Very soon after the massacre which occurred at the First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs, Texas, on Sunday, instead of the usual American response of coming together, offering prayers and empathy and shared grief, we were further shocked by near-immediate “prayer-shaming.”
Prayer-shaming. Would we ever have conceived that such a thing could occur publicly in America? And, why? What is the purpose in the wake of such an evil act when people are hurting? Yet here we are.
The question—and challenge—I would like to offer is this: How will we let the few loud voices affect us? People in the media have the microphone and all the speakers in surround sound. Those on social media have a megaphone. When we’re exposed to the cacophonous racket of the nonstop yammering of it all, it’s impossible for us not to be affected by it.
Am I suggesting we disconnect? No—although a fast from media is sometimes necessary to cleanse us from the ways it pollutes us.
What I think is far more helpful is to evaluate the messages you’re taking in: Do they represent reality, or are they merely perception?
In politics they say perception is reality, but in reality—reality is reality.
So back to the topic at hand: Prayer shaming. The fact of the matter is that, even though it was a rude shock to experience prayer-shaming at all, much less for it to come so callously just after a tragedy, simply because people with some sort of a platform said it, does it make it reality? Or can we reject it along with other nonsensical ideas we’re faced with?
In truth, I can see why they’d think such comments might be acceptable. Much of America seems to have reduced God to no more than their mascot, pulling out the “God card” in times they feel they “ought” to (when they need to appear spiritual), or during Christmas or Easter (although He’s being shoved further and further to the background there as well).
But it’s not always been this way, and it doesn’t need to be this way now. George Washington, for example, said
I am sure there never was a people who had more reason to acknowledge a divine interposition in their affairs than those of the United States; and I should be pained to believe that they have forgotten that agency which was so often manifested during our Revolution—or that they failed to consider the omnipotence of that God who is alone able to protect them.”
And, for goodness’ sake, it was Mr. Irreligious Founder himself, Benjamin Franklin, who called for prayer at the Constitutional Convention as it deteriorated before his eyes:
In this situation of this Assembly, groping as it were in the dark to find political truth, and scarce able to distinguish it when presented to us, how has it happened, Sir, that we have not hitherto once thought of humbly applying to the Father of lights to illuminate our understandings? In the beginning of the Contest with G. Britain, when we were sensible of danger we had daily prayer in this room for the divine protection.
Our prayers, Sir, were heard, and they were graciously answered. All of us who were engaged in the struggle must have observed frequent instances of a Superintending providence in our favor. To that kind providence we owe this happy opportunity of consulting in peace on the means of establishing our future national felicity.
And have we now forgotten that powerful friend? I have lived, Sir, a long time, and the longer I live, the more convincing proofs I see of this truth–that God governs in the affairs of men. And if a sparrow cannot fall to the ground without his notice, is it probable that an empire can rise without his aid? We have been assured, Sir, in the sacred writings, that “except the Lord build the House they labor in vain that build it.”
I firmly believe this; and I also believe that without his concurring aid we shall succeed in this political building no better than the Builders of Babel: We shall be divided by our little partial local interests; our projects will be confounded, and we ourselves shall become a reproach and by-word down to future ages.
I therefore beg leave to move, that henceforth prayers imploring the assistance of Heaven, and its blessings on our deliberations, be held in this Assembly every morning before we proceed to business, and that one or more of the Clergy of the City be requested to officiate in that service.”
All throughout our history as a nation, we have acknowledged God and the necessity of prayer. As individuals, we have regularly called on Him in times of need and times of plenty. Our health as a nation relies on our commitment to God.
So reject those voices who would call you away from God and toward a callousness of soul. That’s not who we are as a people. Snark, cynicism, and just plain nastiness in the media and on social media are pushing us in that direction, but we can choose differently.
We can choose to return to God through prayer. We can choose to let him give us a heart of flesh in exchange for our heart of stone. We can choose to draw near to Him so He can give us the capacity to love our enemies as He commanded us to.
Or, we can continue down the road of hate-filled mocking derision, which we daily glut ourselves on at every turn.
Which path do you choose?