“Suppose a brother or sister is sick and without healthcare, or living with an increasing sense that any day now, someone they love will be taken from them by some asshole with an AR-15 because of the steady drumbeat of mass shootings which break our hearts on a weekly basis, and no elected official seems willing to do anything about. If one of you says to her, ‘Our thoughts & prayers are with you,’ but does nothing about her physical needs while leaving her to raise money for medical expenses on GoFundMe to keep from losing her house, and does nothing to change the policies which make it so easy for anyone to acquire guns which are solely designed for killing as many people in a sort amount of time, WHAT GOOD IS IT? In the same way, ‘faith’ by itself, if not accompanied by action, is dead… And, if hell were real, you and your gross, fake “christianity” would totally be going there.”
~ James 2:15-17, paraphrased
When I hear someone utter the phrase “Thoughts & Prayers,” it’s gotten to the point to where I get just completely grossed out. It has become as meaningless and offensive to me as hearing someone recommend essential oils to someone for their Stage 4 cancer would be. And most of the people who are saying “Thoughts & Prayers” are people who are representing something. Representing someONE… Namely Jesus. Jesus: The brown-skinned socialist refugee refugee purveyor of free healthcare who, when he was asked about how to “inherit eternal life,” told a story about two “christians” walking past a man in need of help, followed by a foreigner — a person who had all the wrong answers to doctrinal questions, but who offered more than “Thoughts & Prayers” to the man bleeding on the side of the road — and said, “That foreigner who prays to the wrong God, but actually does something to help people? Be like THAT guy” (again, paraphrased).
If Christianity is to be worth ANYTHING (or any religion, for that matter), it has to be about way more than just “Thoughts & Prayers.” Christianity is not about praying for kids in Africa… It’s about getting nets to people to protect them from malaria. It’s about building infrastructure so people have access to clean drinking water. It’s about doing scientific research to develop vaccines to fight the diseases that ravage people in poverty. It’s about fighting poverty. It’s about establishing justice. It’s about taking care of the planet. Christianity is not about praying — It’s about DOING. I am far from anything close to “certainty” about how prayer works. I mean, Jesus prayed, so… There’s that. But I’m pretty sure about this: If prayer is to be worth a damn, it needs to lead people to ACTION.
So offering “Thoughts & Prayers” to people whose lives were just torn apart by YET ANOTHER man with an assault rifle who decides to go on a killing spree, without taking action to help prevent this sort of thing from happening again, is — and I mean this — Completely worthless. And I hate it when people say, “The Bible is clear on this,” because most of the time the sort of person who says that is getting ready to tell you why women can’t be pastors or why gay people are going to hell, but to me the Bible DOES actually seem pretty clear on this issue — It’s not about SAYING you love people… It’s about LOVING them. It’s not about PRAYING that people get help… It about HELPING them. Here’s another verse — this one not paraphrased at all: “If anyone has material possessions and sees a brother or sister in need but has no pity on them, how can the love of God be in that person? Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth.” ~ 1 John 3:17-18
And so the question is this: What does “Actions & Truth” look like in the face of monthly, Weekly, DAILY mass shootings that are leaving hundreds and thousands of people dead? There is a Florida school who thinks the answer is selling bulletproof inserts for kids’ backpacks… Which seems a lot like giving an ice cream sandwich to a person in a burning building, rather than trying to put the fire out. John Legend responds to the craziness of this situation with this tweet:
Some, like the Texas Attorney General, think the solution lies with MORE people bringing MORE guns to Church. This common thought makes absolutely no sense to me for two reasons: 1) The people in these gun-toting churches profess to have faith that, because they believe the right things about Jesus, they are going to Heaven when they die (and that the would-be murderer is, assumedly, going to Hell)… Yet they are willing to ignore Jesus’ command to love our enemies and KILL an attacker in order to keep from being sent to paradise. This amounts to being willing to send someone to Hell in order to prevent them from sending you to Heaven… Which shouldn’t make sense to ANYONE. And 2) The solution to the problem of “Too much [X] violence” is never “More of [X].” Only alcoholics think the solution to an epidemic of alcohol abuse is “More whisky.” And it seems we are a nation of alcoholics when it comes to guns… as this tweet clearly and succinctly reveals:
This is obviously craziness… And many people calling themselves “christians” are leading the charge toward insanity. But once again, the Bible has something to say about this: “For God has not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.” Followers of Jesus are not driven by fear and ignorance, but by love and rational thought. We are not a people of “Thoughts & Prayers,” but of “Actions & Truth.” And if we are not currently, we must BECOME this. So when people pass along the NRA narrative of “a good guy with a gun” stepping in to prevent more deaths, Rational Thought and Truth says, “26 more kids and adults dying is not a ‘win’ for your ‘good guy with a gun’ narrative.” And when Mike Pence shows up in Texas and tells the brother-in-law of one of the victims that “The whole country is praying over you,” we must recognize that those words have all the depth of a clanging cymbal.
“Actions & Truth” does not look like empty platitudes… “Actions & Truth” look like this:
- Universal and rigorous background checks for ALL gun purchases (No more private sale loopholes).
- Every gun needs to be registered (If you’re afraid this might make it easier for the government to “come for your guns,” to damn bad… My thoughts & prayers are with you. Listen — It’s common sense. Every car needs to be registered. We need to provide an I.D. to purchase cold meds. Guns are killing devices — It’s illegal to own a firearm whose serial numbers have been filed off. They are subject to regulations, and in order to do that, the people doing the regulating need to know who has what guns).
- Mandatory waiting periods. Duh.
- Banning high capacity magazines, armor piercing bullets, and modifications that transform semi-automatic guns into something close to fully automatic (These sorts of things are not intended for 20-year-old, acne-faced douchebags with Dorito crumbs on their T-shirts, living in his mom’s basement, pre-ordering every new iteration of “Call Of Duty,” and growing more and more pissed about how girls can’t see the “real” him. You want to have access to those things? Sign up for military service).
- Banning military-style assault rifles, designed to kill many people in a short amount of time (And if you can’t get on board with this, at the very least, we can agree that it makes sense to have even MORE stringent and rigorous background checks and trainings for people who are allowed access to these sorts of guns. Sixteen year old kids who just got their drivers licenses are not automatically allowed to get behind the wheel of a big rig semi. A CDL requires more testing and training… The reason for this is that those semis can do a lot more damage if they are used by unqualified people).
- Domestic Abusers don’t get to have guns (SO MANY mass shootings have their roots in domestic violence. This was true of the monster who murdered so many in that Texas church, and it’s true of the majority of mass shooting perpetrators. If someone is accused of domestic abuse, stalking, any kind of pattern of threatening behavior, or if a person has a restraining order against them, that person should have to turn over their guns. If they are found not guilty or if the charges are dropped, they can have their killing devices returned to them. This needs to be a federal law).
I’m sure there are more, but I’ve got to wrap it up. If you are a pro-gun person who has made it this far, I encourage you to read this thoughtful essay by BRENÉ BROWN. I don’t agree with her on every issue, but that is not a pre-requisite for coming together to talk about how to make things better. And if you are a pro-gun Christian who made it this far, please consider that the NRA is far more interested in giving you a Spirit of Fear than they are in giving you “Power, Love, and a Sound Mind.” We need to demand BETTER from our leaders and our lawmakers. There are ACTIONS we can take to reduce gun violence. The world does not need your “Thoughts & Prayers.” The world needs “Actions & Truth.”
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