Where is God When Children are Murdered Down the Road?

On the heels of Jesus’ birth story comes a story of violence and death. The narrative moves, quickly, away from glorious rejoicing to the slaughter of the innocents, in which every baby boy near Jesus’ birthplace was murdered.

Another slaughter of innocents happened this morning. It happened down the road from us, twenty miles away. My daughter’s school is in lockdown because a young man decided to murder as many children as he could on this chilly day with a bright blue sky. We are supposed to light the town Christmas tree tonight. We are supposed to be a community of good cheer and good will and instead we brush up against evil and fear and darkness.

I have been singing “O Come O Come Emmanuel” to William every night before bed these past few weeks. He requests “Christmas church songs” all year round, but I only recently offered him this Advent hymn. The tune is beautiful, but haunting, sung in a minor key. It is as if the melody itself carves out a hollow space, the space that Jesus is meant to fill. The space that my theology tells me Jesus has filled, does fill, will fill. The space that remains empty for many parents today, the space that will be filled only with tears and heartache and horror.

Advent is a time of longing, of crying out for God to continue to break into this broken world and make it right. And so, with anger and fear and sorrow and the thinnest wisp of hope, we cry out. Come, Lord Jesus. Come into the horror. Make it right.

About Amy Julia Becker

Amy Julia Becker writes and speaks about family, faith, disability, and culture. A graduate of Princeton University and Princeton Theological Seminary, she is the author of Penelope Ayers: A Memoir, A Good and Perfect Gift (Bethany House), and Why I Am Both Spiritual and Religious (Patheos Press).


  1. Jim in New Orleans says:

    Thank you for sharing this today, Julia. In times like these, so many people ask why…..and there just aren’t any answers. We have the comfort of Emmanuel, God With Us, during this time as we sort through and move on. Prayers especially with the parents of those slaughtered innocents. May they find some healing through the presence of others.

  2. Thank you, Amy Julia. My heart absolutely broke today reading the news during my prep period; I simply cannot fathom such horror at an elementary school, especially during this festive time of year. Kids should be worried about Christmas and Hanukkah and normal kid stuff. And my students had those lighthearted worries today, blissfully unaware that their peers in another part of our country were terrified. I’ve never been so grateful for petty worries.

  3. When asking “where was God” during these moments in inexplicable horror, it helps me to remember that the problem of evil was a bitter pill that God Himself choked down on the cross. Only a sovereign God can bring any redemption from such grievous evil.

  4. Stan Williams says:

    Where is God? Well, we told him to get lost from our schools. So, what do you expect?

    • Stan, All of human history is marked by humans telling God to get lost and God disobeying our orders. God shows up, again and again and again. The Christian faith is marked by Emmanuel, God with us, even when we turn our backs, even when we run away, even when we don’t believe.

    • Edward Grajales says:

      an insensitive thing to say. This assumes a lot about what the person you’re speaking to believes, and it also ignores the grief they’re going through.

    • Stan, you are so off base with such a comment. The fact that in 1964 the Supreme Court decided that school officials cannot lead children in prayer, does not translate into anyone telling God to get lost. The reason behind the ruling is that this is a nation of many faiths and dominations within faiths and therefore a public official (teacher, principal, etc.) cannot promote any certain religion (likely their won brand) over another by leading children in prayer. This certainly does not stop anyone from practicing their faith. Children can pray on their own before school starts or at school during recess or at lunch and they can share their faith with others. Some (or perhap all) of thoses parents who lost a child today may be passionate believers for all you know. Perhap they say their prayers every night and go to church every Sunday. To say that the murder of these innocent ones happened because the Supreme Court issued a ruling some 48 years ago is absurd, ridiculous, and aborrent to say the least. As Amy pointed out, we may not always be faithful to God, but God is always faithful to us. “When Jesus saw her weeping, and the others who had come along with her also weeping, he was deeply moved in spirit and troubled…Jesus wept.” (John 11:33-35)

    • Yea, those kids totally deserved it. Little heathen bastards. I hope god kills more kids. That’ll teach ‘em.

