Moments Of Silence For Thoughts and Prayers Ring Hollow Without Actions to Back Them Up

The following post, written by The Rev. Robert A. Franek, is a part of Politicus Policy Discussion, in which writers draw connections between real lives and public policy.

In the wake of another deadly mass shooting the national liturgy in response is playing out like it has so many times before: after Newtown, after Orlando, now after Las Vegas.

Shock. Thoughts and prayers for everyone affected. Calls for change met with now is not the time. Vigils. Memorials. And soon the story fades from public consciousness until the next time. Which sadly won’t be long. Will we ever as a country be able to offer more than our collective thoughts and prayers in the aftermath of these horrific tragedies?

Over 32,000 people die each year in our country as a result of gun violence. Many die in mass shootings that are becoming all too common, others as a result of gang violence and domestic abuse, and some die in tragic accidents when young children get their tiny fingers on these deadly weapons. We also cannot ignore large number of gun inflicted suicides.

As a country, we are unique in the world for having this epidemic of gun violence.

The innocent who die in these mass shootings are often memorialized in news stories and with tributes to their lives. It can be heartbreaking to watch. No less heartbreaking though are the thousands who die from gun violence who remain unknown and don’t have public tributes and memorials to their deaths. It would take over 22 days of silence to give each person who dies from gun violence in a year one minute of silence.

Surely these innocent lives lost deserve more than a minute of silence in their memory. Surely their death is worthy of being more than a forgotten statistic but a catalyst for change. Surely, we can honor these lives with more than make shift memorials and moments of silence.

Thoughts and prayers are necessary to provide comfort to people in their suffering. But without action are rather empty. Take hunger for example. If I pray for an end to hunger but do nothing in the way of charity and advocacy to fight hunger then my prayer is rather hollow. Whether giving to a local food pantry or calling a member of Congress to advocate for SNAP funding, these are ways of putting prayer into action.

As a pastor, part of my work is praying for people, the world, and all creation. I’m exhausted from the rhetoric without the action because as Teresa of Avila makes clear: Christ has no body now but ours. We cannot allow this perpetual mass violence to continue. We must address our country’s epidemic of gun violence.

Christ Has No Body


Christ has no body but yours,
No hands, no feet on earth but yours,
Yours are the eyes with which he looks
Compassion on this world,
Yours are the feet with which he walks to do good,
Yours are the hands, with which he blesses all the world.
Yours are the hands, yours are the feet,
Yours are the eyes, you are his body.
Christ has no body now but yours,
No hands, no feet on earth but yours,
Yours are the eyes with which he looks
compassion on this world.
Christ has no body now on earth but yours.


– Teresa of Avila (1515–1582)

Our bodies are needed to provide compassion and healing care to the many who grieve. Our hands and hearts need to be in prayer to be sure. But our voices and our votes are also needed. Our advocacy for common-sense reforms is needed.

The reason reforms have been slow to come and the most we ever can do as a country is offer our thoughts and prayers is clear: the gun industry needs the lobbying and propaganda power of the NRA, who need Congressional leadership to do their bidding, who need the NRA money for campaigns, which comes from the gun industry.

The only way to get Congress to take any substantial and common-sense action is to break this circle of money and propaganda.

We can’t pray this problem away. We can’t continue to have moments of silence for thoughts and prayers and then claim to be shocked the next time tragedy strikes asking ourselves how could this have happened.

How many lives will have to be lost before there is a change?

The moral failure of our country in the wake of the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre says that even first graders being gunned down in their classrooms was not enough. If this wasn’t enough, I’m not sure what will be. Certainly, this inaction is worthy of our collective thoughts and prayers.

How much longer can we offer our thoughts and prayers with the grieving knowing that we could have acted but didn’t? The family and friends devastated by the next tragedy would like to know.