My Take: This is where God was in Aurora
Twelve crosses comprise a makeshift memorial across the street from the movie theater where last week’s mass shooting happened.
July 28th, 2012
10:00 PM ET

My Take: This is where God was in Aurora

Editor’s note: Rob Brendle is the founding pastor of Denver United Church, a former associate pastor at New Life Church in Colorado Springs, and the author of "In the Meantime: The Practice of Proactive Waiting."

By Rob Brendle, Special to CNN

I held her hand as she died.

Her family had come to a church where I was pastoring that morning, a routine Sunday. A thousand things would never have crossed their minds as they drove through Colorado Springs toward New Life Church’s enormous concrete worship center - including the prospect of being assaulted in their minivan by a young man with a high-powered rifle.

Later that day, we were all at a local hospital. The girl whose hand I held, Rachel, had already lost a sister at the scene. Her father was down the hall in critical condition and her mother was coming undone in the waiting room, but she didn’t know any of it. Rachel lay unconscious for a couple of hours more in the ICU.

And then she died. Her family had come to church together that morning, and by nightfall they were shattered.

That was almost five years ago.

The movie theater shooting in Aurora, Colorado shook me and the rest of the nation. Reading about the young and unsuspecting victims took me back to the dying girl in the ICU who had come to my church that day in 2007, in a an incident that left the two girls dead and injured several others. Back to the Columbine massacre a decade earlier that horrified the world and traumatized Colorado. And back to the aching questions that accompanied those previous incidents: Why did this happen? Where was God in all of it? How could a loving God allow this?

Where was God in Aurora? 7 responses

We pastors face the unenviable task of being asked to answer for God. Most people ask the big questions in times of irresolution, times when satisfying answers are scarce.

Let’s be clear: there are no easy answers to the deepest questions of suffering. Libraries overflow with the volumes that have been written to address these questions. Centuries of philosophers, pundits and preachers have reflected on the existence of evil, the meaning of pain and the role of God in suffering.

I won’t begin to recount all of their ruminations here. But here’s what I think.

God is the author of life and the originator of good. He distinguished humankind from among his creation with faculties like reason, emotion, dexterity and choice. Scripture teaches that God made people in his image. Set apart from all the rest of his creatures, we were endowed with the capacity to know our Creator and ennobled with the ability to choose him. So singularly did God love humans that he gave us this ultimate gift.

Aurora survivor to alleged shooter: ‘I forgive you’

The capacity to choose God and goodness came with the commensurate ability to choose evil. Is it loving to force his creation to follow his order, or to teach it and leave the creature to choose? It would seem that God came to the same conclusion that America’s founders did many millennia later: compulsory virtue is no virtue at all.

But Scripture also teaches that God is totally in control. He is all-powerful and all-knowing and he is willing and able to intervene in human events. So there is a gap between human choice and divine foreknowledge, a gap that transcends understanding and that helps define God in my mind.

The debate over this theological tension has persisted for centuries, and I don’t aim to settle it here. Let me suggest simply that God, in his sovereignty, has chosen to make our decisions meaningful. Consequently, much of what happens on earth neither conforms to nor results from his preference. There are at least four influences on human events: God’s will, to be sure; but also the will of Satan, our adversary; peoples’ choices, for better or for worse; and natural law (gravity, collision, combustion, and the like).

It is difficult to know which force causes the circumstances that devastate us. But it is enough to know that God need not be responsible for them.

The man who made the Aurora crosses

Much of the internal gridlock around tragedy is because suffering is foreign to us. This foreignness is peculiarly Western and modern. Most of the world, for most of the world’s history, has known tragedy and trauma in abundance.

You don’t get nearly the same consternation in Burundi or Burma, because suffering is normal to them. God and hard times coexist intuitively there. For us, though, God has become Anesthetist-in-Chief. To believe in him is to be excused from bad things. He is our panacea for the woes of life.

