Mass shootings: Prayers and policy changes are not mutually exclusive


You need the prayers because you need the prayerful.

My Twitter and Facebook feeds are overrun — with good reason — by commentary about the Orlando shooting massacre. This is neither surprising nor troubling. What did take me by surprise is the outrage and exasperation aimed at those who wish to #prayforOrlando. “Keep your prayers” they say “we need policy change, not magical thinking.” The sentiment was clearly expressed by this illustration by Wendy MacNaughton, posted by the Brain Pickings Twitter feed:

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Prayer and policy change are mutually exclusive, or so it seems. I don’t know how to segue gracefully into what I have to say so let me lumber into it: Isn’t it “interesting” that the people who are quick to tell believers to shove their prayers where the sun don’t shine are the same ones who are pleading through hashtags and social media posts to “stay strong” , “stand up with” and sending equally magical “healing vibes” and “positive thoughts” to the latest site of terrorist horror as if those could patch-up bullet holes and solve hatred any better than prayers could. We’re content to wring our hands over Trump’s tweets and telling Republican politicians to stuff their prayers where they keep their broomsticks and feel like we’ve done something for the cause when really, all we’ve done is dig ourselves deeper into the silos of intolerance where hatred is hatched.

You know what? Telling believers to shove it with their magical thinking is on the same spectrum of bigotry as religious fanaticism. Different ends, same spectrum. Whether you hate believers or unbelievers, you still hate. You still show an unwillingness to understand, to empathize, to hold hands and find common ground. Across the spectrum we prefer seeing things in the isolation that leaves room for feeling good and justified about our own biases and inconsistencies. To this one it’s about Islamic extremism; to this one it’s about homophobia; to this one it’s about mental illness; to this one it’s about gun control; to this one it’s about Western imperialism; religious right, intolerant left; to everyone it’s about something else than whichever hand they have in maintaining the status quo. This is why we can’t affect the policy change we so dearly need. Policy change requires common ground and common ground is hard to find around the navel area.

We’re all mad here Alice.

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