? cannot believers see the contradictory dicatomy that riddles the bible?
Our God knows of all our pains,
Our God loves yet He refrains.
My God is your God too,
Your God is my God ever so true.
Their God is our God one and the same,
God cares for all creatures even the lame.
God cares for the lame? Must really care for you and your poem then!
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.