February 24, 2018 – Following the latest mass shooting in Florida, politicians, including President Trump, issued the usual response of offering their thoughts and prayers to the victims and their families, but the response to this became very cynical. In social media “#thoughtsandprayers” has become a cruel, heartless joke.
Not since the “War on Christmas” has religion in this country come under such contemptuous attack. Mike Lacher created a “Thoughts and Prayers” video game. The point of the game is to prevent mass shootings by pressing buttons labeled “think” and “pray.” If you press a button that says “ban assault weapon sales,” the game lets you know that you are weak and unAmerican. The only solution in this game is to “Pray harder!”
Fern Malila, incensed by the “thoughts and prayers” statement of Representative Jack Bergman, a Michigan Republican, mailed him a letter with a check. She wrote: “Dear Rep. Bergman,” she wrote, “since you and your colleagues in Congress seem to feel that this (“thoughts and prayers”) is the solution to mass murder, please accept this contribution.” The check did not have a dollar amount written on it. Instead on the amount line, “thoughts and prayers” is written.
Another social media post shows a garbage truck with “Thoughts and Prayers” written on its side. Another shows an empty truck with a caption saying it was fully loaded, ready to deliver another truckload of thoughts and prayers. There are even those who openly make jokes about Christians who love guns, saying their prayers for shooting victims are both hypocritical and worthless.
Most contemptuous of all was the response to President Donald Trump, who offered his “prayers and condolences” to the shooting victims and their families in a tweet. One of the teenaged survivors of the school shooting tweeted back “I don't want your condolences, you fucking piece of shit ... Prayers won't fix this. But gun control will prevent it from happening again.” Whoa! That's rude! However, Trump took notice and moved to ban “bump stocks” that turn semi-automatic guns into full automatic fire weapons. The State of Florida also passed gun control measures for the first time in years.
Comedian Bill Maher noted that the traditional half-hearted, no-action “thoughts and prayers” response to gun violence was buried by this tweet war against it. Maher said, “Yes, America is finally getting it. Prayer doesn't work. If it did, every drug test would come back clean, and there would be no need for the morning after pill.”
What all these jokers, social critics and outraged families and survivors are overlooking is the upside of thoughts and prayers:
First, thoughts and prayers are economical. Real solutions to mass shootings, like a ban on semiautomatic weapons, more thorough background checks on gun purchasers, universal access to mental health treatments, all cost a lot of money, and some of them hurt the American gun industry. Thoughts and prayers, on the other hand, cost nothing, and they don't hurt the gun industry one little bit.
Second, thoughts and prayers are easy to do. In fact, if you are a politician, you don't even have to think, or pray at all. Who is going to know if you don't? All you really have to do is claim that you care about shooting victims and claim to be thinking and praying for them. You can even get away with claiming to pray for gun victims and their families if you are an atheist, as long as nobody knows the truth.
Third, the effectiveness of thinking and praying should not be underestimated. Thinking and praying for an end to gun violence is every bit as effective as doing nothing at all. Thinking and praying for an end to gun violence might even be more effective than doing nothing! You don't think so? Prove it!
Fourth, if you could get politicians to spend enough time thinking and praying for gun victims, maybe they would not have enough time to pass even more dangerous gun laws, like legalizing machine guns, gun silencers, cop-killer bullets, or using federal laws to partially nullify local and state concealed carry laws. When it comes to some of our nuttier politicians, the country is much safer if they are praying, rather than working to pass laws that make things even worse than they already are.
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