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.
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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.
Instead of arming a person in the front office staff at the schools for the inevitable copycats, look for draconian gun control along the lines of Big Healthcare. Medical care means sending all the money to Washington and begging for some care back. Send all the guns to Washington and fight over refunds. The House always takes a cut.
Hey, lol – have a look at the more civilized countries of the world – where they have universal health care. Higher standards of living, much lower child mortality rates, more highly educated, much less religious, and much, much lower crime rates than the good old U S of A. You've bought into the God myth; apparently you've bought into the Big bad Universal Heath Care myth.
Look around the world, my friend. America is sinking.
Yet another clueless Limbot shares one of the fantasies he's been brainwashed to believe.
Many of "those" countries rely on defence from Unca Suga so they have a budget for health.
Right. Like Sweden. How about Canada? Nope. France? Uh uh. More myths, Lollipop.
Limbot – that's a pretty apt description.
LOL – don't let them fool you!
The countries that are first world and modern – in fact the only places where science, as such, flourished, is where there has been Christianity.
Many of those countries made friends with their neighbors and help with prosperity to all so they do not need a large defence spending.
@ Banks – right – like Ja-pan
Thank you Atheist Steve you proved the Pastors point exactly, Whats the harm of just challenging something you don't believe in there are probably a lot of things you don't believe in but will talk about. Unfortunately one day you will find out and I will pray for you as a fellow human.
You're proud to be a delusional lemming.
Unfortunately? So your view of your god is that it is the schoolyard bully. fascinating.
Lost the reply button did you? You proved nothing...other than your lack of comprehension of language. Your God is imaginary(from my point of view) and is incapable of responding to any challenge I put forth. For example..none of my prayers have ever been answered...I've never observed a miracle...nothing that could be classified as supernatural ever experienced. And that was when I was a believer. All claims of God being real have come up empty with exactly zero challenges met. You may continue to advocate for your diety until your face turns blue but your opinion on the matter is without merit or substance.
@ mike – – you didn't answer my question below: Mike, do you believe in Zeus? In Jupiter? How about Odin? Thor? Ra?
You need to go and get further marching orders from your pastor this morning so you can come back and post more "thoughtful" tripe.
Are all these guys delusional? Try not to be so closed minded because a closed minded atheist is no different than a closed minded religious fanatic.
Guys like Josephson (Nobel prize is physics '73), Smalley (Nobel prize in chemistry '96), Abdus Salam ('79, Nobel in physics), Eccles ('63 Nobel in Medicine), Chain ('45 Nobel in Medicine), Wolfgang Pauli ('45 Nobel in physics), Raymond Damadian (inventor of the MRI)...Ramanujan (Indian Mathematician...born a hindu)...just a small sample of the non-atheists out there.
So funny watching this. An atheist who goes from thinking there is no God to actually entertaining a "possibility" of intelligent design. Go ahead and google the extended version and it gets more funny.
It's hard to take an atheist seriously. Just another version of a religious fanatic...who sits on the opposite end of the spectrum.
You've been hoodwinked by the Eddington concession like always.
Anyway here's Richard Dawkins explaining exactly what happened during that interview.
All you've done is demonstrate the power of indoctrination. Brilliant as these men you list were in their respective fields they still managed to compartmentalize their religious views where logic and reason play no part. This is hardly an argument that favors the merits of religious thinking.
Ah right! Indoctrination only applies to non-atheists. Grow up, dude.
I've listened to the "Eddington Concession." I was hoping for something enlightening, but you only go further down the hole of atheist jibber jabber.
Well go blow your pastor then.
In churches all across America today, especially in Newtown, CT, Christians will go and "yell" at God. And atheists will come to CNN and yell at Christians. I'll take the former, thank you.
No Banks, most of us atheists aren't going to be yelling at any Christians. We're mourning this loss as well.
That's good, Matt. The world needs more compassion.
