Where was God in Aurora massacre?
Twelve crosses comprise a makeshift memorial near the Aurora, Colorado, movie theater, scene of last week’s mass shooting
July 24th, 2012
02:13 PM ET

Where was God in Aurora massacre?

By Dan Gilgoff, CNN.com Religion Editor

(CNN) - Where was God in Aurora?

It’s a fresh take on an age-old question: Why does God allow suffering, natural disasters or - if you believe in it - evil?

We put the question to Twitter on Tuesday and got some starkly different responses.

“In short, God was in complete control, exercising His will,” wrote @PastorRileyF, who leads a church in Bethune, Colorado.

That riled @TheTrivia Jockey, who tweeted, “If that was God's will, God is definitely not deserving of my worship.”

Watch: Survivor of massacre says he forgives gunman

@trentpayne also took issue with the Colorado pastor: "I'm going to respectfully disagree with you Pastor. God gives free will to man, but it wasn't his will that they die."

The back-and-forth provoked other believers to chime in on the theological issue of God’s sovereignty vs. human free will, with many Christians seeking to explain how a sovereign God could preside over seemingly senseless bloodshed.

“It is not God's will or want that people died in Aurora,” wrote @GospelBluesman 20m. "God allowed man's inhumanity to man, rather than intervene.”

The conversation and debate continued in the comments section of this post, with some insinuating that the massacre might be a kind of divine punishment, or at lease divine neglect:

We as a country have been telling God to go away. We told him to get off our currency, get out of our schools, get out of our Pledge of Allegiance, take your Ten Commandments out of our courthouses, get those Bibles out of hotels and no graduation ceremonies in our churches. How can we expect God to give us his blessing and his protection if we demand that he leave us alone?

Jesse R
Liberals have made it impossible for God to be anywhere during the upbringing of a child. Can't have any religious connotations in schools, libraries, government offices, etc., etc. Young men (and women) are growing up with no real sense of right and wrong. ... We no longer have the right of religion, but rather the right from religion. Parents no longer have the ability to discipline their children. We are always looking for the excuses ... violent video games and movies, bad teachers and schools ... when we should be looking in the mirror. We as a society are the reasons these massacres happen. We have allowed our children to become social misfits that lead to the kind of carnage we have seen on several occasions since religion and God disappeared from what the Founding Fathers once said was a necessity of a successful democracy ... faith.

Lots of readers used religious takes on the shooting to challenge the whole idea of God:

Who invited me?
How do you know the people that were killed didn't go to hell?, and how exactly does any of this show there is a reason? Reason is obviously something that you have replaced with belief, and you threw out logic with it.

"God doesn't exist, so he wasn't anywhere. Get over it. A man was evil, and he was evil because he was crazy.

Plenty of others said the shooting was the devil's work:

Evil things like this happen because Satan is the god of this world ... for the time being. God will undo all the damage caused by Satan's rebellion and man's disobedience when the time is right. In the meantime we all experience trials and tribulation due to living in an ungodly world. That is why Jesus taught his followers the Lord's Prayer ... 'to pray for God's kingdom to come.'

What’s your take? Where was God in the Aurora massacre? Or do you feel that such tragedies are evidence for a godless universe?

Let us know in comments, and we’ll highlight the best ones.

- CNN Belief Blog Co-Editor

Filed under: God • Violence

soundoff (10,690 Responses)
  1. mgittelman

    God was wherever we chose for God to be. If you are a believer, you either believe God let it happen or allowed it to happen. If you are not a believer, then God has nothing to do with it. The question itself is completely irrelevant, since there is no irrevocable truth to be found in the answer, and the answers we fabricate instead have only to do with how each individual sees the world than with what really happened. The real question being posed here is simply "Are you religious or not?" A better question might be: "What do you want God's role in all of this to be?"

    July 25, 2012 at 2:39 pm |
  2. IT_MAN

    The mind boggling part of God is that he will forgive all of you misguided souls for your blasphemy. Just as God created light and dark, he created good and evil. He could intervene and make everything good, but would you appreciate it?