The God of the Bible promises no exemption from suffering. In fact, he all but promises suffering. He does not suggest that his followers won’t go through fire, but rather that we won’t burn up. Mostly he promises to be there with us, to comfort and encourage us and renew our strength. God grieves with us, and he grows us into good people in the process.

CNN’s Belief Blog: The faith angles behind the biggest stories

Where was God in Aurora? He was on the lawn in front of the Civic Building as thousands gathered in solidarity, hope, and love at a packed prayer vigil last Sunday. He was in University Hospital as neurosurgeons groped for synonyms for miraculous.

He was in the outpouring of compassion at a victim’s funeral and in the passionate call for unity from a resolute councilwoman and at the bedside vigil of a wounded victim’s church community. Redemption has only begun in Aurora, and already God is everywhere. Their will be beauty once this story is written that overshadows and transcends the ashes.

Jesus started his ministry by declaring, “I am the light of the world,” and ended it with “you are the light of the world.”

What God our cities will see is what we show them. From the beginning, light has shone in the darkness - he ordered it that way. And the deeper the darkness, the brighter the light will appear. Where is God in Aurora? He is shining brightly from the hearts of his people.

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Rob Brendle.

- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: Christianity • Church • God • Opinion

soundoff (4,566 Responses)
  1. ObamaJoe

    Why Hollywood allows killing people in a movie????????

    It's just a movie,,,,,,,,,,,,,,

    to God ,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,human killing human on earth is just a movie too,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,maybe,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,

    Maybe he made these kind of movie to entertain his kids too,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,

    July 30, 2012 at 1:50 pm |
  2. Oldwhiteman

    If god was in all those places you list in the last few paragraphs doing all those good things, he must have been with the killer the last few months as he planned this heinous act and standing next to him in the theater where 70+ people were shot. If a person was standing there and had the power to stop the guy and didn't bother, he would be committing a sin of omission, but because it is your god doing it...well a few 'shining hearts' justifies DOING NOTHING. Makes zero sense.

    July 30, 2012 at 1:48 pm |
  3. ObamaJoe

    Wat is God ?

    Who is God ?

    Where is God ?

    When God was born ?

    Is he White or Black 🙂

    That's questions of human developing Brain 😀

    July 30, 2012 at 1:44 pm |

      And who are his parents? He must of came from somewhere, don't you think?

      July 30, 2012 at 1:52 pm |
    • ObamaJoe

      No,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,all Gods are man,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,because he made human according to their own image,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,

      ,,,,,,,,,,,,,,so it seems there is no parents for God,,,,,,,,,,,,,,

      July 30, 2012 at 2:04 pm |

      And that is why it is too unbelievable for me. Sounds like a Sci-Fi thriller. Even a molecule has a beginning.

      July 30, 2012 at 3:39 pm |
  4. Ragon

    I believe that God is an alien, yes an ALIEN. From other planet, he is God and he created us. Every people need to believe in something, believe in God or believe in not god, but at the end we are trying to believe in something and keep living....

    July 30, 2012 at 1:44 pm |
    • ObamaJoe

      Who created Alien ?

      July 30, 2012 at 1:45 pm |
    • Rational Libertarian

      Another alien.

      July 30, 2012 at 1:47 pm |
    • Doc Vestibule

      The Founders live in the worhole, beyond space and time.
      Only the Emmisarry can communicate with them.
      Praise Sisko!

      July 30, 2012 at 1:53 pm |
    • ObamaJoe

      What is living ???????????

      July 30, 2012 at 1:54 pm |
    • Ragon

      We may are an experiment where god decided to let us live our lives with freedoom. But at the end we ended up choosing a leader beliving in him ( another human like us but with the benefit of a luxury living, like our dear presidents of any country) sometime I ask why i have to follow these stupid corrupted civilization, but the truth is there is nowhere to run and live free...

      fast example of what we can be...
      We can be like God's pet, you love your pet, you protect him, etc
      We may be a pet, but not really a pet it is just a comparison. Like us having ants like pet. Our god of couRse is way way more advance and if he decide to show up then whats we all gonna do? This: Please take me with you and let me fly your airplane!!!!! Or take me to the space!!!!! Or give a better ADN, superpower, etc...Lol!!!

