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.

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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. Luis Wu

    Where is god? Nowhere, he/she/it doesn't exist. Too many people living in a fantasy world.

    December 15, 2012 at 4:47 pm |
    • Aezel

      The Engineers concur.

      December 15, 2012 at 4:51 pm |
    • Bill Utrup

      At the deepest level of reality, all we have is pure consciousness... That is where one needs to look for God. Not in the kindergarden Bible...

      December 15, 2012 at 4:58 pm |
  2. Bill Utrup

    Is a fallacy, because God is always in the state of becomming. All knowing is, what all that is knows through experience, conceptalization, etc. There simply is stil alot out there that will be known by the mind of God...

    December 15, 2012 at 4:44 pm |
    • Yuppers

      You get to define what God is? Well that's about right. It's all your imagination anyway.

      December 15, 2012 at 4:49 pm |
  3. Menachem Mevashir

    I was a friend of Rabbi Shaul's back in yeshiva days 30 years ago. Since then I have become a follower of Jesus – Yeshua HaMoshiach. I also embrace Yeshua's policy of peacafism, as opposed to the piece-a-fist of most churches and synagogues.

    I realize this will not be popular to say, but so be it. The truth is lonely and painful at times.

    Regarding this tragedy I have shared the following with friends and members of the media and clergy:

    "I can't help but wonder if the plague of violence afflicting our society is karmic retribution for the invisible drone attacks we perpetrate on largely innocent civilians on the other side of the world?

    "And since hardly anyone in America seems in the least perturbed by this, perhaps horrible attacks like yesterday's are God's way of prodding our consciences in the way described by Jesus:

    "Matthew 7:2
    'For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.' "

    I also recommend that you see this site that discusses the connection between psychiatric medications and induced violence:


    December 15, 2012 at 4:42 pm |
    • Yuppers

      Well that's stupid. God slaughters kindergarteners for their role in drone attacks in the Middle East?

      December 15, 2012 at 4:48 pm |
    • anilsk

      All the gods went to smoke POT.

      December 15, 2012 at 4:48 pm |
    • GAW

      I thought was because God was taken out of the schools. I'm confused here. Lesson here. God is made to serve everyone's agenda.

      December 15, 2012 at 4:54 pm |
  4. LiarlyLame

    Sayeth wingedly fopwordisms as I do, ism, I maybe not shouldism have taken the brown acid at woodstockism. bendybrainisms. Not quite right have I beenism since then. Ism.

    December 15, 2012 at 4:42 pm |
    • GAW

      Get yourself to the ER at once.

      December 15, 2012 at 4:47 pm |
  5. GAW

    This Sunday pastors around America will be giving sermons attempting to shed light on this event. The short of it is I'm glad I don't have to put up with any of it.

    December 15, 2012 at 4:41 pm |
    • Yuppers

      Allow me to give you the Reader's Digest version:

      "It's all the atheists fault. They took God out of school, so god slaughtered the children in his infinite love. They are happy in his arms, well, some of them, the rest go to hell. Parents should be happy. We are so self-important with our mumbo-jumbo rituals."

      December 15, 2012 at 4:45 pm |
    • Bill Utrup

      Unfortunately is called comedy hour... for all of us that know better... They say God is a mystery, and then they tell you what his thoughts are, what his will is and what he wants for mankind... (eyes rolling)

      December 15, 2012 at 4:47 pm |
    • GAW

      ...and then followed by the altar call. Every eye closed and every head bowed. No peeking!

      December 15, 2012 at 4:49 pm |
  6. TD

    As a society, we have continued to do everything we can to keep God out of schools and now people are asking where is God? God's spirit lives through all of us. And yet these kids don't even say the pledge of allegiance anymore because it has the word "god" in it. One mention of God and atheists come out of the woodwork to spread the "no higher power exists" statement. Maybe if this guy believed in a higher power governing his actions, he would have not committed such heinous crimes against humanity. These incidents do not happen in parochial schools.

    December 15, 2012 at 4:41 pm |
    • Compton Sike

      You idiot, these things DO happen in parochial schools.
      Learn to google and go back to mumbling to yourself.

