After Texas church shooting: No more prayers without policy

The cycle of massacre, followed by hollow statements from politicians, continues

By D. Watkins

Editor at Large

Published November 6, 2017 9:32AM (EST)

Law enforcement officers gather in front of the First Baptist Church of Sutherland Springs after a fatal shooting, Nov. 5, 2017, in Sutherland Springs, Texas (AP/Darren Abate)
Law enforcement officers gather in front of the First Baptist Church of Sutherland Springs after a fatal shooting, Nov. 5, 2017, in Sutherland Springs, Texas (AP/Darren Abate)

Sunday. Another coward walked into a church and used a gun to take the lives of at least 26 innocent people. This time, it was in the tiny town of Sutherland Springs, Texas. The shooter has been identified as 26-year-old Devin Patrick Kelley, a white male.

The elected officials responsible for handling the masses and implementing change quickly took to social media to share their condolences with the people of Texas, starting with President Trump, who tweeted, “May God be w/ the people of Sutherland Springs, Texas. The FBI & law enforcement are on the scene. I am monitoring the situation from Japan."

Paul Ryan offered a similar response: “Reports out of Texas are devastating. The people of Sutherland Springs need our prayers right now."

Governor Greg Abbot chimed in with “Our prayers are with all who were harmed by this evil act. Our thanks to law enforcement for their response.”

And then Texas Senator Ted Cruz tweeted, “Keeping all harmed in Sutherland Springs in our prayers and grateful for our brave first responders on the scene.”

Of the responses, First Lady Melania Trump issued the only statement that seemed authentic: “Our hearts are with Texas."

We must acknowledge that mass shootings in this country are normal now, while remembering that victims deserve justice and to be honored. Most of all, they deserve reform, not just tweets about prayer.

Who or what God are these digital politicians praying to, and why is it OK to freely talk about prayer without providing any action? Trump, Cruz, Ryan and Abbot all have the power to take a stance against gun violence, to introduce new ideas on reform, to use their platforms in a positive way that could prevent the next mass shooting, but they don’t­­. Why? I truly believe they don’t care — and I doubt they even pray at all in these times, unless tweets are the new prayers.

Admittedly, I’m not the most religious person in the world; however, I read the Bible, Koran and parts of other spiritual texts, and I've never come across a passage that promoted talk and prayer without action. We need to be inspired by religious figures who acted with the odds stacked against them, like David who defeated Goliath, the giant champion of the Philistines. Sure, David prayed, but he also loaded that stone in his sling and matched his prayer with action. Our elected officials seem to be doing neither.

It’s time for them to admit that the money they've received from the NRA, gun lobbies and their firearm-loving constitutes is more important than the innocent victims they tweet prayers to. Gun culture seems to be the Goliath in this scenario. David, it would seem, doesn’t exist.

The gun racket will continue to be a billion-dollar industry as politicians are constantly let off the hook for doing nothing about recurring problems. As a result, we’ll experience this same cycle — a deadly massacre, followed by prayers and no policy — over and over again while countless victims will be reduced to hashtags.

By D. Watkins

D. Watkins is an Editor at Large for Salon. He is also a professor at the University of Baltimore and founder of the BMORE Writers Project. Watkins is the author of the New York Times best-selling memoirs “The Beast Side: Living  (and Dying) While Black in America” and "The Cook Up: A Crack Rock Memoir," as well as "We Speak For Ourselves: How Woke Culture Prohibits Progress." His new book, "Black Boy Smile: A Memoir in Moments," is out now.

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Related Topics ------------------------------------------

Donald Trump Gun Lobby Nra Paul Ryan Sutherland Springs Ted Cruz Texas Texas Church Shooting