      July 30, 2012 at 2:01 pm |
    • Nato

      Suppose you are right...Alien created all...how does it comport to them controlling our daily lives, and is omnipotent, omnipresent and all wise once they go back to their planet. So is it possible that alein gods gave us god qualities....remember Man was made in the image of god...that is we are made to reflect god qualities just as a mirror reflect your qualities. Those of us who have a "god complex" control thing. Those who do not are left in poverty, ridicule and slothfulness. Are you then saying there is no imaginary existence in the sky. If aliens are God, they are not just creators but also controllers.

      July 30, 2012 at 2:02 pm |
    • ArthurP

      You are so right. A man has to believe in something. Well I believe I will have another drink. Oh waiter !!!.

      July 30, 2012 at 2:04 pm |
  5. ArthurP

    Being a God fearing Christian who reads his Bible and communes with God the Father. I asked him the other day 'Lord are guns the tools of the Devil" and shortly thereafter he answered my question by allowing the tools and the messenger of the Devil kill all those innocents.

    July 30, 2012 at 1:43 pm |
    • ObamaJoe

      Interesting,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,but is it reproducible ???????

      July 30, 2012 at 1:46 pm |
    • MarkinFL

      That would imply that they are the tools of god.

      July 30, 2012 at 1:49 pm |
    • ArthurP


      Easily, every day in fact.

      July 30, 2012 at 2:05 pm |
    • ObamaJoe

      don't believe,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,

      July 30, 2012 at 2:06 pm |
  6. Bishop Hairy Palms

    The only one who got to exercise his "free will" in this scenario is the lunatic killer of these innocent men, women, and children.

    When are we going to stop making excuses for our imaginary, absentee, sky daddy?

    July 30, 2012 at 1:42 pm |
    • ObamaJoe

      When ,,,,,,,,,,, game over,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,you will find it's just a TV game in God's home,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,

      July 30, 2012 at 1:47 pm |
    • voxx

      Hummm ... their must be a God because everyone wants to blame him..

      July 30, 2012 at 1:58 pm |
    • ObamaJoe

      yeah,,,,,,,,,,,,,,just like President of America,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,

      July 30, 2012 at 2:07 pm |
  7. JayJ7

    When you let go of a ball a million times and it drops every time, you have not "proven" that the next time you let it go it will not fly up. When religion tells you that the physical rules that we live by a million times a day are false, you have not "proven" religion wrong, but you are a fool to believe it. The truth we know with odds of billions to one is that religion is a primitive, ignorant, and lazy way to try and understand the universe.

    July 30, 2012 at 1:40 pm |
    • whomeee

      the problem with religion is that people twist it for their own benefit. that to me makes a lot of people hypocrites. Believe what you want I guess.

      July 30, 2012 at 1:46 pm |
  8. Ticktockman0

    Yet more wan tripe from another representative of religion. If there is a god, and that god is all-powerful and all-knowing, yet allows tragedies like these to happen over and over again, then that god is ultimately responsible for all evil. Not exactly a deity worthy of worship. Far from finding comfort from such ramblings, I find that they diminish human suffering. The sooner we can stop wasting our time and energy on such questions as posed in this essay, the sooner perhaps we might use our brains to address reality and hopefully find ways to minimize the occurrence of such tragedies.

    But, to each their own.

    July 30, 2012 at 1:40 pm |
  9. Brian P

    Why do people ask about why god allowed this or that?

    Some say god gave man free will so he has no way to stop it. In that case, why even mention him at all? If he has no role in events then why pray for him to do whatever for the dead or do whatever for the living or injured?

