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. Anon

    Anyone who still believes that there is a loving, caring god that is in control is a moron and I mean no exceptions.

    December 15, 2012 at 6:39 pm |
    • Mark Jordan

      I have to agree. We cant fully rule out there being a god (or gods) but if there is it is quite obvious it is either not a totally loving god or is a hands off one not involved in our human lives at all. You would have to be a complete idiot to think a kind god would allow anything like this "as some kind of lesson". Nonsense.

      December 15, 2012 at 6:48 pm |
  2. DE

    There are no gods, period.

    December 15, 2012 at 6:36 pm |
  3. Blah blah the wheel's off your trailer

    I have some advise to the siblings of all gun proponents in America. Go take your parents guns and kill them and then kill yourselves and do America a big favor. So long losers.

    December 15, 2012 at 6:35 pm |
  4. End Religion

    Proof Every Christian Goes to Hell by End Religion
    1) The only irredeemable sin against your Lord thy God is denying him, the Holy Spirit
    2) To deny is to refuse to admit truth of or to refuse to give that which is requested
    3) Any sin is to deny god of his commandments
    4) Therefore, even one sin results in a soul that cannot be forgiven. Sin once, and you're going to hell whether you repent or not. Since Christians are "born into sin" they're automagically damned to hell and cannot be forgiven.

    December 15, 2012 at 6:32 pm |
  5. Get Real

    How evil a monster this mythical "God" is. Thank god God is imaginary, for the story of God is a story of a cruel mass murderer. This imaginary god has killed more innocent children than the sick school shooter.

    If god is all powerful and all knowing and perfectly good, he would not bring people into the world knowing that they would go to hell and be tortured forever- a perfectly good being would never do such a thing.

    If god is all powerful and all knowing and perfectly EVIL, then god would create people knowing in advance they were going to burn in hell forever.

    Oh yeah, other examples of gods evil ways:

    1. Murdering innocent children during the flood
    2. Murdering Job's family
    3. Telling Abraham is kill his son
    4. Killing the innocent first born children in Egypt
    5. Requiring a human sacrifice for the salvation of mankind

    Clearly god is not love, he is pure evil. Fortunately for us he is purely imaginary.

    December 15, 2012 at 6:32 pm |
  6. Pam C. Lane

    You cannot blame God for this. Our world and life is full of tragedies everyday...just turn on the news. Our world and life is also full of good things. I did something terrible 15 years ago....I was involved in the false accusations of someone and never showed up in court even though I was subpoenaed. It was all about trying to gain money in the end. I ran away from telling the truth and from being cross examined. God finally took care of business and that person finally was exonerated 4 years later at much of his expense financially and psychologically. I am ashamed for my actions but God didn't make me do the evil.....I did it myself.

    Pam C Lane
    Newfoundland, Canada

    December 15, 2012 at 6:30 pm |
  7. organically

    God is the biggest scam in the history of humanity

    December 15, 2012 at 6:28 pm |
  8. Mike

    God or a higher being is irrelevant and never really helpful. We need to take care of each other; human to human. Person to person. Find faith in your community, not an abstract idea that has never proven itself. Find comfort in other people, your neighbor, family, etc.

    December 15, 2012 at 6:27 pm |
    • Mark Jordan

      Yes! Well spoken and so true.

      December 15, 2012 at 6:51 pm |
  9. Rick

    Where is God, you ask? He left a long time ago. He left when Jesus Christ was crucified. But you know what? We as a nation have the power to bring him back. The problem is, there are far too many unbelievers out there. Too many athiests, too many people who are stuck on themselves, too many people who believe that money is more important than people, too many people who are too busy keeping up with the Jones's instead of giving to those who need it. Too many politicians who are only interested in getting reelected. Shall I go on?

    December 15, 2012 at 6:26 pm |
    • Colin

      No. In fact, you should have just posted, "I am a simpleton" and we would have all got the same message.

      December 15, 2012 at 6:28 pm |
    • G. Zeus Kreiszchte

      So you're saying that we have the power to keep "god" away as long as so many of us don't believe? Why bring a sadist turd like "god" around anyway?

      December 15, 2012 at 6:30 pm |
    • Dippy

      It's "Joneses," not "Jones's." Can't you make a simple plural?

      December 15, 2012 at 6:30 pm |
    • GAW

      Way out and bizarre ideas.

      December 15, 2012 at 6:33 pm |
    • Santa

      So the killer was doing "God's work"?

      Are you insane or just crazy?

      December 15, 2012 at 6:35 pm |
    • Anon

      Jesus is a $#itty myth.

      December 15, 2012 at 6:40 pm |
  10. Keep God in Schools

    Where is God you ask..... the question is why is God out of the schools maybe if God was in the schools this sort of thing would not be happening.

    December 15, 2012 at 6:25 pm |
    • G. Zeus Kreiszchte

      God is allegedly in churches, too, but that hasn't kept gun violence out of churches. DUH.

      December 15, 2012 at 6:27 pm |
    • Blessed are the Cheesemakers

      But then again, it hasn't stopped the child abuse in churches has it?

