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. estil pruitt

    god lets the devil take kids life mostly because of grown up sin . he said he would get his number if he had 2 take them from the breast beleive me grown ups have went to [[HELL]]In a basket gay rights ///women pastors god will not allow this to happen he is getting his num the great day is coming then all these leaders low lifes will see the wrath o god face to face

    December 31, 2012 at 9:04 am |
  2. Happy New Year Everybody

    No Need for religions to say a thing they should be answering the statement below!
    ORIGIN OF LIFE: Hypothesis Traces First Protocells Back to Emergence of Cell Membrane Bioenergetics
    Dec. 20, 2012 — A coherent pathway – which starts from no more than rocks, water and carbon dioxide and leads to the emergence of the strange bio-energetic properties of living cells – has been traced for the first time in a major hypothesis paper in Cell this week

    December 31, 2012 at 7:11 am |
    • james

      once again science backs up and agrees with the Bible.

      January 1, 2013 at 9:53 am |
  3. mike

    God in a nuttshell: Yeah, soo umm, you people are not worshipping me enough, so I'm going to let 20 innocent kids get killed, yeah. Aren't I awesome?

    So please tell me, why does anyone still believe in that stupid lie that is god? God had a master plan to let 20 kids die, any parent who still believes in god after this shooting is just dumb, truly worthy of endless pitty.

    December 31, 2012 at 3:30 am |
    • saggyroy

      Everything he does is great and for a purpose: Football players scoring touchdowns, actors winning awards, NASCAR drivers winning a race, U.S. invading Iraq......

      December 31, 2012 at 7:56 am |
  4. liberalcat

    some people need drugs or booze. some need god, whatever gets you through life. good luck

    December 31, 2012 at 1:49 am |
  5. Chris Hrris

    He has been banned from your schools in prayer. Think about this. Maybe its a tradgic wake up call.

    Very sad but he has a plan.

    December 31, 2012 at 1:37 am |
    • Moby Schtick

      Holy sh!t that's one disgusting azzhole god!! So, your god doesn't get his ego stroked enough times in certain public places and he allows twenty small children to get shot and killed? How many times do the little kiddies need to repeat his name? Do they have to do it on their knees? In every room or just home room at the beginning of the day? Wait. nevermind..

      Yuck!!! I would never serve that kind of disgusting, twisted fvckwad!!

      December 31, 2012 at 1:53 am |
    • saggyroy

      So what is this plan? If you can't tell me, then there must not be one.

      December 31, 2012 at 8:01 am |
    • saggyroy

      He isn't banned from movie theaters.....

      December 31, 2012 at 8:04 am |
  6. liberalcat

    god spoke to me once in 1990 when i turned 21 on my way to the bar for the first time.
    he said this is not for me. i got wasted and went home with an older woman. was the
    best birthday of my life.

    December 31, 2012 at 1:37 am |
  7. martin


    December 30, 2012 at 11:23 pm |
  8. jimb

    Revelation 6
    3 When the Lamb opened the second seal, I heard the second living creature say, “Come!” 4 Then another horse came out, a fiery red one. Its rider was given power to take peace from the earth and to make people kill each other.

    December 30, 2012 at 11:13 pm |
    • saggyroy

      NO ! Not Mr. Ed! He was always a good horse. Sure he caused a bit of mischief in his day, but heck, what horse doesn't?

      December 31, 2012 at 7:59 am |
  9. Selina...

    God is ever so real...the bible says in hosea that my people perish for lack of knowledge..We as people when we have no understanding we are truely perishing..Sandy Hook was indeed a tragic event and i was personally touched in my heart because the bible says we are all brothers and sister threw christ Jesus, so when a person is in pain we as a people in whole hurt..The bible says the Devil is the God of this world, pain is everywhere but the promise is in GOD..If u dont have GOD u will not be able to understand God...if u have no love for GOD u will not be able to recieve his love..Its easy to blame GOD when u dont know of him..he feels as we feel...The bible says Jesus wept...so we will weap also..The bible says GOD so love the world that he gave his only begotten son...So we would have a way of escape from this cruel world..Who would want to live forever here suffering really think about it...????? We have free choice but as long as the GOD of this world is going to and fro seeking whom he may devour understand that the world will never be free..One thing i rest assure is that those precious babies on that day went directly to heaven to rest in God's arms having to never worry about a debate if GOD is real...When God created us he seen that it was good and it pleased him to have us..Man's curosity as in the garden of eden has caused the fall of man..For the devil comes to kill steal and destroy but Jesus came that we may have life and that more abundantly..God bless u all...

    December 30, 2012 at 10:53 pm |
    • pockets

      This is discussing an imaginary sky-god that does not and never has existed. If you want to see a "god", look at Hubble. Science will prove soon that 'god' does not exist, and religion does not know how to deal with that coming.

