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. Jack

    It's so sad. All these people believe in fairy tales. Something like this happens, they have no answer. When asked why God would cause this, they say he didn't. Then they pray to him to do something. Makes no sense.

    December 16, 2012 at 5:34 am |
    • Terry

      Do you know where you are going when you die?

      December 16, 2012 at 5:35 am |
    • free211

      There are no answers as to where God is in these events. And, this question goes back thousands of years in Wars, accidents, natural disasters and so on.
      You'll see many idiotic answers from the simple minded who sit glassy eyed in the church pews on Sunday mornings, but the fact is, again, there are no answers and unsubstantiated mythologies are of no help.
      You just pick up the pieces of what is left and keep going.

      December 16, 2012 at 5:47 am |
  2. ReadyToKnow

    All of this has got me thinking. I used to be or an atheist up until this recent event. Could someone tell me how to get right with God? Or as you say accept Christ?

    December 16, 2012 at 5:23 am |
    • Terry

      Hi Ready to know... I would love to tell you more. Would you be able to email me. trust-in-God@hotmail.com

      December 16, 2012 at 5:28 am |
    • ReadyToKnow

      I dont wanna be like all these other haters. Thats what I used to be. I'd rather just here about it even in this forum.

      December 16, 2012 at 5:30 am |
    • Terry

      What has been making you think? again, I would love to help you

      December 16, 2012 at 5:30 am |
    • SLoRider

      Just read the back of a chick tract. But seriously, how would this event get you to believe in God now? not buying it.

      December 16, 2012 at 5:31 am |
    • ReadyToKnow

      I heard that Christ would not question or turn away a sinner. I realize that I have sinned just like you. I want to get right with him.Obviously SloRider isnt a believer so I wont be listening to him. Can anyone tell me how to accept Christ his way. Anyone. Do I pray or what?

      December 16, 2012 at 5:37 am |
    • Terry

      The way that you accept Christ into your heart is by #1 confessing your sins , confessing your need for him, and believing with your heart that Jesus Christ is your Lord savior and He died on the cross for you sins. John 3:16 6 For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.

      December 16, 2012 at 5:40 am |
    • ReadyToKnow

      Terry: Thank you for helping. I know that my bad actions are no longer just bad actions but they are what God calls sins. I just told God that I am a sinner and that I need his forgiveness. Im willing to accept that Jesus was not just a man but God himself. I just told this to God too. Do I go to church now or find someone who can help me further. I want a complete change in my life.

      December 16, 2012 at 5:44 am |
    • Terry

      yes, you would pray to God.... 18008236053... they can walk you through it :0) I use to call them all the time when my walk with the Lord was not well. I was so lonly and lost, and I knew I needed a savior and a change in my life. I have been through so much, but it is only through HIm that I am able to do what I do. I can also rest that when I die I am going to heaven where there will be no more sorrow or no more pain. (Revelation 21:4) This is your time ready to know!! Call them I promise you will not regret it. Everyone when they die will go somewhere either heave or hell. Alot of the times peoples pride and sin will keep them from God and what He has for us. God Bless you in Jesus name :0) email me if you have questions

      December 16, 2012 at 5:46 am |
    • ReadyToKnow

      I cant describe what I just felt other than like some dark cloud just left away from me and this weight was taken from me and at the same time like if something peacful has surrounded me. Its more than a feeling. Wowww I'm not sure what just happened......

      December 16, 2012 at 5:46 am |
    • ReadyToKnow

      Thank you Terry: I will call them. I am a proffesor at our local college. My pride and blindness has gotten in the way for years. Well all my life I guess. These horrific actions are evil....the cause of it was evil nothing else. I feel that somehow this is the beginning of a new chance and new life for me.

