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. nerdy_christian_13

    Look up "You Were On The Cross" by Matt Maher. That kind of says it all.

    May 10, 2013 at 7:57 pm |
  2. Phaerisee

    If a person does not understand the idea of spiritual economics, then the question of "why does God allow suffering" will never have a satisfactory answer. Spiritual economics is the belief that our actions, good or bad affect others collectively. An example of this is called "Karma" in eastern religions. Roman Catholics call it "The Mystical Body of Christ." These philosophies can also lead to a deeper understanding of reparation and forgiveness.

    May 4, 2013 at 1:03 pm |
  3. dan

    Some people have the belief that God used to support and heap blessings on the USA because of the faith of the American people, but now think his heart has been harden by our abandoning of him on all fronts and the USA is no longer under the favor of the lord and thing will continue to get worse.

    April 18, 2013 at 5:41 pm |
    • Andrew

      How about those nations who largely worship another god/gods? By your reasoning, your god should have wiped them off the face of the earth by now.

      April 26, 2013 at 1:22 pm |
    • Dave

      Dan, if someone was in the process of kidnapping your children and I was present and able to stop the perpetrator, however, decided that I'm disapointed with you therefore did nothing to prevent the kidnapping would I not bear a portion of the blame? Simply stating that God doesn't cause evil to take place, rather allows it to happen for whatever reason doesn't exonerate God either.

      May 11, 2013 at 2:52 pm |
  4. Mike

    Here's the list of COWARDS who sided with gun manufacturers and not our children yesterday. Vote them out of office!

    1. Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-TN)
    2. Sen. Kelly Ayotte (R-NH)
    3. Sen. John Barrasso (R-WY)
    4. Sen. Max Baucus (D-MT)
    5. Sen. Mark Begich (D-AK)
    6. Sen. Roy Blunt (R-MO)
    7. Sen. John Boozman (R-AR)
    8. Sen. Richard Burr (R-NC)
    9. Sen. Saxby Chambliss (R-GA)
    10. Sen. Dan Coats (R-IN)
    11. Sen. Tom Coburn (R-OK)
    12. Sen. Thad Cochran (R-MS)
    13. Sen. Bob Corker (R-TN)
    14. Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX)
    15. Sen. Michael Crapo (R-ID)
    16. Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX)
    17. Sen. Mike Enzi (R-WY)
    18. Sen. Deb Fischer (R-NE)
    19. Sen. Jeff Flake (R-AZ)
    20. Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC)
    21. Sen. Charles Grassley (R-IA)
    22. Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT)
    23. Sen. Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND)
    24. Sen. Dean Heller (R-NV)
    25. Sen. John Hoeven (R-ND)
    26. Sen. James Inhofe (R-OK)
    27. Sen. Johnny Isakson (R-GA)
    28. Sen. Mike Johanns (R-NE)
    29. Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI)
    30. Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT)
    31. Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY)
    32. Sen. Jerry Moran (R-KS)
    33. Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK)
    34. Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY)
    35. Sen. Rob Portman (R-OH)
    36. Sen. Mark Pryor (D-AR)
    37. Sen. James Risch (R-ID)
    38. Sen. Pat Roberts (R-KS)
    39. Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL)
    40. Sen. Tim Scott (R-SC)
    41. Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL)
    42. Sen. Richard Shelby (R-AL)
    43. Sen. John Thune (R-SD)
    44. Sen. David Vitter (R-LA)
    45. Sen. Roger Wicker (R-MS

    April 18, 2013 at 2:40 pm |
    • JessReigns

      The problem isn't the guns your short sighted idiot. Its insane individuals who are not destroyed at diagnosis. A gun didn't kill those kids, a madman did, and using their deaths to push your agenda makes you more cruel than any of the men and women on capital hill.

      May 2, 2013 at 2:09 am |
    • rhondaclark

      It seems to me if my parents had a gun when 2 robbers came into our house, they would be alive. Guns don't kill paople. Next more people die from beatings stabbings, ect.

