Prayer works–or does it? Shall we ask the murdered?

No sooner had I penned my piece exposing the hypocrisy and weak-kneed leadership of Republican Speaker of the House, Paul Ryan, when he has made new headlines with another smug, holier-than-thou, awful and divisive statement–that is also wrong.

Following the horrific church shooting in a small Texan town, in which at least 26 people were murdered by rapid gun fire, Mr. Ryan was criticized for his now- standard response that “our thoughts and prayers are with the victims and their families.” Many Americans, however, are unimpressed with the hollow words–that tend to follow every gun-related massacre–and have criticized Mr. Ryan saying that thoughts and prayers are not enough.

Mr. Ryan replied in the following manner:

“It’s disappointing, it’s sad, and this is what you’ll get from the far secular left. People who do not have faith don’t understand faith, I guess I’d have to say. And it is the right thing to do is to pray in moments like this, because you know what? Prayer works. And I know you believe that, and I believe that and when you hear the secular left doing this thing, it’s no wonder you have so much polarization and disunity in this country when people think like that.”

Really? The secular left is the problem? The ones who are “polarizing” everything?

Mr. Ryan, please take note: for thousands of years people have been praying to one entity or another. Idols, the sun, the moon, polytheism, monotheism–take your pick. For thousands of years people have continued to die from hunger, disease, accidents and murder. People have died during civil wars, in the Holocaust in gas chambers, in Rwanda and in Syria. People continue to pray. And die of cancer and heart disease. Children and refugees continue to suffer around the world. And you say prayer works? For whom? For those who have lost their lives? Or just for you–making you feel better?

For many of the issues still causing suffering across the globe there are no easy answers. For mass gun murders, there are also no easy answers. There are, however, rational steps that can be taken to decrease the likelihood or deadliness of these events. Even if these measures, related to common sense gun control, ‘only’ prevent one such massacre (rather than all of them), evidence still shows that this will be more helpful–to the potential victims–than prayers.

Speaker Ryan, it’s time to get off your pew–and your smug high-horse–and use your position to push for common sense measures to protect the children of this country. Pray all you want, if it makes you feel better–but DO SOMETHING to ensure that others feel better.

About Steve Caplan

I am a Professor of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology at the University of Nebraska Medical Center in Omaha, Nebraska where I mentor a group of students, postdoctoral fellows and researchers working on endocytic protein trafficking. My first lablit novel, "Matter Over Mind," is about a biomedical researcher seeking tenure and struggling to overcome the consequences of growing up with a parent suffering from bipolar disorder. Lablit novel #2, "Welcome Home, Sir," published by Anaphora Literary Press, deals with a hypochondriac principal investigator whose service in the army and post-traumatic stress disorder actually prepare him well for academic, but not personal success. Novel #3, "A Degree of Betrayal," is an academic murder mystery. "Saving One" is my most recent novel set at the National Institutes of Health. Now IN PRESS: Today's Curiosity is Tomorrow's Cure: The Case for Basic Biomedical Research (CRC PRESS, 2021). All views expressed are my own, of course--after all, I hate advertising.
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