    There is no such thing as god except as a figure head to empty your pockets at church. When will the sheep finally realize that god isn't going to ever intervene in peoples lives for good things or bad? I will goes as far as saying that a god created people, but that is the extent of his involvement of us. I'm pretty certain he has better things to do then to worry about your aunt is sick, you lost your job, or how many people some nut with a gun killed.

    In thousands of years not one confirmed sighting of this dude.

    July 30, 2012 at 1:40 pm |
    • whomeee

      I believe you are correct. I feel people are not thinking for themselves and that they have been brainwashed into believing in a higher power to manipulate them into being anything but themselves. I can't stand the religious robots out there. 88% of the U.S. believes in a higher power. There is not proof of god or jesus. Just a storybook passed on generation to generation.

      July 30, 2012 at 1:49 pm |
  10. Ragon

    Human kind is already messed up, overpopulation, not more family values, family morals, honesty, respect, too many corruption, etc
    And all of these help the evil play its role. For example, corruption benefits somepeople but not other people, then those nonbenefited people feel the need to kill, to steal. But if it was not corruption then there was not need not kill, steal, etc.
    you decide.
    We are all messed up. Even me.
    All these civilization we are living in, someday will banish like the older civilization

    Dont be surprise if any time on, something may happen and million and millions will die.
    Like the Black Death, history repeat it self and the bad thing is, we still do not learn......

    July 30, 2012 at 1:39 pm |
    • plaster city

      Why don't you finish. We still do not learn... what? Use the reply button please.

      July 30, 2012 at 1:41 pm |
  11. Chris

    Where was God?

    How about all of the times when things like this DONT Happen?

    July 30, 2012 at 1:38 pm |
    • plaster city

      I guess it's real hard work keep'in everything goin smooth-like. Sometimes things just slip. Oh-well.

      July 30, 2012 at 1:39 pm |
    • MarkinFL

      Well, for a limited deity that is not omniscient and omnipotent that is a reasonable answer. On the other hand these sort of things are relatively rare because most people are no psychotic and resist the urge to kill their neighbors. It does not require a god to keep most people semi-civilized, the rewards of a cooperative society are good enough for most.

      July 30, 2012 at 1:46 pm |
    • cedar rapids

      never been a day where something like this didnt happen somewhere.

      July 30, 2012 at 1:47 pm |
  12. just sayin


    July 30, 2012 at 1:37 pm |
  13. higgs boson

    rob needs to remember that jesus is not only "the light of the world", but is also the primary preacher of eternal torture and torment...what sort of person would worship and love such a being...what would that say about the morality of that person

    July 30, 2012 at 1:37 pm |
    • BRC

      IT always amazes me that Christians can't see what in any other situation is a protection scam-
      Believer "God saves us from Hell!"
      Not "God's the one who condemned you to Hell in the first place"
      B "I deserved it, I sin."
      N "God decided what was a sin, and "designed" you so that you could and would do them"
      B "He scrificed his only Son for us"
      N "He was his Son, and he "scrificed" him back up to Heaven, also, you're still going to hell if you don't believe in him, so not very effective for a sacrifice"
      B "But it fulfilled all of the requirements of the old laws."
      N "God made the old laws, he could have just said 'I changed my mind, don't do it anymore"
      B "Well, we'll see when Jesus returns, I hope you like heat"
      N "I certainly do when I'm sleeping in Sunday mornings, warm and comfy"

      July 30, 2012 at 1:47 pm |
  14. Dexter


    July 30, 2012 at 1:36 pm |
  15. Brandon

    The correct answer was "in our imagination". Our society will never grow if we continue to seek answers from fanciful deities instead of taking the responsibility on ourselves.

    There are no gods, only humanity. We are the judge, jury, and executioner of our own tales. The only answers you'll find is by looking in a mirror and asking yourself what kind of society do you want to hand down to your children.

    Gazing to the heavens will only sun blind you to the world in front of you.

    July 30, 2012 at 1:36 pm |
    • Mass Debater

      The real question that has been asked and answered several times thoughout history is: What God can I invent that will proclaim me and my family as super special and demand everyone else bow down to me and give me all of their stuff?...

