The last couple weeks have largely consisted of us trying to cope with the massacre at Umpqua Community College. Personally, I have had very little to say on the matter other than it is a terrible thing. I haven’t had the time or energy to spend on debating guns and gun control, or the same level of emotional connection to the shooting that others have had to warrant spending time in solemn silence over it. All I have done to this point is shake my head and wonder at the fact that this world has seemingly become so crazy, that things like this can happen in such close proximity to me and I’m not even surprised for more than a minute after hearing the news. It feels like every week I see or hear of something new that makes me wonder what this world is coming to.
Shortly after the shooting the president issued a statement in response to the tragedy. Early on in the speech he said:
“In the coming days, we’ll learn about the victims — young men and women who were studying and learning and working hard, their eyes set on the future, their dreams on what they could make of their lives. And America will wrap everyone who’s grieving with our prayers and our love.
But as I said just a few months ago, and I said a few months before that, and I said each time we see one of these mass shootings, our thoughts and prayers are not enough. It’s not enough. It does not capture the heartache and grief and anger that we should feel. And it does nothing to prevent this carnage from being inflicted someplace else in America — next week, or a couple of months from now.”
Obama gave his frustrated response to the UCC shooting, here’s mine: when I heard the president, I found it ironic that he would say prayer isn’t enough to deal with tragedy, because I’ve always thought of prayer as being the most powerful thing we have at our disposal. It’s mind blowing, the things that can result from prayer. I realize that he wasn’t speaking in a strictly spiritual sense, but those words, “our thoughts and prayers are not enough.”, have stuck with me.
Every day it seems like we watch the world become a little worse, and it doesn’t make sense. Just at our little university we have scores of passionate, active Christians who seem to be on fire for God and some cause. Our school sends out mission teams every year, we have students who generously volunteer their time and energy to collect food for the homeless, lead worship at churches in our community, sponsor children living in third world countries, and perform many other forms of service. Northwest Christian University, a seemingly inconsequential school of the smallest stature, definitely makes a positive mark on the world. And there are many other schools, institutions, and organizations in all forms that are dedicated to the same things we are with equal fervor and many more resources than us. It seems there’s more awareness being raised for every conceivable grievance and hurt now than ever before, and with how much work we Christians, and other well-meaning people are putting into trying to better this world, we ought to be a bit closer to having a heaven on earth, or at least something a little more closely resembling one.
Being passionate about healing the world is great, but maybe activism has been placed too high in our minds. Maybe we’ve all subconsciously adopted a mentality that says “our thoughts and prayers are not enough” when in reality we’re not doing enough thinking and praying. We Christians have gone pretty soft. We’re far too eager to blend in with everything and everyone else until the only difference is that we’re just a little bit nicer than they are. We don’t stand for much of anything other than inclusiveness, and we’d much rather indefinitely accommodate sin than tell someone that God made rules and they are breaking them for fear of being called judgmental. Christianity seems to mean so many different things now depending on who you ask that the number of common identifiers is becoming alarmingly low. We’ll massage the words in the Bible for as long as it takes until the sentences take on the meaning we want them to, instead of accepting that we might have to make a lifestyle change and that it might be initially unpleasant. It begs the question, are we still Christian? Sometimes it seems like we’ve modified it so much that it has become nothing more than a set of practices, charity, and advocacy. And if that’s the case, then no wonder so much work to stop hurt in the world seems to yield so few results. If we’ve slipped into only associating with the name Christian rather than actually being it, then we’re not really Christians anymore. And if we’re not really Christians, then that means God might not be behind our good deeds, and if He’s not behind our good deeds then it begs the question of whether or not they’re even good. Maybe we all need to pray a little more and spend some time in honest thought as to whether we’re going to truly be Christ-followers in every sense, or continue to pick out the parts that are comfortable, uncontroversial, easy, and only stand by those. But since the beginning, being a Christian has never been easy; it’s not supposed to be. Not all of its laws are easy to follow, and to obey some of them we have to break our will to do otherwise. Maybe we all need give some honest thought and see if we’re choosing to ignore certain precepts of our faith because we’re too concerned about being comfortable and not making others uncomfortable. Perhaps we need to pray more and discover, or rediscover, what’s really important about being a Christian. It could be we’re not giving our God enough thoughts and prayers.