Below is a selection of reactions to Sunday’s massacre in Sutherland Springs Texas. A common theme is that action is required in addition to prayer. Especially coming from politicians, “thoughts and prayers” is beginning to sound empty and meaningless. We, as Christians, are called to action; to pray, yes, but also to work to make the world a better place.
Bishops United Against Gun Violence calls church to pray, elected leaders to act
“One does not offer prayers in lieu of demonstrating political courage, but rather in preparation.”
Bishops United Against Gun Violence, a group of more than 70 Episcopal bishops working to curtail the epidemic of gun violence in the United States, released the following statement on the shootings on Sunday in Sutherland Springs, Texas:
In the wake of the heartbreaking shooting at First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs, Texas, we find ourselves both calling people to prayer, and wishing that the word did not come so readily to the lips of elected leaders who are quick to speak, but take no action on behalf of public safety.
In prayer, Christians commend the souls of the faithful departed to the mercy and love of God. We beseech our Creator to comfort the grieving and shield the vulnerable. Prayer is not an offering of vague good wishes. It is not a spiritual exercise that successfully completed exempts one from focusing on urgent issues of common concern. Prayer is not a dodge. In prayer we examine our own hearts and our own deeds to determine whether we are complicit in the evils we deplore. And if we are, we resolve to take action; we resolve to amend our lives.
As a nation, we must acknowledge that we idolize violence, and we must make amends. Violence of all kinds denigrates humankind; it stands against the will of God and the way of Jesus the Christ. The shooting in Sutherland Springs brings the issue of domestic violence, a common thread in many mass killings, into sharp relief. It is not only essential that we keep guns out of the hands of domestic abusers, but that we, as a society, reject ideologies of male dominance that permeate our culture and the history of our churches.
Each of us has a role to play in our repentance. Elected representatives bear the responsibility of passing legislation that protects our citizenry. If our representatives are not up to this responsibility, we must replace them.
In the meantime, however, we ask that in honor of our many murdered dead, elected leaders who behave as though successive episode of mass slaughter are simply the price our nation pays for freedom stop the reflexive and corrosive repetition of the phrase “thoughts and prayers.”
One does not offer prayers in lieu of demonstrating political courage, but rather in preparation.
From the National Council of Churches:
Our hearts are broken once again with the news of another mass shooting in our nation.
Yesterday, 26 worshipers at the First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs, Texas, were killed by a man armed with a semiautomatic rifle. Their ages ranged from 5 to 72 years old. We pray for these victims and their families, for their fellow parishioners, friends, and neighbors, and for all of our sisters and brothers in the Southern Baptist Convention, the denomination to which this congregation belonged.
These killings took place on a day set aside for worship and praise like every other Sunday, in a place like other small and large towns in every state across the country. Yet we note with grief that this is the 377th mass shooting in the United States in 2017 alone. Were we to wait for a period of mourning to conclude, following such shootings, before addressing the need for sensible measures to reduce gun violence, we would never speak to the urgent need for our lawmakers to take action to prevent these tragedies.
Therefore, even in the wake of this slaughter, the National Council of Churches repeats our call for action that will remove high-powered weapons from the hands of ordinary citizens. Other proposals have been made to reduce gun violence, and we encourage elected officials to consider them and move forward expeditiously to help make our people safer and more secure.
One thing is crystal clear: more guns is a recipe for further deaths.
In an article originally published on October 3, 2017, in the wake of the Las Vegas shooting, and re-released on Monday, Kirsten Powers, a D.C.-based writer and political commentator, says that offers of “thoughts and prayers” are being used “as some sort of inoculation against responsibility or action when it comes to gun violence.” She quotes theologian Miroslav Volf, who says, “It’s analogous to what is going on in the book of James 2:16: If a person says to those who are cold and hungry, ‘Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,’ but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it? Or if you look at the story of the good Samaritan, we can easily imagine that the priest, who walked by a person robbed and left half-dead by the road, prayed as he was passing by. Still, he was a bad priest. The Samaritan was good because he did something to help the suffering person.” Powers concludes by quoting the Confession: “Every week, millions of Christians around the world join in confession around the world with words like these: “We confess that we have sinned against you in thought, word and deed, by what we have done, and by what we have left undone.” We know what we have left undone: enacted lifesaving policy protections for millions of Americans who simply want to safely go to a music festival, nightclub, church, university, movie theater or elementary school.”
Jesus prayed, but he also acted. His prayer was not passive, in fact, it was seen as action, forbidden on the Sabbath, when he prayed to heal the lame and the blind. We must follow His example and cease to wait for an “appropriate time” to address the root causes of these shootings, predominantly perpetrated by white men. We must stop wringing our hands and pretending that nothing can be done. To pray is an active verb.