No more Prayer Vigils, Until…
Dec 16, 2012 | News Archive
No more Prayer Vigils, Until…

The tragedy that happened at Sandy Hook Elementary School is extremely unfortunate and immediate action must be taken. Continue reading to hear sentiments from our very own Nick Taliaferro.

No more Prayer Vigils, Until…

By Nick Taliaferro

(Nick Taliaferro is an ordained minister and the evening drive talk show host on WURD Radio. He has served as the city’s first Executive Director of Faith-Based Initiatives, and is the immediate-past Executive Director of the Phila. Commission for Human Realtions)


In the wake of the horrific carnage at Sandy Hook Elementary School (Newtown, CT.) there will be a variety of responses. Some will scream out in anger, others will speak of America’s seemingly bottomless and insane thirst for bloodshed and violence. But one response is as sure as the rising of the sun in the east…


Someone will call for a prayer vigil. In fact, they already have.


And good people – most religious, but some not – will gather; and they will hold hands, and cry, and scream into the open air that they are tired of the violence, and plead to God to make things better.


And I will not be among them.


To be sure, as the city of Philadelphia’s first Executive Director of Faith-Based Initiatives, and as an ordained minister who has pastored for over 25 years, let me affirm before you my deep belief in both God and prayer. But I also believe that it is insulting and offensive to continually ask God to do things that are directly within our powers to accomplish.


To be more direct, asking God to stop us from killing ourselves with guns, while we fail to develop sane and enforceable Gun Control laws, is naïve at best, and spiritually offensive at worst.


There are over 300 million guns in the United States, and some of them are used to kill over 30,000 people annually in this country. Those numbers might possibly double if our Emergency Room wizards weren’t as capable as they are, regularly snatching victims back from across the flat line that separates death from life.


Simply put, we have too many guns floating around in a culture that has demonstrated the unpredictable potential to break out in violence. And while guns themselves don’t kill people, people with guns do kill people – and they do so with exponential power.


You never hear of mass murder by an assailant throwing rocks. Or spears. You need a gun to kill in the numbers!


It is time to control the sale and flow of these handheld death dispensers; and it is time that we force our lawmakers to proscribe the free and easy merchandising of guns. And more importantly, just as we do with cars and real estate, we must make people more accountable for the whereabouts and constructive possession of their firearms.


When religious people fail to vigorously pursue these ends, and then afterwards ask God to change the consequences that result from their unwillingness to act, they actually insult God and misuse a religious ritual.


I am in good company; 2700 years ago the prophet Isaiah preceded me when he said,

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 deeds from before my eyes…
(Isaiah 1:15,16 ESV)

In other words, until the religious community does what it (we) has the power to do (“wash yourselves…remove the evil…”), it needs to stop talking to God about the issue, the prophet urges. Before confronting God we must ask ourselves, “what can we do; what have we left undone, and how can we get about doing it?” We must do more than simply ask God to do what we’re either too afraid or too stubborn to do!


So our next prayer vigil should be called after we have developed a strategy for taking a metaphorical whipping stick to those resistant and vacillating elected officials who can somehow cynically look into the faces of 26 families planning 26 funerals and still say that our gun laws are just fine.


At that prayer vigil I’ll be the first person to say “amen”.