I recently attended an interfaith vigil honoring those murdered in Orlando. It was one of many happening here in northwest Indiana and around the country. There were many prayers offered. I think vigils like these are extremely important: they bring home the tragedy of what has happened. Without these rituals, there is the risk that these terrible events will just sweep by us in the 24-hour news cycle, leaving us unchanged.
But vigils and prayers are not enough.
Yesterday, I read an article on the Huffington Post entitled “I Will Not Pray for Orlando” by Jonathan Williams, a pastor in New York. Williams says he won’t pray for Orlando … or for Newtown, Charleston, Aurora, Blacktown, or Columbine. He won’t pray because, he says, God has already answered our prayers … and we’re just not paying attention. “We have the God-given capability to stop dangerous people from buying assault rifles,” writes Williams.
Williams will not pray. Instead, he says, he will will lobby for gun laws that are proven to limit gun violence, including a ban on assault rifles, and he will stand with his LGBT brothers and sisters who have who walk down the streets in fear of hate and bigotry and violence.
I have been writing here about Earthseed, a Humanistic Pagan religion inspired by science fiction author, Octavia Butler. I have written about the theology of Earthseed and the ambitious goals of Earthseed. But I think the true test of a religion is how it helps us in times of crisis such as we are facing now.
The God of Earthseed is not a God who answers prayers. The God of Earthseed is Change, the very processes which Shape our lives and the world around us.
But Earthseed also teaches us that we can Shape those processes. We can Shape Change — we can Shape God. We Shape God by Shaping ourselves. We do this by paying attention, by adapting, by exercising our intelligence, imagination and industry. We Shape God though work. “Pray working,” reads the Book of the Living:
Pray to focus your thoughts,
still your fears,
strengthen your purpose.
This weekend, Earthseed is repurposing the time we had set aside for our solstice celebration to instead hold a Rite of Remembrance for those who died in Orlando. You can join us on Zoom this Saturday, June 18, at 6pm ET, 5pm CT, 4pm MT, 3pm PT, by following this link. It will be a time to focus our thoughts, still our fears, and strengthen our purpose.
And then the real praying must begin. We must pray working. We must not pray that God will Change our circumstances. Change will happen, whether we will it or not. Rather, we must work to Shape Change, to Shape God, in the direction of justice and peace.
I know that gun legislation is not a panacea, but I believe it is part of the answer. So, tomorrow, we will hold a vigil for those who were killed by gun violence, as have so many others around the country. And then, may the real praying begin … the prayer that is work, the work that Changes, the work that Shapes Change.
God is Change. Shape God.