On Offering Up Prayers and Thoughts – and how it annoys Liberal Christians and Atheists
I had been thinking about doing a post about this subject for the past one to two years but never got around to it.
This has become a really big pet peeve of mine, and I see it all the time from liberal Christians, ex Christians, and atheists: criticizing people of faith who publicly offer up prayers or thoughts for people, especially after a national tragedy, such as a mass public shooting or a natural disaster.
I will then usually see liberals, atheists, and ex Christians (including Stephanie Drury of “Stuff Christian Culture Likes” Facebook group) complaining about this tendency.
On the one hand, I agree, people of faith should get off their asses to actually DO things to help other people – even the book of James in the New Testament mentions this:
14 What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if someone claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save them? 15 Suppose a brother or a sister is without clothes and daily food.
16 If one of you says to them, “Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it? 17 In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.
18 But someone will say, “You have faith; I have deeds.”
Show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith by my deeds.19 You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that—and shudder.
(end quote from James 2)
I know after my mother died, I was quite stunned, frustrated, angered and hurt when the Christians I sought out for emotional support chose instead to simply say they were “praying for me” (or they judged and criticized me) rather than get off their asses and be there for me.
So yes, I can see how it is bad or hypocritical for a person of faith to not do anything beyond pray for a hurting person or hurting group of people, because I experienced this first hand.
On the other hand, I find it annoying every time I see the liberal Christians and atheists on line who immediately converge on any Christian who publicly says, “My thoughts and prayers go with those hurt today….”
It’s not mutually exclusive – a person can literally help others AND pray for them as well.
Additionally, I’d much rather see scads of people show they care by at least saying they are praying for people after a national tragedy rather than remain totally silent and seem to convey by their silence they are heartless and could not care less that a bunch of people died, or lost their homes due to a tornado or hurricane, or what have you.
And quite honestly, what the hell else do you want from people?
Would you rather people of faith go online and say things such as, “Ha ha, I think it’s great 58 people were shot and killed by some maniac at a concert in Vegas”? Or, “I find it greatly amusing a lot of people lost their homes from hurricane Harvey”, or, “that hurricane was God’s judgement against City Z for legalizing homosexual marriage”?
In this day and age, an expression of compassion (such as, “I’m praying for victims of the shooting”) beats most of the other nasty, insensitive bullshit I regularly see on Twitter and on TV news.
I’d prefer seeing people say things like, “I’m praying for those hurt” than see the usual squabbling and name-calling that goes on over Twitter.
I’m not saying prayer is even perfect. I’ve grown quite frustrated with it. These days, I’m a bit agnostic.
All my years of praying seem to bounce off the ceiling. If God exists, he’s doing a good job of ignoring my prayers.
By the way, when terrorists blew up a bunch of concert-goers in Great Britain several months ago, at an Ariane Grande pop music concert, what would you expect American residents to do?
If you’re an American (or Canadian, or from whatever other nation outside of Great Britain), how else can you express sorrow and sympathy for the victims of that attack in Great Britain?
You could, I suppose, donate a few bucks to any “Go Fund Me” accounts set for victims, but really, as you are NOT a citizen in the UK, you cannot really do much of anything “hands on” and practical for them.
In some cases, there really is not much else a person can do but express sympathy, concern, and an offer of prayers.
From Christianity Today:
From The Atlantic:
After a tragedy like a mass shooting, prayer is not an indulgent retreat from reality, but a responsible reaction to it.
Many Americans seem eager this week to see the phrase “thoughts and prayers” die a good platitude’s death. After the worst mass shooting in U.S. history took the lives of 59 Las Vegas concertgoers Sunday night, a sentiment meant to express solidarity sounded to some like cold comfort.
When tweeted by elected officials who could feasibly pass tighter gun-control laws, the phrase struck people as not only irritating, but also potentially dangerous: What if uttering this hollow but nice-sounding sentiment allows legislators to bypass the “real” work of passing better laws? What if it allows all of us to avoid the concrete political work of pressuring them to do so?
When the public stakes are so high, the argument goes, a nation cannot afford to retreat to private spirituality: Instead, we must act.
But prayer is not inaction. I would argue that it is perhaps the most powerful form of action you can engage in during a crisis—and that’s true whether you believe in God or not. There are good reasons why prayer remains a daily activity for more than half of all Americans (55 percent), including about one in five religiously unaffiliated people or “nones.” Even for those of us who aren’t sure that God exists and that our prayer can change God, prayer can certainly change us.
