Another Week, Another School Shooting: Our Prayers Need to Change

Another Week, Another School Shooting: Our Prayers Need to Change

“The problem I am submitting to you arises not about prayer in general but only about that kind of prayer which consists of request or petition…. I have no answer to my problem, though I have taken it to about every Christian I know.”

 C.S. Lewis

Prayer has taken quite a beating in the last few years. As weather catastrophes, human suffering, mass shootings, and global tragedies are in our face daily due to the recent development of the world wide web, prayer seems incredibly useless. I, too, am really tired of Christians offering prayers for the victims of gun violence, yet doing nothing and voting for the opposite of policies aimed at reducing gun violence. I, too, have wondered what the point is.

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This week, another school shooting in Benton, Kentucky, has devastated another community, more families, and more children have been taken from us in yet another horrific, possibly preventable way. It was the 11th school shooting recorded since the New Year, and the 50th of the academic year. In fact, since 2013, there have been nearly 300 school shootings, which is approximately one per week.

Our prayers aren’t working. 

Is God listening?

Does God not care?

If God is all-good, all-knowing, and all-powerful, then where is the evidence of that? An all-good, all-powerful God wouldn’t just stand by as his children are being murdered, when He in fact could use His power and stop it.

What is the point of continuing to pray to God to stop the gun violence, when there are children in American schools being murdered once a week and nothing is being done about it?

Questions about prayer have churned and burned in my mind for a very long time, even before I left fundamental/evangelical Christianity. These questions have never stopped me from praying, except for my six month stint as an atheist, yet, over the years the way I pray has changed. Instead of praying TO God/the spirit/the Universe, I have learned to pray WITH.

The archaic, superstitious ideas we have about prayer need a major paradigm shift.

I was asked and blessed to review Divine Echoes: Reconciling Prayer with the Uncontrolling Love of God, written by Mark G. Karris. For anyone interested in deconstructing prayer, I highly recommend this book. It is intelligent, well-written, transformative, and brings forth a fresh perspective on prayer that is desperately needed right now in the world.

What I love most about this book is the authenticity and courage of Mark G. Karris in asking serious questions about prayer and dissecting theological pitfalls. It is never easy to bring forth new ideas and doubts within the Christian religion. Often times, people who do so are ridiculed, deemed heretical, and face very heart-breaking judgments from close friends and family. He discusses his fear in the quote below:

“Deconstructing the sacred practice of petitionary prayer on behalf of others is no easy task. It has been performed for thousands of years across all theistic religions and is a staple in churches across the world. The last thing I desire is to be deemed a heretic and ostracized by the Christian community. Anyone who has ever questioned the status quo regarding any revered Christian doctrine or practice knows the anxiety it provokes. Still, a part of me was not able to shake a nagging fear that petitionary prayers for sick or hurting people from a distance, or for systemic injustice or world catastrophes, could very well be like rubbing a rabbit’s foot for good luck. It might help the person rubbing the rabbit’s foot feel better, but that is all that occurs. At least that was one of my fears as I began this investigative journey.”

I am thankful that he forged ahead with this book. I know first-hand how difficult it is to leave the box, and yet there is a pull we have to follow. Not only does this book dissect prayer for those of us who share the same curiosity, but it’s a fine example of breaking free from the confines of your religion to bring forth a new, useful, and needed perspective. This book will inspire readers to not only shift their beliefs regarding prayer, but also, hopefully inspire others to delve into their own investigative journeys about other doctrines and dogma that meet our needs and the needs of others in this dying, hurting world. He discusses the importance of doubt and questioning with the following quote:

“Doubting and questioning are, in part, what enables positive changes in society and across history, such as the abolishment of slavery, the empowerment of women to vote, the research undertaken to save lives with vaccines, the technology used to create computers and to take us to the moon, the raising of the minimum wage, and the crafting of new genres of music to name but a few instances. Can doubts and questions assist petitionary prayer in becoming more liberating and valuable? I hoped so.”

After reading this book, I feel that I have a better understanding of prayer; spiritually, empirically, theologically, and feel I have learned a better, more valuable way to approach it. This book will definitely live on my bookshelf  as an exemplary reference.

