Monday, November 06, 2017

"Thoughts and prayers"

Atheists and "progressive Christians" are incensed when Christians respond to a tragedy with "thoughts and prayers". A few quick observations:

i) How else can you respond to a tragedy. It already occurred. At that stage it's too late to prevent it. Consolation is all that's left. 

ii) It's true that "thoughts and prayers" can be a perfunctory, reflexive buzzword. 

iii) Critics think we need to "do something". But we don't believe their solutions will actually solve the problem. Indeed, they use tragedies as a pretext to create a totalitarian state. 

iv) They're very selective about the need to "do something". When we have jihadist attacks, they don't lobby for the need to have a moratorium on Muslim immigration or to deport Muslim foreign nationals. Suddenly, the urgency about "doing something" evaporates.

v) They erect a false dichotomy between prayer and "doing something". They assume that when tragedy strikes, that means prayer failed.

Of course, it's a given that some prayers go unanswered. But the theology of prayer was never premised on the universal efficacy of prayer.

vi) The occurrence of tragedy doesn't constitute evidence that prayer can't avert tragedy, for if prayer does avert some tragedies, then there will be no evidence, since it never happened–as a result of prayer. A nonevent leaves no record.

Take an inspector who fixes a problem before the plane takes off. If he hadn't detected the problem and fixed it on the spot, the plane would have crashed, killing all aboard. But due to his preventative action, no one remembers what didn't happen. He gets no credit. 


  1. Robert Kroese tweeted "Nice to see celebrities taking time off from raping each other to condemn prayer"

  2. "Indeed, they use tragedies as a pretext to create a totalitarian state."

    Which is far worse than saying "thoughts and prayers".

  3. "Of course, it's a given that some prayers go unanswered."

    Maybe it's just me, but I don't really like the idea of "unanswered prayers". I believe all prayers are answered. Sometimes yes, sometimes no. The answer is dependent on the will of God.

    Then again, maybe I'm just being nitpicky.

    1. I don't think there's much appreciable distinction between a "no" answer and no answer. They are functionally equivalent.

      An audible voice "no" would be slightly different, but that's hardly the norm.