      December 30, 2012 at 10:59 pm |
    • kenny

      can you give some examples of where god intervenes and where he doesn't? it seems pretty clear he doesn't do anything. people do things. good and bad. sometimes because they THINK god wants them to do things. good and bad. i would say the IDEA of god makes more people do more good things... of course there is always 9/11... and then there is the iraq war... bush probably thinks it was a good thing to send thousands of soldiers to their death and kill 10s of thousands of iraqi's to get rid of 1 bad guy.... was it..... WAS IT!!!!!!!!!!!!

      December 30, 2012 at 11:26 pm |
  10. crixus79

    This shouldn't even be up for discussion. I'm pretty sure that if there is a supreme creator, that force exists in another dimension and is probably aware of our little species but does not intervene in our lives. We all have free will; we can either do very good or very bad things. It's within in all of our hearts and souls. It really bugs me when these religious paranoids come out after a tragedy and try to point the finger at an imaginary old man in the sky who watches over our every move.

    December 30, 2012 at 10:51 pm |
  11. Knowingness

    If God weren't around, the situation could have been a LOT worse. Maybe 40 children could have been killed! God did what he could, but he gave us the gift of all gifts; free will. We are supposed to use our free will to create good in this world. But some people are just truly evil. Don't ask where is God. Ask where the mental rehabilitation center is. Be thankful more children weren't killed.

    December 30, 2012 at 10:21 pm |
    • Oblap

      Yeah, or maybe a BILLION kids might have been killed. Or maybe an asteroid would have landed on earth on Dec 21, and God stopped it too!! OR MAYBE YOU JUST BELIEVE IN GOD WAY TOO MUCH.

      You God worshippers are so delusional.

      December 30, 2012 at 10:50 pm |
  12. CSX

    Fools, you abandon God, chase after sin and then ask where id God?

    He was on the cross, you missed that. He loved us first.

    December 30, 2012 at 9:54 pm |
    • Bishop Hairy Palms

      Yeah, we know....he loves us so much that he let this happen.

      Stop making excuses for your absentee sky daddy.

      December 30, 2012 at 10:06 pm |
  13. Notte Lling

    Look, its simple.
    There is no God.
    The children were killed by a boy that was metally ill. Its as simple as that.
    There is no God, no Devil, no Ghosts, no angels, no tooth fairy, no Santa.
    There is simply reality. We are all very lucky to have this one life we will have. Cherish it as its all we get. Don't look to an imaginary god for answers or you will always be wondering why.

    December 30, 2012 at 7:19 pm |
    • james

      no tooth fairy? now you have gone too far. where did all the money under my pillow come from? just evolve?

      December 30, 2012 at 9:39 pm |
    • martin

      a fool sayeth in his heart there is no God. he fears that which he doesn't understand , and that which he doesn't understand ,he hates, i pray you look inward and discover that there is a God and he created you and that there is also a devil who has an equal stake to take your soul to hell. GOD bless u.

      December 30, 2012 at 11:13 pm |
  14. Henri

    The article points out a great fallacy by saying that now it is not the time to talk about theological questions. If not in the midst of such tragedy, then when are we willing to have a meaningful dialogue of the existence of God? It is as if people with faith are trying to procrastinate the inconvenient truth by escaping important discussions when the time is perfect to raise these questions.

    December 30, 2012 at 6:13 pm |
  15. Anton Dubinski

    "Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence"–Carl Sagan

    December 30, 2012 at 5:55 pm |
  16. Anton Dubinski

    Nowhere–he doesn't exist.

    December 30, 2012 at 5:53 pm |
  17. Hawaiian Ryan

    People often ask "Where was God" when things seem to go wrong in our lives in our world that we live in. But it clearly states in the bible that God is a loving God and he loves all creation. This world belongs to Satan and his follower for 1,000s of years now and untill his return the inocent and faithful ones will be ressurected. When I say Satans followers, their all around us including our own government. World leaders are among the best of them.... God cannot lie, and he promises that on his return Satan and his Followers will be destroyed. They can build bunkers and hide like rats but the ones who hides will only trap themselves like mere fools that they are.... We the people that they hurt will have the last laugh in the end. We will stand strong together protected as we watch the grand show. In time there will be no more tears to have to be wiped away. This is what God promised his children. So be strong and dont give up minutes before the miracle takes place.

    Aloha to all...

    December 30, 2012 at 5:36 pm |
  18. americaswatchman

    Listen up everyone...