      December 16, 2012 at 5:51 am |
    • Terry

      you are so welcome... I would for sure recommend you going to a church near by. I want to encourge you to look for a church until you find one you like. I encourage you to build a relationship with Jesus. Read the Bible at least once in the morning and at night. Even when it gets hard,pray and read His word. Can I ask you for your name I want to pray for you

      December 16, 2012 at 5:51 am |
    • ReadyToKnow

      Sure It is Alfonso: I'll go buy me a Bible. Please also pray for me to help others with this as well. I feel changed somehow.Not just emotionally. Thanks again

      December 16, 2012 at 5:55 am |
    • Terry

      I also would love for you to read this verse Ephesians 6:10-20 this will help you understand a little bit of what happened. Again, we don't understand but it something that is unseen. Never forget this moment :0)

      December 16, 2012 at 6:02 am |
    • skytag

      Why would this event cause you to believe in God, and the Christian God in particular? That makes no sense.

      December 16, 2012 at 6:17 am |
    • Warning

      Terry and ReadyToKnow are the same person. It's a scam.

      December 16, 2012 at 6:28 am |
    • Terry

      Haha... Jesus is Real!!! Lord, I pray for Alfonso and I pray for that person who thinks its a scam. I pray that you would work in Alfonsos life and that you would bring him closer to you. allow him to meet people that can walk him through a relationship with you. I love you and I also ask that you would help the person who thinks it is a scam in whatever they need. Lord you know all our hearts and what we need I love you and praise you in The mighty name of Jesus Christ, Amen Thank you LOrd that one day we will all bow and your thrown because you alone are worthy of my praise in Jesus name amen

      December 16, 2012 at 6:42 am |
  3. E.J. Germond

    "Where is God when this happens?" Read the Book of Job for the answer.

    December 16, 2012 at 5:16 am |
  4. Terry

    Also there is nothing that I could say to the families, but that I am truly sorry.

    December 16, 2012 at 5:09 am |
  5. Terry

    Hi, to all those who have posted something against God. I honestly do now know why this happened, I will never know. All I know is that there is a God and He has brought me through so many hard times in my life He is a loving God and faithful. I wish that you all would study a little bit more about your creator. How can you look at the beauty in this world besides the evil and say there is no God. how is it that you move around and that there is Joy aside from Evil. Have you ever thought of God being the one to save you from Evil? In Jesus Name

    December 16, 2012 at 5:07 am |
    • Patriot888

      Preaching about the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing: 1 Corinthians 1:18
      Hey but don't stop trying we will haul in all those who God has chosen.

      December 16, 2012 at 5:13 am |
    • skytag

      Thanks for rambling. As always with believers you have no proof of anything you believe. In every case you simply choose to believe there is some supernatural power at work because you like that narrative.

      December 16, 2012 at 5:17 am |
    • Patriot888

      My proof is that the Holy Spirit is now inside my very being. He never was before until I accepted that Jesus is who claimed to be. I became born again of the Spirit of God. For those who don't accept Christ you'll never even know what I'm talking about.

      December 16, 2012 at 5:26 am |
    • SLoRider

      That's the not the holy spirit inside your being, it's mental illness. Get help.

      December 16, 2012 at 5:32 am |
    • Terry

      for those who do not believe or think that faith is dumb or not real. Do you all believe in heaven or hell?

      December 16, 2012 at 6:09 am |
    • skytag

      @Patriot888: Sorry, but what you say about the spirit isn't proof of anything. It's simply something you've chosen to believe.

      December 16, 2012 at 6:19 am |
    • Terry

      When God encounters you. You will understand

      December 16, 2012 at 6:46 am |
  6. Patriot888

    I personally feel that we need to do away with airplanes completely. I mean after 9-11-01. I don't feel that we need them anymore. The slogan Planes, Trains, and automobiles needs to be changed to just Trains and Automobiles. Hey use the footmobiles if you got to. Use a boat but no more planes people. I read in the bible that Cain killed his brother Abel with a rock so I also feel that we need to outlaw rocks entirely. YOU KNOW I MEAN ALL THIS SARCASTICALLY DON'T YOU.

    December 16, 2012 at 5:06 am |
    • Guns and God - they shouldn't go together, but they do

      Funny how all those things have a social benefit, and guns don't.

