After Oregon, “Prayers for ________” Just Rings Hollow

After Oregon, “Prayers for ________” Just Rings Hollow October 2, 2015

shutterstock_224612278It has happened again.

Dear God it has happened again.

The reports coming out of Oregon  are just horrifying and gut-wrenching. My heart has been in knots  as various (and sometimes conflicting) stories of what happened there at Umpqua Community College.  Thirty people have been shot.  At least nine people have died. Countless lives have been shattered. A community is in tatters.  It has happened again.

Not long after reports of the shooting began to break, memes bearing the words, “Prayers for Oregon” began appearing across social media. This makes sense, after all, when we, as people of faith, don’t know what else to do, we pray. This is what we’ve been taught.  This is what we do. But this time, as I watched post after post flow across my News Feed something didn’t feel right. It’s like the same memes keep getting passed around from tragedy to tragedy.  First it was “Prayers for Aurora” then it was “Prayers for Sandy Hook,” now it’s is “Prayers for Oregon.” It’s like somewhere there is a meme generator that sits around and waits for the next shooting in order to just fill in the blank and recycle the same empty words across the interwebs.

Is this the best we can do?  Is this the most faithful and life-giving response that we as a people can muster in the wake of yet another act of senseless and horrific violence?  I am sick and tired of simply sending prayers to my brothers and sisters who went to school today hoping to pass a test and instead wound up in a body bag.  So today, I am not sending “Prayers for Oregon.”

I am not praying for Oregon because I already know that God was, is, and will continue to be with that community.  God was there when each one of those students woke up and exchanged words, hugs, and kisses with their cherished ones.  God was there when each of those students walked into their classrooms.  God was there in the chaos that soon enfolded that space. And God was there in the aftermath while holding the victims and weeping.  God will continue to be with that community as they attempt to heal and begin to piece their lives back together.  God is with Oregon.  Today. Tomorrow. Forever.

Oregon does not need our prayers, because God is already working in that place and with those people. Right now, I am praying for the rest of us.  Me. You. Everybody.  I am praying for us because WE are the ones who are in desperate need of God’s grace and forgiveness.  WE are the one’s who have allowed this senselessness to happen again.  WE are at fault.  So God, please be with us and forgive us.

There have been forty-five mass shootings this year.  We have begun to treat these things like we would a tornado or wildfire.  Tragic, horrible, but altogether unpredictable or unpreventable.  As each shooting scrolls across our consciousness and as we learn of each victim and as we hear the stories of each shooter we allow ourselves to devolve into the same pointless political debates.  Gun Control.  Mental Health. Family Systems. Violent Media. All the talking heads pick their position and their potion and the dig their heels into the turf and we as a society are treated to a couple weeks of yelling and arguing and heated blog posts and then…..

Nothing changes.  Life get’s back to “normal” for a few weeks or maybe even a month until the next one occurs.  Then it’s rinse, wash, repeat.  The same cycle turns over on itself time and time again.  There comes to a point where we begin to ask, “what can we do, other than pray?” So we make memes, design ribbons, and allow our hearts to break time and time again.  And nothing changes.

So what will we do this time?  Oregon does not need our prayers.  The victims of this maddeningly repetitive violence need our actions.  They need something to change, quickly. Now. Will this finally be the time when our hearts break just enough to allow a bit of humility to flow out from us and cause us to step up and say that in this land in which we live these kind of things are absolutely unacceptable?

Pick your cause and your culprit.  I don’t care. But pick something and get passionate about it.  Guns?  Get ’em off the street. Mental Health?  Work to end the stigma surrounding mental illness and to provide funding for diagnosis and treatment. Family Systems? Work on strengthening family units through counseling, coordination, and education.  Violent Media?  Lobby Hollywood and the Gaming Industry to end the fascination with gore and violence.

If none of these work for you, find your cause and do it quickly.  But whatever we do, we can no longer just say, “There’s nothing we can do.” This is no longer an acceptable response.

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39 responses to “After Oregon, “Prayers for ________” Just Rings Hollow”

  1. Actually, according to he Washington Post, there have been 294 mass shootings this year (maybe 45 of them were at schools?). But otherwise, I concur absolutely.

