If I hear one more person call for more thoughts and prayers in response to gun violence, I think I’ll scream. Thoughts and prayers are worse than meaningless, especially when they are intended to substitute for corrective action. Nor is God going to step in and save us from ourselves.

God, you see, has this bad habit of practicing tough love and actually has the audacity to allow us to suffer the consequences of our choices and actions instead of jumping in and protecting us from ourselves. To paraphrase the little Book of James which is tucked into the back of the New Testament, “My brothers and sisters, what good is it for someone to say that he has faith when his actions do not prove it? Can that faith save him? Suppose there are brothers and sisters who need clothing and don’t have enough to eat.

What good is there in your saying to them, ‘God bless you! Keep warm and fed.’ if you don’t give them the necessities of life? Suppose there are grocery shoppers or children attending school when an active shooter enters and kills 19 or 20 of them at a time. What good is there in saying to their families and communities, ‘God bless you. We share your grief. Stay safe and secure.’ if you do nothing to control the proliferation of guns and military style weapons?

Can faith correct the situation? Will prayers bring back the dead? “But someone will say, “one person has actions, another has faith.” My answer is, “Show me how you can have faith without actions and I will show you my faith by my actions.”

Idol worship, my friends, is alive and well. It wasn’t just ancient people who bowed down before man made idols. It wasn’t just ancient people who sacrificed their first born to appease the insatiable gods of violence. We worship the 2nd Amendment. We have made an idol out of our guns. We have sold our souls to the great God AK-47.

Jesus, as the prince of peace, is as unwelcome today as on the day he was sacrificed to momentarily appease the Jewish and Roman gods of greed and power. When I reflect on all the calls for thoughts and prayers in the wake of our ongoing shootings, I am reminded of one of my childhood elders who would tell me, “Be careful what you pray for. You may get it and it won’t be what you wanted after all.” Do we really want the 2nd Amendment as currently interpreted?

Each of us would do well to discern which gods we truly worship. As the 11th step tells us, “Sought to improve our conscious contact with the God of our understanding, through prayer and meditation, asking only for God’s will for our lives and the courage to carry that out.” We can have all the prayer vigils we want, but until we are willing to place our trust in the God of love rather than the gods of guns, greed, and violence, nothing will change. We can be as pious as a saint, but piety is no substitute for humbly asking God to remove all our defects of character. As the writer of Matthew said so succinctly, “No one can be a slave to two masters; he will hate the one and love the other; he will be loyal to one and despise the others. You cannot serve God and money.” Right now, I fear, it is all too clear which gods we truly serve.

Joyce Shutt is pastor emeritus of the Fairfield Mennonite Church and author of the blog, Steps to Hope.

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