Are ‘Thoughts and Prayers’ a ‘Cruel Joke’?

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Dana Milbank is a columnist for the Washington Post and a bestselling author. He has also been characterized as “extravagantly contrarian” and “one of the most extreme ideologues in the business.”

Consider, for example, the title of his column following last weekend’s shootings: “Republicans’ thoughts and prayers have become a cruel joke.” Milbank cites dozens of such statements responding to the tragedies. He notes that “thoughts and prayers are always welcome,” but then claims that this “reflexive response to the endless massacres has become a cruel joke, as effective as a Hallmark sympathy card.”

Milbank believes that offering prayer is “what people say when they plan to do nothing.” To those who criticize his criticism, he responds: “We criticize prayer in lieu of action.”

I agree with Milbank that if we promise to pray but do nothing else, we have not done enough. As James notes, “Faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead” (James 2:17).

However, like so many in our secular culture, Milbank seems to think that we must choose between “prayer” and “action,” that if we pray for victims, we are not acting on their behalf. And he believes that until Republicans act as he thinks they should, “We don’t have a prayer.”

“OUR COMMUNITY CAME TOGETHER THROUGH PRAYER”
Last Sunday morning, as the horrific news was still breaking from El Paso and Dayton, South Carolina Sen. Tim Scott was on CBS’s Face the Nation. He was asked about the massacre four years ago when a white racist murdered nine African Americans at the Mother Emanuel Church in Charleston.

Sen. Scott began his response to the weekend shootings: “What a challenging time. Our prayers and thoughts are certainly with both communities.” After describing the tragedy that happened in his state, he then declared: “The good news for our community was that our community came together through prayer.”

Here’s why I’m quoting from his interview today: the senator continued, “A lot of folks say that prayers don’t matter. Well I will disagree with them vehemently. Because of prayer, the . . . nine family members forgave the shooter and brought unity into our state in a way that we have not seen in the history of the state, frankly.

“The Civil War started in Charleston and to have a white racist walk into the door of a black church to start, according to his objective, ‘a race riot,’ [and] to have the actual opposite occur because of the power of faith in that church and in our community was fantastic and phenomenal.”

TWO POWERFUL RESULTS OF PRAYER
Our secular culture and its journalists might be surprised by the senator’s testimony, but Christians are not. We know that when we pray, two things happen: We ask God to do what he can do, and he empowers us to do what we can do.

When Elijah asked God to bring a dead child back to life, “the Lord listened to the voice of Elijah. And the life of the child came into him again, and he revived” (1 Kings 17:22).

After Jonah warned Nineveh of God’s coming judgment, their king commanded his people to “call out mightily to God” (Jonah 3:8). Then “God relented of the disaster that he had said he would do to them” (10).

When King Herod imprisoned Peter, “earnest prayer for him was made to God by the church” (Acts 12:5). God responded by sending his angel to liberate the apostle and save his life.

However, as James noted, we must both pray and act (James 2:14–26). In fact, when we pray for people, we connect personally with God in a way that often empowers us to answer our prayers.

For instance, Jesus instructed his disciples to “pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest” (Matthew 9:38). Here’s what came next: “He called to him his twelve disciples” and sent them out in his name (Matthew 10:1).

A SHOCKING NEWSPAPER ARTICLE
How should we pray and then act on our prayers?

First, we should intercede specifically and directly for shooting victims and their families.

Taylor Schumann, who was shot when a gunman opened fire at New River Community College in Virginia six years ago, wrote a remarkable article for Christianity Today listing eleven specific ways we can pray for people like her. I have begun praying as she suggests and encourage you to join me.

Second, we should look for ways to serve those near us.

This Washington Post article shocked me: “Mass shooting incidents probably happened closer to you than you think.” The article locates all the mass killings in America since 2014, then allows us to enter our zip code so we can see how many such tragedies occurred near where we live.

When I entered my zip code, I was told that over the last five years there have been three mass shootings in my county, two mass shootings within ten miles of my home, and thirty mass shootings within one hundred miles of my home.

If you’ll ask God to direct you to a shooting survivor or someone else in need of your compassion, he will answer your prayer. That’s because his word teaches us to “bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ” (Galatians 6:2).

“If God’s people won’t share the light, we are just increasing the darkness.”

Janet Denison
Paul Shane Spear observed: “As one person I cannot change the world, but I can change the world of one person.” In her latest blog, my wife responds to the need for Christians to make a proactive difference in our broken culture with this observation: “If God’s people won’t share the light, we are just increasing the darkness.”

With whom will you share the light today?

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Beth Moore Challenges Christian Leaders to Condemn White Nationalism

Following the tragic shootings over the weekend that left nearly 30 people dead, Christian author and speaker Beth Moore took to Twitter to implore pastors to condemn white nationalism.

In a series of tweets on Tuesday, Moore started off by noting that Christ of the Bible, simply cannot be the same christ who the El Paso shooter reportedly invoked. According to Baptist News, the alleged shooter, 21-year-old Patrick Crusius, wrote in his Twitter bio that he was a “proud God loving Christian.”

Moore wrote, “Any “Christ” that can be invoked in support of white nationalism is a false Christ of the highest, most hellish order. An anti-Christ. A wholly-opposite christ. No such christ is the Christ Jesus of Scripture who taught His followers a love that sacrifices life & limb for others.”