  2. “Either God can do nothing to stop catastrophes, or he doesn’t care to, or he doesn’t exist. God is either impotent, evil, or imaginary. Take your pick, and choose wisely.

    The only sense to make of tragedies like this is that terrible things can happen to perfectly innocent people. This understanding inspires compassion.

    Religious faith, on the other hand, erodes compassion. Thoughts like, ‘this might be all part of God’s plan,’ or ‘there are no accidents in life,’ or ‘everyone on some level gets what he or she deserves’ – these ideas are not only stupid, they are extraordinarily callous. They are nothing more than a childish refusal to connect with the suffering of other human beings. It is time to grow up and let our hearts break at moments like this.” ― Sam Harris

  3. Aaron, I’m not going to be gentle here. You need a class in logic, and to learn to apply that logic before publishing such hyperbole. You are are grossly light on facts, and criminally aberrant in advocacy. Allow me educate you before you get in trouble.

    First, I’ve lived in that area for years. Claiming that God was there is a bit of a stretch. The entire Pacific Northwest is about the most athiestic, anti-American region in the nation. It was, after all, once largely under Soviet rule, hence the bear on the flag of California, not to mention Seward’s Folly.

    Second, while the statistics (which you can look up) suggest gun violence is the leading cause of murder in the USA, like all statistics, these numbers have been ‘adjusted’ in a number of ways, and for a number of reasons. Among these is that organized crime has a tendency to kill one another off in fairly large numbers. Is that murder? Or is it war? Either way, they’re gangs and other such enterprises who have proven that they simply will not obey any laws anyway. So, while they add to the numbers, those numbers will never be affected by anything. But you would remove our only defence against such enterprises?

    The only murder I ever witnessed was committed with a claw hammer. Shall we ban hammers? Kitchen knives?

    The only time I was ever threatened with a gun was in Germany, where one simply can not get one’s hands on a gun. And yet, he did. Clearly, strict gun laws can be circumvented even by nominally law-abiding citizens.

    In fact, what you’re proposing is crime-prevention, which is quite different from crime-deterrent, the most effective tool for which has always been punishment. And, until the death penalty is restored, there is no real deterrent. And this is what our enemies are counting on us forgetting while they (and their ‘useful idiots’) (like you) push to have us all disarmed. You will never prevent crime. Humans will find a way. Whether it’s a claw hammer, kitchen knife, or throwing their victims from a roof. You can’t directly prevent crime, and you certainly can’t prevent murder. Stop trying. Start punishing it instead. That will provide a deterrent that will be far more effective, and not cost us our only defence against a government run amok.

    Third, the founders were much smarter and more experienced (and honest) than you, and they put the second amendment in place to protect the first (and all the others), and they were very adamant about it. They, too, had rockets, bombs, machine guns (though primitive), even submarines (and in private hands, no less) (which pretty much ended with Eisenhower’s ‘Military Industrial Complex’ speech), but felt that all this was far preferable to any government having the only weapons. And recent history has born this out. Just look up all the major dictators and tyrants since the beginning of time right up until today. Their first move? Disarm the population.

    Fourth, all armed service members have sworn an oath to defend against all enemies, foreign or DOMESTIC, … not the country … not the President … not even the people … but THE CONSTITUTION.

    Finally, to advocate so radical a change to the Constitution is to make of one’s self an enemy of the Constitution.

    Use your head. Get an honest education. Choose your words more wisely. Or, just keep it to yourself. Well spoke the prophet Enoch when he said that ‘men’ ought not write. (That’s the purview of the prophets.)

  4. Or maybe you don’t understand the different between good and evil? Or perhaps just the impermanence of this life?

  5. As usual, this sort of commentary is shallow and misinformed. My reading is that this piece isn’t about 10 people getting shot. Unless I missed it, the author has not written even once about more people being murdered in Chicago on weekends repeatedly. Plus those who get murdered on weeknights. Where is the perspective? The author’s “concern” comes down to a political objective of passing useless gun control legislation. This latest shooter bought his guns legally in the toughest gun control state. (By the way, I do not own a gun nor do I believe in the NRA’s reading of the Second Amendment.)

