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. jonat

    The only people that ever ask "where's GOD are liberals...everyone else knows better than to blame God for man's failures. We have free will...look it up

    December 27, 2012 at 3:44 pm |
    • sam stone

      way to make it a cheap partisan jab, jonat....

      how does freewill jibe with the concept of an omniscient god?

      December 27, 2012 at 7:25 pm |
    • james

      sam; you keep asking this question but do not seem to read the answers so if you think you have a God stopper please go to jw.org to have all your bible questions answered in a reasonable way. if anyone else wants to know what the Bible really teaches please go there also and keep an open mind, you may find something real good to fill it with. j

      December 27, 2012 at 9:14 pm |
    • the AnViL

      james – should people also keep an open mind when they peruse the long list of failed jehovas witnesses prophecies and predictions??


      December 27, 2012 at 10:23 pm |
    • sam stone

      james: i have not seen any answer to my question

      December 28, 2012 at 3:22 am |
    • sam stone

      james: i have seen no answer to my question, other than your sending me to a jw website. can you answer my question in your own words?

      December 28, 2012 at 3:39 am |
    • sam stone

      my bad.....i saw some blah, blah, blah answer from bill

      December 28, 2012 at 3:43 am |
    • james

      sam and anvil, you need to learn for yourself what Jehovah's Witnesses teach instead of parroting what someone else told you. There are many disgruntled JWs out there and they tell many stories but if they could not keep the faith it should not stop others from searching for themselves.

      December 28, 2012 at 12:18 pm |
    • james

      one more time sam. it seems you do not want an answer since you have been given many very good explanations to all of your allknowing questions. you do not have a Godstopper or even a challenger to truly spiritual people.you said you were looking for a reasonable Christian to discuss with but you do not offer an equal response to anyone. like I said before you are just wasting yours and others time.

      December 28, 2012 at 12:41 pm |
  2. Leslie

    Such precious children lost – and it is inspiring to hear of the brave school facilty that tried to save their lives. Our family is praying for those families.

    December 27, 2012 at 3:24 pm |
  3. William Demuth

    God was in the heart of the shooter.

    He was raised Christian, by a right wing gun nut.

    The only thing that surprises me is why anyone is surprised!

    December 27, 2012 at 1:33 pm |
    • True believer

      He is in all our hearts even yours, is up to us to accept His glory or not. If you do not and there is a place called heaven and one called hell you do know what your address will be. That is religion in a small dose for small minds learn more with the instruction book called The Bible, God loves us and He allowed His own Son Jesus to pay for our sins at the cross, I beg of you all do not let His sacrifice be in vain with your I'm so smart I can program my alarm on my cell way of thinking
      God bless you.

      December 27, 2012 at 1:44 pm |
    • sam stone

      true believer: his glory? he is nothing but a vituperative little punk. and you are a snivelling sycophant.....get back on your knees, punk

      December 27, 2012 at 7:29 pm |
  4. Corrie

    I have had this discussion with several people and all I can say is, God was trying to get our attention in Colorado and in Oregon, we didn't listen so this is what happens. Where were we before the massacre? Were we praising God and thanking him for everything he had given us? Nope...We wait till after the shootings and ask where were you God. When we should be asking ourselves where were we. You can't expect to live in a country that is so full of evil and God not answer. God has the power to show us who's God. The worst part is, it took losing innocent babies for us to cry out to God.

    It's so sad that people blame everything bad that happens on God. If God wanted to stop the Guy in Newtown, He would have. God created good and evil. We as a country have come together over this tragedy more so than we did over the electoin of our president. WHY???

    My heart breaks for the families in Connecticut. I was a teacher for 9 years and I can't imagine what they are going through. When life gets to hard to stand, KNEEL...God is always there we just have to acknowledge him.

    December 27, 2012 at 11:39 am |
    • sam stone

      "It's so sad that people blame everything bad that happens on God."

      "If God wanted to stop the Guy in Newtown, He would have."

      So, god did want to stop the guy, but we cannot blame him?

      "God created...evil."

      But he isn't to blame?

      December 27, 2012 at 11:48 am |
    • sam stone

      Also, why do you feel this country is "full of evil"?

      December 27, 2012 at 11:57 am |
    • MirtaMont

      Evil is the absence of good. God is good. People want God out of schools (no praying), the pledge of allegiance, and so on. God gave us free will to choose. People agreed to keep out God from schools, etc. When one makes a decision like this, the hedge of protection (God) is gone. Evil is more prevalent and has the upper hand. God is not to blame. We made a choice based on our free will. Those beautiful kids automatically will go to heaven.

