To some degree they are right. For to be painfully honest, we should probably admit that sometimes when we tell folks that “our thoughts and prayers” are with them, that seemingly sympathetic statement is actually the last real thought that we give to them at all.
Still, the suggestion made by the New York Daily News on Thursday that the prayers of those who tweeted such notions in response to the terrorist event in California were simply “meaningless platitudes” goes beyond even the predictable partisanship of so much of the media and it represents a broadside indeed against people of faith in this country.
Put aside the entire question of gun control laws, in fact, and look carefully at what the purveyors of public opinion are trying to promote here, which is a patently false dichotomy between prayer and action–ora et labora, as St. Benedict once expressed it–that shows a fundamental misunderstanding of the nature and necessity of both activities in our lives.
Yes, we are called to get involved and to right injustices, to get down and dirty in “the crowded ways of life” in order to make the world a better and fairer and safer place for all, especially those who have been marginalized by the sinful actions of others.
And yes, we should do whatever it takes to structure our society in such a way that can curtail as much as possible the contrary cussedness inherent in each of us. But it is only the perspective of faith that shines a light on that real problem of mankind, which is our open defiance of the One who made us.
Suggesting that “GOD ISN’T FIXING THIS,” as the banner headline of the News provocatively proclaimed on Thursday is not only a cheap shot at those who follow the Christian faith, therefore, but it is a gross misunderstanding of both who God is and what that God can do.
Indeed, as we will celebrate in just a few weeks, God has already “fixed this,” as well as every other outcropping of original sin, in coming to dwell among us, quite literally, to “pitch his tent” (eskenosen) even in the rebel-held territory of our lives.
He has similarly provided a solution for our self-centered sinfulness–whatever its expressions–in the sacrificial love of a Savior. And in the end God has promised that there will one day come a time in which not only every knee shall bow to Him, but every tear from our eyes shall be wiped away as well.
Until that moment, however, it remains up to us to do whatever we can to make His Kingdom real on earth as it is already manifest in Heaven, both in word and in deed, through our prayers and our actions, our intercession and our intervention.
“Thoughts and prayers” such as those offered by many after the tragic shootings in California are not meaningless platitudes at all, thus. For as far-fetched as it might seem, the truth is that God can fix anything, and one day He will fix everything.
Even, we may say, the deep-seated skepticism of those at the New York Daily News.