By Joseph Coffey-Slattery
“‘Pray for Vegas’ helps no one. Go educate yourself on the problem and volunteer, but just don’t stand there, with your arms crossed. Stop expecting things to change without actions.”
This quote comes from a recent op-ed published in The Chronicle by Genesis Ibarra, who discusses the emotional tragedy that is and was the recent Las Vegas shooting on Oct. 1, 2017.
Among many thoughtful points, I found the latter quote to hold the most resonance on a personal level.
For as long as I can remember the populace has sought to come up with Instagram-ready phrases such as “Pray for Paris,” “Pray for Orlando,” “Pray for Manchester” and countless others.
Yet, I feel that the general public hasn’t stopped to consider what exactly such rhetoric accomplishes, if anything.
Objectively, one must consider what exactly the verb “pray” means. A dictionary will tell you that it means “to address a solemn request or expression of thanks to a deity or other object of worship.” Yet a critical eye might tell you it consists of sitting at home and doing nothing.
To truly quantify praying, one must think of what exactly it entails. In a way the latter opinion is accurate. Praying, in reality, consists of doing “nothing.” Now, I recognize that many who practice some kind of religion believe that it is a powerful expression of a bond between oneself and their God(s). Yet I feel that they misinterpret what praying can and cannot do.
Praying after a tragedy does nothing, in that one’s God is effectively unable to evoke any tangible change on the latter end. At this point one is asking their God to help heal the wounded, assist the dead in their transition to a world after this one (or lack thereof) and hope that it doesn’t occur again.
One must recognize that healing the wounded is something only medical professionals will be doing, their steady hands being the ones to heal the victims, not God’s. The families of those who passed away will assist them in getting to the next life.
As for preventing these events in the future, only people can influence the actions of people. One can argue that a God influences the actions of people through his word, yet God is not responsible for writing the laws of the United States, where the issue of gun violence persists.
A “pray for” campaign doesn’t do enough for the victims, whether that is addressing their concerns or aiding them in their recovery. Why? Praying is at its essence an individual practice, a conversation between one individual and their God. And it requires no action. It is merely words, well-intentioned words, yet words all the same.
It is not monetary donation, physical aide or petitioning for common-sense gun legislation. If someone is truly affected by a tragedy, gun related or otherwise, even the most religious person must recognize that their diction is not enough.
If one is to look at the example of Jesus Christ, he did not achieve such a status by merely his parentage and having thoughtful dialogues with followers. He acted: healing the sick, feeding the hungry and sympathizing with those that society chose to leave forgotten.
If one is truly to follow his example, or the teachings of another figure, they must recognize the imperative nature of action – real, physical action.
This is notwithstanding those who use the “pray for” campaigns as mere rhetoric, to show their social media followers … Well, I’m not quite sure exactly. That they can have a go at expressing grief in 140 characters or less?
To truly help those in the tragedy one shouldn’t merely kneel and bow their head. Rather, stand straighter. Roll up your sleeves. Set about enacting a feasible change for those who have just experienced the most terrifying moment of their lives. Stand up in the face of adversity.
Do not simply sink to the ground and ask someone higher than you to make it go away, all while adding a hashtag and hoping you get a few likes out of it.
This letter was written in response to the op-ed “Las Vegas shooting: My tragedy needs more than a hashtag,” originally published by The Hofstra Chronicle on Oct. 10.
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