  6. As Celeste notes, there have been 294 mass shootings in the first 274 days of this year. Otherwise, you are correct. Look at the idiotic responses to this, and you see why we need to get guns off the streets. So much nonsense. We have, at average, 20 times the gun deaths in this country as in other countries. Either we are a country of total crazies (I’m not ruling that out) or it’s the availability of guns without any common-sense restrictions. The arguments against it, as we see below, are just more idiotic nonsense.

  7. This country is totally reprobate. There is NOTHING we can do in our own human flesh to stop the evil, for our battle is not against flesh and blood, but against the principalities of this dark world.

    We think that we can “fix” the wrongs and the evils of this world while at the same time, asking God to leave us alone. This country has turned it’s back on the One who IS the solution to every evil under the sun, and His name is Jesus Christ.

    The prayers of his followers are the greatest weapons we have against evil and we are only fooling ourselves if we think otherwise.

    My prayer for this country is found in 2 Chronicles 7:14:

    “f my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land.”

    May we humbly lift our eyes to You, oh Lord, for you are our healer and our salvation.

    Maranatha, Lord Jesus. Maranatha.

  8. I have long thought about these shootings as not about guns or mental illness but the need to be infamous. The shooter reportedly said this in some of his writings. Not all gun owners commit mass carnage nor do all mentally ill people. It is my belief our culture is obsessed with reporting every moment of our “fascinating” lives, and nothing is ever wrong in the land of Facebook. We are better connected and more isolated which leads to feelings of loneliness and worthlessness. This for me is the root of the problem, not what others would like to report as true. It makes these acts someone else’s sick way of looking at the world when there is a deep societal issue we need to think about.

    By no means am I letting any of these heinous actors off the hook but there is something deeply wrong with us.

  9. WE THE PEOPLE, HAVE BEEN DOING THE IMPOSSIBLE SINCE 2006 as we researched/investigated nationwide why there have been murders by the very worst cops which forced us to create a program, Truly Reforming Law Enforcement, within the nations only law, Oregon Senate Bill 111 Law Enforcement Use of Deadly Physical Force mandated to be in full force July 1, 2008. Per FBI records for 2012 published in The Portland Tribune on Oct. 31, 2013 cited for major U.S. Cities of all types of murders, Portland had the lowest total of 20 Murders, that must be compared to Chicago that had over 500 Murders. Without the programs new policy/procedures, new training, new accountability, new non-lethal equipment and our organizations to monitor the new training stays effective as we trust most things can be improved upon, NO changes the murders will continue by the thousands nationwide. Learn about Dignity & Dining at: also was born in 2006 by my family to feed the underfed at specific cafes over 50 coast to coast to be expanded to 1,500 per the best café organization up to 10 hours per day every day of the year. We don’t think or act upon the old way staying in the box in the most important basic needs to make a very much more perfect union. Jerry Atlansky Founder/Chairperson United States Police/Oregon State Police-Independent Citizens Review Board, We answer with details within receipt of responses to this post in just hours. Make every day terrific!

  10. Pardon me but it’s been proven time and again that punishment or the threat of punishment does not prevent murder. Most of the shooters were probably choosing “suicide by cop” anyway. And the recidivism rate for murderers is probably low because we either put them to death or throw them in prison with no hope of parole. The problem is multi faceted and will probably take many different approaches to solve. But…we simply should and must solve it. I am praying that our national and state leaders will address the problems at last. And not that they will simply throw more people in prison and/or throw away the key.

  11. No. I won’t pardon any lie wantonly perpetrated by ignorantly spreading bogus statistics. It is impossible to prove a negative. That alone should tell you something about that so-called fact. You, too, need to take a class in logic, and perhaps several in Sociology. In the mean-time, cease and desist reaping damnation to your soul by participating as a pawn in Satan’s great deception.

  12. These shootings get the shooter in the NRA-HALL OF FAME– also known as the MILITIA FROM HELL!! Prayers is always what is cheapls offered when nothing of substance will be = take care of it yourself. This is an earlthly problem needing concrete solutions, not airy abstract telekinetic thought waves. Send a man for a man’s job now!

