If the intent of the NY Daily News is to provoke, it succeeded with the headline “God Isn’t Fixing This” in the aftermath of the recent mass shooting in San Bernardino. If that wasn’t enough, they continued by calling prayer “meaningless platitudes.”
After the shooting, many politicians issued calls for prayer. The Daily News intended to goad these politicians into passing gun control laws. In dissing those who offered concern to hurting people, the tabloid implied that you can’t pray and act, that God either doesn’t exist or is indifferent, and that it is nobler to enact gun control laws than to pray. Overreach, perhaps?
Franklin Graham jumped in with, “Prayers are not ‘meaningless platitudes.’ Prayer is direct access to Almighty God and is the most powerful tool a Christian has.” Russell Moore labeled it the “Don’t just pray there, do something” meme. In the Washington Post, he wrote, “For religious people, prayer is doing something. We do believe that God can intervene, to comfort the hurting and even to energize ourselves and others for right action.” For sincere believers, prayer is more than just another way to express concern.
But rather than defend prayer as others have done eloquently, my interest is the difference in worldview between secularists and Christians in the background of this brouhaha. The Humanist Manifesto (1973) states that “No deity will save us; we must save ourselves.” If there is no God, then prayer is just speaking to the wind, and we are left with an idealism that hopes in removing every gun, something that will never happen. But without God, we can’t even agree on what’s evil. That shooting wasn’t evil to the terrorists that did it.
We Christians have our own idealism, that if the hearts of people are changed, gun possession is irrelevant. More to the point, if evil didn’t exist, the issue wouldn’t either. Yet evil does exist, and hence our prayers as Jesus taught us, “deliver us from evil.” But is God somehow complicit when it happens again? Billy Graham once wrote, “God is not the cause of evil and we should therefore not blame Him for it. Man chose to defy God, and it is man’s fault that evil entered the world. Even so, God has provided the ultimate triumph of good over evil in Jesus Christ.” As Scripture says, “The Son of God appeared for this purpose, to destroy the works of the devil” (1 Jn. 3:8). His work is already done but the result is not yet fully realized.
So, provocative headlines notwithstanding, we pray. We thank God that He has defeated evil. We pray for compassion and civility in a hateful world. And may God deliver us from the evil of gun violence and terrorism. Victory in Jesus!