Is Prayer Even Enough Anymore: School Shootings, Social Change, and Faith

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On Valentine’s Day, we watched in horror as once again, another “one too many times,” children died at school, shot by a classmate. No sooner had “BREAKING NEWS” flashed across our daytime television, and unconfirmed reports flooded our Facebook feeds, than leaders were making announcements sending “thoughts and prayers” for the families of Marjorie Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. And with every tweet, a flood of responses that “thoughts and prayers” did nothing, and instead Congress had to pass some legislation.

And both are absolutely right.

Once again, the nation was thrown into a maelstrom of unimaginable sorrow, fear, and anger over yet another school shooting. The political extremes are busy blaming each other for this seemingly continuous mayhem. These arguments are old and the continuing unwillingness to listen to one another seem to be the only hardened response. And for all the bombast and misdirected blame that has been bandied about over the last several decades now, the senseless carnage continues unabated.

Elements of both sides claim to be the the true Christian perspective when it comes to school shooting and policy. But is it true? Can we really claim one side or the other is better?

How is a Christian supposed to confront the clear evil of what happened in Florida?

Evil is most often used by religious believers; it’s not common that the secular world thinks of “good” or “evil” – these terms are relative. But evil is real, violations of the Law of God’s Love, and the truth is that these acts are, more often than not, symptoms of darker realities, not just within the persons who do them, but also in the very nature of the societies that they live in. The things we call evil are really just symptoms of deeper illnesses in the soul – the illness in all our souls, individual, a family, and all the way up to society at large. This deeper illness is sin, and it rears its ugly head with acts that defy the value of creation in all of its forms.

Because evil is sin, it cannot be “cured” by the passing of new laws at the state, but only through the grace of God and the commitment of those who believe in Him to live in His ways. We are living in a culture that increasingly abandons God for a host of idols that falsely promise to appease our egocentric and materialistic forms of instant gratification. We no longer see ourselves as “E Pluribus Unum.” Rather, we are becoming a culture of the self v. the many. Division defines us now rather than unity. From a Christian perspective, this is the effect of sin arising directly out of the defiance of love.

How did we get here, and where do we go from here?

Dan Doyle is a husband, father, grandfather, Vietnam veteran, and retired professor of Humanities at Seattle University. He taught 13 years at the high school level and 22 years at the university level. He spends his time now babysitting his granddaughter. He is a poet and a blogger as well. Dan holds an AA degree in English Literature, a BA in Comparative Literature, and an MA in Theology, and writes regularly for The Veterans Site Blog.
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