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. Hillary

    ban automobiles, ban knives, ban prescription drugs

    December 14, 2012 at 8:32 pm |
    • Attack of the 50 Foot Magical Underwear

      Ban bans

      December 14, 2012 at 8:33 pm |
    • there is no other truth but truth absolute, and truth absolute is LORD AND GOD OF THE WORLD.

      Ban hindu atheism, criminal self center ism, secular ism.

      December 14, 2012 at 8:34 pm |
  2. illuminated genius


    December 14, 2012 at 8:32 pm |
    • there is no other truth but truth absolute, and truth absolute is LORD AND GOD OF THE WORLD.

      there is no truth in your hindu ignorant statement.

      December 14, 2012 at 8:35 pm |
  3. Dr. Sam

    the murder was an atheist and did not believe in God, because the Bible tells us to not kill.


    December 14, 2012 at 8:31 pm |
    • Attack of the 50 Foot Magical Underwear

      Funniest post yet!!!!!!!

      ALL the bible talks about, condones, and commands, is killing.

      December 14, 2012 at 8:33 pm |
    • Rational Libertarian

      Yes you clearly are on your period.

      December 14, 2012 at 8:33 pm |
  4. Hillary

    ban connecticut

    December 14, 2012 at 8:31 pm |
  5. Hillary

    ban elementary schools

    December 14, 2012 at 8:31 pm |
  6. Hillary

    ban people who use more than they need *except me and my family and hollywood stars, and the kennedy's and the kerry's

    December 14, 2012 at 8:30 pm |
  7. Tracy Shipley

    God is here with us, and all the family's suffering tonight. He will be with us in the coming days ahead as well. he has not left us! The shortest verse in the Bibile is simply two words and those two words are " Jesus Wept." He knows our suffering, he knows our pain, and you can bet he is with those poor family's. God and Jesus have not left us, they are suffering and grieving right along with us all.

    December 14, 2012 at 8:30 pm |
    • Marty

      actually, you have no idea if what you're saying is true. stop making stuff up.

      December 14, 2012 at 8:31 pm |
    • Attack of the 50 Foot Magical Underwear

      If god is with the families suffering tonight, then where the living fvkk was that azzhole this morning when the shooter was mowing down innocent children, you stupid t-wat???????

      People spewing such absolute crap make me sick – god is with them blah, blah blah! Horsesh!t!
      God is with them my big hairy ar-se.
      (sorry – lost it there for a second, on account of the religitards)

      December 14, 2012 at 8:36 pm |
    • Dippy

      Tracey, it's "families," not "family's." Have you ever read anything but the bible?

      December 14, 2012 at 8:46 pm |
  8. BAN GUNS!

    Where will stupid and idiot Americans realize that guns kill people?! How many more of this massive shootings do we need in order to restrict guns?

    FVCK 2nd amendment. You heard it? FVCK 2nd amendment

    December 14, 2012 at 8:30 pm |
    • Rational Libertarian

      FVCK you.

      December 14, 2012 at 8:31 pm |
    • there is no other truth but truth absolute, and truth absolute is LORD AND GOD OF THE WORLD.

      Guns do not kill people, people do in their hindu atheism, criminal secular ism.

      December 14, 2012 at 8:33 pm |
    • I'm not a GOPer, nor do I play one on TV


      you and I will agree on some things and differ on others.

      Do you know where the 2nd amendment comes from?

      This was law in the colonies before the revolution.

      The Subject’s Rights.
      And thereupon the said Lords Spirituall and Temporall and Commons pursuant to their respective Letters and Elections being now assembled in a full and free Representative of this Nation takeing into their most serious Consideration the best meanes for attaining the Ends aforesaid Doe in the first place (as their Auncestors in like Case have usually done) for the Vindicating and Asserting their auntient Rights and Liberties, Declare

      Subjects’ Arms.
      That the Subjects which are Protestants may have Arms for their Defence suitable to their Conditions and as allowed by Law.

      This is from the English Bill of Rights – 1688 (Julian).

      Surprise, surprise. Religion at the heart of it all.

      December 14, 2012 at 8:35 pm |
    • steve505

      I guess you don't read much news. Otherwise you'd have heard about the 22 children that just got cut up by a man with a knife. Why aren't you complaining about knives as well? Shouldn't we ban knives?

      The best thing to do if you hate the 2nd amendment is to move out of the United States. Try Mexico, they have very strict gun laws and it seems to be working very very well for them. Send us a postcard!

      December 14, 2012 at 8:37 pm |
  9. there is no other truth but truth absolute, and truth absolute is LORD AND GOD OF THE WORLD.


