MRBlog | When Prayer Is Not Enough


By Thomas J. Whitley

It was “just another day in the United States of America. Another day of gunfire, panic and fear.” This is how the BBC covered the mass shooting in San Bernardino, California that left 14 dead and at least 17 wounded (not including an officer that was wounded and two suspects who were killed in a shootout). In keeping with the normalcy of such events in this country, Twitter and Facebook were quickly filled with statements by politicians that their thoughts and prayers were with the victims and their families. But what good are their prayers, many asked.

Indeed, one could be forgiven for thinking that these politicians have been praying for more mass shootings; that at least might help make sense of the fact that on the day of the San Bernardino shooting there had been 336 days in 2015 and 353 mass shootings in 2015. That averages out to more than one a day. In fact, there was another mass shooting on the same day as the San Bernardino shooting in Savannah, Georgia. Try as he might, President Obama cannot convince the American people that this is not the new normal.

NY Daily News Cover

The New York Daily News’ cover today calls out politicians for their tweets of prayer but their lack of any meaningful effort to change things. This sparked a mini Twitter storm wherein many were accusing the Daily News and others who were calling for more than just prayer of “prayer shaming.” Some, like Wil Gafney, a professor of Hebrew Bible at Brite Divinity School and an Episcopal priest, and Rachel Held Evans, well known formerly evangelical author, took to Twitter to say that while they are people of prayer, they concur that prayer is not enough; action is necessary.

Why it has taken 353 mass shootings in 2015 and the deadliest mass shooting in the U.S. since Sandy Hook for people to get fed up with the constant refrains of prayer that are never followed by any action is unclear. But the harsh reality (harsh for those who are people of prayer who earnestly believe that prayer changes things as well as for those caught in the crosshairs daily) is that when it comes to gun violence in the U.S. prayer seems to be falling short.

For if prayer were enough, we would not have a gun death rate that vastly outpaces other developed nations. We would not know just how predictable the media protocol is in the aftermath of such shootings. We would not know what it is like as a nation to mourn the deaths of 26 children who were simply going to school and to then resign ourselves to doing nothing. We would not know what it is like to hear people propose that we send out children to school with bulletproof backpacks. We would not have to fear going to a holiday party, driving a cab, or exercising our Constitutional right to peaceably assemble.

If you are the praying kind, by all means, please do pray for our country. But when gun violence has killed more than 1000x as many Americans as terrorism has in the past decade, I think it’s safe to say prayer is not enough.


Image via Wikimedia.