Friday, December 04, 2015

Prayer alone is not enough

The cover of Thursday's New York Daily News caused quite a stir.

The bold white text of "God isn't fixing this" along with screen shots of tweets from a variety of Republicans offering their "thoughts and prayers" to the families of California shooting victims was, apparently, the most re-tweeted Daily News cover ever -- and for good reason.

The thought behind the cover was an excellent impetus for a discussion that this country needs to have in the wake of what seems like the latest of our daily mass shootings. The Daily News' point: "Why only pray when you can act?" They practically spelled it out with the subhead, "As latest batch of innocent Americans are left lying in pools of blood, cowards who could truly end gun scourge continue to hide behind meaningless platitudes."

Of course, some people either intentionally or unintentionally misconstrued the cover somehow as anti-religion ... or anti-Christianity ... or anti-prayer. I believe that some people genuinely saw it that way. I also believe others just wanted to argue, which seems to be the new great American pastime. Well, that and shooting innocent people.

Personally, I couldn't agree more with the Daily News. Not that there's anything wrong with prayer. But to only pray when you have the power to do so much more is an absolute abdication of that power. And the four men on the cover of the Daily News have the power to do more. They include U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas, U.S. Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky, U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, and U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin. Ryan is the Speaker of the House, Cruz and Paul are both presidential candidates. These are people with power.

To those pointing out that those calling these guys out are also guilty of praying: You're either missing the point or intentionally deflecting from it. They're not being called out for praying. They're being called out for only praying when they have the power to do a lot more. They could enact laws or increase funding to organizations that might help to decrease the gun violence. They could, at the very least, hold hearings to figure out what the real problem is and try to come up with a resolution on how to fix it. All four of these guys on the cover of the Daily News have the power to subpoena people and compel them to be part of the solution. They've used that power on other issues. Why only pray on this one?

When we were attacked on Sept. 11, 2001, a lot of this country prayed. And then we went to war, trying to root out the terrorists that hurt us. Not just the terrorists from that day, but their network. We went after the root of the problem -- or we tried to, at least. When someone tried to bring a shoe bomb on board an airplane, we prayed -- and then enacted to air safety regulations. When someone mailed anthrax to politicians and reporters, we prayed -- and then we tightened security. When someone shot civilians in Paris, we prayed -- and then we reviewed our policies on accepting refugees from Syria.

To make this clear, when people got shot in France, Republican politicians from sea to shining sea immediately wanted to review our security procedures for refuges. When people got shot in California -- or Colorado -- or Connecticut, those same politicians thought prayer was enough to fix things.

Now there's a very valid reason that these politicians don't want to discuss the root of the issue. They're afraid that they might then have to do something to fix it. To the point, they're afraid that the expert testimony they receive might conclude that there are too many guns in America -- and they might be pushed by their constituency to enact gun control measures. Or they're afraid that they'll find that mental health is the root of the problem -- and they'll be pushed to spend money towards that problem, something they don't want to do. So instead, they pray.

If you read that last paragraph as me suggesting we disarm the American people, you misread it. And you don't know me. I may be one of Niagara County's biggest proponents of the 2nd Amendment. In fact, I believe that if the U.S. government has access to any kind of arms, the people should have the same access. How else are we to defend ourselves from the possibility of a tyrannical government? But maybe we should be a little more careful with who we give those guns to ... and hold them accountable for what happens with them.

So, I'm not calling for gun control. But I am saying that we need a summit on the topic. After the Sept. 11, 2012 attacks in Benghazi, Libya, that killed four Americans, the U.S. House created a sub-committee to try to figure out what went wrong. That sub-committee has now spent more than $5 million in taxpayer money. After 14 people in San Bernardino, Calif. got shot on Wednesday, Republicans want only to pray.

Prayer alone isn't enough. Action is needed. It was right for the Daily News to call them out. It's a discussion this country needs to have. Unfortunately, the discussion was immediately twisted to make it sound like prayer was a bad thing. It was done intentionally by people who know better because they don't want to have the discussion. They'd rather argue. And while they argue, more innocent people will be killed.

+Scott Leffler wishes prayer were enough. But experience has taught him different. Follow him on Twitter @scottleffler or email him at scott.leffler@gmail.com


This column was originally published on East Niagara Post.