On Thoughts, Prayers, Powers and the Profane

Kirsten Powers, formerly a Fox News contributor who made the jump to CNN, is one of the few bright points of light on the left.  A staunch liberal, she nonetheless bucks the trends of her political brethren with her pro-life views, and she has consistently defended the value of free and unfettered speech—even when it means calling out the left for stifling it, and suffering abuse at their hands as a result.  Quite simply, Powers is the embodiment of an honest thinker.  And unlike many creatures of the left, she’s confident enough in her values to debate them without having to shut up the opposition.

Powers is also a devout Christian, so I was very interested in her impressions of the terrible events in Las Vegas from that perspective.  This morning, she penned a column for the Washington Post that tackled the subject head-on—although not from an angle one might expect.  Most hot takes from the left focus solely on the gun control aspect.  Powers, on the other hand, took her fellow Christians to task for offering prayer as a substitute for action:

It’s become a sort of twisted American ritual: A lone white male shooter opens fire on a crowd of people. Americans cry out for someone to do something and are met with shoulder shrugs, mumblings about “the price of freedom” and assurances that the people elected to protect them are sending their “thoughts and prayers.”

Politicians have managed to make a once benign, if not comforting, phrase sound almost profane.

That opening took me aback, mostly because the injection of race into a non-racial subject seemed quite beneath Powers, who is normally more thoughtful.  Why Stephen Paddock being white has anything to do with this is beyond me.  Granted, most mass shooters are white—but not all of them.  The DC snipers, John Allen Mohammed and Lee Boyd Malcolm, were black.  So was Micah Johnson, who murdered five police officers in Dallas.  Why is Paddock’s skin color relevant to the point Powers is trying to make?  Its inclusion here seems more inflammatory than informative.

She goes on:

[I]t’s not enough. Nor is it what we hire politicians to do. We elect them to fix problems, enact policies and keep us safe.

Instead, we have elected officials — many of them self-described conservative Christians who also happen to take money from the National Rifle Association — using cries for “thoughts and prayers” as some sort of inoculation against responsibility or action when it comes to gun violence.

Deploying the NRA canard—a tool of convenience for a lazy argument. The amount of money that the National Rifle Association spends on lobbying is a pittance compared what labor unions and Planned Parenthood lavish on friendly Democrats, and it’s not near enough to put politicians in their back pockets.  No, the reason the NRA is so influential is that it has millions of law-abiding members who are very interested in protecting their Second Amendment rights—and those members vote in great numbers.  Powers should know that.

Strangely, when it comes to other issues these same Christians don’t feign helplessness and limit solutions to “thoughts and prayers.” If the shooter in Las Vegas had been named Mohammed, you can be sure that these same leaders would be offering a laundry list of “solutions” to keep more Mohammeds out of America. For that matter, have you ever seen a politician just throw up his or her hands about legalized abortion — which has been the law of the land for 40 years — and say there is nothing that can be done, but “thoughts and prayers” all around?

Again, what Powers says here amounts more to baiting than a coherent argument.  Certainly, if the shooter had been a Islamic terrorist who had entered the country with the specific purpose of doing harm, we’d have to take a hard look at why vetting procedures hadn’t worked.  Screening out dangerous people also goes to the heart of what the federal government is supposed to do, which is protect American citizens from harm.  This is, and always should be, the highest priority of any government official.

As to abortion, the Christian right has most certainly been trying to move the political debate in a more pro-life direction, and they have engaged politicians to try and pass laws that restrict the practice.  But since abortion is, much to the country’s disgrace, the law of the land, we have also seen those efforts rebuffed constantly by the courts.  Even the most minimal restrictions on abortion are routinely overturned.  If gun control advocates feel frustrated by their inability to change the laws, how do you think Evangelicals feel about their fight?

Powers also omits one more glaring fact:  the right to bear arms, unlike abortion, is actually spelled out explicitly in the Second Amendment to the Constitution.  Abortion rights were divined by an activist Supreme Court.

She concludes:

We know what we have left undone: enacted lifesaving policy protections for millions of Americans who simply want to safely go to a music festival, nightclub, church, university, movie theater or elementary school.

Exactly what those policy protections might be, Powers doesn’t say.  There are, however, already a great number of regulations when it comes to legally obtaining guns.  What additional laws might have prevented Stephen Paddock from committing his crime?  That’s a tougher question.  Emotional pleas to do something in the wake of a monstrous act may be a very human reaction, but they aren’t reasoned arguments–and they usually don’t lead to effective laws.  More often than not, we get what amounts to legal window dressing, like the “assault weapons” ban that had no measurable effect on gun crimes.  These laws may give cover to politicians, but they accomplish little else.

The more disconcerting truth is that evil exists in this world, and evil men will find ways to carry out their evil designs, no matter what the law says. Infringing on the constitutional rights of law-abiding citizens isn’t going to change that, either.  If Kirsten Powers truly wants policies that address the issue of gun violence, she would be better served by looking past leftist dogma and going back to her iconoclastic roots.

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Marc Giller

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