      December 27, 2012 at 1:26 pm |
    • Moby Schtick


      I am amazed at the stupidity and horrifying logic in your post. Firstly "we" didn't "kick god out of school." No, we don't force kids to chant the name of one of the 2,000 gods humanity has believed in, but they're free to pray to him or worship him in any way that doesn't stop them from their normal school activities. Secondly, god's not much of one for free will when he allows the shooter to get all the free will he wants but doesn't allow the children and the teachers to get the free will they want to not be killed. Thirdly, if your god is such an azzhole that he allows little children to be killed because he's not getting enough attention in certain public buildings, then he's as big a jerk as the shooter.

      December 27, 2012 at 1:41 pm |
    • True believer

      What we learn when we read His book is clear the devil has already lost the battle, it is us that have to reap the profit of victory. What is wrong with most people is that they let the world with all the evil in it invade our given salvation. Just accept Jesus and live a God fearing live, the benefit will be ours, If we believe. If there is no heaven or hell then no big thing we lost out, BUT if there is and we chose wrong I PITY THE FOOL! Me and my house will serve GOD

      December 27, 2012 at 1:55 pm |
    • Eric G

      @True Believer: Pascal's wager. No points for you this round.

      December 27, 2012 at 2:00 pm |
  5. End Religion

    Religion is in its death throes.


    December 27, 2012 at 11:06 am |
    • james

      did not watch but want to let you know that you are right that religion as we know it today with the hypocrisy that goes with it will soon be done away with when the gov'ts turn on them and bring them to nothing. then only the true believers and lovers of the creator will be left to worship with spirit and truth. j

      December 27, 2012 at 1:51 pm |
  6. What a load .......

    Where is God? Same place it has always been, in your imagination. That is where it belongs.

    December 27, 2012 at 10:40 am |
    • True believer

      What is amazing is that God loves you even though you do not, however when the time come He will know you and will not open His arms to receive you, you do know where to go (No pun intended)

      December 27, 2012 at 1:59 pm |
  7. What a load .......

    Where is God? Same place it has always been, in your imagination.

    December 27, 2012 at 10:39 am |
  8. Louie

    He is in the healing. Hes hold and comforting all these children and heros who were lost. Do not grieve for them but for the healing of thier familys. God bless

    December 27, 2012 at 10:36 am |
  9. Just curious

    Why does this discussion exist?

    December 27, 2012 at 5:53 am |
    • sam stone

      to bring traffic to cnn.
      cnn uses traffic to set billing rates to their advertisers
      traffic makes cnn money

      December 27, 2012 at 6:14 am |
    • james

      sam, you finally got one right and i thought you were only here for the entertainment. j

      December 27, 2012 at 10:05 am |
    • sam stone

      james....glad i am entertaining. i am here to find a reasonable christian. i may yet find one

      December 27, 2012 at 10:19 am |
    • james

      sam, you will not find one more than I believe I am but the last time we discussed the subject you said you were only here for the entertainment and so my earlier comment but if you want to discuss the bible, religion, christianity ( true or false) I would love to continue the discussion. let me know and I will be around today and enjoy the subject. j

      December 27, 2012 at 11:49 am |
    • sam stone

      james: thanks or the offer.

      how are free will and an omniscient god compatible?

      December 27, 2012 at 12:35 pm |
    • Bill Deacon

      Counters reconceptualizing free will

      God can know in advance what I will do, because free will is to be understood only as freedom from coercion, and anything further is an illusion.
      The sovereignty of God, existing within a free agent, provides strong inner compulsions toward a course of action (calling), and the power of choice (election). The actions of a human are thus determined by a human acting on relatively strong or weak urges and their own relative power to choose.

      Counters reconceptualizing omniscience

      God can know in advance what I will do, even though free will in the fullest sense of the phrase does exist, because God somehow has full knowledge of future contingents – that is, knowledge of how agents would freely act in any given instance.
      God's Omnipotence includes the power to set a limit on what can be known, and thus his own knowledge. Moreover, God chooses to know and predetermine some things, but not others. This allows for humankind's free moral choices for those things that God chose not to foreordain.
      "It is not possible for God to know the result of a free human choice". The results of a human's choice is thus not included in God's omniscience (understood here as "knowledge of everything that can be known") any more than the supposed 'knowledge' of what a square circle would look like.
      In line with presentism, God knows everything that ever happened, and that is happening, but cannot know the future, because it doesn't exist. Because it is not possible to know something that doesn't exist, not knowing the future does not affect God's omniscience. In the same way, because it is not possible to make triangles with four angles, not being able to make triangles with four angles does not affect God's omnipotence.

