You’ll hear it every time something tragic happens.
School shooting? Check.
Supermarket massacre by a vicious racist? Check.
Mass killing spree during a July 4th celebration? Absolutely.
Every time, you can count down the minutes until someone offers up some version of it: namely, that although no gun regulations could have prevented such evil, there is one thing that could have.
And what is it?
Why, prayer, of course.
That, and a return to the Godliness that presumably once animated America but from which we have supposedly turned.
If we just restored prayer in schools, posted the Ten Commandments in every government building, or said “Merry Christmas” instead of the “Happy Holidays” preferred by Godless heathens, such things wouldn’t happen.
After all, does anyone remember mass shootings before the feminists, gays, and assorted liberals removed the Almighty from the public square?
I think not, they smugly reply to their own question.
With cause and effect thus duly established (at least in the minds of simpletons who failed basic cause-and-effect 101), they consider the case closed.
Until the next awfulness, at which point they’ll repeat the refrain.
But believing that prayer could prevent mass murderers from plying their trade — especially given the mental derangement that usually animates them and has never been warded off by the healing balm of Jesus — isn’t just silly.
It’s also incredibly offensive.
Because although we might not have had many mass shootings 60 or 100 years ago — we had far fewer high-capacity weapons floating around with which to do the deed — we did have a few other things worth remembering in the horrific violence department.
We might do well to remember:
Emmett Till was beaten, shot, and thrown into the Tallahatchie River with a cotton gin fan tied around his neck by men who, no doubt, considered themselves Christians.
The Little Rock Nine were assaulted and verbally harassed by good God-fearing churchgoers for simply trying to get an education.
Andrew Goodman, James Chaney, and Michael Schwerner were shot in the head and buried in an earthen dam by men who likely would have endorsed Christian prayer in homeroom class.
The thugs who assaulted sit-in protesters and those who bombed the bus in Anniston, Alabama — part of the Freedom Rides — were probably big believers in Jesus as their personal savior.
As were Bull Connor and Selma Sheriff Jim Clark.
And Byron De La Beckwith, who assassinated NAACP field secretary Medgar Evers in his Jackson driveway in 1963.
And the murderers of James Reeb and Jonathan Daniels.
And the jailers who beat Fannie Lou Hamer half to death in Winona, Mississippi.
The white folks who defended segregated hospitals, lunch counters, water fountains, bathrooms, and movie theatre sections, and barred Black people from trying on clothes in department stores, were virtually all Christians.
As were the kidnappers and enslavers of Black bodies — the human traffickers who tossed them into the hulls of ships or raped Black women and forced them to bear children for the benefit of white property owners.
All of them read their Bibles.
As did the crowds who gathered beneath the Black bodies they strung from trees — bodies to which they would often take blowtorches and of which they would take photographs, turn them into postcards, and trade them the way one might trade baseball cards today.
Likewise, the men who massacred the Cheyenne and Arapahoe at Sand Creek, hunted the Lakota across the Mountain West, and herded native children into boarding schools to “kill the Indian and save the man” were hardly humanists.
I am confident they could all quote chapter and verse as to what awaited them in heaven, no matter their depravity, just because they had professed faith in the one true God.
Which was certainly convenient.
Indeed, they often cited that Scripture to justify their iniquities.
Defenders of enslavement insisted that the “Curse of Ham” referenced in Genesis had been inherited by modern-day Black people who, it was said, descended from Noah’s son Ham through his son, Caanan. It’s a ridiculous story, but “good Christians” believed every word.
According to the story, Ham walked in on Noah drunk and saw him naked. For some inexplicable reason, that made God mad. So he cursed Ham’s descendants by making them servants to the descendants of Ham’s more prudish brothers, who had covered up drunk Noah with a blanket so as to protect his junk from public display.
For that — for seeing his own dad naked — God supposedly cursed an entire bloodline.
And rather than hearing such a thing and thinking, “Wow, God’s a real dick,” they were like, “Yeah, sounds reasonable.”
Millions of people were violently exploited and ripped from their continent because of the vile and very Christian belief in this bullshit — an interpretation of the Ham story that had never even existed until the 15th century, right at the time that exploration, conquest, and chattel enslavement begins to necessitate a rationalizing narrative.
Likewise, Paul’s epistle to the Ephesians contains the morally wretched admonition to servants to be “obedient” to their masters as “servants of Christ.” Naturally, such putrescent bilge found purchase in the mouths of every antebellum Christian in the South, looking for a rationale to justify their wickedness.
. . .
In short, belief in the Bible and devotion to one’s God have never deterred violent, oppressive, and horrific behavior. Indeed, it was just as often as not the predicate for it.
The “good old days” so fetishized by the right were days of immeasurable horror done by Christians, often in the name of Christianity.
Prayer, whether in school, church, or at home, did nothing to dissuade them.
Neither did it protect the targets, who prayed as much as (if not quite a bit more than) their abusers.
Given that history, to insist now that prayer is the answer to evil is to diminish the terror of racism, genocide, and oppression throughout our history. It suggests that God didn’t mind the latter enough to reward faith and piety on the part of the victims.
It implies that their suffering had been justified even though now, surely, God would intercede against evil and protect us.
All of which leaves us with one of two things being true.
First, that God is a fickle and unscrupulous asshole, or second, that those who profess their faith in him so loudly don’t know what the hell they’re talking about.
Either way, everything they say and believe should be ignored.
This post was previously published on Tim Wise’s blog.
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