Faith, religion play key roles before and after tragedies

“F*** your thoughts and prayers,” Michigan Representative Ranjeev Puri tweeted in the wake of the Michigan State University shooting.

The sentiment was echoed by other lawmakers and repeated verbatim by citizens across the country.

In recent years, there has been a promotion of the idea that well-intended words of condolence and prayers of sympathy have no place in the aftermath of a tragedy like a mass shooting. Instead, only action should take place. Instead, only immediate legislative revision should take place.

But is it not the initial lack of prayer and benevolence that has gotten us here?

We are living in the most secular time in our country’s history. Today more than ever before, Americans are reporting disbelief and detachment from religion. Americans are spiritually isolated.

Religion, of any denomination, provides structure and community while instilling morals and principles in its followers. Looking around, these things are very obviously miss- ing in our society.

Mass shooters – most violent criminals – are often described as loners when the media pieces together an image of who they were before they commit their crimes. In other words, they had no community and they lacked social structure.

It surely is not controversial to say that they generally lack morals and disregard humanitarian principles.

Religious affiliation and a life that is guided by spiritual organization is a crucial preemptive measure in combating the epidemic of violence in our country.

The policy has been, is and always will be up for debate. That is the nature of politics.

Whether or not one supports the broad application of the Second Amendment or appropriates it to a narrow construction, to engage in political argument is to (at the very least) acknowledge the profound impact that legislation and the state society has on the lives of Americans.

To acknowledge that impact, there is empathy, community and concern for the future.

Political disagreement should not become reasons to hate those on the other side of the aisle or those below the pulpit. That hatred is the very thing that continues to generate these tragedies.

That hatred is also the thing that all religions denounce.

Take away the primetime news stories highlighting Westboro Baptist Church or the Taliban. Take away the Twitter feed that shows only the extremists and the rule’s exception. Take away all of that. Read the books, talk to followers of the Word, engage in critical thinking.

Religion hates hate.

When we have lawmakers in this country openly criticize a religious response to tragedy, when our society begins to treat religious care and constructive secular action as mutually exclusive, we are only increasing hate’s presence.

Hate is only overcome by love – and love is best shared in the presence of a community.

Instead of criticizing those who pray for the killed and forgotten, share in their intent. Think about how we, as a society, got here. We have become so separated from one another and have become apathetic to those who are not in alignment with our hyper-specific beliefs. Social media has created personal echo chambers for each of us and our personal circles tend to reflect our own lines of thinking.

A community is not meant to be that homogenous. A community is meant to be engaged in and cultivat- ed by a variety of individuals who hail from vastly different back- grounds and who bring remarkably

different perspectives than our own. Even in a religious community in which the same god is being worshiped, the individual members make the congregation various in these ways.

The answer to solving the problem of violence is not a negation and condemnation of religion. The answer is the promotion of it.

The essential component parts of religion – the community, structure, morals and principles – are the answer.

These things ought to surround and instruct the children and young people of our country. We can no longer abandon them and leave them on their own in front of a glass screen. They need people – good people in real life – to help guide them.

Society needs to be filled with them so that it is not only worth living in, but possible to live in.

The foundation of this country was not built solely on the right to bear arms or the forced adherence to a creed. Rather, this country was founded by individuals that found common ground and created a community that was strong enough to withstand a war. This is the solution.

We are in another domestic war right now. Against and amongst those around us and within ourselves, we are in a power struggle that is quickly becoming fatal.

No treaty, no law and no mandate will bring its end – but communities that are made of good individuals will. The unity of those communities to restore the true American identity of benevolence and moral wealth will.

Righteousness, in an American sense, is not something that can be legislated. Righteousness is taught, learned and carried on. The lives and legacies of those who have been senselessly killed must also be.

This was written in loving memory of and eternal gratitude for Luke Filary.