‘Prayer shaming’ debate flares after California massacre

Printed from: https://newbostonpost.com/2015/12/03/prayer-shaming-debate-flares-after-california-massacre/

Immediately after the mass shooting Wednesday that claimed the lives of 14 people in San Bernardino, California, Twitter and Facebook initially exploded with expressions of outrage or empathy. Gradually, however, the tone shifted to more pointedly partisan attacks.

The number of mass shootings – defined as four or more people shot or killed, including the shooter – so far this year has exceeded the number of days that have passed, according to Reddit.com’s Guns Are Cool web page.

New York’s Daily News sparked the debate with a front page plastered with tweets by Republicans, including presidential candidates Rand Paul, Lindsay Graham and Ted Cruz, that offered their “thoughts and prayers,” under a blaring headline: “God isn’t fixing this.”

Igor Volsky, a contributing editor to the progressive website Think Progress, suggested in a series of tweets that the politicians who empathized by offering prayers also support the National Rifle Association and have helped to block tighter federal gun controls, while adding his own thoughts on the matter:

A senior reporter and a political editor from The Huffington Post website chimed in about the “useless thoughts and prayers” of public officials citing Jeb Bush, Mike Huckabee and Ben Carson, who are all private citizens running for the Republican presidential nomination. George Zornick, editor of The Nation, a leftist magazine, also offered this:

Some religious-minded conservatives immediately responded to what they regarded as a “prayer shaming.”

Russell Moore, the president of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, writing in the Washington Post, argued that “For most people who are religious, prayer is more than just another way of saying ‘Message: I care.’” The commission is a political arm of the Southern Baptist Convention, the nation’s largest Protestant denomination.

“Prayer cynics,” as Moore called them, are really pushing for people to express their opinions about gun violence, rather than condolences to victims. At the same time, he said, these critics are likely stalling change when it comes to dealing with guns.

“If you shame away the most human aspects of public life such as the call to pray for one another you will find this situation worsening, not getting better,” Moore said.

Emma Green, The Atlantic’s managing editor, recalled President Barack Obama’s line in October, reflecting on the Umpqua Community College shooting in Oregon: “Our thoughts and prayers are not enough.” She noted that Obama went on to beseech God to provide strength and courage to the victims.

Green ended her piece with a powerful image: During the San Bernardino attack, people evacuated from the government building where it took place joined hands and prayed, while a woman hiding inside sent a text message to her father: “Pray for us.”

Several hours later, two suspects, Syed Rizwan Farook, 28, and Tashfeen Malik, 27, died in a wild shootout with police in a neighborhood a few miles away. Their motives remain unknown, though officials say it could have been an incident of terrorism or workplace violence.

Contact Kara Bettis at [email protected] or on Twitter @karabettis.