      December 15, 2012 at 6:28 pm |
  11. Colin

    I honestly believe that, when I think silent thoughts like, “please god, help me pass my exam tomorrow,” some invisible being is reading my mind and will intervene and alter what would otherwise be the course of history in small ways to help me. I am

    (a) a delusional schizophrenic;

    (b) a naïve child, too young to know that that is silly

    (c) an ignorant farmer from Sudan who never had the benefit of even a fifth grade education; or

    (d) your average Christian

    December 15, 2012 at 6:24 pm |
    • Anon

      e) all of above.

      December 15, 2012 at 6:41 pm |
    • Mark Jordan

      Most hilarious thing I read today!

      December 15, 2012 at 6:53 pm |
    • elgeevz

      My guess would be (d).

      December 15, 2012 at 6:55 pm |
  12. GodIsFake

    Ohhh you know God, he was probably busy helping some guy score a touchdown, or making an appearance in a grilled cheese sandwich.

    Seriously though, If you still believe in God, you are a moron. He is about as real as Santa, or Bigfoot... Just an urban legend for simple minded folk...

    December 15, 2012 at 6:24 pm |
    • otto

      Sky-Father is a fictional character, invented to give power/authority to religious leaders, and parents.

      Dont do that, God is watching you. God is like Santa, only meaner.

      December 15, 2012 at 6:26 pm |
    • Unbornagain

      Love the touchdown comment! Hey, we can always do what they do in the Hindu religion- if you aren't happy with what one God does, you just "dump" them and worship another God. That rocks.

      December 15, 2012 at 6:33 pm |
  13. G. Zeus Kreiszchte

    Not to detract from the tragedy, but yeah...keep on asking yourselves, "Where's 'God'?" Maybe you'll eventually come to the right conclusion in the midst of the deafening silence.

    December 15, 2012 at 6:23 pm |
  14. Vee

    No god. No guy in the clouds. Just life folks. Stop being brain dead.

    December 15, 2012 at 6:23 pm |
  15. Santa

    God was too busy helping the NRA fight against sensible gun laws to stop the murder of innocents yesterday.

    December 15, 2012 at 6:22 pm |
  16. God

    You reject me as a NATION and you ask where I AM? You are finished and the hand of judgement is coming down upon you.
    Don't bother writing (or complaining).

    December 15, 2012 at 6:21 pm |
    • Colin

      Yes, we have rejected you, Allah, Yahwey, Shiva, Krishna, and about 1,000 other gods. Who gets to punish us first? Do you go in alphabetical order?

      December 15, 2012 at 6:23 pm |
    • Athy

      Yep, from allah to zeus.

      December 15, 2012 at 6:24 pm |
    • Blessed are the Cheesemakers

      I passed by 50+ buildings dedicated to you today....how is that rejection? What kind of asshat are you?

      December 15, 2012 at 6:26 pm |
    • GodFreeNow

      I only wish that the nation would reject god. Sadly, the % of the population who believe in god or a higher power is near the 90 percentile. I guess god requires 100% belief before he starts treating everyone with love and kindness.

      December 15, 2012 at 6:26 pm |
    • Santa

      So the killer was doing God's work when he executed 20 children?

      Crazy much?

      December 15, 2012 at 6:27 pm |
    • Akira

      So you go and slaughter 20 innocents? Did you ass them to your OT kill count?

      December 15, 2012 at 6:32 pm |
  17. lionlylamb

    "Has not science taught us that inside our cells are machines? Who then are behind the steering wheels of said machines? To say that these biologic machines are running themselves seems laughable at best! Surely one cannot stand on their beliefs that our bodies’ machineries are all interwoven to such a degree of unity that they do not need an operator! I find such belief to be stinkin thinkin! To say one's DNA are the perpetual regulators of all the body's machines puts an eyeful of nearsightedness! Although science sees biological machinery without there being operators running them, I see such sciences having blinders on!

    DNA is where the Gods take up residence and from this DNA, they rule over all biologic machinery's operators! Can I prove beyond ridicule my stance? Nope, I can't and yet you can't prove any different and your stance that DNA is the perpetrator of running all biologic machineries, there are way too many factors involved in the bio-mechanics of any life form to be made self-regulating mechanisms!"

    December 15, 2012 at 6:19 pm |
    • Athy

      Wow, talk about "shitzophrenic" writing!

      December 15, 2012 at 6:26 pm |
    • boblevel

      Just because it is beyond YOUR comprehension, does not mean others are as ignorant as yourself.

      December 15, 2012 at 6:31 pm |
    • ATadLate

      And every other creature is also "controlled" by God in its DNA? Wow!

      December 15, 2012 at 6:32 pm |
    • Robert Brown

      I was wondering what you think about the rest of bible? I’ve read several of your posts and you seem to concentrate on a couple of verses that support your position. I have thought about the type of things you post for many years, the similarity to the construction of atoms and solar systems, organs and galaxies, and even the known universe. Thinking about the similarities between electical attraction, repulsion, and gravity are all very interesting, too. But, what do you think about bible verses that tell us that God is a spirit, flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, and you must be born again?