      Man, do we have a loving god or what? High-five everybody!

      • As for comfort, when we seek it, I can imagine none greater than the happy knowledge that when I see the death of a child I do not see the face of God, but the face of His enemy. It is not a faith that would necessarily satisfy Ivan Karamazov, but neither is it one that his arguments can defeat: for it has set us free from optimism, and taught us hope instead. We can rejoice that we are saved not through the immanent mechanisms of history and nature, but by grace; that God will not unite all of history’s many strands in one great synthesis, but will judge much of history false and damnable; that He will not simply reveal the sublime logic of fallen nature, but will strike off the fetters in which creation languishes; and that, rather than showing us how the tears of a small girl suffering in the dark were necessary for the building of the Kingdom, He will instead raise her up and wipe away all tears from her eyes—and there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying, nor any more pain, for the former things will have passed away, and He that sits upon the throne will say, “Behold, I make all things new.” ~ copied

    • You’re an idiot. Go kill yourself and get into “heaven” faster. We could do with less morons on this planet.

    • For all you know Stan, the shooter was raised in a Christian home and killed many children of Christians. Your remark is full of hate and is a shameful thing to say about these tragedies. Would you dare say this to the face of a mother who lost her baby yesterday? If not, why not?

    • Why would you shift blame from the person who committed the crimes to your concept of God? Your statement makes no sense. So in your mind, your loving God that protects those that are faithful turned his back on all the schools in the nation and allowed this to happen because we deserved it.

      Even if I believed in supernatural beings, I wouldn’t follow your ‘God’. He sounds like a spiteful A-hole!

  5. Where was god? where was Jesus, the arc angels, the angels the pope, all the bishops and all the clergy when innocent children are being slaughtered?…………where they always are…….in the minds of people who believe in the bible’s fairytale.

    • It is clearly not GOD, as God gives us the power of freedom of choice, it is our society, you, me, us, failing our children and not paying attention to a crazy person. But watch God pick up the pieces as always….

      • That doesn’t make any sense. Going by your logic and that of most people who follow monotheistic religions, God has the power to act and control but leave it in the hands of us, his creations.

        However, if God is all-powerful and all-knowing, wouldn’t God know what our free will would lead to. You say he give us the ability to choose but if he is all-knowing then he knows exactly what earthly situations will lead to given the logic and ability that He gave us.

        Therefore, if God exist as you believe, we are all just pawns in his game and he knowingly creates us to topple over so that he can use his power to manipulate the created world for fun.

  6. Man, what if God had just never let it happen…that would’ve been pretty cool. Oh well. C’mon everybody, let’s shut our eyes REAL TIGHT and wish REAL HARD and maybe it’ll make the parents of the dead kids not feel so sad. Go Team-God! We’re winning!

  7. OneTimothyThreeFifteen says:

    If you believe ‘as if’ God is a divine Santa Claus or a Fairy Godfather, and not the God that was believed in before the Protestant/Atheist mindset began with the Nominalism William of Ockham and the Univocity of Being in Duns Scotus, then you will ask this question.

    No wonder atheists think all Christians believe in a divine spaghetti monster – because these ‘Christians’ ask this sort of question which simply reinforces the idea that all Christians really do believe in this Spaghetti Monster/Santa Claus/Fairy Godfather.

    Your question just feeds the atheist because it’s based in the mindset you share with the him about the nature of God – a view of God that’s no different from his own – except to the atheist he’s a monster, and to you, he should be a Sugar Daddy.

    So, when he fails to be a Sugar Daddy, you ask the same sort of questions an atheist would ask because your belief is isomorphic. You and the atheist actually believe in the same ‘God’.

    From his experience, Freud said rightly, I think, religious people (his clients) were projecting their wishes and desires onto a concept called ‘God’, but what he didn’t include was the atheist does exactly the same with all his venom against the tyrant father-figure. Both are indeed projections, because both follow the Ockham/Scotist metaphysics which rejected the traditional Christian view of Being, and so both will ask ‘Where was God when X happened?’, except they react differently: the supposed Christian has his ‘faith’ tested, whilst the atheist is merely confirmed in his cynicism.