      May 6, 2013 at 6:12 pm |
    • In Santa we trust

      Guns kill at a distance. For someone to stab you to death they have to be within arms-length. You have more chance to either defend yourself or run plus unless the knife attacker is trained or lucky they probably won't inflict life-threatening wounds.

      May 6, 2013 at 6:16 pm |
  5. Robert Striblen

    God is everywhere and everything. If it exists it is of God.

    April 18, 2013 at 12:50 pm |
  6. alienphenomenon

    GOD is the woman we all brain wash the CIA explain all in movie we all are a family is all in the moral respect and honor and the education and teaching is love no respect now day we should explain our children are angel but the want you like a sheep all because the money we eating the planet me thee real JESUS can explain all and proved a phenomenon the man is the devil and we all have GOD in our hearth but we all think with greed and ignorance ,www.phenomanalyst.com we all are alien machine animal chemistry energy brain wash like sheep and GOD is in the planet all around thank all n respect

    April 12, 2013 at 2:51 pm |
  7. f ray

    guess that's why they call it the mystery of faith. because it clearly doesn't make any sense.

    April 6, 2013 at 7:57 pm |
  8. Reine Gnade

    The Bible is still relevant. The Ten Commandments are as relevant today as when God wrote them down, all those years ago, on stone!

    God's wisdom doesn't have an out of date stamped on it like a perishable item of food. Truly His wisdom is a priceless treasure that will will endure forever.

    April 5, 2013 at 5:16 pm |
  9. Waivelinks International

    ..".to unveil religious hypocrisy, take away "money" and all monetary values from our churches and religious sanctuaries" – Wilson Ihonvbere .

    April 5, 2013 at 1:18 pm |
  10. blake

    sam stone
    Well, we know for certain that no one speaks for god more than iron age sheep molesters, eh?
    sam stone
    nicetry: oooh, proxy threats of hell. pretty scary, for those who believe such tripe. interesting that you wish to spend eternity with a being from whom you have to be "saved". sort of like a spiritual stockholm syndrome. anyway, get back on your knees, b1tch
    sam stone
    we are just attacking the pompous fvcks who purport to speak for god, doogie.
    sam stone

    Pompous pious fvck

    Marriage equality is coming. If it bothers you, you can either put on your big boy pants and accept it, or you get get on your knees with your sidearm and go meet jeebus. Either way works for me
    sam stone
    More proxy threats from Gopher about hell. Blah, blah, fvcking blah, Gopher
    sam stone
    Gopher just wants to preach. He will not answer questions directly. He is an intellectual coward, and he gets his jollies by issuing empty proxy threats....."i am just trying to save you from hell". He thinks that because he believes it, other people should believe it. Gopher.....go fvck yourself
    sam stone
    How can someone hate something in which they do not believe? Are you that fvcking illogical?
    sam stone
    Aesops....threatening people who do not believe in eternal damnation with eternal damnation is logical cancer.

    But, by all means, bloviate some more

    sam stone
    I see you are still blathering on like a snivelling sycophant.

    Fvck you and your eternal damnation
    sam stone
    And, for the record, d-bag, you can be both an agnostic and a christian
    sam stone
    Aesops: Your god is a vindictive, petty pr1ck, and so are you.
    sam stone
    Bold faced lies?

    You are a moron.

    Fvck you and your empty proxy threats
    sam stone
    AvdBerg: Go fvck yourself, troll
    sam stone
    moron atheist: go fvck yourself, punk
    sam stone
    AH.....go fvck yourself. you're welcome
    sam stone
    AH: If she hadn't died 30 years ago, i might. You are a punk. YOur god is a punk. Go fvck yourself


    March 29, 2013 at 4:17 pm |
  11. Ken Margo

    The past shootings have proved several things.