    I cannot speak for God, only he can do that. But God is real, I know this for a fact.
    It is not right to blame God for this, unless he admits to it himself, and he has not done that.
    If God was allowed back into the US by school prayer, being taught in school (ten commandments,etc.)
    Then people would learn what the rules are that they should follow (not to lie, cheat, steal, kill, etc.. )
    And then perhaps this country could go back to the way it was decades ago.
    Where people did not walk around randomly killing, robbing, raping, etc. innocent people.
    Being courteous, polite, and socialable to other people, etc.

    Also, perhaps God had a reason for that, perhaps his attention was somewhere else that day, only he knows.

    By the way, the first murder on the planet was committed with a rock, perhaps we should ban rocks then?
    (Cain killed his brother Able in the Garden of Eden with a rock... )
    The gun is just a tool, if an unlocked, loaded, and chambered gun is sitting on a table somewhere,
    it will NOT kill anyone, unless someone that has already decided to kill someone picks it up and uses it
    to kill someone.
    If people want to kill, they will find any weapon they can get there hands on, even if they cannot get a gun.
    Then they will use a rock, hammer, baseball bat, statue (just sitting around the room somewhere), pen, knife (from their kitchen, a lamp (classic), a pill, poison, etc.
    I could go on forever...

    God gave man free will, and his words in the Bible as a guide and book of rules to live by with free will,
    and most people have ignore it, and not followed the rules.
    And just like we do in life, when the bad do bad, we punish them.
    God does the same thing to sinners, he punishes them.
    As for Satan, he encourages sin, and rewards sinners when they commit sins.

    I have gone my entire life, trying to live by the Ten Commandments as much as possible, and because of that,
    I have never been arrested, never hurt an innocent person in any way, never killed anyone, never driven under
    the influence, etc...
    So far I am doing pretty good I think.. So I believe God looks out for me because of it. So I have no real complaints.

    Here is the lesson of the day for all of you...

    Start beliveing in God, follow and live according to the Ten Commandments, and the rest of the Bible as much as possible,
    attend church, pray, etc. and your life will improve... And if all of US on this planet of God's do the same thing.
    Life for all of us will improve overall.. It is that simple...

    And for those of you that do not believe in God, just because you cannot see or measure him..
    I feel very sorry for you. Because he does exist.

    Here is a question each one of you should ask yourself:
    Just because you have not seen, and touched something with your own eyes, and hands, does it not exist?

    There are many things in life some of you will probably never see, or measure, or can be measured,
    but they still exist.

    I will never see the top of Mount Everest for myself, but I know it is there. I have seen photos.
    I know I will never measure the air that we breathe that surrounds all of us, but I know it exists,
    Because I breathe it every day. etc.....

    Just get over yourselves, and follow God, then all will improve...

    God bless all of you with the mercy and guidance of God to show you all the right way to live, by doing all the right things.

    God bless America.

    December 30, 2012 at 3:47 pm |
    • joey navis

      i don't remember god being banned from schools, in the school where i worked kids prayed every day. concerning school prayer, though, whose should we use>??? i had students from christian families, from muslim families, from animist families, from families that did some kind of ancestor worship that i never quite understood and from buddhist families, and that was just in my homeroom. on my hall there were teachers who were catholic, fundamentalist christians, muslims, from jewish backgrounds and a teacher who was a non-theist. so whose prayers should we use and who should lead said prayers. no one was ever forbidden to pray and prayer happened all day. what did NOT happen was an agent of the state leading a state endorsed prayer. public schools are all inclusive and do not endorse any religion in particular.

      December 30, 2012 at 5:01 pm |
  19. Duzinkiewicz

    Another tortured set of reasoning trying to maintain an untenable position.

    December 30, 2012 at 12:56 pm |
  20. pjr

    Leif – Animals don't kill just to kill, like we humans do. They kill to feed their young and sometimes to protect their terrority. But even then, if the newcomer backs down, the agressive act does not continue. We are supposed to be higher than the animals. Sometimes we function lower than them. Besides, we are created in God's image. The animals are not. Genesis points this out. Try reading this in the first two chapters of Genesis, the first book of the Bible. It is the greatest story ever told. Peace to you.

    December 30, 2012 at 12:14 pm |
    • mrghettobill

      Try reading the whole book instead of just pointing to excerpts most used by your snake handling uncle. Which god of the bible do you worship? The angry of the Old Testament or the happy of the New? I'm also wondering why people choose to follow the teachings of Bronze Age misogynists. If you want to know what the problem is in this world look to your history books instead of the bible. Throughout time it has been the conquests of the righteous in the name of god with nothing but their greed, weapons, and violence. God wasn't at Sandy Hook because he is nowhere. Now go pray scared little sheep and continue to deny the obvious.

      December 30, 2012 at 9:50 pm |
    • saggyroy

      I guess Eve should have ignored the talking snake....what kind of drugs was she on anyways?

      December 31, 2012 at 8:08 am |
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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.