Religion & Beliefs

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As I’ve been reading the op-eds about Virginia Tech I’ve started getting irritated with the random spiritual advice that’s being espoused. Aside from the political arguments against the second amendment, and discussions of mental health on university campuses, we’re getting … Read More

By / April 17, 2007

As I’ve been reading the op-eds about Virginia Tech I’ve started getting irritated with the random spiritual advice that’s being espoused. Aside from the political arguments against the second amendment, and discussions of mental health on university campuses, we’re getting lots of calls for prayer. The BBC aired a Thought of the Day today that dressed down the US for poor gun control and violent video games. Tom Butler carefully tells us all to grieve in our own way, and reminds listeners that religion is about coming to terms with themselves, one another, and the great mysteries of the world. He says we should all start praying. And e-mails I got from Hillel, Vanderbilt, and friends on facebook made similar requests and suggestions. I’m all for prayer. I pray every day, and so do a lot of my friends. But while I still think that prayer is important, my response to a tragedy like the one at Virginia Tech is different. I don’t want to try, I want to be with my community. I want to sit with my friends, and if we talk about VT then fine, but mostly what I want is the company, the sense of a connection to others. Prayer is great for long term fortification, but it’s hard to argue that it works as a quick fix. When we’re grieving, the best thing we can do is be with other people. And that’s notable because in all of these horrific situations—University of Texas, Columbine and Virginia Tech—the shooters are described as loners. They didn’t have communities to pull them in during the hard times. I’m not saying that not having a support group means someone is going to go shoot up a school, but I do think that people who have strong ties to others seem a lot less likely to engage in scary stuff like this. So today, if you feel like praying, go for it. But a more powerful action might be to call up that guy you met once at synagogue who never came back, or chat a little with the woman in the cubicle next door. Try to make a connection with someone who seems like they might need someone to talk to. Remember how important your support network is to you, and try to make sure you reciprocate for others. But praying won’t cut it. Not today.