      December 15, 2012 at 4:45 pm |
    • esther

      Very well said TD. The sad thing is there are people like compton in the world that don't have a clue.

      December 15, 2012 at 5:09 pm |
  7. yikes

    Where's God?

    He was right there, watching it all unfold and doing nothing to save innocents.

    You see, God is omniscient, therefore he knows EVERYTHING, even before it happens. God is also omnipotent, therefore nothing is beyond his power.

    God was there watching those children die and did nothing. Some God...

    December 15, 2012 at 4:37 pm |
    • Yeah

      Being omniscient, be knew it would result from what he was doing when he started it. Of course he does nothing – it's all part of his plan. You are doomed before you are born. He made you so that he could torture you forever.

      Weird guy, god.

      December 15, 2012 at 4:39 pm |
    • Bill Utrup

      God is omnipresent, means God was there and did nothing... now go figure...

      December 15, 2012 at 4:48 pm |
  8. mopjvt

    Its events like this that will continue to make people realize that all prayer is - is hope. Nothing more and nothing less. Its a tragic event that has happened and my heart goes to the families.

    December 15, 2012 at 4:37 pm |
  9. keeping it real


    December 15, 2012 at 4:36 pm |
  10. lionlylamb

    Sociologic confrontational mechanisms were made the doers harbinger of deathly results; though influentially masked and thusly done ills by said perpetrator who did the maniacal deeds. Guilt runs the gauntlets of socio-maniacal configurations amid all confrontations wrongly held permeations of the many who do still yet connive others for the main intent to belittle and forsake others to just laugh upon those who are felt weak and small in views of other's suggestive sights.

    God is not the one to blame for such vileness of ill deeds so done for it is mankind's sociologic bemusements that push many off the proverbial deep ends of and against and away from, sane mindedness!

    God and God’s godly beings live deeply seeded inside all mannerisms of sentient life, much like a matrix affixed and transformed. We all are ascended beings of the matrix within our bodies. We are affixed in semi translucent opulence in material matters ascendancies giving our conscientious welfares the illusions of life in a realm so suited for our own degradations austerities.

    Unable to break the bonds of material complacencies will all live out our life until we die and our deadened bodies become made ready for the pillars of cremations contentment. Live life therefore and do good and well one’s deeds for socialized conscience sakes!

    As life imparts to death, the dead who are deeded and will carry their heavily leavened burdens onto the abysmal abyss that dare masticates with much tastefulness the tribunal rationed meals of the gods! We are all served up as wanting pleasures toward beneficiary wantonness of the lucid realities uncommon dire straits for life’s onward marching being never the wiser. Eat your fill of candors meaty abundances for in death one might just be eaten by the sons and daughters of God in the afterlife!

    December 15, 2012 at 4:35 pm |
    • Yeah

      Excuses, excuses.

      December 15, 2012 at 4:37 pm |
    • GAW

      What did I say about the drugs? You have to share them!

      December 15, 2012 at 4:38 pm |
    • Bill Utrup

      Don't you have a short version???

      December 15, 2012 at 4:51 pm |
    • lionlylamb


      Once you become a basket case and found to be illogically based then they will fix you up with the best drugs made by the world's best pharmaceutical companies!

      Be ever wary though for they will try their best to over-medicate you making you to be like a zombie unable to grasp one's own thoughts! I am now taking 15mgs of olanzapine which is generic for Zyprexa ! The many years I've been on it I have reached a conscience of awareness I thought could never be! I am cured but I am also a deviant hunting for the sons and daughters of God who did lie to me as I was being conceptualized in my mother's womb! They all lied to me and told me I would be king when I was finally conceived! Damn soul eating junkies of the sons and daughters of God!

      December 15, 2012 at 4:59 pm |
  11. saganhill

    NO god, KNOW peace. Know GOD, NO peace.

    December 15, 2012 at 4:34 pm |
  12. GAW

    How many of you believe that the post about God being taken out of the Schools is being done by the same person?

    December 15, 2012 at 4:34 pm |
    • Compton Sike

      At least one person is doing that. Maybe two or three, but I'm betting it's Chad himself having fun. Don't feed the trolls.