    July 25, 2012 at 2:39 pm |
    • t3chn0ph0b3

      ...and the Earth is 6,000 years old, right?

      July 25, 2012 at 2:41 pm |
    • IT_MAN

      Time is an "earthly" concept that does not rule over God. God created it so that man could order his affairs.

      July 25, 2012 at 2:44 pm |
  3. pth

    The minute one of his guns jammmed was the work of god. Just think of how many more people could have been injured or killed had it not jammed. The act itself was the act of evil in this world. It is acceptable to question and to even be mad about why this happened, but this has nothing to do with god allowing this to happen but more to do with the everyday evil in this world.

    July 25, 2012 at 2:39 pm |
    • ME II

      Couldn't He have caused the gun to jam a few rounds earlier?

      July 25, 2012 at 2:41 pm |
  4. Fernando

    I think that on earth, God lets things run their course, sowing what we sow as a society in general.
    But on the spiritual side, who knows.. maybe they're done suffering and there's more. Like Paul said, to die is to win and to live is to live in Christ.

    Or Moses who on earth did not get to see the promised land, but got better, he went to heaven.

    That's if you believe, if you don't – well he was nowhere.

    July 25, 2012 at 2:39 pm |
    • IT_MAN

      C.S. Lewis once said:

      "Christianity, if false, is of no importance, and if true, of infinite importance. The only thing it cannot be is moderately important."

      July 25, 2012 at 2:49 pm |
  5. RUN2WIN

    It is not God's will that any should perish, but that all should come to repentenance. He gave every man a will, to decide for himself. He gave his word,the Bible, as a guideline for decision making. Man has CHOSE to disobey God's will, and as a result, Sin's consequences.

    July 25, 2012 at 2:39 pm |
  6. Stan

    C.S. Lewis wrote about this issue in his book, "The Problem of Pain." God gives us free will. In order to fully actualize this, he set up a universe that operates according to its own independent laws. God could intercede in this universe if he wanted to, but to do so would be to undermine our free will, which is a great gift. If God showed himself to us all the time and constantly "pulled the strings" operating our behavior and that of the universe, he would turn us into mere puppets. He wants our love and our faith, but he wants it to be an act of choice made by us. In this way, we are made in his image rather than being mere marionettes. So, it is definitely not God's will that massacres and others take place. It is his will that we love each other. But God doesn't prevent these things because to do so would rob us of free will. This life is precious, but it is infinitely less precious than the next, which is what we are being prepared for and what we have the freedom to choose or not choose.

    July 25, 2012 at 2:39 pm |
    • Doc

      Superbly summarized!

      July 25, 2012 at 2:46 pm |
  7. Tyler

    why does religion have to be brought up every time something awful happen? What does this have to do with god? In my opinion, there is no such thing. Stupid thing to bring up.

    July 25, 2012 at 2:39 pm |
  8. Fluttershy

    Maybe he was out getting a cheeseburger.

    July 25, 2012 at 2:38 pm |
  9. Montello

    He was nowhere. The deity concept exists only in peoples' minds. The shooter was evil, no question, but that was a mental state having nothing to do with the presence or absence of a deity.

    July 25, 2012 at 2:38 pm |
  10. Rick

    So as I understand, America turned its back on god, so god sent in this guy with an assault rifle to kill a few people so that we would pay more attention to god? No thanks.

    July 25, 2012 at 2:38 pm |
  11. mary

    G-d gave us the ball, we are the ones that roll it.

    July 25, 2012 at 2:38 pm |
  12. Amber Robbins

    Everything that happens on earth is used for the Glory of God. Wether God orchastrates the event or not, he uses it for his Glory. Just look at all the people who were inspired, by the Girl at Columbine, who Said, YES! Yes, I beleieve in God. Look at the generation of beleivers that she insired. Who's to say that these men and women who died won't inspire someone. Even acts of great evil such as this one, can be used for the Glory of God. 4 men that we know of died, in sacrifice, to save thier girlfriends from harm...is that not an amazing sacrafice, to give your life, for someone you love? I've read several articles about it already. Perhaps other women, or children, or men can be saved, becuase their acts remind someone to protect those who need it, and that in this world, we make sacrifices for the people we love...sometimes those sacrafices are the most Ultimate sacrifice a person can give...thier life.