      I have yet to hear of an invented God that had no need for worldly goods and never asked for it's followers to give to it's representatives on earth to show their generosity of faith. Funny how that works out.

      July 30, 2012 at 1:43 pm |
  16. Ditka

    God... a made up thing that helped when we didn't have answers to the big questions in times way way past. Believe if you want, there is no harm in it, for the most part, but let's be honest. It's an outdated ideal. There was no god in the theater. Just a crazy man with some guns, and people who were unfortunate to be there at the same time.
    Sad stuff.

    July 30, 2012 at 1:35 pm |
    • KMFJ


      Does it just suck being you? You have nothing to live for and nothing to believe in. I feel bad for you.

      July 30, 2012 at 1:57 pm |
    • Who invited me?

      It is you who needs the pity for believing in mythical beings, and beleiving that it gives you special purpose.
      Many of us have no such false beleifs and live happy and fulfilling lives.

      July 30, 2012 at 2:00 pm |
  17. SSampson

    Please – Imaginary people are in their imaginary land..... If they lived – God 'saved' them – if they died 'God felt it was their time'

    God has a'Plan' – God works in mysterious ways – God gave man free will -= yada yada – they contradict each other –

    Religion is nothing more than a bunch of so-called answers for every possibility – likethe fortune teller that knows full well that some information can be generally applied to almost anyone....

    Where was God in Colorado – The SAME place he is always – nowhere – not here, not in Sudan – not in the Congo – not in North Korea – not Syria – not in Rwanda.... It certainly isn't in Europe or Asia anywhere..... and the list goes on....

    God may make you feel better because you now have someone to use as an excuse – avoidance – but using imaginary people to avoid reality is just another excuse to avoid actually trying to solve the problems in the world –

    I am SO tired of this planet being dominated by people who beleive in imaginary beings – and fightong over whose imagination is the real one.... Christians, Muslims and Jews (etc) – all nuts – all killing and oppressing... 'in god's name'

    And no – I didn't get up on the wrong side today – I am just tired of being polite to people that will never grasp reality regardless of what you say...

    July 30, 2012 at 1:33 pm |
  18. V

    Madtown ... You are most welcome... but understand it is your own desire to follow someone or something that knows all, caused by uneasy feeling of possibility that we may be all alone with no one watching over us. I think that is what drives people to faith of some kind. And of-course then faith is controlled, manipulated and boundaries are established by few to drive their own motives and purge questioning.

    July 30, 2012 at 1:31 pm |
    • Nato

      Faith is also marketed....there is profit in Faith...beleive that you are going to hell and drop your money in the basket.

      July 30, 2012 at 1:35 pm |
  19. Jimbojo

    HA! The same place he always has been: IN YOUR HEAD!

    July 30, 2012 at 1:31 pm |
    • ObamaJoe

      Wrong,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,in your head ,,,,,,,,it's your brain ,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,

      July 30, 2012 at 1:42 pm |
  20. xmxm

    God was busy forgiving the sins of pastors who used the hypothetical term "God" to abuse children.

    July 30, 2012 at 1:29 pm |
    • Ur maker

      you were probably molested right???so now every one affiliated with God did the same?Guilty by association? your argument is Nebulous and shows again how wrong u are. when one thing goes wrong it must be the whole that is tainted, instead of realizing there are many terrible people mascarading as holy people and u just got duped by one

      July 30, 2012 at 1:38 pm |
    • Mass Debater

      "you were probably molested right???so now every one affiliated with God did the same?"

      Everyone who is trying to convince others of their diety and not just practicing their own religious beliefs privately is a spiritual r a p i s t. They step out their doors each day with the full intent of unzipping their self righteousness and stuffing their putrid slimy sausage of faith in any unprotected or unsuspecting unbelievers ear hole. If thats not r a p e then I don't know what is.

      July 30, 2012 at 1:52 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.