Are ‘thoughts and prayers’ a ‘cruel joke’?

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Dana Milbank is a columnist for the Washington Post and a bestselling author. He has also been characterized as “extravagantly contrarian” and “one of the most extreme ideologues in the business.”

Consider, for example, the title of his column following last weekend’s shootings: “Republicans’ thoughts and prayers have become a cruel joke.” Milbank cites dozens of such statements responding to the tragedies. He notes that “thoughts and prayers are always welcome,” but then claims that this “reflexive response to the endless massacres has become a cruel joke, as effective as a Hallmark sympathy card.” 

Milbank believes that offering prayer is “what people say when they plan to do nothing.” To those who criticize his criticism, he responds: “We criticize prayer in lieu of action.” 

I agree with Milbank that if we promise to pray but do nothing else, we have not done enough. As James notes, “Faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead” (James 2:17). 

However, like so many in our secular culture, Milbank seems to think that we must choose between “prayer” and “action,” that if we pray for victims, we are not acting on their behalf. And he believes that until Republicans act as he thinks they should, “We don’t have a prayer.” 

“Our community came together through prayer” 

Last Sunday morning, as the horrific news was still breaking from El Paso and Dayton, South Carolina Sen. Tim Scott was on CBS’s Face the Nation. He was asked about the massacre four years ago when a white racist murdered nine African Americans at the Mother Emanuel Church in Charleston. 

Sen. Scott began his response to the weekend shootings: “What a challenging time. Our prayers and thoughts are certainly with both communities.” After describing the tragedy that happened in his state, he then declared: “The good news for our community was that our community came together through prayer.” 

Here’s why I’m quoting from his interview today: the senator…

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