Whoever fights monsters should see to it that in the process he does not become a monster. And if you gaze long enough into the abyss, the abyss will gaze back into you. Friedrich Neitzsche
I’ve seen a lot of memes that are dissing the frequent comments politicians often make proclaiming that the victims of violence are in their “thoughts and prayers.” The import of the memes is that “thoughts are prayers” are not enough. We need action.
I agree. We are called to action. But I also know that without genuine prayer, any action we take will only lead to more hatred and violence.
I think the basis for these memes is that sanctimonious promises of “thoughts and prayers,” in the face of the repeated slaughter of innocents is actually just pious dismissiveness.
The people making statements about “thoughts and prayers” obviously do not intend to do anything to stop these slaughters from happening again. They follow their promises of “thoughts and prayers” with sloganeering about “mental health” and “hardening the schools” and then they don’t follow through, even with that. The anger at the phony self-righteous lying involved in promises of “thoughts and prayers” from people who do not care and will not act, even though it is their job to act, is justified. The point the memes are making is well taken.
But we shouldn’t take these memes too literally. Prayer is a powerful and necessary contact with the God Who made all of us. It connects us with the Source of love and light and steadies us when we are flailing around and reaching for some kind of grip to hold us upright. Genuine prayer is absolutely essential when dealing with evil. If you try to take on the forces of darkness on your own power, the darkness has already won against you.
Evil is real. The force behind it is a malicious intelligence that is a ravening hunger that feeds on the darkness and craves annihilation. None of us has the strength or self-knowledge to recognize and repulse the seductions of this malicious intelligence. It can and will use our own good intentions and best impulses to corrupt us. I know this because it has happened to me.
Any action people take can and will be turned to evil if they do it from their own will to power. In time, your own muddy thinking, hubris and self-referencing judgement will overtake you. I know this from my own experience and from years of watching it happen to others.
In a world so insane that we allow our own children to be gunned down and do nothing to stop it, prayer, including prayer for those who have harmed you, is essential to keep you steady. It is necessary to keep you from feeding your righteous rage until it curdles into vengeance, hatred and self-righteousness. If you would do good, you must be good, and you cannot be good without love.
Engaging the corrupt, greed-driven, hate-fed, violence-loving, religion-perverting, anti-Christ politics of today’s fascist right wing is a direct engagement with evil. The evil does not care about “issues.” It takes no “side” in our politics. It craves the hate, feeds on the violence and hungers for the death.
Pray. Then act. Then, pray again.
That is the only way to engage this evil that is tearing our whole society apart without it turning you to its purposes and using you for more evil.