Thoughts and prayers

Sympathy is hollow without action

Jul 4, 2016 by

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Our thoughts and prayers go out to victims and their loved ones after the horrific shooting that took place June 12 at an LGBTQ nightclub in Orlando, Fla.

Thoughts and prayers. That should do it.

What, exactly, have thoughts and prayers accomplished? There were thoughts and prayers after Hesston, San Bernardino, Kalamazoo, Charleston, Aurora, Sandy Hook, Virginia Tech, Nickel Mines, Columbine and on and on. Thoughts haven’t stopped the shootings. Prayers haven’t stopped the hate.

It is good to think, and it is good to pray. In the whirlwind of turmoil following senseless and selfish acts of destruction, such supplications can be a comfort for victims and supporters. In the case of Orlando, an act of terror against a marginalized subset of the population makes the need for such compassion even greater.

But thinking and praying are not enough. True evangelical faith does not lie dormant. It spreads itself out in fruits of love. Our thoughts and prayers are driftless without action anchoring them to efforts to somehow stop the hate from its unrelenting march.

In politics and finance, there was a bit of action. Members of Congress in Washington, D.C., traded sensible collaboration for political theater, bypassing strengthened background checks in favor of racially charged and sweeping bans with little support. Historically high stock prices for gun manufacturers Smith & Wesson and Sturm Ruger & Co. jumped still higher the day after the shooting, prompted by fears of hypothetical stricter purchasing laws and a hypothetical need for personal protection.

Gun sales set records annually, and the bloodshed persists. An increase in guns and gun carriers has not produced a host of armed saviors. A 2011 al-Qaida recruitment video even encourages hopeful terrorists to take advantage of the fact that “America is absolutely awash with easily obtainable firearms.”

The Orlando tragedy shook the intersection of so many already vulnerable communities — LGBTQ, Latino, Muslim, immigrant. Each of those groups has been too easily dismissed by too many churches. Too many thoughts and prayers dwell on a plea that they would just change or disappear. They aren’t going away, because they are us, and we should feel the pain. “God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in them” (1 John 4:16b).

A popular side dish to thoughts and prayers is the versatile and bipartisan moment of silence. It’s just as audible and equally effective.

Too many have been too silent, allowing their faith to lie dormant. Our silence is killing us.


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