The declining sense of public decency sank to a new low in the aftermath of the tragic shootings in Sutherland Springs, Texas. I refer to the vicious mockery which broke out like a sour chorus among various “progressive” entertainers and journalists after various public calls to prayer and reflection were made. Actress Maria Sirtis summed up the progressive’s mood succinctly. “To all those asking for thoughts and prayers… it seems that your direct line to God is not working.” In other words, praying to God as such moments is a delusional, if not worthless, placebo at best and at worst, nothing more than self-indulgent superstition. So when are all you ignorant rubes going to figure out that your ‘unproven’ God doesn’t have all the answers? We progressives, on the other hand, could surely fix everything overnight (in the form of ever more intrusive social controls.)
Ms. Sartis’ morally superior tone, while condescending enough, is child’s play compared to the vile derision voiced by her fellow celebrities. Speaker Paul Ryan’s tweet, “The people of Sutherland Springs need our prayers right now,” drew surprisingly venomous responses. Consider, “The murdered victims were in a church. If prayer did anything they’d still be alive you worthless sack of sh_ _!” that sympathetic note lovingly expressed by actor Wil Wheaton. Meanwhile Keith Olbermann, in a burst of inspired eloquence, advised the House Speaker to, “shove your prayers up your a_ _.” We hope you guys have a nice day too, and thanks for all that hard work you do for your country out there in La La Land.
Before the social media generation arrived on the scene, such vituperous sentiments would have been unthinkable in a public forum. But now such gutter language is apparently socially acceptable when employed to publicly mock the victims of a mass murder and the agonizing pain of their families. And the only reason they are deemed deserving of such maltreatment seems to be that they openly practice their Christian faith. I am reminded of those nauseating scenes of radical Muslims celebrating in the streets after the World Trade Center collapsed on 9/11. But at least those were not American citizens jeering at the losses sustained by their fellow Americans, which is the case now I am sad to say. How is it that a band of the most successful, affluent Americans feel justified in callously defaming fellow citizens, who happen to be Christian, in such a moment of trial? If that is now okay, we are no better than Syria or Egypt where murdering a Christian wins one secret, and even open, admiration.
Is it now considered chic, in certain posh circles, to display disdain or open hostility towards Christians without fear of social censure? This is not just a few crackpots wagging their uncivil tongues anymore. This new chauvinism has raised its ugly head at the highest levels. One member of Congress, Ted Lieu (from California, surprised?) stormed out of the House Chamber when the Speaker asked for a moment of silence to honor the victims in Texas. The President was likewise criticized for having the temerity to express, “our thoughts and prayers are with the victims and families of today’s horrible and murderous attack.” A reasonable enough statement one would surely assume. Well, not when it’s Donald Trump issuing it. The Huffington Post huffed in their headline, “People Fed Up with Thoughts and Prayers, Demand Action After Texas Massacre,” (i.e. more gun laws – rather than more consistent enforcement, which just might have actually saved 26 lives in this case).
Over at MSNBC Joy Reid offered this snide rejoinder to the President. “Remember when Jesus of Nazareth came upon thousands of hungry people and, rather than feeding them, thought and prayed?” The obvious disdain and disrespect of such self-enlightened elites toward not only the victims but religion in general should be patently apparent from such remarks. The America I remember in my youth would never have tolerated such despicable commentary from public or media officials, but now the gloves are off, apparently. After all, these Texans stem from that class of plebeian commoners who elected the most despised president since Nixon, so now let them mourn their dead, but don’t expect any sympathy from on high. Oh, how the social landscape has shifted beneath our very feet in two short generations!
Of course, had those people in Texas been women, gay, or even illegals the kind of hateful acrimony we are now witnessing after Sutherland Springs would be incomprehensible. But it appears to be perfectly defensible to disparage these particular victims precisely because their Christianity makes them and their faith an acceptable butt of public mockery. It’s cool enough for a group of self-indulgent millionaire athletes to flagrantly disrespect the flag and still be hailed as heroic culture warriors. Yet the same lobby that applauds such tantrums on the field will zealously politicize the tragic deaths of 26 people (five of whom were children)simply because their faith makes them fair weather targets for trendy anti-religious bigots.If there were even a residual element of shame residing in that progressive ‘ethos of the left,’ it quickly evaporated for all to see last week like a morning mist on the arid Mojave Desert.
The social and political rhetoric in our fair country has turned toxic, particularly towards anyone who professes religious faith. I have no problem with honest debate about religion in the public square, but to trash something that one does not begin to understand is the very height of puerile reasoning. Judging from the juvenile nature of their recent commentaries, it would seem that our celebrity critics are woefully clueless about the very meaning and nature of prayer. God is not some short-order cook who is obliged to serve up whatever we may demand at the moment.
What I find hardest to fathom is that it appears to be the very folks blessed with fame, fortune, and talent who are often the quickest to trash God and his followers the minute they read any distressing headline. I can’t imagine any of those Christians slain in Texas cursing God for the actions of a psychotic gunman. The reason is that true Christians don’t meet injury with vitriol but with forgiveness. That is the secret, hidden power of prayer. It allows us to do what is humanly impossible: to forgive those who trespass against us. This is the hardest thing in the world to do, especially when the evil inflicted is on the scale that Christians in places like Egypt, Charleston, and now Sutherland Springs have had to endure.
Could I forgive such an injustice if it were my loved one lying in a pool of blood? This is a question that none of us could truthfully answer until we were actually in that terrible situation. One thing is for certain: but for prayer and God’s grace, the answer would be emphatically, No! So prayer does have a real practical as well as spiritual value. Like adrenaline, it strengthens and allows us to do things we could never otherwise hope to accomplish without it.
No, prayer is not some magical incantation that wards off evil entirely. But prayer has a more lasting effect because it ingests the greatest of evils in order to bring forth a much greater and eternal good. Prayer thus works to give us the peace that we would otherwise never experience. That is the lesson of the cross, for God was mocked on his cross just as those who would follow him today are being mocked by the proud and elite, even in the moment of their greatest pain. But they also know, unlike their detractors, just how their Divine Master responded to the Sanhedrin’s mockery during his own crucifixion, “Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do.” (Lk. 23:34)
Francis J. Pierson +a.m.d.g.