“We are not going to give thoughts and prayers, which to me is just bull****.”
Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.), May 2019
“This isn’t about God. And well-wishes won’t do the victims and their families any good. Nor will it help the victims of the next mass shooting or the next gun-related tragedy.”
Sean Illing, a USAF veteran who previously taught philosophy and politics at Loyola and LSU, October 2015
“We cannot allow yet another tragedy go by without taking action to pass commonsense measures that save lives…thoughts and prayers are not enough.”
California Democratic Rep. Mike Thompson
“Thoughts & prayers? Really? Bull****. Mass shootings happening all over America. Blood is entirely on hands of @GOP.”
Rep. Eric Swalwell (D-CA)
“There isn’t a more inane, meaningless, hollow, and trite phrase in the American lexicon than ‘Thoughts and Prayers’ I HATE IT!”
My Facebook friend Jeff Pawlinski, June 1, 2022
“That’s sad. Seems like you’ve allowed politics to blind a real sharing of emotions. Thinking about someone and praying for them, to me, is one of the highest regards I can show them.”
My Facebook friend Jim Villa, June 7, 2022
Who da thunk it?
Thoughts and prayers are…no good.
Worse than that. They’re…BS.
EARTH to this crowd: There’s not a single Republican who wants to see any child gunned down at school.
David Bashevkin is the director of education for NCSY and the founder of 18forty, a media site exploring big Jewish questions. He writes in the Wall Street Journal, re-posted in the Vigour Times:
Many Americans are understandably tired of prayers to end mass shootings. Familiar platitudes such as “thoughts and prayers to the families” seem hollow when offered without clear policy proposals. But the presence of prayer preserves the urgency for action and has since America’s inception.
In 1865, amid the Civil War, Abraham Lincoln was inaugurated to his second term as president. He delivered one of the shortest but most memorable inaugural addresses in our nation’s history. “Fondly do we hope,” he famously said, “fervently do we pray—that this mighty scourge of war may speedily pass away.”
Lincoln of course did not stop at prayer. A little over a month later he oversaw the Confederacy’s surrender to the Union army. But he couched the U.S. mission of victory in the language of prayer because those sorts of words transform a political cause into an existential need. Prayer is the language we use to express our most urgent and essential desires. I don’t pray for lower gas prices; I do pray for the end of school shootings.
While it’s understandable to be frustrated with those who offer such prayers, attacking them for it alienates many—of all political persuasions—who find comfort and urgency in prayerful words. Turning the important debate over the proper course of action on school shootings into an inquisition on prayer only makes it more difficult to conduct that discourse. Political conversations, particularly on emotionally fraught issues such as this one, are already eroding. Politicians must present real policy measures that will meaningfully address this crisis, but what’s gained by attacking their use of prayerful language? We don’t need a moratorium on prayer to stop school shootings.
At the same time, prayerful people must be careful that they don’t let this sort of pessimism rob their words of earnestness. I once heard a story about a group of Jews who gathered together in Jerusalem to pray for rain during a drought. As they prayed, one child innocently looked up at everyone and asked, “How come no one brought their umbrellas?” Our prayers to end school shootings need to be serious efforts, accompanied by actions appropriate to the hope that our petitions will be answered.
Lincoln reportedly said, “I have been driven many times upon my knees by the overwhelming conviction that I had nowhere else to go.” The random murder of children has, once again, driven our country to its knees. And perhaps it is frustration that we again find ourselves here, with seemingly nowhere else to go, that has created a cynicism and aversion to the vulnerability that prayer represents. But this most human instinct should not be cast aside just because we are rightfully impatient with the intractability of our political ineptitude.
It’s when we’re forced to our knees that we need the language of prayer most. Yes, we should emphatically call out the absence of action, but prayer and its attending seriousness are part and parcel with taking action. So, fondly do I continue to hope and fervently do I continue to pray that this mighty scourge of gun violence may speedily pass away.