    God doesn't exist. Why would any god allow the shootings to occur? We prayed after Columbine, Texas Tech, Aurora, Tucson and Newtown. There will be more shootings in the future, you can bet on it. Facts are facts so the next time their is a shooting. IGNORE IT. Stop showing the families. Stop with the politicians (including the President) making public appearances. And most of all STOP WITH THE PRAYING NONSENSE. Obviously it doesn't work because the shootings continue to happen. GOD DOESN'T CARE.

    Let's stop giving to the church. Stop with the make believe. There is NO one in sky watching us, monitoring us, or writing down what we do.

    March 13, 2013 at 5:44 pm |
    • Paul

      "God doesn't exist. Why would any god allow the shootings to occur?"
      -Ken Margo

      What if God took away everyone's free will so that they couldn't commit murder, lie, cheat, steal, commit adultery, etc..?
      Then you'd be calling God evil for giving you free will but then not allowing people to do they things they choose to do. Taking away our free will would be a greater evil. That's why things like this are allowed to happen. And if you don't believe in objective moral values, then really what your asking is "Why doesn't God stop the things that I consider evil?" Those who think morals are relative can't really complain about the problem of evil because what they consider to be evil, someone else doesn't consider to be evil.

      My question to atheists: Why do you think there's evil in the world?

      March 16, 2013 at 11:25 am |
    • Ray

      God does exists. The many American people turned against God starting in the 1960's. Remember when the ten commandments were forced out of public schools. How about shortly thereafter, prayer in school was banned. Then we moved to the 1970's when Roe vs Wade allowed abortions ( the killing of innocent babies ). Ken you have not read your Bible ,have you ? God hates the spilling of innocent blood and unborn babies are is innocent as they come. Then American started supporting gay people and gay marriage which is another no no God has condemned. Let see we have turned our back on God and just like he did to the Jews, he took down his hedge of protection for Americans. You see it started on 9-11-2001 when he took down our protection from the terrorist. Seven years later also in September of 2008 the Stock market took a dive, causing many jobs to be lost. We have not turned back to God's ways and his word. God will again not protect us in September 2015 when he will allow another judgement to cause more harm to the United States. God did the same thing to the Jewish people when they turned away from his word and commandments. God will continue to allow things to get worse every 7 years in September until we become a Godly nation or we are destroyed. When the Jewish people turned completely away from God and started worshipping graven images ( idols, false Gods ) he took Israel's protection completely away. This occurred right after the Jews started to sacrificing their children to these false Gods. God then allowed the Assyria army to invade Israel and destroy the Jewish cities, taking the survivers as slave back to Assyria. How many millions of children have been aborted ? How about over 50 million. Now you know why God is tick off at the United States. Six million Jews were killed by Hitler in World War II and the world was appaulled. Don't expect God to protect us anymore since we have allowed our country to become morally bankrupt. There is a God but He is sick and tired of us turning away from his ways. Ken you will get to meet God one day, you might want to change your opinion on this website. Have a great week sir.

      March 20, 2013 at 9:56 pm |
    • The real Tom

      Oh, knock off your nonsense, Ray. Prayer has NEVER been banned in public schools. And as for abortion, it was legal when the Const itution was written. It's been legal for more years in this country's history than it was ever illegal.

      When people write idiotic nonsense, it just cements your reputations as nutters.