The Breaking Free author then issued a challenge to all followers of Christ, asking them to declare the same sentiment. She wrote, “Let it be known, let it be declared by genuine followers of Jesus, that the man who opened fire in El Paso may invoke a christ of some kind but it is NOT our Christ. His christ would be unrecognizable to us. Unrecognizable in Scripture. We claim no christ of white nationalism.”

Moore concluded her statement by speaking directly to Christian Leaders. She wrote, “Christian leaders, LEAD. Do not shrink back in cowardice. Be bold. Be clear. Do not assume people know where you stand. History will prove this to be a most critical hour and our silence to have been our shameful complicity.”

Moore is only one a many influential Christians who have spoken out against racism, white nationalism and white supremacy following the mass shootings in Dayton, Ohio and El Paso, Texas.

As Christian Headlines previously reported, Executive Director of the Billy Graham Center, Ed Stetzer wrote on Sunday, “Racism, white nationalism, and white supremacy all make no sense if you are a Christian. Christians literally worship a dark-skinned, Jewish savior from the Middle East. Not only is racism sinful, it is remarkably stupid for anyone who identifies as a Christian.”

Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary President Adam Greenway echoed these sentiments in a tweet on Sunday writing, “As president of @SWBTS, I want to be clear that we condemn in the strongest possible form any and all ideologies of racial/ethnic superiority/inferiority that fuel the kind of hate evidently motivating the #ElPaso shooter to commit such a horrific act of violence in our state.”

As Christian Headlines Previously reported, on Saturday a gunman opened fire in a local Walmart in El Paso, Texas killing 20 people and injuring 26. In the early morning hours the following day, another shooter took up arms and opened fire on a crowd of people outside of a bar in Dayton, Ohio. He killed 9 people and injured 27 before being shot dead by police.

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Vice President Mike Pence Is Criticized for Saying He Prays for His Critics

Vice President Mike Pence, who has been routinely criticized for his faith, said he handles such attacks by praying for his critics—which garnered him a few more.

“No. 1 is, spend more time on your knees than on the internet,” Pence said during an Aug. 6 Q & A session with Michael Farris, president and CEO of Alliance Defending Freedom. The gathering included ADF staff.

The vice president went on to talk about the power of forgiveness.

“As a Christian believer, we’re charged to pray for our loved ones but also pray for our enemies,” Pence said.

“You have lots of opportunities in politics to do that,” he said. “But I would say that forgiveness is a great gift, and my wife and I literally try to work through forgiving people who might speak woefully against us or might mischaracterize who we are and what our family’s all about,” he said.

Since taking office Pence has been targeted numerous times for his biblical approach to living.

As covered by Christian Headlines early in the Trump administration, the vice president was ripped on social media for saying he protects his marriage by avoiding situations where he is alone with a woman.

Earlier this year, 2020 Democrat presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg, who served as mayor of South Bend, Indiana while Pence was governor of the state, challenged the vice president’s biblical view of marriage and mocking his Christian faith, Christian Headlines previously reported.

And in January, Pence’s wife, Karen, was criticized for taking a teaching job at a Christian school in Virginia that has a “moral purity” policy that prohibits LGBT students and faculty.

During his talk with ADF, Pence admitted he and his wife were taken aback by the reaction to her job.

“We honestly didn’t see that one coming,” the vice president said. “Our kids went to the school when I was in Congress.”

Not long after the conversation with ADF, Twitter users began mocking Pence’s comment on prayer, some twisting the intent of spending “more time on your knees.” Comments quickly turned sexual, including an obscene cartoon of Pence with President Trump, and a retort by Monica Lewinsky, the intern who had an affair with President Bill Clinton while he was in office. Others made reference to the NFL players’ protest of taking a knee during the national anthem.

Author Sasha Strachan used the NFL controversy as a backdrop to challenge Pence’s faith and call the president racist.

Another user, calling himself the Tattooed Theologian, also took a swipe at Pence’s faith and integrity, saying: “On your knees…That sounds pretty authoritarian to me. I don’t have to be on my knees to pray.

“@VP should spend some time reading the #Gospels. If he did, he wouldn’t be supporting @realDonaldTrump.”

Comedian and atheist Paula Poundstone dismissed praying outright saying, “I will spend no time on my knees.”

During his conversation with ADF, Pence said that when he’s in the midst of criticism he tries “just focusing on the cause.”

“I really do think it’s important that we stay focused on things that are more important than ourselves, that are more important than any intermittent controversy that might arise,” he told Farris. “And for me, that’s about being a part of an administration, standing next to a president that’s rebuilding our military, who’s revived our economy, who’s appointing a historic number of conservatives to our federal courts, who’s standing, as I said, for our first freedom, for religious liberty, for the right to life. I get up every day and I just… I feel incredibly blessed to be a small part of an administration that is making America great again. So focus on the positive.”

Ironically, a portion of the discussion at the ADF event also included the topic of religious liberty and free speech, especially on America’s colleges and universities.

“Whenever I was governor or vice president… I see somebody waving an unflattering sign, or we… Some people shouting something out. I always look at my kids and I say, ‘That’s what freedom looks like.’
“That’s what freedom sounds like, right? And the ability to disagree, the ability to be critical of people that are in public life, that’s at the very center of what the people that founded this country had in mind and has been preserved through the generations. And we have to make sure it’s preserved on the campuses of America.”

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