Some Thoughts on “Thoughts and Prayers”

Prayer in the face of horror might seem useless, but it’s not.

Dennis Sanders

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Photo 112210635 / School Shooting © Ronniechua | Dreamstime.com

There are times in your life when it can seem that faith or religion can seem hopeless. Monday, March 27 was one of those times.

By now, we all know what happened: another mass shooting at a school. A shooter came into Covenant Presbyterian School in Nashville and started shooting. The shooter was killed by police, but not before they took the lives of six people: three adults, and three children all aged nine.

Mass shootings are always heartbreaking, but they are even more so when children are involved. Events like Sandy Hook and Uvalde hit us harder because they involved beings that haven’t even begun to live.

Over the years it has become normal to denounce whenever some civil servant somewhere expresses their thoughts and prayers for the victims. I have to believe there was a time when someone could say that and no one would think much of it. But now, if someone were to say this, you can expect a whole amount of vitriol. It has a lot to do with the rise of these kinds of mass shooting events and the frustration among many, especially those who want stricter gun laws, that nothing is being done. Some think that saying thoughts and prayers is a way of delaying or avoiding change. Many of us has seen this quote from theologian Miroslav Volf where he says, “There is something deeply hypocritical about praying for a problem you are unwilling to resolve.”

Many Progressive Christians and Mainline Protestants tend to be annoyed by the appeal to prayer. Many strongly believe in gun control and restrictions and they see any appeal to prayer as a way of not really caring about how these events take the lives of loved ones, including children.

I think there is truth that there are some that use prayer as a way of doing nothing when it comes to gun violence. But I think there is a deeper reason as to why so many hate hearing about “thoughts and prayers:” the belief that prayer doesn’t really do anything. It’s a placebo when it comes to madmen and bullets.

We live in an age that theologian Andrew Root calls the “Immanent Frame” a world to borrow a line from a Simpsons episode, “A is A.” The world that we see is…

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Dennis Sanders

Middle-aged Midwesterner. I write about religion, politics and culture. Podcast: churchandmain.org newsletter: https://churchandmain.substack.com/