I'm only yelling at Christians when they make repugnant, repulsive statements that 20 children (most of them Christian) are slaughtered because their petty psychotic invisible nonexistent god is angry at someone else.
Isn't there something decidedly un-Christian about your comment condemning atheists for something they haven't done?
You know whats the really screwed up part.
In tragic situations like this instead of questioning the existence of a god it some how renews their faith.
It's like violence is a sign from their screwed up god.
When things don't go their way, some people conclude that therefore there cannot be a God. It's a form of extreme narcissism.
Others learned to live with disappointment. It's called growing up.
@ Banks – I learned to live with the disappointment of learning that Santa Claus was not real. Granted, I was 7 or 8 at the time. I think the real issue is that believers are stuck with a child-like, and childish, belief in something just as real as Santa, but they don't want to give it up because they believe they won't be able to handle the disappointment.
Yes, but life is much deeper than who brings you presents at Christmas time. Glad you grew past Santa. Now onto to ultimate reality, origins of the universe, why are we here, what is the good, the true, and the beautiful, what does it mean to be rather than not to be at all, why is there something rather than nothing, does my life have any meaning, etc.
Banks, you're need for a crutch to deal with reality isn't a sign of maturity.
Banksie, those are all very good and valid questions to ask and to explore and to search for answers. However, you should not end that search with, well, I was raised in a christian house to believe the bible so that's good enough for me. The Christian myths, along with other myths, arose in the minds of ignorant and superst-itious people thousands of years ago. Do you pray to your computer screen, because it seems magical? No – you understand that it is a product of rational minds.
Apply that same standard to the questions you pose.
Those kids are playing in paradise but God is giving message to people don't go too far towards materialism. Remember why Humans are sent on HIS world.....to worship one true HIM and save yourself from evil deeds. God is carefree other than that. HE has all rights on HIS creations and no one can challenge HIM because HE HIMSELF is the creator of all. HE made this universe which is continuously expanding. Humans forget in reality their significance is zero....zoom out and go on the top of earth...not a single human will be visible from there. Arrogancy is one the attribute of Satan.
Notwithstanding your claim about the kids playing in paradise (for which you have no prof whatsoever) – what about the parents left behind to suffer, for the rest fo their lives, in terrible anguish. Are you saying that THEY are being punished by god for materialism? Seems a bit harsh – hey, you bought an IPad, so I'm going to send an insane murdered to shoot your child in the head????? Nice god you've got there, buddy.
They're in the morgue you delusional lemming.
Humans are sent to HIS world for the purpose of worshipping him?? Your god is as petty as it gets. How arrogant of your "god". Any "god" who demands worship and praise is worthy of neither of those things. Your "god" can su'ck my left nut and make my right one jealous from the attention.
mirrorsol, please apply Lysol first. Then wait for the action.
Attack- prove you exist and not only in my imagination
I know two things for sure I was neither sent here by your version of a god nor am I here to worship said imaginary being.
@ try this: I claim to be a human being. i can appear to you, in a place, and at a time, the we mutually agree upon. I can bring with me independent, verifiable proof.
Can your god do the same?
Sorry attack but that proves nothing. That proves you exist in my imagination, not in reality like I asked you to do. You can't prove your own existence.
This isn't a message and they aren't playing anywhere.
@ try – right, right – you clearly are a master logician. I would anticipate that the vast, vast majority of people would accept that evidence as proof of my existence. Your refusal to do so simply speaks to the level of your intellect – or lack thereof. I did not realize that you were the sole arbiter of the standards for proving existence. So, by your standards, them you do not exist.
Wow attack, you really are an idiot! What are you like 13? So "the vast majority would accept it as proof" is the standard? Well guess what, the vast majority have their proof that god exists, so he must exist. Thank you! Try something else buddy and next time try not to prove my point in your argument.
