In moments when I want to feel safe, there are no other safer words than “My thoughts and prayers are with you (and your family, friends, city, etc.).” I’ve said them to families when a loved one lies at the cusp of death; I’ve offered them without thought or follow through when tragedy strikes people close to me. It’s what I do when I feel helpless to do anything. It’s not that I intend malice with those words — I just want to get on with the life in front of me, and if you and your trauma and pain occupy too much space, that might cause me to change.
thoughts and prayers
As strange as it may seem, The New York Daily News may have gotten this one right, from a Christian perspective. A snowflake or Christmas tree on our coffee cup isn’t going to make our country a more Christian society. Religious words and calculated condolences aren’t going to restore God’s peace to our streets. The religion of Jesus and the prophets is a sincere faith expressed through positive action for change.
After the mass shooting in San Bernardino, politicians and others who offered up “thoughts and prayers” came under criticism for not being interested in a solution to gun violence.
But on The Late Show on Dec. 7, Stephen Colbert argued that thoughts and prayers are still important.
“I’d like to defend thoughts and prayers, as someone who occasionally thinks and prays,” he said.
The oh-so-familiar reaction started before we knew what had happened in the latest massacre at a conference center. Posts on social media encouraged us to pray for San Bernardino. Tweets went out bearing hashtag prayers.
It’s so damn familiar.
We see the heart-breaking images that are so much like the other heart-breaking images from the other day – different people, different place, different massacre, same sick feeling. We dust off our “Pray for the people of (fill in the blank)” and hashtag a prayer their way.
And then we do nothing to change it. Which means we’re really not praying at all.