      December 27, 2012 at 1:04 pm |
    • hawaiiguest


      That was a very circular way to say your gods power and knowledge have limits according to logic. What you forget to mention is with those limits, you cannot claim omnipotence or omniscience.

      December 27, 2012 at 1:07 pm |
    • james

      not bad bill but without the history of creation and what God did with it none of this matters. the creator gave free will to all, spirit and flesh. one spirit (later named satan) challenged God by calling him a liar. the flesh (eve and adam) chose to believe and so chose their god. they were allowed time to show what they could do with what they chose. they have failed miserably. time is almost up and the all powerful creator, being omniscient when he wants to be (VIP) has allowed man to govern himself for the amount of time needed. soon he will take his great power and begin ruling. His omniscience is proven by what he claimed and what he has shown. Only hindsight for humans proves this but history written in advance (prophecy) shows that the creator has the ability to exhibit this to us for now. this subject can go on and on so I will stop here for digestion and meditation for thought.

      December 27, 2012 at 1:34 pm |
    • sam stone

      "free will is to be understood only as freedom from coercion,"

      there can be more definitions than that

      December 27, 2012 at 3:34 pm |
    • james

      sam; you keep asking this question but do not seem to read the answers so if you think you have a God stopper please go to jw.org to have all your bible questions answered in a reasonable way. if anyone else wants to know what the Bible really teaches please go there also and keep an open mind, you may find something real good to fill it with. j

      December 27, 2012 at 9:09 pm |
  10. steve klingensmith

    why i am better than god....i would sacrifice all that i am all i have to save to protect to help my son. .this is what it means to be a good parent.people call god "our father" yet he fails this test miserablly. he didnt protect he didnt save he didnt help these kids. what exactly has he done to deserve our high praise

    December 27, 2012 at 4:13 am |
  11. 2357

    God is everywhere, like gravity, except he veils himself from the hellbound.

    December 26, 2012 at 10:21 pm |
    • sam stone

      gravity can be measured. god cannot.

      fvck you and your petulant punk god

      December 26, 2012 at 11:37 pm |
    • steve klingensmith

      so you are saying all these children were hellbound?

      December 27, 2012 at 4:00 am |
    • Which God?

      @2357. I've been to hell, they sent me back for you. If there is one, I'll see you there. Your pride will be your downfall, azzhole.

      December 27, 2012 at 10:30 am |
  12. Candy.

    "...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..." - The last things they want to hear are "theological questions". How can you expect these "religious leaders" to provide anything answers when they themselves know as much (as little) as the rest of us. The fact that they've studied the Bible and religious "research papers" hundreds of times does not make them any smarter about something or someone that exist only through "faith".

    December 26, 2012 at 10:01 pm |
  13. Satanluv

    god is utter nonsense

    December 26, 2012 at 9:28 pm |
  14. was bline, but now I see

    18And Noah went forth, and his sons, and his wife, and his sons' wives with him:

    19Every beast, every creeping thing, and every fowl, and whatsoever creeps upon the earth, after their kinds, went forth out of the ark.

    God's Covenant With Noah

    20And Noah built an altar unto the LORD; and took of every clean beast, and of every clean fowl, and offered burnt offerings on the altar.

    21And the LORD smelled a sweet odor; and the LORD said in his heart, I will not again curse the ground any more for man's sake; for the imagination of man's heart is evil from his youth; neither will I again smite any more everything living, as I have done.

    22While the earth remains, seedtime and harvest, and cold and heat, and summer and winter, and day and night shall not cease.

    Genesis 8:18-22

    IOW, God cleansed the earth two times in an effort to get rid of the evil therin. AFter the second time, He said that never again would He do this for mankind is evil at their core. IOW, what's would the point be? He already did as you are asking (get rid of the evil) twice. It doesn't work. Thereafter, mankind was left to it's own devices until the appointed time.

    December 26, 2012 at 9:05 pm |
    • Hear This

      What a powerless, stupid god.

      December 26, 2012 at 11:43 pm |
  15. Pravda Today

    Surprisingly good article though. Makes me think there is still hope for CNN...

    December 26, 2012 at 9:04 pm |
  16. Pravda Today

    Only liberals would do absolutely everything they can to get God out of our schools and then have the nerve to ask where he was during the shooting. You are blaming this whole thing on guns and God for not doing anything. What about the shooter? Should he take ANY responsibility for this??