The truth is we have told God to get out of our lives we don't want or need him until tragic things happen the God of this earcth was in charge of what happened Friday and his name is Satan that"s where your God was, my God is in heaven waiting for everyone else to come to him, oh everyone will ask where he is and want him now and later escort him out again, everyone better wake up and get it you cannot serve two Gods it is either God in heaven or Satan on earth I know everyone will call me names and curse me about what I have wrote here but that is fine. May God love you and take care of you .
Is this how it goes- "The beatings will continue until morale improves?". Isn't that just like an abusive boyfriend?
I don't believe in god or satan but you are of course welcome to your own choices. But no-one else needs to follow any of them.
We ask "Where was God" because he is the only one who claims to be All-Powerful. The only one who could have stopped it, but he didn't. It's only right to ask why. The question has been unanswered since Epicurus asked it 2300 years ago.
"“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 why is there evil?
Is he neither able nor willing? Then why call him God?”
Epicurus quotes (Greek philosopher, BC 341-270)"
This is not "truth," this is the stuff of fairytales.
Why are people looking to the religious now to tell them "Where God was" as if any religious person is going to reach for their book and find on page 33 some answer that will explain the motives of a random gunman. If you've decided to think there is no God stick with your prior reasons. If you've decided to think that there is one you will, I'm sure come up with some elaborate story in your own mind as to why this occured wich will have no relationship to the actions of a lone gunman.
The real issue is we must all face the reality that we will never be in absolute control of one another.
Tonights episode of Family Guy "Jesus, Mary and Joseph" has been postponed or cancelled out of respect for the victims in Conneticut. While I'm sure Seth MacFarlan was merely poking fun (again) at Christianity with this episode the timing would only serve to anger believers. This demonstrates compassion on the part of network execs I guess but part of me is irked by the apparent censorship. Believers know well Seth's atheist views and would likely avoid viewing such in the first place.
As an atheist I view the events that occured at Sandy Hook Elementary as an unfortunate but inevitable outcome. Bad people, religious or not, have been claimng victims throughout history and will continue to do so into the future. No reasons...no meaning..just zemblanity. Things are no worse now than they were in the past, only our perception, from mass media makes it appear so.
I truly believe there is no such thing as an atheist, I heard a Pastor say one time there are no atheist if they say they are, tell them to challenge Godon something and see what happens to them.
And how exactly do I challenge a thing I don't believe exists? Your post makes no sense. I don't believe in God's existence....that makes me an atheist....plain and simple. How would I challenge Santa Claus? There is no difference.
Hey, Mike – do you believe in Zeus? What about Jupiter, the king of the Roman Gods? Ra? Do you believe inthese gods and pray to them?
We have been challenging your "god", or ANY god throughout human history to show itself. That is our ONLY request. To date, not a snigle "god", yours included, has accepted that challenge. It's a simple task, how hard can it be? So, your pastor is either blowing smoke up your as's.. or just blowing YOU. Take your pick.
Logic train here: Either God does what I think should have been done, or he doesn't exist.
God delights in pain and suffering. All good Christians know this and embrace it. Amen.
Do you have a reference for that?
The Bible – how's that for a reference. It is chock full of murder, genocide (the flood – where God kills everything on earth supposedly except for Noah (a fine example of a guy who has s-ex with his daughters) and his family and the animals on the ark, r-ape, more genocide, more ra-pe , human sacrifice, slavery – your god really is a horrible, immoral, loathsome monster. How about this one – believe in me and kiss my sacred ar-se or I'll torture you in fire forever. Hello????? Infinite torture because your god is too incompetent to make his presence known in a reasonable fashion?
Ah, I see that Hitchens and Carlin do in fact live on! You might do well to conduct more in-depth studies of scripture, it's meaning, its history, and its development than those provided to you by those two men.
Christians are masters in cognitive dissonance and Stockholm syndrome.
Umm, Banksie, would you care to elaborate, please? There was no Noah, and no flood in the bible? Your god does not condone slavery? Ra-pe? genocide?
