Blog post author and Providence Associate Katrina Welborn joins in conversation at the Providence Associate annual meeting this past summer at Saint Mary-of-the-Woods

Our news has been filled with one ‘natural’ disaster after another. Then we wake up to hear about another mass shooting. I’m not here to write about why ‘natural disasters’ occur more frequently or why we as a society have become accustomed to mass shootings. I’m here to write about something that I’ve observed on social media, especially as of late.

I’ve observed a division among my friends and acquaintances on social media. A division of which I don’t think many are even conscious. A division that is being created by people trying to cope and deal with horrific events that happen so often.

Over the past several weeks, months, years, I have seen “pray for Florida,” “pray for Oregon,” “pray for France,” “pray for Puerto Rico,” etc. I have been one of these people.

I have also seen “do something instead of praying,” “those ‘thoughts and prayers’ people,” etc. I have also been one of these people.

Why division

Why do these things also have to cause division? Is it too much to believe that one can pray and also be taking action to do their civil duty to make change in this country? Is it too much to believe that one can pray and be calling their representatives demanding action to change our current laws and to make us feel safe in our own homes, schools, churches, and at concerts and other gatherings?

In a country where division is ever present in so many ways, why are we creating division in another area?

I understand both sides. On the one hand it’s easy to push God away when so much hatred and violence are present. We can so easily move into “how can God let this happen?” or “I don’t see goodness in the world.” When there is so much bad in the world it’s easy to shut God out and not be able to see the good because the bad is so prevalent. On the other hand, it’s also easy to put everything on God in a way of pretending there is nothing we can do, that God will take care of it all. It’s easy to feel overwhelmed and to not know what to do. So praying is the thing to do. I get that side, too.

But a prayer without action behind it is a cop out, an empty prayer. We can’t pray to God to end something or take care of something that we have caused and then not put any effort into changing our ways as a society. We can’t pray to God about the third hurricane in weeks and not continue dialogue about climate change. We can’t pray to God about the shooting in Vegas and then not have serious discussions with our representatives about changing our laws and creating a safer place. Praying without action is just like making a wish. It doesn’t mean anything.

We are called to pray, but we are also called to do our part. We can’t expect God to fix our problems. We have free will and that free will has gotten us where we are.

Our work

We have to work to change our society. We have to show that we really care about creating a safe place. We can’t expect the next person to do it or the next generation. Or God. We can pray. We should pray. But we must also put in the effort.

The next time I see, “pray for…” I’ll join in praying, not only praying for a particular happening, but also for the person who posted what they are praying for. I pray that they have the tools and community to cope and to find support. I pray that they take action in whatever ways they are able.

The next time I see, “stop praying…” I’ll join in praying that they still see goodness. I’ll look in the mirror to see what I am doing to take action. I’ll allow myself to be angry, too, and know it’s okay to be angry.

Actions speak louder than words, but our actions and words must align.

Let’s not divide ourselves in another way. Don’t we have enough division? Both sides have something in common: We are tired of this and we want our world to be different. We can be both sides.

Do good.

Take action.

Pray.