Prayer and Guns

Guns and religion in one blog post? Yes I can! Let’s do it…

Remember a few months ago, after yet another mass shooting–I literally can’t recall which, there are so many–when America, driven largely by social media, collectively decided they’d had enough “thoughts and prayers” after gun fatalities? Twitter exploded, and the New York Daily News printed the iconic cover seen below.


This was the result of pent up frustration, sadness and fury over the current state of violence, particularly mass shootings, in the United States. Time after time these things were happening, and time after time we saw our elected officials, who could and should be doing something about it, sending their “thoughts and prayers” out to the victims and their families. It pissed us off. It pissed me off!

There is always a subset of religious folks–largely Christian, let’s be honest–who relish playing the victim. This provided an excellent opportunity. The term “prayer shaming” was born. “Our religion is under attack!” they cried out. They seemed to think they were being criticized for praying! But they weren’t. By and large, we were criticizing those who had the power to take meaningful action but who either did nothing or actively impeded attempts to do something. 

Reducing violence requires people to do something! Commission studies, fund research at the CDC, change laws… something, anything is better than nothing. If God was going to fix this, surely there has been enough praying by now to get Him to act, right?

Not everyone is convinced. ThinkProgress contributor Igor Volsky has been particularly vocal and dedicated to calling out the NRA and their bought-and-paid-for legislators, with tweets like this:

This morning, he tweeted this:

Quoth the Speaker:

You see it in the papers, you see it on Twitter. When people say we’re praying for someone or something, the attitude in some quarters these days is ‘Don’t just pray, do something about it!’ The thing is, when you are praying, you are doing something about it.

This is pure nonsense, of course. Mr. Ryan manages to include the term, “don’t just pray”, and then misses the point by a mile. That’s what we’ve been saying, don’t just pray. Go ahead and pray if you want to, but then also do something! Something substantive. You weren’t elected to pray, Mr. Speaker. You were elected to represent the people of your district and more broadly the United States in Congress. If you want to lead through prayer, by all means resign your position and become a member of the clergy. You can probably do good for people that way. But you and your colleagues in Congress and local legislative bodies aren’t doing your job, or anyone any good, when you just pray.

To be perfectly clear, I am not saying that people shouldn’t pray, or that “thoughts and prayers” are meaningless. If you’re a believer, keep on praying. And goodness knows these victims should all be in our thoughts. But why stop there? Even the lowliest of us can contribute. Contact your representatives, call out deception when you see it, volunteer, keep the pressure on.

Do something.


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