(read more here)
Edit, November 2017
(Link): Prayer Isn’t a Distraction
by MICHAEL BRENDAN DOUGHERTY
November 7, 2017 3:00 PM
The anti-prayer tweets aren’t encouraging a debate about gun control; they are discouraging expressions of shock, sympathy, and mourning.
…When asked to defend their mocking of prayers offered to God in the face of a massacre in a church, the people in these online dog piles respond that Republicans are offering prayers as a distraction from their own pro-gun-rights politics. In fact, almost the opposite is the case.
Republicans are not shy about defending their views on guns. And they are often forced to do so in the days and weeks after a mass shooting reminds people that America is almost uniquely afflicted by this kind of violence.
….And so attacking the prayers of politicians in fact substitutes for thought and reflection. It is a way for those who favor more gun control, as I do, to express a sentiment about gun violence, without actually putting forward a policy that addresses the issue at hand.
If anyone is using “prayer” as a distraction in the wake of a mass shooting, it is those who want gun control but have no idea how their policy preferences could be implemented, and how those policies would have changed the events.
…The anti-prayer tweets aren’t encouraging a debate about gun control; they are discouraging expressions of shock, sympathy, and mourning. That is, they are discouraging statements about the inherent value of the lives lost that address the real grief of the bereaved. Often that is the only thing we can sensibly offer in the minutes after awful news breaks across our screens.
by Pascal-Emmanuel Gobry
It seems people think “thoughts and prayers” are a lazy substitute for embarking on some real political action that might help prevent such tragedies from occurring in the future.
Critics believe those who offer up thoughts and prayers — particularly Republican officeholders who get donations from the National Rifle Association — are trying to deflect from their own inaction, or that they are complicit with the status quo.
It’s true some politicians are being opportunistic when they chime in with such platitudes. But in general, this line of thinking is insane, and, what’s more, it makes the world worse.
Contrary to the enraged certainties of many anti-gun liberals, there are actually few policies we know of that could serve as easy remedies to things like gun massacres.
Even if you could magically make the NRA go poof, and make the Republican Party go poof, and make the Second Amendment go poof, and suddenly change the minds of the majority of Americans who support gun rights, the country would still be full of guns, and episodic massacres would still occur.
The point isn’t that America’s gun legislation is perfect, or that nothing can or should be done. The point is that NRA-GOP obstruction is not the one and only thing preventing the end of gun violence.
But there’s something more fundamental at play. This isn’t just about guns. It’s about how we see political action. The implicit, maybe unconscious, but clear premise of the anti-“thoughts and prayers” line is that the only proper response to bad things happening is always political action. But turning everything into a political battle ensures that every single issue will become a conflictual one….
But the problem here isn’t just political — it’s spiritual. No doubt part of what drives people mad about “thoughts and prayers” is that they think prayer doesn’t do anything, presumably because they don’t believe in God.
Of course, there are lots of people who believe that prayer is not only effective, it is, at the end of the day, the only effective thing, and that political action without a connection to a higher power ultimately becomes self-defeating.
Some people have to offer “thoughts and prayers” because they genuinely want to express their grief over an unthinkable act.
If the only thing you think about after a tragedy is the next bill that should be passed, then you have no consideration for the victims as human beings — they are simply pawns in your political calculations….
Hollywood has its standards: President Trump isn’t allowed to politicize after a terrorist attack, but after a shooting in Sutherland Springs, Texas, actors and actresses can shred prayers, the NRA, and the GOP to bits and pieces.
While most of the elite offered their thoughts on gun control mixed with prayers, quite a few decided to jump on the concept of “thoughts and prayers.” After Paul Ryan tweeted his condolences to the victims, actor Wil Wheaton (Star Trek: The Next Generation) tweeted at him: “The murdered victims were in a church. If prayers did anything, they’d still be alive, you worthless sack of shit.” He had tweeted earlier, “Welcome to America. It has been zero days since our last mass shooting. #FucktheNRA”
MSNBC’s Joy Reid decided to mix in a theology lesson: “Enough with the “thoughts and prayers already.” The Bible teaches us that faith without works is dead. Do something or say nothing.” Atheist Ricky Gervais threw in his two cents: “My thoughts and prayers are that people wake the fuck up.” Even pop star Katy Perry got involved, saying, “prayer without action is powerless.”
Chelsea Handler decided to blame all shootings on one political party: “Innocent people go to church on Sunday to honor their God, and while doing so, get shot in killed. What country? America. Why? Republicans.” Singer Josh Groban slammed both prayers and Republicans: “Prayers are what the victims were doing. If you respond to these attacks with prayers but no action, you are protecting the next murderer.”