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Many look to God to make sense of tragedy

Published: Tuesday, Dec. 18 2012 5:00 a.m. MST

Mary Fellows,of Newtown, Conn., weeps while waiting for a prayer service to begin at St John's Episcopal Church, Saturday, Dec. 15, 2012, in Newtown. The massacre of 26 children and adults at Sandy Hook Elementary school elicited horror and soul-searching around the world even as it raised more basic questions about why the gunman, 20-year-old Adam Lanza, would have been driven to such a crime and how he chose his victims.

David Goldman, Associated Press

In the hours and days following the shooting deaths at Sandy Hook Elementary, numerous attempts have been made to address the tragedy in terms of faith.

Some of the writers laid the blame for the senseless murder of 20 kindergarten children on society's culture of sin and violence. Others admit up front they have no explanation, but only hope that God will make something good come out of the tragedy.

"Certainly, there are many who are wondering why God would allow such a horrific tragedy. Where was He? Why did He allow this? Why didn’t He stop this young man from perpetrating this terrible crime?," Charles Stanley, pastor of the First Baptist Church in Atlanta, wrote in the Washington Post's On Faith blog. "I confess I have many questions myself. But does it shake my faith in God? No. It actually makes me more grateful for Him. This is because in God, I always have hope, no matter what happens."

Stanley's was among several thoughtful pieces responding to Sally Quinn's uninformed rant asking, "Where was God?"

"These children didn’t get salvation. They got death. Maybe in another life they will but that may not be enough of a consolation for the parents," wrote Quinn, founder of the Post's On Faith blog.

Former Army Chaplain Col. Arthur Pace, who helped survivors of 9/11 cope with the pain of those losses, wrote in the Post that people will feel anger and at a loss to answer profound questions. The healing comes when people reach out to each other and seek out God through scripture.

"In times of tragedy, the Bible offers us access to a God who understands our pain and extends us His strength in bearing up under it. Psalm 22:24 tells us that God 'has not despised or scorned the suffering of the afflicted one; he has not hidden his face from him but has listened to his cry for help.' When we get to the end of our own resources, we discover a God of limitless resource."

Max Lucado, a Christian pastor in San Antonio, told CNN that faith leaders should avoid the extremes of easy answers of no answers.

“This is a time to go deep and pray,” he said. “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."

Others noted that the deaths happened as Christians prepared for the third Sunday of Advent, when joy was the theme. "And so, we light the candle this morning, not because we are rejoicing, but because ... we are waiting for Christ's light to break into the pain and violence of our world and bring the joy that feels so elusive," wrote Rev. Emily C. Heath in Sunday's Huffington Post religion blog.

She wrote that asking difficult questions opens one up to a deeper relationship with God.

"In times like this, 'God, why?' can be the most powerful and honest prayer you can utter."

A couple of writers said while all are saddened by the killings, no one should be surprised. Fox's Mike Huckabee blamed it on religion playing a lesser role in public schools than in the past. And Franklin Graham wrote in the Washington Post that the violence permeating society was a source of Friday's evil.

But Mark Galli, editor of Christianity Today, wrote the day of the killings that massacres of children have happened in the past, most notably after the birth of Moses and of Jesus, and good eventually came from those tragedies.

"In the one case, liberation from slavery was already on the march. In the other, liberation from death. It seems to be God's way of saying, 'While the stench of death overwhelms you, the fragrance of life is already wafting up. It may look like I am absent, but I have been with you all along. I have prepared a redeemer even before you lost hope for a redeemer.'"

The most powerful answer to the difficult question of why God would let the tragedy happen was by the father of one of the 6-year-old victims, Emilie Parker.

In videos of news conferences compiled by the Blaze, Robbie Parker said the shooter was acting on his own free will that God won't take from anyone. Parker also said he has the same agency to choose to be angry but to use the tragedy to make sure his family and others are cared for.

"I don't know how to get through something like this," Parker, a Mormon, said in response to a reporter's question. "We find strength in our religion and in our faith and in our family."

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