Let me guess: oooh, context! When god does something bad, you don;t understand – you're misinterpreting. When god does something good, well, it says so right there in the bible.
A horrible, immoral book about a horrible immoral god for a horrible immoral religion.
Yep – ole George and Chris have made a fire-breathing evangelist out of you.
When I see Christian evangelists shouting on a street corner I cross over to the other side. I think I'll do that with you too. You can never be too careful!
Actually, I think it was your parents that made you so angry, George and Chris just gave you another screen on which to project your anger and disappointment.
Banksie, you know what is really tiring? You ask a believer a question – a simple question, such as, show me how my characterization of the bible is incorrect, and you run around and jump through hoops and insult, and then you run away. Why? Because you know, you absolutely know, that you have no valid response.
Think about that, Banksie – why can't you respond? Because you KNOW that I'm right.
You see CNN, since you don't believe in God, you should ask yourselves a more pertinent question as it relates to your religious beliefs(secular humanism) and that would be where was humanism?
Seems to me that God had plenty of ways to intervene here. So we have 2 options:
1) God doesn't exist.
2) God could have, but didn't want to stop this from happening.
I can live with 1, but 2 is pretty messed up.
There are only two possible explanations about the existence or non-existence of God? Hmm! You must not have been paying attention in school.
When something good happens it is gods will; when something bad happens satan has taken control; pretty stupid belief system.
The poster did not post what you imply. The judeo-christian roots you refered too were pretty ugly at the time the country was formed, fighting among the different cults, one of the reasos reigion was to be kept out of government, Some of the other religions practiced in the USA are much less violent than the christian lot.
As a Muslim, my heart goes out to the 20 children that were killed but I get comfort that all 20 are in paradise. American soldier's have killed countless Muslim children but the media does not show that on TV. We Muslim's do not get any smpathy from the American's when they see children killed by Israelis. Allah (SWT) does not take revenge but does show the pain of his followers and the corruption of America. Who are we to ask where was God? Instead, everyone should ask what has their government has done to prevent this tradegy, as we all know this is not the first time. In conclusion, this story will fade away in a week, as so many stories like this type have in the past. Allah (SWT) knows best. I urge you all, read the Qu'ran please, look into Islam and I am confident you will find Peace.
Kindly shove the Bible and the Qu'ran up your ass.
I'm not too familiar with any of the old wise tales about sacred pedophiles or anything.. but would all of these children get the virgins package? Or is that set aside for the most Rambo looking snackbars?
I have read it, I have a copy. I'm not impressed with it or your prophet. I'm also very familiar with your religion's history. Again, I'm not inmpressed.
@ Aloha Snackbar ... "Paradise" is running a little short of vir'gins at the moment. Allah had some on back-order, and now he has 20 new models in stock now, waiting for the next jihadist to claim them. These kids do not get the "vir'gin package".. they ARE the "vir'gin package", once Mohammed takes them out for a test-drive. He liked them YOUNG also. (9 year old bride.. remember?)
To claim that Islam is a religon of peace is not true. If you look at the history and the pain many people edure under Islamic rule to say that is false. If you look at the girl shoot on the bus for wanting to learn and have girls do better you say peace. Look at Christian's in countries kill becasue they will not bow down to the god of Isalm.
Now America is a post christain nation with shadows of a Christain background. They kick out the Lord of of the public square and hate the God of the bible some much that they spue hate and ask where is this God.
Please do not think there are no Americans who cry when your children are killed. There are many. I am one of the many. All Americans are not as you may think.
The hunger for love is much more difficult to remove than the hunger for bread.
Loneliness and the feeling of being unwanted is the most terrible poverty.
If you are lonely when you are alone you're not in good company.
That was really deep, Julia. Thanks.
Some were saying , Where was God to protect them, The answer is simple, America for the most part has kicked God out of the classrooms/schools
Which religion would you have them teach in public school – to be inclusive it would take all day.