      December 16, 2012 at 6:31 am |
  7. No one

    I'm sure many have asked for years, decades, centuries perhaps, keep asking. Meanwhile how about actually doing something about this?

    December 16, 2012 at 5:04 am |
  8. Harriet Brown

    Well, you all who are so against God, I will PRAY for you. I know some of you will respond and say not to but I will pray anyway, Because I know that is the Will of God for You, and God loves the little children as well as the whole world, just know this Even YOU. We need PRAYER back in School, count the School Masacres before Prayer was taken out of School and count them after, Guns have always existed and always been available, if the Government try to force people to not have guns they will have them illegally. Call it what you want, but when you stand before God, You will remember you ungly comments about him. Remember This Heaven is REAL and so is Hell!!!

    December 16, 2012 at 4:57 am |
    • JWT

      Well Harriet prayer was never removed from the schools. What was removed was the state's ability to indoctrinate children in some specific religion. People can still pry in school all they want.

      By the way whose prayers do you want to have done in the schools. I am sure you ould be happy if the schools brought in some muslim prayers for you.

      December 16, 2012 at 6:12 am |
  9. lee

    "Do you think our military could handle a war on our own soil alone? Other countries will see us vulnerable if our law abiding citizens are unarmed!" I had a belly laugh when I read this sentence. It is simply so absurd. Do you honestly think that other countries are going to invade us simply because we don't permit the average person to have guns? If so, then why hasn't England, New Zealand, Australia, China, N. Korea etc been invaded? Yep, trust in god. I'm sure many of these parents did and look where it got them. All too many will be burying their children in the coming days. Why don't you face it, this god you talk about simply does not exist. We need better gun control laws in this country not more people carrying guns.

    December 16, 2012 at 4:34 am |
    • Patriot888

      Did you see that man that lost his little girl. He lost her not you or I yet he still believes in God. ...... On the former comment maybe you should move to one of those countries if you feel so strongly about that. I'm red white and blue through and through.

      December 16, 2012 at 4:38 am |
  10. Amezi

    Psalm 23:4 Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil.
    They all waiting for us in paradise.

    December 16, 2012 at 4:22 am |
    • T

      you are lost

      December 16, 2012 at 4:33 am |
    • Patriot888

      I am..... I better make an S.O.S.

      December 16, 2012 at 4:35 am |
  11. ANDERSON P00PER 360




    December 16, 2012 at 4:16 am |
    • Uh, Yeah

      Nice scream screed.

      December 16, 2012 at 4:22 am |
  12. Harriet Brown

    Many are asking where is God, You took God out of School and you want to know where he is, He is waiting for you to accept him back into our schools. Aren't we tired of all the Killings in our youth killing you and others. Let God back in school and stop the killings of innocent people. Those who voted to take God out of school are just as guilty as the ones doing the killing, but we are so quick to blame God. God gives us free will, but his devine WILL is they we allow Him full control. We Need PRAYER back in Schools!!!

    December 16, 2012 at 4:15 am |
    • lee

      How abusrd. Your god is so incredibly hateful that he permits the slaughter of these innocent children merely because we don't permit the government to force people to pray to your god? I'll tell you where god is. He simply does not exist. You can pray all you want and absolutely nothing is going to happen as a result of your prayer. You'll have much much better results in stopping this insanity by helping to ban these types of weapons. I'm not saying all guns, I'm say these types of guns.

      December 16, 2012 at 4:25 am |
    • The Count

      You are the 542 person to say that on this article, and it is even more ridiculous now than ever before. God is so weak he can be pushed out that easy? Did the killer's upbringing as a church-going catholic stop it (God got lots of chances with him)? Is god so cruel and spiteful that he would allow a killer to slaughter kindergarteners to teach us a lessson?

      Either your position is ridiculous, or your god is evil.

