By now you’ve seen this image (or you live under a rock)
— New York Daily News (@NYDailyNews) December 3, 2015
Obviously it’s a clarion call to action over words, perhaps less obviously it’s a call to stop being inefficient.
Inefficient? Cold word, Chris. Let me explain.
Whenever someone starts questioning the value of prayer, it becomes clear that they have a very very limited understanding of prayer. In the words of Martin Thornton, author of Christian Proficiency, they are being inefficient. The Daily News is shifting the focus of what should be a meaningful conversation on how the US needs to react to continued violence which has made our entire country feel like a war zone, into a conversation about religion. Frankly, it was a polarizing headline designed as click bait to irritate everyone and sell papers. It’s a political piece about GOP and Democratic presidential candidate contrast. It also offers no solutions. Seriously, the headline inside the paper is “GOP presidential candidates offer prayers — not solutions on gun control — after San Bernardino massacre.” However except for a brief nod at the end of the article to Democratic calls for gun control measures, no solutions are actually mentioned. Not good ones, not bad ones, not ones which need to be further developed. Not one solution is actually mentioned. So news flash, the Daily News just printed meaningless platitudes in response to gun violence.
However, the New York Daily News is NOT wrong in its criticism of these comments about prayers. The comments themselves are also inefficient and disingenuous. As Thornton points out in Christian Proficiency, prayer is something at the heart of the life of a proficient Christian’s life (and an aspect of other religions as well). Now I don’t know the pundits quoted any more than most of us do, news reels, a few interviews, that’s it. But what I do know is that a tweet, facebook post, or statement of “sending prayers” is not the same as actually doing the thing. Prayer can become a bit like “I’ll call you.” We intend to do it, we probably even mean it, but we don’t prioritize it and actually do it. So the statements themselves do become meaningless platitudes.
So how do we fix this? Below I’m going to offer a solution set, which needs further vetting admittedly. Note it is a solution set, because this is a set of problems, not a single one.
1 – Recognize this is war, and one we are losing. This is not a limited one-off rare event. It is part of the daily life of being an American today. The combatants are the individuals vs. the whole and that makes this warfare holistically different than any war we (the US) have ever fought. If you remember your history, we won the revolutionary war in this country in large part because we used tactics which looked so different from civilized warfare that we left the British without strategies to employ. In this war, we’re playing the British part, and like they did then, we’re losing now. Our tactics are antiquated, stale, and inefficient. We’re either going to adapt, or we are going to continue to lose.
2 – Form a battle plan based on the best data and intelligence we have to date and fight the battles. We cannot continue to sit in our living rooms watching news of the war, we need to participate. How are you participating? Have you talked to your elected officials, personally or in writing? Have you set up or participated in defense drills? Have they? How are you working with law enforcement and your neighbors? How are they? How are you addressing these issues with your children? How are they? How are you increasing vigilance and participation in government of the people, by the people and for the people?
3-Love, prayer, & community. No one is committing these heinous acts because they feel loved and cared for by their community. I’ve said before that the single biggest commonality is that people committing these heinous acts are marginalized, individualized, disenfranchised and radicalized. We don’t and aren’t doing enough as individuals, as a church, and as a society to lift people up and instead people make sport of tearing each other apart. So a significant piece of the battle plan needs to include tools to combat this problem. I draw it out separately because it isn’t about legislation or government, it’s about us. The distracting and polarizing front cover headline is wrong on this front. We individually and corporately need to give more than lip service to this love thy neighbor thing. We need a community, steeped in prayer and love. We need to be comforting and uplifting one another in prayer. We need to be lovingly and unceasingly praying for our neighbors communities and the world, because laws are band-aids applied after the wound, and an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Battle are won in the streets, wars are won in the heart.
Praying for us all,