By Rabbi Jack Moline, President of Interfaith Alliance
I am a person of faith and have spent my entire adult life as a member of the clergy. I have an intensely personal relationship with the God in whom I believe. I pray every day. And here is what I know: praying after the fact for something preventable is an affront to God and humanity.
That’s what I’m saying, yet again, that it’s time for a moratorium on thoughts and prayers in the wake of mass shootings like the despicable attack on members of Congress and their staff this week in my home town, Alexandria, Virginia.
The perpetrator of this latest attack has one thing in common with the perpetrators of other, even more tragic, attacks for which “thoughts and prayers” have been offered, including by me. It is not religion, race, ethnicity, zip code, economic status, party affiliation, mental health, age, wealth, educational opportunity or employment. The one thing? It is guns.
Guns, guns, guns.
Many Americans are proclaiming that we have to stop pretending there is no problem with a particular community or a particular health care issue or a particular ideology. Ladies and gentlemen, stop pretending there is no problem with guns. Guns, guns, guns.
My tradition teaches that prayer without action is just noise. Not one of the faith communities in this country believes that prayer is magic, that some sort of incantation will reverse the order of the universe, let alone manipulate an omnipotent God.
Prayer works only when it softens the hardened heart and opens it to the message of healing and justice that flows through Scripture. Prayer works only if it leads to contrition and repentance. Prayer works only if it is not an excuse for self-justification.
Last year on Yom Kippur, the holiest day of my Jewish tradition, I was among people of all ages to spend the entire day in thoughts and prayers. Before we uttered a single word, we were admonished by the words of rabbis who taught two millennia ago: a person who says, ‘I will sin and then repent, I will sin and then repent has no power to repent.’
The problem is guns. Guns, guns, guns.
And the answer is not thoughts and prayers.
Interfaith Alliance is a network of people of diverse faiths and beliefs from across the country working together to build a resilient democracy and fulfill America’s promise of religious freedom and civil rights not just for some, but for all. We mobilize powerful coalitions to challenge Christian nationalism and religious extremism, while fostering a better understanding of the healthy boundaries between religion and government. We advocate at all levels of government for an equitable and just America where the freedoms of belief and religious practice are protected, and where all persons are treated with dignity and have the opportunity to thrive. For more information visit interfaithalliance.org.