In the wake of yet another mass shooting in the US – this time in San Bernardino, California – people are questioning their faith in each other and in God. “God Isn’t Fixing This” was the headline in the NY Daily News coverage, shaming prayer givers in the aftermath of tragedy. The knee jerk response is already unfolding in a twitter storm of #prayershaming and an outpouring of even more cynical attacks from left and right. Meanwhile, the victims are being forgotten and real point is being missed.
Prayer may not be the answer to all our problems, but it *is* a good starting point. It does (or should) provide a moment of focus and introspection. Prayer helps us define and vocalize our personal relationship to God, family and community. Prayer is not simply a placebo to make us feel good about ourselves. Nor is it an alternative to action, but it can be an important call to action.
In short, this is not God’s problem to fix, it’s our problem to fix. We should start by recognizing that we are all God’s children. The interfaith appeal by the muslim community in southern California is an important effort and it should be embraced and supported. Regardless of the outcome of the San Bernardino investigations, it would be wrong to indict any religious faith for the acts of individuals. Instead we should call on all communities of faith to condemn violence and use the power of prayer to unite us behind a common cause of peace and reconciliation.
It is also wrong for politicians to suggest that a single bandaid like solution such as gun control, enhanced surveillance or better mental health care is the answer to all our problems. Indeed, a combination of these and other measures is probably necessary and the greedy scoring of political points is not the best way of getting things done. We should have learned that by now.
What can and should be done immediately, is to tone down the rhetoric of blame and hatred, which only serves to divide us at a time when unity of purpose is necessary. Extremism begets extremism. Whether it is directed toward Planned Parenthood, people of color, the LGBT community or everyday Americans just going about their peaceful pursuit of liberty, vitriol sparks violence and violence inspired by hate is tantamount to terrorism.
Yes, God can fix this, but it’s really our problem to fix. We have the God given intellect and will to overcome our differences and do great things if we don’t give in to the politics of hate and division. It’s high time that we start using God’s gift as he intended for us to use it. I pray that we start fixing this now.