There are vigils being held around the country right now for the victims of the latest school shooting. I think these vigils are important: They bring home the tragedy of what has happened. Without these rituals, there is the risk that these terrible events will just sweep by us in the 24-hour news cycle, leaving us unchanged.
But vigils and prayers are not enough.
After the Orlando Pulse nightclub massacre, Jonathan Williams, a pastor in New York, wrote a Huffington Post article entitled “I Will Not Pray for Orlando”. Williams wrote that he wouldn’t for Orlando, or for Newtown, Charleston, Aurora, Virginia Tech, or Columbine. He wouldn’t pray because, he says, God has already answered our prayers … we’re just not paying attention. “We have the God-given capability to stop dangerous people from buying assault rifles,” writes Williams.
Instead of prayer, Williams says he will will lobby for gun laws that are proven to limit gun violence, including a ban on assault rifles.
Williams’ response reminds me of the first tenets of Earthseed, a religion inspired by science fiction author, Octavia Butler. The theology of Earthseed is unique. The God of Earthseed is not a God who answers prayers. Rather, the God of Earthseed is Change, the very processes which Shape our lives and the world around us.
While Earthseed teaches us to accept the inevitability of Change, it also teaches us that we can Shape Change. And by Shaping Change, we Shape God. We Shape God by Shaping ourselves. We do this by paying attention, by adapting, by exercising our intelligence, our imagination and our industry. We Shape God though work.
“Pray working,” reads Earthseed’s books of scripture, “The Book of the Living”:
Pray to focus your thoughts,
still your fears,
strengthen your purpose.
I know that gun legislation is not a panacea, but I believe it is part of the answer. Just like increasing the availability and quality of mental health care in our society is part of the answer. Just like resisting hate speech is part of the answer. Just like working to change the fetishizing of violence in our culture is part of the answer.
This week, there will be many prayers offered for the victims of the latest school shooting. But then the real praying must begin.
We must pray working. We must not pray for God to change our circumstances. Change will happen, whether we will it or not. Rather, we must work to Shape Change, to Shape God, in the direction we want. We must Shape God in the direction of peace and justice.
God is Change. Shape God.
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