  13. No. Jesus was a man, but not a god. Only two emotional women witnessed and empty tomb. In those days only men in good community standing could testify of anything– nghtderived from ‘testicles’. There are also two one-named [no family name] men cited, and all of that is nothing you could take to court, back then or today. The rest is alll hearsay. the prayer you mention is an exercise, a recall, a re-affirmation of personal disclipline and strength, and usu rewards come as a result of good behavior. ‘Turn from your wicked ays’ is something men do on their own, firstly. Donot gloss over this point. ‘Principalities of a dark world’ is idolatry because you have a force so strong as to challenge god??– no nothing but meanness, ignorance, and greed.

  14. 2013 +: 30,000+ americans die of gsw yearly. Yes, this does include legitimate uses or force, but it includes accidents, suicides –intended or not intended, and of course, the geat american classification of DEATH BY TODDLER/-18YO.

  15. What do you mean ‘useless laws’? Like driving on the right side of the road, fastening your seat belt, obeying the speed limit, digging up power lines, etc? Agreed laws do not solve all problems but if a percentage of improvement is accomplished, then it was worth it.. You need to go live South of the Border for a spell and enjoy SOME REAL lawlessness for a while– real man!

  16. I wasn’t really asking for your “pardon” – it’s just something that those of us who are polite say to soften any offense that might be taken. As a Christian, I’d never damn anyone’s soul, whatever the offense. I stand by my comments and believe that prison is not usually the answer and that a modicum of gun control as well as mental health and family services will alleviate the problem. If you have problems with the “big” words – get out your dictionary.

  17. Well let’s start with the Constitution 2nd –now WHAT WELL REGULATED MILITIA DID HE BELONG TO? The NRA..

  18. Think Evan understands very well by the use lf “callous” by such good religious people

  19. Your thinking is really off on this one. “Will not solve all problems?” How about NONE. This shooter loaded up on guns and craziness in California, a very tough gun control state, and then shot a bunch of Oregonians. The very strict CA gun control laws had NO effect. And it’s really strange that much higher numbers of people get shot in Chicago than in the occasional mass shooting and the anti-gun groups ignore them. Or is it simply racist since most of the shooting victims in Chicago are black?

  20. Funny that you should question my vocabulary, having also somehow interpreted from my comments that I was damning you. Perhaps such confusion arises from the same well as the erroneous notion that you are polite.

  21. Liberals love their money more than their children! They guard their money with guns and send their children to a no gun zone school.

  22. Why are Liberals so upset about 10 dead, shot by a gun, and yet support killing over 2000 children every day before their first birthday.

  23. Ok…Jumping into this conversation….. I’ve seen our hundreds if not thousands of Santa’s. But I have never seen a Satan or a Jesus for that matter so show them if you will.

  24. I suggest that you wouldn’t recognize liberalism if it walked up and bit you on the a**!!!

  25. You just described every greedy conservative/right winger/republican/ fundamentalist that I have encountered in my 70+ yrs on this earth.

  26. Prayers are not working because Republicans use them to fool people into voting for them and then they say there is nothing we can do just pray for the dead. We need to vote them out because they don’t even think we have a problem. More people die in the US because of gun violence than terrorism, not counting 9/11. Republicans block legislation, debate and facts that would help us deal with this problem.

  27. Can you respond to people without being an antagonistic north end of a south-bound mule?

    Your comments are so arrogant that it’s sickening.

  28. Thanks, Marcus. It’s refreshing to see an intelligent observation in regard to this topic.

  29. If you really want to stop (or at least curtail) these mass shootings, the solution is quite simple. Do away with every “gun-free zone”. Allow those who qualify to arm themselves… teachers, students, staff, workers. And let the world know those who are in said schools, colleges, workplaces, and offices are, at least in part, armed.

    Attacking guns in response to these tragedies is like attacking automobiles in response to drunk drivers. No amount of gun control can guarantee the safety of innocent people. But guns in the hands of potential victims can stop such carnage.

    I agree that it’s time to take action. We must reject calls for more gun control, and we must reclaim our American identity by embracing common sense over PC stupidity. Get your concealed carry license. Keep a firearm within reach whenever possible. Encourage your fellow law-abiding, responsible citizens to do likewise. And be ready to use your firearm if the need ever arises.

    Once again, the thing this latest tragedy demonstrates that the media seems unwilling to acknowledge is that none of the victims were armed. Had even one of these college students or teachers had a firearm when this maniac attacked, how many lives could have been saved? That’s the real lesson.

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