    This is because neither know him as he really is because both are products of the mindset set in motion by Ockham and Scotus which fed Luther (who famously said, ‘I am nothing, if not an Ockhamist’), and the Enlightenment after him.

    That is why so many so-called Christians ‘lose their faith’ when he fails to deliver and become atheists. They just swap sides on the same playing field. And so, likewise, when someone’s converted to this form of ‘Christianity’, they are merely doing the reverse because the Evangelist (marketeer) normally says something which attracts them. Going from one side to the other within the same frame of reference.

    However pre-Ockhamist, pre-Scotist Christianity was on a different playing field altogether, because it is based in a totally different metaphysical frame of reference (essence and analogy), and that’s the one where I find the real God of Christianity, the God of the Bible.

    • I don’t get it. The God of the Bible is VERY concerned with human morality. Are you just overlooking the parts in, say, Isaiah 1? If not, why is he worried about creatures’ hearts when he is existence itself?

      • Absolutely God cares about morality. I do believe that OneTimothy was actually saying that there are many who hold the belief that bad people get punished by God, and good people get rewarded. Therefore, how is it possible that someone who is innocent and good could be murdered so violently is the question that is inevitably asked. So when he said that people view God as a Sugar Daddy (awesome choice of words by the way), it’s the idea that if I just clean up my mouth, work on being a nicer person, fix my anger issues, and stop looking at pornography, then God will love me more and reward me with a happy family, nice house, and lots of money. This is not the Gospel but a heretical prosperity Gospel. The Gospel says that we WILL endure suffering, that good men WILL have pain/heartache, and that no matter what we do God will love us no more or less. It is because we live in a broken sinful world that this tragedy has happened, and God is still weaving together this broken world and mending it together.

      • OneTimothyThreeFifteen says:

        Why did God command the Ban placed on Jerico? Why did God command the Levites slaughter thousands of their fellow Israelites just for building a Golden Calf?

    • As an atheist, I vehemently disagree with oneTimothy.
      “Your question just feeds the atheist because it’s based in the mindset you share with the him about the nature of God and Being – a view of God that’s no different from his own – except to the atheist he’s a monster, and to you, he should be a Sugar Daddy.”

      I do not view ‘God’ in any manner. The concept of an all powerful almighty being is a monster gives credence to the concept of ‘God’. It would be just as ludicrous as if I said the Easter Bunny was evil. I view these concepts as stories. God therefore cannot be great, good, almighty, or any other attribute you want to assign God and then argue as if it is something debatable. It is simply my belief that there is not a supernatural being that created us, the earth, the solar system, and the uncountable galaxies. There is not a wizard behind the scenes, and thus cannot be blamed when failing to make an appearance from time to time.

      • OneTimothyThreeFifteen says:

        What makes what Adam Lanza did definitively wrong and not just the majority’s expression of disgust or preference within their own cultural stories?

        My point was not to argue for God, but the relativised viewpoint which you nicely summed up in your choice of the word ‘story’.
        In other words, you have exemplified my point in your reply, QED.

  8. Thank you Amy,
    It is so hard for people to understand that evil does not come from God. Doing evil has always been our option, a freely given choice from the beginning.

    Only God can glue together
    what evil has shattered.
    He just asks us to hand Him
    the pieces of our broken hearts.

  9. We have those that say it was caused by not having prayer in church. Sometimes in life, things happen that have no reason. Why does one leave fall before another in autumn?

  10. Things that happen in this world are a direct result of Gods will, correct?

  11. As a person who lives in Asia, what happened in America is what I see regularly among the tribal groups who are being murdered and eliminated. My friends on FB said they were crying; I stay angry and sad because murder stories are daily dinner news. I wish there was a Christian answer to this problem of evil. I do pray that God will come and make his glory known.