      March 20, 2013 at 9:58 pm |
    • ryancrope

      "A FOOL heth said in his heart that there is no God" (psalm14:1) I see that Satan has YOU blinded by ignorance Mr. Margo! This whole world is decieved and this world actually worships satan. YOU know that Satan has blinded you when you fail to admit that even he is real, that's how cunning he is! In the Garden of Eden, when Eve took of the forbidden fruit and passed it on to Adam to partake of it, God found out and banished them both out of the Garden of Eden and told them that he WILL have a "hands-off" policy for 6000 years. During that 6000 years, mankind was told to develope their own civilizations, culture, monetary system, religions, agricuture, cities and education. The only time God will involve himself in mankinds affairs is when mankind is about to wipe themselves off the face of the Earth. Although, during the time of Nimrod, who was a "mighty" hunter and a tryannical despot, God did kind of get involved because Nimrod was sacrificing children by fire. It was some sort of "purification ritual" that repulsed God so God had Nimrod killed violently because of the gross sins that he was committing. Not only that, Nimrod married his mother Semiramis, and thru her after Nimrod was killed, was the so-called "Christian" holidays been born, like Easter, Christmas and New Years. Look at all the various life forms on Earth and tell me that God doesn't exist! Evolution is Pagan in nature and is of Satan! There is absolutely NO truth whatssoever in evolution. You may call me names, you may call me ignorant, but, it's a twoway street. I don't care what YOU think of me. I only care what God thinks of me. One day soon I hope you wake up from your stupor and realize just how foolish you have been. Why are you so hostile? Even God says that man is naturally hostile towards Him, so I can see why you're so hastile. Even to the point of ridiculing other's because of their beliefs. It's so sad that there are peole STILL lke you o the planet, but, Like Jesus said, Forgive them Father for they know not what they do or say! Satan has really got you by the short and curlies. I'll pray for you my friend because one day you'll realze exactly how wrong you've been all these years. Jesus Christ WILL return as exactly as He said He would. ALL the signs that Jesus said would happen ARE happening as he said they would. You would have to be blind not to see the signs that Jesus Christ said would happen OR just plain Ignorant or stupid! and I hope that you're neither! What make God so distant or unbelievable is ALL the false religions out there. 99% of this world's Christianity is false. 100% of Islam and the Quran is false, if not,down right EVIL! The Roman Catholic Church is the most evilest of religions on the planet! So, I can kind of see why you might not beleve in God, But, let me tell you. He IS very real!

      March 23, 2013 at 4:57 am |
    • jwas1914

      Jehovah God does not cause evil. (James 1:13) While he could remove evil at any time, he allows corrupt society to exist for now in order to settle moral issues that were raised at the start of human history. He will ultimately act in behalf of humankind and undo all the trouble caused by those who reject his rulership.—Genesis 3:1-6; Isaiah 65:17.
      Besides his overall concern for the human family, God demonstrates an intense interest in us as individuals. Matthew 10:29-31 shows that he observes details about us that even we do not know: “Do not two sparrows sell for a coin of small value? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground without your Father’s knowledge. But the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Therefore have no fear: you are worth more than many sparrows.”
      God invites you to “throw all your anxiety upon him, because he cares for you.” (1 Peter 5:7) We can rely on his concern even in times of great distress, for his Word says: “Jehovah is near to those that are broken at heart; and those who are crushed in spirit he saves.”—Psalm 34:18.

      March 27, 2013 at 11:37 am |
  12. Johnny Blade

    I find it laughable that atheists claim to be these towers of intellect and logic yet they spend an inordinate amount of time obsessing over a being they say can not exist... imagine if I was to define my intellect on my disbelief of Santa Claus or the Tooth Fairy and my willingness to spend endless hours in the sandbox setting young skulls full of mush straight on the issue. No the word I have for atheists isn't intelligent, nor logical, the word I would use is lost. And before some ruffled atheist gets their panties in a wad and pulls out the tired and demonstrably false claim that 'religion has killed more people.. blah blah blah, actually religion has killed nobody. Governments however, full of intellectual and logical visionaries, they have killed many.

    March 12, 2013 at 12:58 am |
    • Ken Margo

      As long as nut jobs like yourself try to pass laws based on the magic fairy, you'll have people question the sanity of people that believe in this garbage.

      March 13, 2013 at 5:48 pm |
    • ryancrope

      Good point! It's really funny how Athiest's try so hard to disprove God! Why, if He doesn't exist, why do they waste so much time tryin to prove that he doesn't exist. Deep down these`people KNOW that God exist's, it's just that they are so empty and unfulfilled that they'll be naturally hostile to that that will actually give them something to live for. Sad that these people are so hostile and given the chance,they'd probably be the very same people that enjoy watching others suffer. Like the Roman citizens who enjoyed watching the true followers of God back in the days of the Roman Empire.

