Guns and Prayers

After the San Bernardino shooting, conservative GOP lawmakers rushed to tweet out thoughts and prayers to the victims and the community. They were quickly called to the carpet by twitter, who pointed out that prayers, if they are all we get, are worthless.

Cue the strangled wail of evangelicaldom, as though a great many voices cried out in horror, and were suddenly offended.

Evangelicals rushed to point out that prayers aren’t worthless, and to once more arrogantly presume that anybody who says anything against prayer must be a flesh-eating atheist.

Of course, nobody ever said that prayer was worthless. I’ve been following the progressive social media and web for quite a while now, and I have not seen one single person suggest prayer was worthless.

If evangelicals could get beyond their own shrill fit of the vapors, they might notice that.

What progressives said is that prayer is nice and all, but we need more than prayer. Notice the basic difference here, which conservatives seem unable to grasp. They want more than prayer, not less than prayer.

But basic logic and paying attention to what people say isn’t really in the evangelical wheelhouse, especially not when they can get the base all fired up over all them damn atheists waging their imaginary war on Christianity.

Evangelicals have dubbed this act of pointing out that we need more than prayer to be “prayer-shaming,” as asinine and absurd a reframing as one is likely to see, but one which plays into the evangelical-conservative alliance of delusional victimology and imaginary cultural persecution.

Quite frankly, I’m fed up with their nonsense and if it takes a verbal drubbing to knock some sense into them, then so be it, because this bullshit has about run its course.

Charles Pierce has some choice words for the evangelical wailers over at Esquire, and they are well worth reading.

It’s long past the time to break the power and influence held over our politics by a splinter faction of one form of American Christianity. It’s long past time to make refashioning the Gospel into talking-points—​and, worse, a vehicle for ratfcking—​a political liability rather than a political asset. It’s long past time to ignore the bleating of self-professed Christians who specialize in marinating in their victimology, who build their own Golgothas, and who drive the nails into their own palms. If so-called “prayer-shaming” is the first step in that direction, then Chris Murphy’s entire career in politics has been worthwhile.

I am heartily fed up with this nonsense. I am heartily fed up with people whose personal relationships with their personal Lords And Saviors lead them to knuckle the poor, subjugate women, brag about their gunmanship, and topple inconvenient regimes that happen to be sitting on an ocean of oil.

Better words may never be written about the present issue of “prayer-shaming,” and in sum, the fact that progressives (long believed the bastion of atheists and the dreaded secularists by evangelicals) have exposed the blatant hypocrisy at the root of evangelical life and evangelical theology.

The offense runs deep and wide. Progressives cannot be right, by definition, for evangelicals, and so to be called on the carpet for their shit so completely and so starkly by their enemies cannot be tolerated. So they push back about the value of prayer, completely missing the point that nobody was attacking prayer in the first place.

All they do is reinforce the cultural belief that all evangelicals want to do is pray, and this exposes the pietistic heart of evangelical theology they have been at great pains in the last thirty years to pretend does not exist.

Yet, clearly, prayers are not enough. Jesus himself was the first prayer-shamer:

And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full (Matt. 6:5)

13Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You shut the door of the kingdom of heaven in people’s faces. You yourselves do not enter, nor will you let those enter who are trying to.

15 “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You travel over land and sea to win a single convert, and when you have succeeded, you make them twice as much a child of Gehenna as you are.

23 “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You give a tenth of your spices—mint, dill and cumin. But you have neglected the more important matters of the law—justice, mercy and faithfulness. You should have practiced the latter, without neglecting the former. 24 You blind guides! You strain out a gnat but swallow a camel.

25 “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You clean the outside of the cup and dish, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence. 26 Blind Pharisee! First clean the inside of the cup and dish, and then the outside also will be clean.

27 “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You are like whitewashed tombs, which look beautiful on the outside but on the inside are full of the bones of the dead and everything unclean. 28 In the same way, on the outside you appear to people as full of justice but on the inside you are full of hypocrisy and wickedness.

29 “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You build tombs for the prophets and decorate the graves of the just. 30 And you say, ‘If we had lived in the days of our ancestors, we would not have taken part with them in shedding the blood of the prophets.’ 31 So you testify against yourselves that you are the descendants of those who murdered the prophets. 32 Go ahead, then, and complete what your ancestors started!

33 “You snakes! You brood of vipers! How will you escape being condemned to Gehenna? (Matt. 23:13-15, 23-31)

Prayer without deeds is worthless, as is evangelical theology if it does not take immediate pains to reform itself.

14 What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if someone claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save them? 15 Suppose a brother or a sister is without clothes and daily food. 16 If one of you says to them, “Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it? 17 In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead. (James 2:14-17)


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