Platitude shaming

Prayer optional, action required

Emma Green over on The Atlantic gave us the term “prayer shaming.” As in, regarding yet another greusome and heartbreaking tragedy involving an unstable person and firearms, praying for the victims and their families is not enough. She said those making that point were “attacking prayer.” That’s nonsense.

The “attack,” if there is one, is against platitudes over action. As the Daily News pointed out so subtlety, if God has an interest in mass shootings, it must be in favor of them since prayer alone has done nothing to lessen their frequency or brutality.

If your doctor told you about a tumor in your body, you might pray. But you very likely would do a lot more than just that. Praying, even for the devout, cannot be a substitute for taking action and trying to correct a problem. Even really big problems that seem intractably difficult to scale. The right is taking a lot more action other than prayer to make it impossible for a woman to terminate a pregnancy. They’re doing all they can besides prayer to stop same-sex marriages from lawfully taking place. They seem to be done praying when it comes to trying to keep desperate refugees out of the country. So, when it really matters, they can act as well as pray.

Prayer as a heartfelt action in a time of grief and as a way to offer solace is a noble thing. Even a cold-hearted atheist can feel the sincerity in it regardless if he thinks anybody is listening. In those times I’ve been told someone was praying for me, I have been touched by the gesture. But, absent a divine intervention, it’s just that: A gesture. And thus far, there has been no divine intervention.

So sure, pray. You should feel no shame in that. Pray for guidance if that’s your thing. But don’t also play the victim. You have agency. You have initiative. You can do something, unlike those 14 county workers in San Bernardino. Let’s work on a solution together. Maybe that’s what God is waiting on you do to.