In order not to reveal too many spoilers, I hesitate to dive in as deep as I could with the material. However, I would like to leave you with this very important summation of this shift in perspective I hope will thrive. Mark G. Karris writes about the paradigm shift regarding petitionary prayer using the heart-breaking Syrian refugee crisis in the following quote:

“I wonder what the impact would be if, instead of praying, “God, stop the violence,” “God, heal their land,” or “God, save the poor children,” our first impulse was to pray, “God, we praise you, we thank you, and we know you care more about these people than we do. Show us how we can collaborate with you to stop the violence. Show us impactful and practical ways we can partner with you and heal their land. God, we are devastated along with you; reveal to us your loving will and empower us to bring forth shalom for these hurting children.”

In conclusion, we are co-creators. It is up to us to partner with whatever higher power you believe in to bring healing to this pale blue dot we all share. We cannot continue to pray the way we have been taught. Regarding America’s school shooting epidemic, I implore us to pray with God, like this:

“Show me how I can help reduce gun violence in America. Show us solutions via legislation, that will not add more weaponry, but more peace.  Reveal to us the ways we may be used as pawns for gun sales. Help me work with you to bring about gun violence reduction. Reveal to me the ways in which I have been an accomplice by inaction. Show me how I can act now, how to vote, what to say, and how to share with others my commitment to take seriously the need for gun reform. Give me courage to stand alone in my community if need be. Help me to echo your desire for healing and shalom.”

“We are the Divine Echoes!”

Read more: Divine Echoes: Reconciling Prayer with the Uncontrolling Love of God, written by Mark G. Karris

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Blessed Are The “Shithole” Countries, the Kingdom Belongs to Them.

Blessed Are The “Shithole” Countries, the Kingdom Belongs to Them.

Can you imagine Jesus calling Haiti or other countries in Africa “shithole” countries?

Yesterday in the Oval Office, Trump questioned why the U.S. would admit more immigrants from Haiti and Africa, as he rejected a plan by a group of bipartisan senators which would change the entrance rules for these countries. While arguing his opinion, Trump referred to Haiti and countries in Africa as “shithole” countries. People in the meeting have confirmed the “shithole” statement, but of course, Trump is denying it.

While this feels so immature to engage in he said she said, it is vitally important that we denounce this racist, derogatory, speech as an American value. Also, it is important to expose this non-Christian sentiment coming from a professed Jesus follower. Once again, we are seeing the true colors of Trump’s hypocrisy. Also, his “Christian” claim is only an attempt to manipulate the religious right into helping further oppression.

He isn’t fooling me. He isn’t fooling so many of us. However, work must be done to expose this lie, and so I shall persist, as should you.

Haiti was the first country outside of the United States that I remember learning existed. My grandfather used to love to tease us grandkids with stories of eating monkey brains and fire-roasted termites in Haiti. According to him, the monkey brains didn’t taste all that bad and the termites tasted like popcorn. My grandpa was very fond of his missionary experience in Haiti, and I remember him talking about it often.

Like many children from fundamentalist and evangelical churches, I grew up with a global perspective. My grandfather’s church that he pastored was heavily involved in supporting missionaries, some in Haiti, and many in Africa. I was blessed as a little girl growing up learning about other cultures and human suffering; poverty, famine, and disease. The missionaries that our church supported usually came once a year to give a slideshow presentation of their travels.

I remember the pictures. I remember the stories. I did not grow up with a nationalist perspective that seems to have taken over Christianity in America. I grew up learning that Jesus loves all the children of the world. I was raised in a belief system that taught me to care about others living in other countries. The stories and pictures I remember seeing as a child do not leave me, and I am unsure how they seemed to have left so many others.

My grandfather cared about people outside of America, very much. In 1969 he helped establish Technical Assistance Mission (TAM), a non-profit providing support to missionary organizations that provide religious support to hundreds of individuals worldwide. This non-profit still operates and is part of his legacy. He spent 30 years actively supporting global missionaries. Supporting global missionaries is largely a fundamentalist and evangelical tenet, and yet “America First” has plagued the pulpits.