  12. jandrprinsen says:

    Amy Julia, I was pleased to see you had posted on this topic, yet I knew without a doubt it would draw some horrible, heartless responses. If only I’d been wrong. Why are we surprised by mass killings when human beings speak to one another with such unspeakable hostility and viciousness on the Internet? So while on one hand I’m glad thoughtful people are out there to share their thoughts at times like this, the puerile, heartless responses make me wonder if it is really worth it. Absolutely disgusting.

    • Yes, these comments certainly show all the emotion that is out there, not only in regards to this tragedy, but also in regards to faith in God in general. There is much more to say, and perhaps I will be able to write more about this all soon–thoughts are swirling in my head and heart. Thanks for oyur comment.

  13. AJ, you wrote beautifully and bravely today. I am overwhelmed at the loss for those families and their friends and classmates and co-workers, and sickened by the way some people are responding. You have done well in choosing your words her.


  14. Thank you for those thoughts. It is strange that while I would have been thinking about the Holy Innocents after Christmas, I hadn’t made the connection which you have and I thank you for it.

    Where was God? the same place as he was when Herod killed the Holy Innocents, and where he has been when evil has been done, try Nazi Germany or Soviet Russia, or add your favourite horror story, having given his creation free will hoping that we will do what is right, but knowing that all too often we will get it wrong, and that individuals, and sometimes a whole nation will get it very wrong.

    It is because God is not the tooth fairy and will (and morally cannot) come bouncing in to act the superhero that it is a temptation to rail against him and ask where he is. But he is with the broken heart, and he is supporting the hurt and the lost, and in the eye of faith he provides support. It doesn’t take away the pain of the bereaved, but it gives that support so that they can be real growth out of the worst situations.

    • I.e. god is useless and not worthy of respect, let alone worship.

      • The problem is that we live in society where we are linked, so someone exercising free will has an effect on other people. In the Adam and Eve story their disobedience caused the fall, which is something which we all suffer from. To fulfil what you want he would have had to interferen with free will in the first place

        You are perfectly entitled to think that God does not fulfil your needs for him to act in certain ways. You either don’t believe in him, as I don’t believe in the rather nasty God whom some people believe in, or accept that is where he is. Whatever you do you have to struggle about God’s (his or her) nature or very existence.

    • Edward and others, what I’ve never understood about the “free will” explanation for the problem of evil, is that the victims of these atrocities don’t have free will. If one believes Genesis, Adam and Eve brought evil on themselves by exercising their own free will. That’s logically and morally consistent as far as it goes.

      But here, the murdered children didn’t bring it on by exercise of free will, just as the Jews in the Holocaust didn’t exercise free will. Instead, it was somebody else’s exercise of free will that brought on the evil and caused their suffering and death. That’s completely different from what happened to Adam and Eve, and for me, that’s where the idea of an omniscient, omnipotent, all-good God breaks down. Why would God be morally prohibited from violating the free will of an evil person in order to save innocents?

  15. lidia martin says:

    We wanted God out of our schools so he left!

    • Interesting doctrinal statement, Lidia. Have any Scripture to support that?

    • An absurd claim. Religious belief is not banned from American schools.
      Besides, religious belief isn’t a magical force-field that shields people from violence. There is a reason the Popemobile has bullet-proof windows…

  16. Where was God? Right where He is suppost to be. Welcoming the Kids Home. This is sad for all that have a heart but to those who do not know, it is God’s fault. Well, sorry but it is man’s fault. Who did God give this planet to be head over all living things? You said man, you would be right. Who did man give it to? Your right again, Satan. Man tries and make it so complicated. And they are good at it. Remember Job? Hang in there, wheather you believe or not. Jesus Loves You. We are here for a very short time, Heaven or hell is forever. God Bless those kids and there families!

  17. Depending on who you believe there were 21000-25000 kids who died needlessly yesterday, 20 of them were American!

    Of them, most would have survived if they had had 1 US Dollar, for food or medical help!

    According to Jeffrey Sachs:
    USA, the richest country in the world gives 0.03% of its GDP to the
    poorest countries in the world, not counting military aid. That is the least amount in the western world.

    Norway gives 1%.