    December 26, 2012 at 8:59 pm |
    • GMAN

      Your creator created a world in which evil like this is possible.

      December 26, 2012 at 10:04 pm |
    • sam stone

      god is not being taken out of our schools, ORGANIZED PRAYER is.

      why is it that the pious need to lie to make a point? is their god so weak it needs government endorsement?

      December 26, 2012 at 11:45 pm |
    • Spirit1

      How is it, that all of you can flip a switch on your wall, and BELIEVE that you will turn on a light,
      but you find it SO difficult to believe, that when you call on Him, He is there for you?
      I am tired of those who refuse to allow the practice of prayer in our schools, at Sporting Events,
      and in the Halls of Congress. We rid our schools, sporting events and everything we profess
      on our money "In God we Trust" and then the same morons who fight to keep prayer and morality
      out of our lives, have the GALL to ask "Where was God?"
      God is not going to PUSH Himself on you. He gave you free will, and He knocks on your heart
      (the door to your soul) and if you don't answer the door, He leaves you to your own devices.
      Some of you need to turn up your HEARING AIDS, and then you won't have to ASK that Question!!!!

      December 27, 2012 at 1:35 am |
    • tallulah13

      Spirit1, the second that you can prove your god exists you will have some credibility. Until such time, you are just another religious bully. There is a reason religion is not a function of public schools, and that is to ensure the rights of ALL Americans, not just your particular cult.

      December 27, 2012 at 2:26 am |
    • sam stone

      Spirit1: No one is trying to keep morality or prayer out of your life, so f you and your persecution complex.

      This is about ORGANIZED PRAYER. If you cannot understand this, perhaps you should look in a mirror before you call others morons

      December 27, 2012 at 5:41 am |
    • sam stone

      While we are at it, Blowhard1, explain to us how free will is consistent with with an omniscient god. Until you can do that, boy, go home and get your shinebox

      December 27, 2012 at 5:43 am |
  17. Srinivas

    Its absolutely horrible to think that innocent children were killed. I can't imagine what those little angels had to go through. This has to stop!

    December 26, 2012 at 7:10 pm |
    • lol??

      angels? That's not Christian doctrine.

      December 26, 2012 at 8:23 pm |
    • Captain Obvious

      A belief system is subject to individual opinion.

      December 26, 2012 at 10:15 pm |
  18. Manny Fortuna

    Why blamed God for the massacre? God answered back, "Why do you possess guns? What for? I didn't asked you to? Why do you deny God now and banned Him in Schools and in govt.? Americans are more materialistic now. You cannot fight God.

    December 26, 2012 at 1:21 pm |
    • sam stone

      Manny: God is not banned in schools, ORGANIZED PRAYER is. Why do the faithful have such a hard time with this concept? Is it because feeling persecuted makes you feel closer to Jesus?

      December 26, 2012 at 2:16 pm |
    • tallulah13

      If your god exists and commanded the slaughter of children because religion is not a function of our schools, then your god is a whiny, spoiled brat and doesn't deserve worship. But I don't think he exists, so I don't blame him, and I certainly don't ask where he was.

      December 27, 2012 at 2:29 am |
  19. Correctlycenter

    "Be careful! Watch out for attacks from the devil, your great enemy. He prowls around like a roaring lion, looking for some victim to devour." 1 Peter 5:8

    Those who tend to question: "Where is God?" probably don't know much about God in the first place. They can know more about the Lord if they wish by reading the word of God, the holy bible. God bless...

    December 25, 2012 at 2:56 pm |
    • sam stone

      More like translated, edited Iron Age hearsay

      December 26, 2012 at 2:18 pm |
    • D

      It was reading the Bible in it's entirety that led me to disbelief.

      December 26, 2012 at 3:12 pm |
    • Pravda Today

      D, next time read it in a language that you understand. Or maybe one written in crayon?

      December 26, 2012 at 9:01 pm |
    • GMAN

      Pravda, try reading skeptics annotated bible available online. There are HUNDREDS of contradictions and falsehoods. Do that and you'll agree that the bible was written by humans who were inspired by each other but not divinely guided.

      December 26, 2012 at 10:09 pm |
    • tallulah13

      If you want to know about Zeus, read the Iliad. There is as much evidence to support the existence of Zeus as there is evidence for the christian god. In fact there is an equal absence of proof for ALL gods.

      December 27, 2012 at 2:31 am |
  20. Pet Peeve

    Cnn belief blog. Categorization of human beings is a cognitive error.

    That is all.

    December 24, 2012 at 3:32 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.