The end of prayer as an acceptable answer during crises may be ending because of the NRA and the right. They have pronounced after each mass shooting that the victims are in their prayers and thoughts. They also proclaim the only thing that can be done in the aftermath of mass shootings are prayers and thoughts. Discussions on how to bring the shootings to an end are premature and must happen in some future time. So prayers have become a cudgel to be used on people who want to see change.
Even worse prayers have become equal to doing nothing. We plan to do nothing or we plan not to change so we offer you prayers and thoughts. Two hundred plus shootings later since Sandy Hook to be offered prayers is almost to proclaim that I really do not care. People effected by the shootings are saying we do not want your prayers we want your actions. And there you have it prayer is no longer an activity but considered an inactive response. Prayer was once thought to be the enabler of action is now thought to be the avoidance of action. Prayer was once thought essential to do acts with depth of thought or now thought to be the avoidance of thinking about the problem. Prayer was once thought to be the leaving of your egos behind to allow God room to act within you is now the avoidance of Godly acts.
So the so called believers in prayer or killing prayer. Of course this is the way it always is the practitioners are the ones who think they own the practice. The right would be the first to tell liberals they do not believe and therefore their prayers are ineffectual. But because the right has locked themselves in prayer boxes their prayer has become an act only to make themselves feel better. It does not connect them to a higher power or to their deeper selves but instead works to make them feel justified in any selfish or bigoted action they partake.
Some on the right have proclaimed that taking prayer out of schools is the reason for the shootings. To them prayer is a demand of a God who is waiting for you not to offer your prayers to strike you down in the most horrendous way. Prayer to them is appeasement of God. And to make it even more striking is if God is not appeased he takes it out on the children who have no say in the matter. In other words god is a very bad shot when it comes to punishment. God misses striking the ones responsible and hits the one who are the most vulnerable.
Prayer use to be thought as a personal contact with God. But the indiscriminate hard ass described in the previous paragraph is not someone I would want to know. So you see prayers are being killed by the right. I always thought prayer to be useful to guide me in the ways of righteous actions. But now I can pray without worrying about what God may inspire me to do next. What a relief. I can tell the hungry I pray for them and not offer food. I can tell the prisoner I pray for them and do not have to visit them. I can tell the sick I pray for them and do not have to care for them. I can tell children in schools I pray for them and do not have to stop the bloodshed.
The economist Joseph Schumpter is known for his economic theory of creative destruction. In this theory he purports that layoffs, plant closures, ending corporations, or the death of a whole industry can be good and necessary for a healthy economy. That destroying things that are going obsolete to make room for new and better economies is good. In other words the death of the vhs tapes industry can be healthy if done to make room for DVD industry which can be destroyed to make room for itunes. This is all healthy if the transformation is done ‘creatively’. He is also for the shutting down of plants if new technology is creating the possibilities of faster production and better quality. He also says the destruction of companies I layoffs can be good if it is to create a new corporate culture and a more refined administration. But this is only good if it is to ensure better performance and healthier industries. Creative Destruction is to be done with planning and foresight and not convenience and for the sake of growth alone.
Some have been hinted this is the way president Trump is currently doing foreign policy. He has a refined chaos theory of politics. Thus we have rocket man, the destruction of the State Department, moving the US embassy to Jerusalem, and withdrawing from the Iranian treaty. While I would wholeheartedly agree that he is taking a sledge hammer to the US foreign policy I am not sure he is being what Schumpter would call creative destruction.
First, his policies seem driven by impulses more than some overriding plan to improve the US status in the world. In other words his destruction of our foreign policy is being done with a sledge hammer. But he has not checked to see which are the load bearing walls and necessary to our foreign policy. He is not creatively destroying he is only destroying. This can be as bad or even worse than the status quo. And the problem is the Humpty Dumpty syndrome. Once the egg has been cracked you can never put it back together again.
While insulting and threatening North Korea may work it may be harmful to use the same strategy with Iran. Ayatollahs may not act the same way as a North Korean dictator. The humpty Dumpty of this policy is the destruction of the State Department. This took literally centuries to develop. A restructuring is always needed. It is harmful to just not fill positions. Certainly one could justify layoffs and ending certain policies but to show a total indifference in what remains or leaving it to the gods to decide is not creative but lazy.
Trump’s foreign policy seems to be based on destroying Obama’s legacy as much as anything else. Again this is not creative destruction but envy destruction. This again is a plan destroy Oba ma’s legacy but it is not necessarily a healthy one.
So I have said all of this to point out that a creative destruction of the foreign policy may be good especially in some areas. But what we face is the foreign policy caprice of a President who is not interested in intelligence de-briefing, does not read books, almost has a disdain for experts, and has one primary source for information this is a recipe for disaster. Trump must move to engaging more thought and planning then he has. He also must move from envy politics to a more sophisticated policies. The world awaits his deliberations. So hopefully he will deliberate.
Read, pray, and experience. These seem to be the missing ingredients in today’s society. People are feeling the need to pontificate or hold fixed opinions on things they have not read up on or have only read things that support how they think. We no longer read widely about anything but only narrowly. We also munch on shallow exposure and not deep exposure. Yet we talk as though we wrote the book on the subject.
I have been told by people living in a gated community I did not understand the poor community I lived in for five years. I have been told by people who only have passing acquaintance with a gay person that I do not understand the gay culture when some of my oldest friends are gay. Too many people believe that they do not need contact with the subject matter to express ideas about matters. Yet study after study shows that experiences with people who are different from you make you less homophobic, racist, or classist.
Reflection is a tool of the past. People used to sit and gaze at the stars, watch the sunrise or sunset, sit in quiet in church during the week. Nowadays you cannot see the stars or sun from your backyard and the church doors are only open during services. Yes people live in the country but seeing the stars and sunset use to be part of the routine; nowadays for most it is an event. And when they do reflect it is on small things. No one spends time in thought on the deeper aspects of life. But we all seem to feel comfortable talking with non-reflective concepts.
So even though we are exposed to more information in our ‘information age’ we are shallower. Used to be you kept your opinions to yourself and only spoke on things you were familiar with. But so much is politicized these days, you feel a compulsion to stand up for what you believe. We see talking heads, listen to talk radio, read opinion pieces and snarky blogs. Everyone is speaking on everything all day long and we just want to join in the party.
Read, pray, experience is my response. I do not want to hear your opinions that you have not fervently read about and followed your reading with reflection. I do not want to hear your ideals about things you have not experienced. And more importantly I would rather you show me through your actions and life what you believe.
The only other way to learn besides read, pray and experience is to listen. And you cannot listen if your mouth is open or you’re thinking of some snappy comeback while the other person is talking. Maybe we need some listening heads and listening radio. Maybe we need not opinion pieces but questioning pieces. Maybe instead of snark, we offer understanding. Of course what would be the entertainment in that?