JWT – how about we teach about the Judeo-Christian roots of our founding?
So by your logic (or more likely, whatever your Pastor has told you ad nauseum), as long as you pray to the Raging All Mighty In The Sky, he will protect you. However, as soon as you stop making a bunch of kids who don't even understand religion do their morning prayer, he will let horrible things happen to you?
Religion can not stop tragedy. I do not think religion(s) should be forced into schools, however I think banning all religions just like burning any books may not be the way to go. But besides all that this issue has nothing to do with wether or not there is religion in schools.
Thank goodness we kicked him out. Imagine the damage he would do if we let him in! That asshole is a killing machine!
Why teach that that is not going to be the religion of all the people in class. It's a point in interest in studying the origins of the usa but nothing more. I certainly do not want you teaching that your religion is more important than mine to my children.
America has also kicked God out of adult bookstores and adult theaters. I haven't heard of any shootings in those places.
I can't tell you where God was, I"m still working on "what" God is.
God does not factor into this equation simply because he is a only a manifestation of our inability to cope with death. Nobody wants to believe that their loved one is truly gone, or that the depraved go unpunished, so we invented magical places where they dwell for eternity.
Look at Carl Jung's collective unconscious. There are some provoking studies I've seen on through the Wormhole as well regarding consciousness. Can't say it's fact but it's hope.
Looks like we are running out of people to blame...so we want to blame God.....who for many doesn't exist. Grow up....find someone else to blame.
Why doesn't anybody blame the gunman? I know I do.
I do too! That makes at least two of us.
I find it simply amazing everyone wants to blame/question God... Where is he? Why didn't he stop this? How could he let this happen? My answer is simple. We don't allow him in our schools anymore!!!!
Actually...their question doesn't even have merit because to them He doesn't exist....it's purely throwing desperate swings in the dark.
Failed basic reading comprehension??? If you had taken two damn seconds you would see that no your imaginary friend has not been taken out of schools but the ability for school official's to lead a christian prayer when not everyone wishes for their children to be subjected to that god or belief, has been. Children can still pray to their respective god if they wish...their freedom of religion has not been taken away.
Wow, I am glad that i don't believe that a God exists. Because the God that you described just let 20 kids get murdered because they didn't pray to him before nap time... What a twisted, sadistic God you believe in.
Strange that a country with a majority that does not want God anywhere around them asks where He is when something like this happens. Instead of asking "Where's God" ask where were you last Sunday? Where were you when things were good? That's right, doing whatever you wanted.
Where was atheism when this happened? Where was the wiccan god? Where was allah? Where was buddha? Confucius? Why is no one asking this?
No, you would rather blame God.
Max Lucado is totally wrong when he said everyone asks where was god. He erroneously thinks we all think like him and believe in what he does. We are all unique individuals and have no need to all be like him. Personally I have never asked where god is about anything.
Those you listed do not claim to be omnipotent gods, get it. According to many christians the god of isreal is real and nothing gets done without him (a favorite line of the Chad). So if god has that kind of control why did not the perp blow his brains out before he entered the school?
Where was Atheism? That's is the absence of a belief in a God. We don't "blame God" because we know he/she wasn't there. Also, we ask the "Where was God?" question out of sarcasm. Those whom truly believe in "God," won't ask that question. Only us rationalists/Atheists are asking.
Brother Mitch you made a great point, a lot of people ask about God when things are going bad when their too busy drinking, partying, watching sports, plenty of food, their kids having babies at age 15, their kids on their I-Phone all day, they don't think of God but as soon as a love one gets killed, they want to display their anger toward God. Why is it we only think of God when we are in trouble or something bad as happen to us but we never thank God when everything is going well. We Muslim's proudly pray 5 times a day and Christians are asked to go to church only on Sunday's and so many of my Christians friends rather watch Football games then go to Church.