    December 14, 2012 at 8:29 pm |
  10. Tom

    Again the GOD thing. If you believe in God i gather you must still believe in the

    Again, here we go with the Will of God. God my A..!! Guess he took the day off to let the Little Children die!! Guess he wants us to learn some sort of lesson from this?!? Wake up World! How can any sane, logical thinking person believe in and rely on a Fairy Tale like the Bible with the main character being an almighty god?!?!?!?!?

    December 14, 2012 at 8:29 pm |
  11. s chaisson

    if there is a God, Why do we suffer? Job answered this question 1000's of years ago, so we will know God better. It was our decision to try to be our own God, it the only way we seem to know who God is.

    December 14, 2012 at 8:28 pm |
    • there is no other truth but truth absolute, and truth absolute is LORD AND GOD OF THE WORLD.


      December 14, 2012 at 8:31 pm |
    • steve505

      Actually, Epicurus answered that question much better than Job did:

      "Is God willing to prevent evil, but not able? Then he is not omnipotent.

      Is he able, but not willing? Then he is malevolent.

      Is he both able and willing? Then from where does evil come?

      Is he neither able nor willing? Then why call him God?"

      Epicurus was an actual living philosopher. Job is just a character from a bronze-age book full of fictional stories.

      December 14, 2012 at 8:33 pm |
  12. Hillary

    ban the phrase "merry christmas" we can live with happy Hanukkah, and especially happy kwanza

    December 14, 2012 at 8:28 pm |
  13. Thinking a Lot

    I was reading a lot of these posts, WOW is all I can say, it all just made me sick, Look everybody believes is something, so stop arguing with each other over this and come to together as a Nation., United we Stand, Divided We Fall. Communicate with whatever it is that you believe at this most horrific moment in time. People stop bashing each other, get over yourselves and come together to fix this problem, God did do this nor did the devil, a man with a gun did this, look at it that way if it helps you stop debating this and give your hearts and compassion to these lost loved ones and their mother, father, sisters, brother, aunts, cousins,grandmothers, grandfathers, neighborhood check out girl that knew those people, come on please just stop and perhaps if we all come together as one we can start putting a stop this these horrific days in history. Start being kind to each other, stop being in such a hurry to get places, pay attention to your surroundings. I am so sorry, those are the only words I can use at this point.

    December 14, 2012 at 8:28 pm |
  14. George Aranda

    we are, as a society, in a cul de sac.......we want freedom, but them we act like animals..........pr maybe even worse..... is there any real solution to the dismantle of social values, acountability and a very sick "entertaiment world"

    December 14, 2012 at 8:28 pm |
    • james

      george; go to jw.org or when one comes to your door in the morning, have a civil and serious discussion on what you just asked and enjoy the good news

      December 14, 2012 at 8:36 pm |
  15. End Religion

    quick, someone ban hillary

    December 14, 2012 at 8:27 pm |
    • Attack of the 50 Foot Magical Underwear

      End Religion: Well struck, sir!

      December 14, 2012 at 8:31 pm |
  16. Hillary

    Ban people who hold to the traditional, natural view of marriage

    December 14, 2012 at 8:27 pm |
  17. Stacey

    What is wrong with seeing images of love, reading quotes of positive comments on how to help one another–how to be a good human being? What is wrong with that? Why have we replaced it with selfish reality shows, murderous hbo shows and bloody video games that hurt one another??? I'm sorry but this rarely happened when i was a child. The devil exists and God can't stop him, especially if we allow ourselves and children to fill their hearts with evil images.

    December 14, 2012 at 8:27 pm |
    • End Religion

      Every generation feels the world has gotten worse as they age. It isn't worse, it just changes. People don't like change. There is no god, no devil. We are responsible for our own actions.

      December 14, 2012 at 8:29 pm |
  18. s chaisson

    God had nothing to do with this. This all the creation of man. We should be looking to the medical industry. 90 million dollar industry that selling dangerous narcotics to children that we know in the long run makes humans more violent. But we won't do anything about. Europe has already banned this drug for use in mild depression. When will we wake up, we are creating our own Frankenstein.

    December 14, 2012 at 8:26 pm |
    • Stacey

      I agree, God has nothing to do with this. Why do people think he is a fairy? This isn't heaven on earth-obviously.

      December 14, 2012 at 8:43 pm |
  19. steve505

    Where is God, you ask? Same place He's always been: In the minds of delusional people.

    December 14, 2012 at 8:26 pm |
    • 30cubed

      that just made my day. Both you and rick below.

      December 14, 2012 at 8:30 pm |
    • John Johnson

      Hah! Well done.

      December 14, 2012 at 8:34 pm |
  20. Rick

    God is hanging out with the Easter Bunny and Santa Claus.

    December 14, 2012 at 8:26 pm |
    • Rational Libertarian

      But God is evil. Why would they associate with him?

      December 14, 2012 at 8:30 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.