      December 15, 2012 at 4:47 pm |
    • Bill Utrup

      If God is omnipresent ... then how can he be taken out of the school by a bunch of non believers... Oh, they simply have more power than God. Save me!!!

      December 15, 2012 at 4:53 pm |
  13. Greg

    Where is God? Y'all took God out of schools. Pretty sure there were lot's of prayers going on, though.

    December 15, 2012 at 4:34 pm |
    • Aezel

      Oh were there now? Well it doesn't seem like they were very effective.

      December 15, 2012 at 4:49 pm |
  14. starman

    God was forced out of schools which cased this? Gays and evel satanic demos caused this??? So this Omnipotent all powerful god that is all knowing and good needs to have his name worshiped in a school and if not his punishment is the death of 20 children? Seriously... Is that the logic that you must grasp at to delude yourself even more into the belief of this magic sky wizard? Which God was missing? I'm sure those children were of multiple different faiths, so your god killed them because they happened to be born into a certain faith knowing no better of it as their parents programmed them? Lets go back a second, I thought your god was good. Sam Harris "“Either God can do nothing to stop catastrophes like this, or he doesn't care to, or he doesn't exist. God is either impotent, evil, or imaginary. Take your pick, and choose wisely."

    December 15, 2012 at 4:34 pm |
    • Bill Utrup

      So Gays have more power than God... So be it... since we live in a self created reality...

      December 15, 2012 at 4:54 pm |
  15. Jeffrey

    I think most people miss the point about God and evil in the world. It seems obvious there has been a contention between good and evil in the world since history began. The Bible says that the world is "fallen" and under "the sway of the evil one". This evil one for some reason hates us and it looking to decieve and destroy.........actually may have a little of the anger that is displayed in these people that go on killng sprees. In summary, as was noted by other posts here, the world is a rough place and we are told to cling to God's goodness as He has provided a way out of this mess.

    December 15, 2012 at 4:33 pm |
    • Attack of the 50 Foot Magical Underwear

      The bible is a book of sick, twisted, evil fairy tales

      December 15, 2012 at 4:35 pm |
  16. Cargapalitoes

    There is no god. It's just us and we still allow everyone to own a gun incase we want to shoot someone. The answer is outlaw guns! How much more stupid can we get?

    December 15, 2012 at 4:33 pm |
  17. GZA

    "God,” he says, “either wants to eliminate bad things and cannot,
    or can but does not want to,
    or neither wishes to nor can,
    or both wants to and can.
    If he wants to and cannot, then he is weak and this does not apply to god.
    If he can but does not want to, then he is spiteful which is equally foreign to god’'s nature.
    If he neither wants to nor can, he is both weak and spiteful, and so not a god.
    If he wants to and can, which is the only thing fitting for a god, where then do bad things come from? Or why does he not eliminate them?"

    Lactantius, On the Anger of God, 13.19

    December 15, 2012 at 4:32 pm |
    • Compton Sike

      Shouldn't someone with a name like Lactantius also have big man-boobs?

      December 15, 2012 at 4:49 pm |
  18. Simple Simon

    Glenn Beck told me that it's because god was taken out of cafeterias, no, uh, malls, no, schools. He told me to repeat that everywhere I can.

    I am so glad that the thousand people who posted the exact same thing as me have someone like Glenn Beck to tell us what our opinions are every day. I don't think I'd have an opinion if it weren't for people like him.

    December 15, 2012 at 4:32 pm |
  19. Mpschmitt

    "Questions" by Steven Curtis Chapman. http://t.co/3OjeNdN8

    December 15, 2012 at 4:28 pm |
  20. Jairn

    Where is god? God is not real. I am atheist and people have to realize that there is no god or a higher power above them

    December 15, 2012 at 4:28 pm |
    • GAW

      Except for gravity, the sun, natural disasters ect.

      December 15, 2012 at 4:32 pm |
    • there is not point....Right?

      This tragedy should not bother you then. Move on. There is no bad or good. Things just are. Oh and you have no free will either so you are really not saying this.

      December 15, 2012 at 4:49 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.