      March 23, 2013 at 5:08 am |
  13. JOsh

    Who is 'End Religion?' You sir, are a genius.

    March 6, 2013 at 1:14 pm |
  14. David Martin

    Matthew 11:28 Come unto me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.
    Matthew 19:14 Jesus said, "Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these."

    March 5, 2013 at 1:24 am |

    In the Bible, God tells us how we can avoid much suffering. He has provided the very best counsel on living. When applied, this fills our lives with meaning, results in happy family life, brings us into close association with people who really love one another, and safeguards us against practices that can bring much needless physical suffering. If we ignore that help, is it fair to blame God for the trouble that we bring upon ourselves and others?

    2 Timothy 3:16,17
    16 All Scripture is inspired of God and beneficial for teaching, for reproving, for setting things straight, for disciplining in righteousness, 17 that the man of God may be fully competent, completely equipped for every good work.

    February 28, 2013 at 2:27 pm |
    • hawaiiguest


      Oh are you done yet? Are you finished with the standard divisive rhetoric of "believe what I do or you won't be a good person"?

      April 24, 2013 at 3:40 pm |
  16. jill

    sam stone
    oooh....hell......pretty scary.....for those who believe in that tripe

    bob....fvck you and your empty proxy threats

    February 7, 2013 at 1:57 am | Report abuse |

    February 27, 2013 at 12:31 pm |
    • Doobs

      Forgot how to use the Reply function again?

      February 27, 2013 at 12:33 pm |
  17. Terrible_Ted

    ...The End Is Near...

    February 18, 2013 at 7:13 pm |
  18. anthonyhantonh

    Well God was not in that school thats for sure. They made sure they threw Him out.

    February 14, 2013 at 9:56 am |
    • midwest rail

      Delusional idiocy.

      February 14, 2013 at 9:57 am |
    • Ken Margo

      If god is so powerful, how can he be thrown out?

      March 13, 2013 at 5:52 pm |
  19. Sam

    Where was Buddha, mohammed, any one else, as you have thrown Jesus Christ out of schools

    February 11, 2013 at 3:43 pm |
    • my2Cents__

      Your comment is laughable!!!! It shows that you have no idea what you're talking about.
      The Buddha isn't a God! The Buddha does't tell you what to do or what not to do. It's his philosophy/teachings that people are interested in, not the Buddha himself. And above all, he NEVER said to believe in him or go to hell.

      April 24, 2013 at 3:38 pm |
  20. Phil

    All faiths would make much more sense (yet still not believable) if they would take out the part that their god is all-powerful and all-knowing, don't you think?

    February 4, 2013 at 11:44 am |
    • John Brown

      Agreed – Then the inelegant, convoluted, keep-trying-the-same-thing-even-though-it-never-works approaches these gods take would make a little more sense.

      February 4, 2013 at 2:35 pm |
    • khan

      You cannot blame Islam for this tragedy. Don't forget what our Lord Said in Quran;

      If anyone slew a person unless it be for murder or for spreading mischief in the land it would be as if he slew the whole humanity: and if anyone saved a life it would be as if he saved the life of the whole humanity

      February 10, 2013 at 8:17 am |
    • Steve

      khan – I don't think anyone is blaming Islam for this.

      February 10, 2013 at 1:34 pm |
    • wbarrettbethany

      That is precisely the problem with our world. We have been taught "Stinkin Thinkin!" Our backwards thinking leads us far from God. We need to first Believe, then God works in our lives and in the lives of others. God wants us to know him personally. It is through faith that we gain a more intimate knowledge of God! God's judgement is upon non-believer's.

      February 27, 2013 at 7:47 am |
    • Hannibal

      Phil – I agree completely. Take all-powerful and all-knowing out of the equation and it helps a lot of things make more sense.

      wbarrettbethany – I don't think the non-believers are too worried about judgement they don't believe in happening.

      February 27, 2013 at 4:40 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.