Thoughts and Prayers are Not Enough
This Blog Post is by Marcus Ebenhoe
As I heard the news about the school shooting in Florida yesterday, my heart sunk. What seemed unfathomable in 1999 with Columbine High School has become a regular occurrence. I was listening to NPR on my ride home when my feelings bounced around between grief, hopelessness, anger, despair, indifference, and feeling numbed and overwhelmed by it all. Eventually, as I always do, I found myself calling out to God, asking “Why? Where are you God?” like David did in the psalms thousands of years ago. I knew needed to let go of the pain and hand it over to God because trying to hold onto it by myself was making me crumble, but I also knew part of it is mine to bear as well. It is in our nature that when we face a tragedy we turn to our communities for comfort and to search for meaning. Many of my closest friends live hundreds of miles away and last night, after the kids went to bed, I did what many of us do…I went to social media to hear how others were making meaning of the shooting. You can guess what I saw over and over again.
“thoughts and prayers” “thoughts and prayers” “thoughts and prayers”
The tweets, the memes, the public statements, the candlelight vigils sending out “thoughts and prayers” over and over again. We come to expect this from everyone from our favorite athletes and musicians to our politicians and neighbors. Yet, even with all of our thoughts and prayers, we end up in the same place. This is the 8th school shooting with injuries or fatalities in the first 7 weeks of 2018. If we include those where no one was hurt the number of school shootings is in the teens. Looking at all mass shooting (where 4 or more people were injured or killed) in the US in 2018 we’re already up to 30 in the first 45 days of the year. Something needs to change, thoughts and prayers aren’t doing it.
I am reminded of Pope Francis’s comment that “Prayer that doesn’t lead to concrete action toward our brothers is a fruitless and incomplete prayer.”
I am not here to lecture you about what action you need to take. None of us are going to change this on our own, but if we each listen to what action God is calling us to, I can only hope that we can and will make the world a better, more loving place. There are many different ways we might be called respond, whether it is advocating for schools to be fully funded so they can have the appropriate number of counselors or social workers or if it is looking at our election rules to see how campaign finance reform might bring power back to individuals instead of companies and lobbying firms. It might be demanding that our insurance companies provide adequate and inexpensive coverage for mental health or advocating for changing current gun laws. Maybe you are called to help create a better community, a better neighborhood so that no one feels so abandoned and alone that they feel the need to strike out. Maybe it is something completely different - the Spirit does work in mysterious ways. I am not going to say that I know the answers, but I know we need to let our prayers inform our actions and not let our fear stop us from responding to the Holy Spirit’s call for us to act.
Yesterday I helped put ashes on our community’s foreheads saying “Repent and turn to the Gospel.”
Maybe this year for Lent we give up our apathy, our powerlessness, and our hopelessness and repent for our inaction, and humble ourselves to be open to the challenge of the Holy Spirit to act and change and live out the Good News of the Gospel.