Churches all over America should be outraged and saddened by this recent statement by Donald Trump. They should see the pharisee in him, the lie. They should see the rotten fruit. I am appalled at the church’s continued support and blind eye given. It is a tragedy that he is using Jesus Christ for political gain and manipulation. One only needs to read the Gospels to see that He is lying to Christians. Leaders such as James Dobson, Jerry Falwell Jr., and Franklin Graham surprise me on a daily basis with their continued support.

I try and imagine my grandfather being here today supporting Donald Trump. I can’t see it. I have been unable to see it since the primaries. He wouldn’t be silent right now. I can’t be. If I were to be silent I would be dishonoring not only Jesus Christ, but the legacy of my grandfather. The man who taught me about loving the entire world and all people.

Immediately upon reading Trump’s words calling Haiti and countries in Africa “shithole” countries, the Beatitudes came to my mind. I doubt that Donald Trump knows what those are, however, he should know what Jesus thinks of Haiti and Africa.

 

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Blessed are the “shithole” countries, the Kingdom of Heaven belongs to them.

Those who have ears, hear.

Snow: What it Can Teach Us About Being Human and Helping Our Tribes

Snow: What it Can Teach Us About Being Human and Helping Our Tribes

It has been snowing for days where I live with no end in sight. The suffocatingly beautiful kind of snow, and I’m gifted with a fresh blanket of purity every morning. Aesthetically, the world outside is breath-takingly gorgeous. Spiritually, the world outside is becoming smaller and the tiny life I live has become more clear. My community is in focus and the noise of the globe is muted in the trappings of the weather. The people before me, the Native Americans, understood that nature has so much to teach us if we allow it to, and the never-ending snowflakes have brought forth the importance of my small little world.

This modern world has been a blessing and a curse. It’s put the world at our fingertips and has allowed us to connect with others unlike us for the first time in human history. I can talk to someone from Australia within seconds. I can learn of other’s cultures and experiences any time of day. This modern world has shaped me into a human being aware of the small little planet we all share, and all the catastrophic problems we face. However, it has also distracted me from the tribe I am apart of, the little town I reside in.

The snow has a way of opening your eyes and putting your tribe in focus. We all share a common struggle right now. Winter. Driving. The cold. Before civilization, humans lived communally in their little tribes. There was no time for judgements or ego because they were simply fighting for survival. I can’t imagine life without electricity, grocery stores, or 4 wheel drive. Amazingly, the human race learned how to survive through hardship, but they did not do it alone. They did it together. The men hunted for food. The women gathered. The tribe worked together and helped raise the babies. They weren’t so selfish as we are today.

If I time traveled 250 years into the past, geographically I would be a Native American in the Ottawa tribe. I wouldn’t know a thing about Christianity, politics, or Kim Kardashian. People in my tribe wouldn’t be fighting about baking wedding cakes or about who deserves food or healthcare. My concerns would be trading copper for corn, and defending my family from the Iroquois. I would have to depend on my community for everything. Food. Shelter. Clothing. Love. Nature would be my teacher, the animals my family,  and the Sun and Rain would be my Gods.

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My physical body is white. However, some of my ancestors were Native American. Their blood lives in me, and I share some of their DNA. I have no right to claim it as the percentage of my Native American ancestry is very miniscule. But I’m honored to have come from such a beautiful culture. I’m humbled by it, and I’m in awe of their beautiful spirituality and connection to nature. They were warriors. Protectors. Helpers. They loved the earth, the animals, and learned ways to survive that benefited everyone. We have so much to learn from them, and it’s so important to keep their culture alive and educate ourselves on the original dwellers of America. I don’t think we’ve done so well with their land.

In conclusion, may we learn the lessons from the elements and from the people before us. May the snow bring you back down to your small life, and help you see that we are all in this together. The drug addict down the street. The alcoholic next door. The elderly that may not have anyone to go get groceries for them. The homeless that do not have a warm bed to get into. The migrant family that doesn’t speak English. The single mom that needs her driveway plowed. The children that need educators and positive role models. Change starts with small little efforts in your small little worlds.

We’ve forgotten the simplicity and hardship of being human. We’ve forgotten our neighbors.

We need to remember.

“When the last tree has been cut down, the last fish caught, the last river poisoned,

only then will we realize that one cannot eat money.”

Native American Saying