    Maybe the story of Ms, Gahwi, motivates some other blooming sports writer. Maybe the story of the U.S. Navy Petty Officer 3rd Class John Larimer who was taught by the navy that you protect the people around you, and who knew his job was that someday he might Ultimately, die for his country, instead sacrificed his life for the woman, he loved... thats awe inspriring. God uses tragic events to Inspire. Man make the decisions, God, turns those acts around and makes them Beautiful.

    July 25, 2012 at 2:38 pm |
  13. dave3051

    This act was the exact opposite of "God," but not in the sense of God as an all-powerful deity. Humans seek out a God as an act of self-transcendence, a desire to feel a sense of belonging and meaning in the greater order of the cosmos and to submit to a higher being who requires appeasement (a vestigial psychological remnant of the maternal transference acquired in childhood). We never truly separate from this maternal transference, fearing the loneliness and isolation that comes without submission to a higher power (whether it be a deity, an earthly idol, the insti.tution of science, etc).

    This violent incident can be viewed as a desperate act of self-as.sertion, an attempt to distinguish one's self in the world as a powerful and meaningful individual. Yet it can also be viewed as a pathological failure to achieve a healthy balance between self-as.sertion and self-transcendence; by perpetrating this crime, he neurotically (or perhaps psychotically) attempted to resolve his internal psychological conflict by as.serting his individual power while at the same time acting in a way that effects the community at-large and finds him a small nook in the annals of history. He failed to find "God" because he had lost his sense of self-transcendence and oneness with the universe, lost his sense of individual importance, and failed miserably to reconcile this paradox.

    July 25, 2012 at 2:38 pm |
  14. Matt1034

    What I would like to know is, why is it that every crisis and tragedy of this nature instantly becomes a referendum on God? All of a sudden everyone wants to know what his purpose is in allowing tragedy to occur, even though God never promised that life would be easy, nor that he would avert every tragedy. Christians, I think, often try to claim that God is more involved in their daily lives than has been confirmed by scripture. This has a comforting affect at times, but it is a double-edged sword that comes back in times of crisis. God did not promise us easy lives here on earth. That's the point. Earth sucks. Christians are supposed to see the flaws of human nature and society as reasons to look forward to Heaven, which is perfect. It is understandable to question God after suffering so great a loss, but ultimately one can only accept that life here is imperfect or reject God altogether.

    July 25, 2012 at 2:38 pm |
  15. Les Kyle

    GOD is a word, not a person.

    July 25, 2012 at 2:38 pm |
    • Jam Pie

      Your right. God is a word not a person. Yaweh is our Gods name. Sorry for the misunderstanding.

      July 25, 2012 at 2:45 pm |
  16. mkuske

    I cannot pretend to know, I can only theorize. As many have noted God grants humans free will...not some, but all. Like many things that great gift of free will at times comes at a great cost.

    I think one should also note that in almost all examples, tragedies bring out the best of many people. They give humans the chance to become heroes in their response to those tragedies. Not necessarily of the man of steel type, but heroes non-the-less. Tragedy allows man to become more like God in strength as well as compassion. While it has great cost it allows for the greatest acts of humanity we can hope to achieve...the peak of our actualization as a species.

    July 25, 2012 at 2:38 pm |
  17. Doc

    God gave man free will and this is how some men use it – to perpetuate evil. You can't have it both ways – either you get free will and what comes with it (some people doing horrific things) or you don't have free will and live the life of a robot.

    July 25, 2012 at 2:38 pm |
    • bernie

      Free will is a cop out. Either god is all knowing or he isn't. He either knows from the time this lunatic was born he was going on a killing spree or he didn't. You can't have it both ways. You can't say god is all knowing then bail out and say free will took over. Just an insane individual who needs to be put away

      July 25, 2012 at 2:42 pm |
    • Doc

      Bernie – pop up a few responses and check out Stan's comment on free will (posted at 2:39 PM page 137 – which is a summary of CS Lewis, but still spot on). Free will is anything but a cop out. Do believers think God is omniscient? Yes. But that doesn't mean He will intercede because that would violate free will. We must live in the world WE create using free will. And sometimes that means living through horrific things other people do with their free will. If God intervened every time someone was about to do something that would harm another, there would be no free will.