      December 15, 2012 at 6:35 pm |
  18. the AnViL

    that anyone would continue to bark up the tree of religion having a monopoly on morality is laughable.

    the opinion that "real" morality can't exist without theology is absurd and there's evidence to the contrary.

    question: if you knew that there was no god, would you go out and start killing and raping people?

    altrusim, sympathy, and empathy exist within the human brain as a survival mechanism for ourselves and ultimately our tribe. our very genetic makeup compels us to survive – it is our imperative – as is with all life. to do so we make judgements and predict outcomes of our actions and the actions of others. it is a basic primal part of our brains. to be specific – it is the right temporo-parietal junction that is considered to be the moral center of our brains.

    we can, by using electromagnetic energy, render the moral center of the brain ineffectual. there is actual evidence that magnetic fields applied to the rtpj can scramble the brains ability to judge outcomes. so there is in-your-face solid scientific evidence that morality is a construct of the human brain.

    altruism, sympathy, and empathy are products of the evolutionary process in humans, genetically selected and very physical.

    it is no surprise that theists would dismiss science, but it's just pompous to dismiss secular humanism. again – more of what we've come to expect from theists. you may be ignorant to it, but it's an old argument i and many others have been over before – only the names change.

    the idea that religions hold the monopoly on ethics and morals would be comical if it wasn't so entirely tragically untrue.

    those countries which are almost entirely theistic have by far the lowest education rates and the highest murder rates, while european countries that are highly atheistic have much higher education rates and drastically lower murder rates. comparative studies on people with religiosity and various social ills has shown higher rates of belief in a creator correlate with higher rates of homicide, juvenile and early adult mortality, STD infection rates, teen pregnancy and abortion.

    that's evidence of the complete ineffectiveness of religion to affect peace, prosperity, well-being, and strong moral values (or any, it would seem) – and strong evidence – (perhaps the strongest) of the complete and total lack of divinity in religion. it doesn't work – in fact – it does the exact polar opposite of its supposed intended effect.

    in relation to religion and morals – again – if anything has been shown to be the case – it is that religious bodies are so incredibly immoral and malevolent that it boggles the mind how anyone in the 21st century could possibly be blind to the abject harm religion does to humanity.

    shed your delusion. educate yourself and evolve.

    December 15, 2012 at 6:18 pm |
    • Colin

      Belief in God is no more necessary for good morality than belief in Cindarella is necessary for good fashion sense in shoes.

      December 15, 2012 at 6:20 pm |
    • ATadLate

      Excellent post!!

      December 15, 2012 at 6:35 pm |
    • elena

      altruism, sympathy, and empathy is contrary to evolution that promotes survival of the strongest! the weak must died out to give space for the strongest! as crude as it is.

      altrusim, sympathy, and empathy serves no purpose in evolution theory!

      December 15, 2012 at 6:52 pm |
    • elena

      why should i help the weak? they are no good for evolution purposes!, my seed are the strongest ones, so they should own the planet.

      December 15, 2012 at 6:54 pm |
    • the AnViL

      elena – your ignorance is showing.

      you should be ashamed.

      December 15, 2012 at 7:06 pm |
  19. GodFreeNow

    If god really did exist and he allowed this kind of thing to happen, it should make the most faithful at least question his morality and supremacy. Sadly most religious people will use this as an opportunity to retreat deeper into their darkened turtle shells to escape the light of truth.

    I won't waste your time trying to explain why I don't believe god exists, but I can't help but ask, does your deity actually deserve your worship and praise? Do you find yourself making excuses for god? Would you let your children suffer what he allows his children to suffer? If you met a parent that treated their children they way your god treats his, would you make excuses to justify their behavior?

    This is a time to look deeply at your motivations. What are you afraid of seeing? Don't turn away from it. Chase the fear until it can know longer hide from you. Look deeply and you will know the truth... and the truth will set you free.

    December 15, 2012 at 6:17 pm |
  20. Lin

    God gave man free will That is one of the greatest gifts. Man is not perfect; men stumble and fall every day. This is not God's fault.

    December 15, 2012 at 6:17 pm |
    • GodFreeNow

      Recent experiments with MRI have shown free will to be a myth. Naturally it makes you feel better to think that, but again, the scientific evidence does not support your personal opinion anymore.

      December 15, 2012 at 6:19 pm |
    • Realist

      You sir are really F&cking dumb!!!

      December 15, 2012 at 6:21 pm |
    • Athy

      He's also fucking dumb.

      December 15, 2012 at 6:27 pm |
    • Blessed are the Cheesemakers

      "God gave man free will"

      Did we have a choice?

      December 15, 2012 at 6:30 pm |
    • End Religion

      God gave nothing to anyone personally. I guess one could say metaphorically he is responsible for lots of excuses to make others feel guilt and anger, but gave nothing else. Really, the hoops people put themselves through to have religion make "sense" to them is amazing.

      December 15, 2012 at 6:32 pm |
    • GodFreeNow

      @Blessed are the Cheesemakers,


      December 15, 2012 at 6:49 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.