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The New York Daily News, usually known for conservative tabloid garbage covers that revel in appealing to the lowest common denominator, has finally made a cover that many liberals can get behind. They call out Republican presidential candidates as “cowards” who tweet their “thoughts and prayers” to victims after mass shootings but do nothing to actually fix the serious problem of gun control in America.
This, of course, has many Christians worrying about “prayer-shaming.” I’ve even seen some particularly sensitive atheists saying that this is an example of close-mindedness, and we should never criticize how a person chooses to mourn, even if that means they’re praying to a god we don’t believe in. They’re right, of course, but also they’re very very wrong.
It’s true that no one should be faulted for praying to their chosen god, unless they’re praying for something really shitty like another Ted movie. We can argue about whether or not praying subtly convinces people to not contribute anything in the real world because they’ve already “helped” with their prayers, but the science is still out on that and if there is an effect, it’s probably a pretty small one. You could also point to the study that showed that praying for someone with a medical condition actually makes their health slightly worse, but again, that’s not conclusive and it’s not a huge affect. I think we can reasonably say that praying doesn’t really do much other than make the person who prays, and maybe the person they’re praying for, feel better.
But even though I don’t have a problem with people praying, I don’t think that the New York Daily News is “prayer-shaming.” To think that is to miss the point entirely: these politicians aren’t just praying for the victims, if they’re even actually praying at all. No, they’re Tweeting about praying for the victims of a circumstance that they themselves could prevent but choose not to. That’s not being a good Christian — that’s just being a huge hypocrite. That’s like praying for your aunt to recover from skin cancer while stuffing her in a tanning bed. “Stop struggling, Agnes, this is going to give you a healthy glow!”
And to really make the analogy work, in this case the tanning salon would be paying you to bring your aunt in. Because that’s the big problem, here: the National Rifle Association’s ridiculously wealthy and powerful lobby that has the GOP on the payroll. Gun control is the fastest way to fix this problem — it’s what Australia did in 1996 just days after a gunman murdered dozens of people. They cut gun homicides by nearly 60% and gun suicides by 65%, with no increase in other kinds of homicides and no increase in robberies and home invasions.
Of course, if we want to know more about the science of what works and what doesn’t work with regards to gun violence, we’ll have to lift the current ban on the CDC studying it. Oh that’s right, 20 years ago Republicans passed restrictions on gun violence research to make sure that no money accidentally went toward gun control advocacy.
So please remember all that the next time you hear a politician whine about prayer-shaming after citizens beg them to do something about the unbelievable rash of mass shootings happening in the US. It’s not prayer-shaming — it’s hypocrite-shaming.