Faith, Work, and Violence: Why “Sending Thoughts and Prayers” Isn’t Enough

February 15, 2018 1:25 pm

Let’s suppose there’s a terrible earthquake that strikes a major city, killing hundreds and leaving thousands more homeless, with hunger, thirst, and disease becoming a real threat because of damage to infrastructure. Should we send ‘thoughts and prayers’? Of course, we should. We must pray. Then we get busy as we continue to pray. We send teams of emergency workers to help dig through the rubble, medical personnel to assist with the injured, food and water to sustain those in need, set up shelters for those without any, give blood and money, sweat and tears, and work to create laws and codes that mean dwellings and other structures are built better and smarter and safer so that any future quake won’t be as disastrous. We pray and we work. Ora et Labora.

We do both because we know you can’t solve a spiritual problem with a political answer and you can’t solve a political and civil problem with a spiritual solution, unless of course one’s definition of spiritual moves past the personal and mystical and embraces all of life (which would be a step in the right direction). What we know is that while an auto safety engineer may pray, he doesn’t make automobiles safer by his prayer but rather through his creative and diligent work, undergirded by laws that create standards of safety for equipment and operation. You can’t pray a safer car or roads into existence; you pass laws and create standards and learn from mistakes and get better. Ora et Labora.

Joseph didn’t just interpret Pharaoh’s dream and leave it at praying. He built storehouses and created an economic plan that saved his world. It’s good to pray and to dream. One also has to act with wisdom in the situation that demands wise action.

Let us suppose there is a hurricane followed by a terrible flood.

Will we pray? Yes. Is that all we will do? No. See above. Ora et Labora.

Let us suppose there is a terrible epidemic.

Will we pray? Yes. Is that all we will do? No. See above. Ora et Labora. 

Let us suppose there is a school shooting in which many students are slaughtered. No, wait; let us suppose that there is a rash of school shootings in which hundreds are slaughtered, and this affects all kinds of people in all parts of the country and involves the same weapon in many of these assaults. No, wait. Let us suppose that there are multiple school shootings, church shootings, university shootings, police shootings, concert shootings, club shootings, and movie theater shootings and that these kill and maim hundreds, if not thousands, of people.

Will we pray? Yes. Is that all we will do?

Apparently so.

Which is false spirituality and dereliction of duty on the part of the people who could actually do the work that would make such horrors less likely.

Work without prayer is mere humanism. Prayer without work is hypocrisy. Ora et Labora.

The single most important action we perform is prayer but it is never the only action that’s offered. Prayer is essential, but if it is alone, it is nothing more than hating our neighbor masquerading as loving our neighbor.

This country is awash in blood from a pandemic of gun violence; shootings once thought unimaginable are now commonplace. This is not normal. It has to end. 

It’s time to get to work. There are places of commonality where the vast majority of people can meet to insist on laws that will provide a safer and more beautiful culture. That’s not ‘anti-gun’; it’s pro-life. This is neither a Republican nor a Democrat issue; it is a human issue, and a uniquely American dilemma at this moment. We are responsible and we have to make changes. We can do this. Pray that it happens. And get to work. Ora et Labora. 




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