      December 16, 2012 at 4:26 am |
    • T

      Ill pray to my lucky rabbits foot......get about the same results

      December 16, 2012 at 4:31 am |
    • photoeffect1

      I don't believe that would be feasible Harriet. If prayer were allowed back in school, they would have to include all religions. By the time they are finished praying; it would be 3:15pm

      Did you also know that images of Santa Claus is forbidden in schools.

      December 16, 2012 at 5:48 am |
    • I wonder

      Harriet Brown,


      "God" wasn't banned from the Our Lady of the Angels School in Chicago in the 1950s when 92 students and 3 nuns died in a fire.

      "God" wasn't banned from the Episcopalian School last year when the principal was shot and killed by a teacher.

      "God" wasn't banned from the church shooting in Atlanta last year.

      do you want more....?

      December 16, 2012 at 6:04 am |
  13. Mopery

    Where's Superman?

    December 16, 2012 at 4:15 am |
    • T

      June 14th 2013

      December 16, 2012 at 4:29 am |
    • Patriot888

      Can't wait for this one! The Man of Steel. I heard the Hobbit was good.....

      December 16, 2012 at 4:34 am |
  14. Rick

    What a bunch of "patriot" foolishness. The idea that everyone carrying a gun would result in events like this being prevented is absurd. You would have far more gun deaths from people becoming unhinged and using the gun if they were cut off in traffic, a dispute with a customer service rep, a jealous lover, reprinaded by a boss. etc etc etc get real.

    December 16, 2012 at 4:13 am |
    • Patriot888

      Australia or England might be in your future my friend. Australia is pretty nice. Cool opera house if you are into that sort of thing..... Anyway

      December 16, 2012 at 4:17 am |
  15. Conni

    We've removed in God We Trust from everything...this is the result.

    December 16, 2012 at 4:11 am |
    • David

      And yet Priests continue to molest kids in churches all the time...

      December 16, 2012 at 4:17 am |
    • Patriot888

      Mr David : what's your solution my friend.

      December 16, 2012 at 4:20 am |
    • Patriot888

      Just because you sit by the lake doesn't mean your a fisherman.....just because a priest is in a church doesn't necessarily mean he is doing Gods will or that he is of God. Doesn't change the fact that God is God.........try another rebuttal David

      December 16, 2012 at 4:24 am |
    • nigel6

      That's odd. All the coins in my pocket say "In God we Trust". I have no idea why, though.

      December 16, 2012 at 4:25 am |
    • T

      as it should be

      December 16, 2012 at 4:27 am |
    • Patriot888

      God doesn't need to be on a coin. It's like writing Jesus's name on a beer can. His teachings need to be in our hearts and minds.

      December 16, 2012 at 4:30 am |
    • History Lesson

      The reason why they say that is that just after World War II there was a Red Scare, and amongst the joys of McCarthyism and Huac and loyalty oaths came a demand for that to be added to coins and the Pledge (which never had it up until then). The Founding Fathers NEVER would have allowed it, but political bullies got it passed during an ugly period of fear and repression.

      If you go back to what Jefferson and Madison say, you will see that the seperation of church and state was very important in those years. Even George Washinton said the U.S. is in no way a Christian country.

      It a fraud argument, really, only for people who have never actually studied that period of history, and are pushing a theocratic agenda.

      December 16, 2012 at 4:32 am |
  16. kingcruis

    Where's God you ask? I guess he left the classroom when your government took him out of the schools. And for all the people that ask what has happened to the kids nowdays...Spare the rod spoil the child.

    December 16, 2012 at 4:08 am |
    • Patriot888

      Simple yet powerful! Me likes it!

      December 16, 2012 at 4:14 am |
    • lee

      Yep god decidied to get even by permitting this slaughter of so many innocent people. Oh , perhaps they're guilty of something after all we're all sinners right? Even children this young. And for course, let's beat the crap out of children so they'll behave. That works really well. Hmmm.. maybe we can go back to the good ol' days when we could strap childrent the the whipping post for 40 lashes with the whip for sassing their parents. I suppose you'd like that too.

