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Save those “thoughts and prayers” because your political fear is killing us

Once again we find ourselves here in this terribly familiar place. We are grieving again. We are watching in disbelief again. Dozens of families are planning funerals again.

On Saturday, August 3, as the death toll climbed we heard the graphic details, watched the unfathomable video, saw the media frenzy, and the deja vu of it all was stomach-turning.

The questions come once more: “Why the hell are we doing this again? Are we ever going to fix this? How much death do people need to care?”

It is as if we are watching the replay of a horror film created last week or the week before or the week before that. We feel the muscle memory kick in as we reckon with the human loss anew.

It all unfolds with such putrid predictability:

The first reports of an active shooter come. We see a location trending. Then there is the waiting, the speculation, the questions about people we know who are close to the area. Reports come in; shaky phone video, unconfirmed eyewitness accounts, and finally official news.

Soon, we find out the scope of the tragedy and the details of the horror. The numbers rise and the tears come. Suddenly the usual suspects surface to publicly grieve. The same politicians and pastors express their sympathies while doing nothing else.

Their thoughts and prayers tweets, which could have easily been a copy-paste from last month, are once again posted, simply with new hashtags for the date and time. The President takes a good thirty seconds to tweet before returning to a golf outing or Florida vacation.

The same people scold the outraged for “politicizing a tragedy.” They tell us again why it is not about the guns or the hateful politics, and out how it is too soon to ask anyway. And come tomorrow, nothing will have changed.

That tomorrow, August 4, also came with another mass shooting in Dayton, Ohio.

Sunday is a holy day for Christians in America, a day of rest and worship and prayer. Many Christians will likely fill churches and publicly lament the deaths in El Paso and Dayton for an hour or so. They will light candles and sing songs and read hymns and pray for comfort for grieving families, and yet they will leave the service and do almost nothing else.

They will momentarily grieve, and yet many of them will go right on applauding the vile, racist, incendiary filth this President produces, while chanting “build that wall,” hugging their guns as they express their love for Jesus, who in their minds is a white American. They will once again get drunk on FoxNews falsehoods, unhinged Trump tweets, and their own fears, while never looking in the mirror.

They will not question the President’s rhetoric or his constant social media diatribes, or his racist rally posturing. They will not to ponder how incongruous it is to declare that they love “God and Guns.” They will not ask whether our Government is doing enough to stop the proliferation of weapons of rapid carnage.

They will not consider the collateral damage of their silence at the vilification of Muslims and migrants and people of color by Christian preachers. They will not waste any prayers over the alliance between the Church and the NRA. They certainly will not consider their culpability in emboldening the white nationalism that is at the root of so many mass shootings.

No, to do any of these things would be to confront their prejudices and challenge their theology. It might cause them to examine their preferences and rethink their politics.

I really hope their hearts are burdened enough and their prayers fervent enough, that they are internally transformed and compelled to move, but I’m afraid they will do little more than whatever they have done on Sunday or any day.

And then, Tuesday will come or Thursday or Saturday, and we will watch the horrible film play once again. And another Sunday will come, and they will grieve again.

John Pavlovitz

Jоhn Lоchеr and Mаrshаll Gоrby

The original version of this Op Ed was published on

John Pavlovitz launched an online ministry to help connect people who want community, encouragement, and to grow spiritually. Individuals who want to support his work can sponsor his mission on Patreon, and help the very real pastoral missionary expand its impact in the world.

About The Author

John Pavlovitz

John Pavlovitz is a 20-year ministry veteran trying to figure out how to love people well and to live-out the red letters of Jesus, both online in this global community.