Thoughts and Prayers and Materialism

In the wake of the Parkland, FL school shooting, there’s been lots of anger and vitriol, including some people engaging in America’s hottest new pastime: making fun of religious people.

It seems like people are now waiting to pounce on the first person to offer “thoughts and prayers” after a tragedy, and pounce they did after Parkland, taking to Twitter with the hashtag #ThoughtsAndPrayersDoNothing.

On The Federalist, Brian Tubbs responded to this with a post titled, “What Kind Of Society Condemns People For Praying After A School Shooting?

To the left, public calls for “thoughts and prayers,” especially those coming from NRA supporters or Republican politicians, are dangerous because they serve as a cheap “cop out” from the hard work of actually reducing gun violence in America.

It’s understandable that Americans want solutions to mass shootings. No one should be satisfied with what happened in Parkland, Florida. No one should willingly embrace mass shootings as the norm. But it’s deeply unfortunate that in our search for solutions, we have turned on each other. Ridiculing prayer as well as people of faith does nothing to make our kids and our communities safer.

As a pastor, I find it both frustrating and heart-breaking that faith-minded Americans are now increasingly under attack when they dare to express their faith on social media, in their communities, or in the public square. This is, after all, the United States of America…

The author then goes on to talk about the prominent place of Judeo-Christian religion in American life and history, arguing for the existence of God and the value of prayer. I appreciate the effort, and I certainly agree with the points he makes, but I feel like his approach is a bit of a misdiagnosis of the problem.

Prayer is primarily a spiritual activity with primarily spiritual results. We used to live in a culture that placed a high value on spiritual things like faith and hope, perseverance and patience. But we now live in a highly materialistic culture that has no regard for anything that can’t be seen and inventoried and consumed, or otherwise folded up and put in your pocket.

People feel comfortable ridiculing prayer now because they can’t physically see its results. And the culture, largely, backs them up on this. History and tradition are fine and all, but what have you done for me lately?

Offering prayers for someone after a tragic event is meant to fortify that person’s soul, to bless them with inner strength and peace. But that blessing doesn’t come with dollar bills raining from the sky, or a bunch of new Instagram followers, or a new law that I can wave in somebody’s face and take credit for passing. So, therefore, prayer must be worthless.

It’s hard to convince people of the value of prayer when they don’t even believe in the spiritual realm where prayer exists. It’s like trying to educate people about food when they don’t believe in the stomach.

And as always, if there’s any takeaway I want you to get out of this post, it’s “Stay away from Twitter.”  Because Twitter is a terrible place.

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