In the wake of today’s school shooting in Texas, Ted Cruz, senator from Texas, appeared before the cameras, as politicians do in order to fool voters into thinking that they care about anyone or anything. So Mr. Cruz is talking about the newest shooting and as he links it to other recent shootings and tragedies in other communities in his home state – the great gun-toting state of Texas – he starts talking about how in these communities people have been “leaning” on each other and praying… And at that point I cursed Mr. Cruz under my breath and I turned off the television to avoid listening to any more hypocritical nonsense. It’s almost as if Mr. Cruz was trying to say: Look how much good comes out of these tragedies. Communities come together, people lean on each other, pray for each other, comfort each other… Yes, Mr. Cruz, communities and people do come together. But why should it take the killing of children to do this? (And let’s face it, even then it only lasts a day or two, or a week, or a month. Then it’s back to looking out for number one.) Why can’t communities come together to create a society that is less death-obsessed and death-worshipping?
Here is what I want to say to Mr. Cruz and every other politician who immediately invokes prayers when a tragedy occurs, especially whenever a school shooting shocks us for a day or two. Have these politicians ever really read the Bible? I mean really read the Bible – not just the select verses they hear week after week in their comfortable, plush evangelical mega churches? If they read their Bibles they would be a little more cautious about how often they invoke prayer in responding to school shootings. Here is what God has to say about prayers. And God says this in the first chapter of the Book of the Prophet Isaiah. And yes, better believe that there is more in Isaiah than “a virgin shall conceive”! Here is what God has to say about prayers:
When you stretch out your hands,
I will hide my eyes from you;
even though you make many prayers,
I will not listen;
your hands are full of blood.
Wash yourselves; make yourselves clean;
remove the evil of your doings
from before my eyes;
cease to do evil,
learn to do good;
rescue the oppressed,
defend the orphan,
plead for the widow. (Isaiah 1:15-17)
Does God listen to the prayers of politicians and their supporters whose “hands are full of blood”? When are their hands full of blood? When they do not care for the oppressed and the poor; when they worship at the altar of the NRA.
I know that stricter gun laws will not solve the problem of school shootings. Our society has gone too far into inhuman ways. School shootings are just part of an overall picture of ungodly living: extreme wealth and extreme poverty, war industries, environmental destruction, racism and bigotry, abortion, drugs…
There are no single or simple solutions. But let’s start with our churches. Do we promote social justice? Do we challenge politicians to really do the things that God desires? (And I don’t mean Christian versions of sharia law, which is what evangelical conservatives want.) Do we really preach the gospel or only nice messages to pamper the pampered? Do we comfort the uncomforted and discomfort the comfortable? These are the criteria by which God judges churches – not by what Creed we recite or how we baptize or which patriarchate is number one.
If churches that call themselves Christian really believed the gospel of Jesus Christ and really read the prophets complete, they would have an impact on a society such as ours. But churches and church leaders are cowards. I’m sure the president will ask for a period of mourning and flags at half mast. What God said to ancient Israel applies to us too:
Bringing offerings is futile;
incense is an abomination to me.
New moon and sabbath and calling of convocation—
I cannot endure solemn assemblies with iniquity.
Your new moons and your appointed festivals (and flags at half mast?)
my soul hates;
they have become a burden to me,
I am weary of bearing them. (Isaiah 1:13-14)
How the faithful city
has become a whore!
She that was full of justice,
righteousness lodged in her—
but now murderers!
Your silver has become dross,
your wine is mixed with water.
Your princes are rebels
and companions of thieves.
Everyone loves a bribe
and runs after gifts.
They do not defend the orphan,
and the widow’s cause does not come before them. (Isaiah 1:21-23)
And lest you think that Isaiah had a mental or psychotic problem and put these words in God’s mouth, here is another prophet, Amos. God again is the speaker:
I hate, I despise your festivals,
and I take no delight in your solemn assemblies.
Even though you offer me your burnt offerings and grain offerings,
I will not accept them;
and the offerings of well-being of your fatted animals
I will not look upon.
Take away from me the noise of your songs;
I will not listen to the melody of your harps.
But let justice roll down like waters,
and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream. (Amos 5:21-24)
Do not mistake God’s idea of “justice” with our ideas of justice. God’s idea of justice is the just treatment of the poor, the outcasts, the oppressed, the widows and the orphans and the homeless, and the refugees – in other words, precisely the victims of our forms of “justice”!
Will God listen to the prayers of a Ted Cruz or a Donald Trump, of the communities that suffer tragedies? I hope God will. But God will also not ignore or forget the words he spoke 2,700 years ago through the mouth of Isaiah or Amos. And he speaks them today as well, in the pages of what Mr. Cruz calls the Holy Bible.