Prayer was another casualty of the Dec. 3 mass shooting in San Bernardino, Calif., which claimed the lives of 14 people. In what seemed to be a reaction of built-up frustration, gun control supporters began criticizing anti-gun control politicians who posted prayerful messages for shooting victims and their families on social media. The hashtag often used was #ThoughtsandPrayers.
Their sentiment led to an opposing hashtag, #GodIsntFixingThis. The New York Daily News, in its Dec. 4 issue, used this phrase in a large-type, front-page headline, along with the subhead: “As latest batch of innocent Americans are left lying in pools of blood, cowards who could truly end gun scourge continue to hide behind meaningless platitudes.”
Was this a frontal assault on religion or simply anger at political inaction? Perhaps a mixture of both. First, let’s look at the problem.
The Dec. 3 incident in San Bernardino, Calif., was the 353rd mass shooting in America this year, according to shootingtracker.com, an online list of mass shootings. That means more than one mass shooting has occurred every day in 2015.
Shooting Tracker defines a mass shooting as one in which four or more people, including the gunman, are killed or injured by gunfire. Another online resource, gunviolencearchive.org, reports that 12,307 deaths occurred nationally in 2015 due to gun violence and another 24,859 have been injured.
The inability to curtail or end mass shootings in this country has become a national disgrace. Already, more mass shootings have occurred in the first 11 months of 2015 than all of 2014 (336) and they are on pace to surpass the 363 mass shootings in 2013.
It is obvious that some sort of action must take place. And while prayer cannot be the only response to mass shootings, it should not be ridiculed.
For Christians, prayer is the opportunity to turn to God and seek direction for our actions. Just as Jesus did on many occasions, such as in the Garden in Gethsemane, we pray to God for guidance. Prayer is the foundation for our actions.
A colleague shared the story about a man in a rowboat. On one of his oars is written “Pray” and on the other “Work.” A stranger called out to the man to ask why.
The man in the boat says, “Watch what happens when I only pray.” He rows with just that oar and the boat goes in circles.
“Watch what happens when I work but do not pray.” The same thing happens, but in the opposite direction. “Now watch what happens when I work and pray together. I move across the water.”
The moral of this story: we need to pray and to work (a motto of the Benedictines). For politicians who offer their prayers in times of tragedy, please continue. But you’re moving in circles if you don’t work to end the madness of gun violence.
It’s been more than 20 years since any substantial law has been passed on gun control. The Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994 created a 10-year federal ban on the manufacture of new semi-automatic assault weapons. It also banned large-capacity ammunition magazines, limiting them to 10 rounds.
When the ban ended in 2004, Congress did not renew it. In fact, repeated efforts to renew the ban failed. It is time for our elected leaders to begin an overhaul of lenient gun laws in this country. They should end loopholes that make assault weapons available to anyone. For the rest of us, continue to pray for an end to gun violence, but demand that laws be made to help answer those prayers.