What about thoughts and prayers “before” a tragedy?



We offer our “thoughts and prayers” after a tragedy such as that which occurred late last month in Uvalde, Texas. It is noble. But it feels out of place and sometimes superficial.

Why not do something that has worked in America’s past – religious observance? Let’s give thoughts and prayers “before” a tragedy.

For decades we have slid in the wrong direction on faith. We are good at offering thoughts and prayers to the victims and their families after this horrific event, but imagine if each of us could do something to help prevent it.

A Gallup poll reports that from 1937 to 1999, church membership hovered around 70%. Since 1999, however, it has declined significantly while school prayer in public institutions was abolished via the Supreme Court in the 1960s. Both bode ominously.

Today’s Gallup polls would show church membership at an all-time low. Most Americans are no longer members of a church or religious affiliation. We are at 47%.

At the same time, the number of mass shootings and suicides rose rapidly.

In 2010, 19,392 suicides were committed with firearms out of a total of 38,000 suicides. In the same year, 11,078 people were killed by firearms in nonsuicidal deaths.

It is clear that suicide, which is rarely talked about, is a major problem. Self-hatred to the point of killing oneself is often what mass shooters do or would do if not stopped by law enforcement.

So we can “do something” – each of us can – and we can start doing something now!

All it takes is a little time to reflect, meditate, pray, attend church services, instead of just going to church at a funeral when it’s too late to make a difference.

Racism and anti-Semitism also play a role in senseless gun deaths. The country, like Buffalo, needs more racial integration in the workplace. Segregation will lessen once the racial economic divide is bridged. This will help end racial strife.

Keep in mind that mass shootings in places of worship are hate crimes intended to both kill and terrorize while scaring other worshippers.

There are also drug-related crimes that have targeted a disproportionate number of black people, victims of turf wars and mugging and revenge shootouts.

Protecting our southern border would reduce the illegal flow of drugs that too frequently land in our city centers. This has led to an increase in gang-related gun violence, murders and random killings of innocent people.

There have been far more gun deaths than the aforementioned gun violence cases combined. It’s just another reason America needs to declare war on mental illness, increase intervention projects, and create more counseling centers. With approximately 400 million guns in America, depression and anger cannot be ignored.

Politicians have a role. We pray for them and are grateful for the efforts and leadership of Senators Chris Murphy, D-CT, and John Cornyn, R-Texas. Yet each of us can make a personal contribution to alleviating this problem.

Changing these negative tendencies would be as simple as putting God first. After all, you must follow God for God to guide you.

Gary Franks served three terms as United States Representative for Connecticut’s 5th District. He was the first black Republican elected to the House in nearly 60 years and the first black member from New England in the House. Host: podcast “We speak frankly”. @GaryFranks

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