      December 16, 2012 at 4:29 am |
  17. Patriot888

    How to prevent such events from taking place again? That's the question now isn't it my fellow Americans. As a husband and father of 3 young children believe me I am highly concerned as I have been before this tragedy unfolded. My prayers and heartfelt condolences go out to the families. No words can describe your loss. As a security officer at my local hospital I know the need for safety and security measures. We need more very very well trained people besides law enforcement in place to deter and possibly prevent these types of criminals from doing this in the future. First I will tell you that a total gun ban is not the answer. Only well trained law abiding citizens should be allowed to own a firearm/s. Concealed carry is the way to go. If these types of criminals know they will be facing opposition they most defiantly will think twice. The right to keep and bear arms was meant to be for the law abiding citizens to have a way of protecting themselves from criminals, and for hunting and recreation. Criminals come in many forms ranging from the individual, to foreign powers, and sadly if it ever came to it our own government. The United States stands for something great to the world. We law abiding Americans are not average people. We are supposed to be a beacon of hope to the world, but all that will stop if big government disarms America. Do you think our military could handle a war on our own soil alone? Other countries will see us vulnerable if our law abiding citizens are unarmed! Those with a globalist agenda won't tell you this though. Take away guns from law abiding citizens and we will not be a country but a police state where sick criminals like this individual will still obtain weapons leaving us sitting ducks. No, no this isn't the answer. You and I are Americans lets get that straight. I will never be called an Iranian, North Korean, or anything else. Take away all our guns and for some reading this that might change. All I can tell you is that if I am ever in a situation like this with you and your loved ones in a school, a store, gas station, mall, etc and some sick twisted individual like this tries to take our lives know that I will stand in the way of that. Even if it costs me my life and you and your family live. We cannot allow these individuals to do this any longer. We cannot allow our own government to use this to our hurt either. Protect yourself and your family my friends. This is the world we now live in. Never deceive yourself into thinking, "This could never happen to me"! Talk to your children, your spouse, teachers, law enforcement, etc. about this. Be safe, be aware, and May God Bless You and The USA. Believe what you want

    December 16, 2012 at 4:04 am |
  18. Rick

    God is organized religion's imaginary CEO.

    December 16, 2012 at 3:59 am |
    • daniel121

      "God is organized religion's imaginary CEO".–good one. He is definitely in the.000001 %. fits the American CEO model perfectly. pays no taxes. Takes money from the 99.999000 %ers. Has a blind offshore account in Italy. People keep him in office even though it is against their best interest. (at a rate of 10 %)

      December 16, 2012 at 4:58 am |
  19. jed

    A world where people do not die makes no sense at all irregardless of ones belief or lack of belief in God.

    December 16, 2012 at 3:58 am |
  20. no name

    To any one who say there is no god.all this what happening to us we doing to are self god will not help us if we not stop everything .To me no one luck like will not stop any one to have gun its so ease to buy gun any were in usa that's to bad for us sorry god nothing got to do with that.

    December 16, 2012 at 3:50 am |
    • Patriot888

      It's a lot of different factors. Not just one

      December 16, 2012 at 3:53 am |
    • T

      Sober up next time you start typing,,,,,and there is no god

      December 16, 2012 at 4:25 am |
    • skytag

      Get a clue. There is no evidence God has ever helped anyone. Ever. You're just trying to rationalize why there is no evidence there is any supernatural power influencing events in this world. None at all. You spend one minute waxing rhapsodic about the power of God and the next 20 trying to rationalize why he never uses it. I can explain it in two seconds: there is no god.

      December 16, 2012 at 5:20 am |
    • Terry

      I am sure that there have been moments in your life that you have thought you were going to die and wondered what would happen to you after died. Would you go to heaven or hell? John 3:16 John 16:33

      December 16, 2012 at 6:13 am |
    • skytag

      Terry, what you choose to believe about what happens when we die is nothing more than a comforting fairytale.

      December 16, 2012 at 6:20 am |
    • Terry

      Does that scare you though that you dont know? or do you not care?

      December 16, 2012 at 6:44 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.