      July 25, 2012 at 2:49 pm |
  18. Jam Pie

    We live in an imperfect/broken world. A world in which was created (by one way or another) for man to live in harmony with God, fellow men, and nature. Because of our desires, this world fell into chaos. Injustice began to run rampant within this world, which was created for us to live in peace, and peace was no more. This is the root of not only this injustice but of all injustices.

    Many people on here are talking about free will. I agree that God has given man free will. However, I think many take that out of context. Travesties like this shooting are terrible. That boy had his free will to bring chaos, just as the victims in the theater had the free will to show their love and dedication for one another. God did not promise that we would all live perfect lives without confict and despair. Indeed, he promised exactly the opposite of that but gave us hope in spite of it. Many on here, even those who call themselves Christians, do not understand that very point.

    Christianity is not about how much we can brainwash our kids by only exposing them constantly to what we the parents believe. Instead, it is about a personal relationship with Christ. My relationship with Christ will not be sufficient for my kids. They will have to make that decision on their own in spite of living in this imperfect world. Our jobs as parents is to help lead them and answer the questions they have to the best of our abilities.

    Ultimately, we in America have trivialized Chrstianity and given it a bad name by our hatred for others. The definition of a good Christian in which we ourselves have come to hold true can be answered by three questions nowadays. Do you think gays should marry? Do you believe in evolution? Are you pro-choice? If you can answer no to all of these questions, in America, you are a good Christian. This is wrong. Our job is not to judge those outside of the church but to love them. The truth is, these questions cannot be answered by a simple yes and no, and ultimately other questions must be asked and answered before we can come to an understanding about these issues.

    July 25, 2012 at 2:38 pm |
  19. ND

    What happened in Aurora was horrible, but so is what is going on all over the world – wars in which innocent civilians are killed, famines and extreme poverty that drain the life out of people, natural disasters that wipe out cities, painful diseases that take thousands of lives. Why choose now to ask where God is?

    Humans cannot always choose what happens to them, but they can choose how they respond to whatever they must face. Holmes made a horrible decision in response to whatever dark experience he faced (whether it was a mental illness, a stressful event, or what have you). The result was horrifying and heartbreaking. Now we as a nation must choose how we respond to this tragedy. I for one hope that it forces us to unite despite our differences, encourage us to analyze Homes’ motivations so that we can prevent anything like this from happening again.

    If there is a higher power – God/Allah/Zeus/the gods and goddesses/the Universe (for they are all one and the same)– then maybe its purpose is providing comfort for the grief-stricken living and an afterlife for the dead (whether it be heaven, reincarnation, or an elemental return to nature in a Circle of Life fashion). I believe all humans are given free will; however, “God” can sometimes help out to a certain extent by placing certain opportunities in their lives, and humans can choose to embrace or ignore these opportunities. Maybe God tried to provide opportunities for Holmes to make a different decision, but Holmes chose to ignore them.

    July 25, 2012 at 2:38 pm |
  20. nick

    god doesn't interfer in changing the world as man has modified it and he never has. What others expect God to do is actually up to us..things happen as learning times...man's job is to be in service to one another and help each other understand love better, and what we are really here for. The US seems to be somewhat unique where we donate a lot, volunteer a lot, come to the aid of others a lot...I am so proud when I see this. The selfish materialistic power hungry politicians and slanted media that passes for news is another thing...not helping at all...These guys say anything and it's taken as fact rather than spin. The harm this causes others is like a slow death vs fast we saw in Colorado. My heart goes out to those who lost loved ones...in the big scheme of things there is meaning, perhaps only to make us see the impact they had on their lives and appreciate it more. This is the world man has created, God just gives us a path to change it.

    July 25, 2012 at 2:38 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 with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.