I believe in God. There, I said it! A lot of people, especially really smart people, inwardly cringe when they hear this sort of thing. They start thinking about the kind of person who took "go forth and be fruitful" very literally and is now raising an unimaginable brood of home-schooled tots. They worry about the sort of people who pick and choose their bible passages very carefully in order to feel justified in damning homosexuals. If they are of a global mind, especially since the turn of the century, they consider the sort of individual who embarks on a suicide mission that takes innocent lives in order to reach some sort of promised afterlife. It is fashionable to be agnostic because who the heck knows, really? Well, I'm telling you right now: I do.
I don't consider my belief in God a matter of faith. In my experience, God is as real as anything in this world; God is reality, in fact. God is literature and art and nature and film and science and math and the ocean and the sky and the earth and humanity. God is everything, all the time and above all, God is love. Love is more than how we feel about each other. It is a force field that heals, moves, creates, protects, transforms and transcends. And God loves you, even those of you who are sniggering at these words. Perhaps He loves you best, because God is humor and has certainly enjoyed a good laugh at my expense from time to time. So believe, or laugh, or mock, or know, because it is all the same. We came from the same place and we all will go back there. From God, back to God.
Phew, I feel better getting that off of my chest. Because now we can talk about something that is important to all of us, regardless of faith or lack thereof: why a moment of prayer, or a day of prayer, or even a month of prayer is very little help. Wait a minute, that sounds like I am still talking about God! But actually I am talking about politics. Personal, national and global politics. I think the agnostics are with me now, but let me further clarify...much has been made in recent days, years perhaps, of public prayer and calls for prayer. And in spite of the fact that the United States of America was founded for the express purpose of religious freedom, somehow our most fundamental reason for being has become lost in a sea of angry rhetoric. Oh, the irony!
The recent rash of heart-breaking violence both in the United States and abroad has brought prayer and religious intolerance to the forefront of many people's minds. Much has been made of certain people's knee-jerk tendency to lump all Muslims with extremist terrorists while parsing out violent Christian "activism" as a handful of right wing nut-jobs.
The obvious truth is that any cause, whether personal, political or religious, can be taken to unhealthy extremes. But the real disease starts when anybody judges an entire group by its radical fringe elements. That is like killing someone because they have cancer of the pinky toe--how do you justify it? Even if you are the sort of person who insists on living this kind of lie, focusing on the minutia of evil instead embracing the enormity of good, at the end of the day that is your choice and too bad for you. Because this is the United States of America and as I mentioned we were founded for the EXPRESS purpose of RELIGIOUS freedom so you theoretically have NO choice but to LET IT BE. Or buy an island somewhere and hole up with a bunch of your intolerant, unhappy friends. And your guns.
And so here lies the actual issue facing America today: the question is not one of prayers, but of law. Our laws guarantee freedom of religion but also the "right" to bear arms. And just like typically religious folk don't consider murder a solution, typical gun owners don't either. But we have a logic disconnect--the "guns don't kill people" argument. Prayer doesn't kill people, not even in the hands of the most fanatical, lunatic extremist. But guns do. Guns even kill people when they are accidentally mishandled by a seasoned pro or sometimes an innocent child. Guns kill people in the heat of argument or in a moment of panic or fear.
Current statistics tell us that on average, 31 Americans are murdered with guns EVERY DAY and 151 are treated for a gun assault in an emergency room; 55 people kill themselves with a firearm, and 46 people are shot or killed in an accident with a gun. The U.S. firearm homicide rate is 20 times higher than the combined rates of 22 countries that are our peers in wealth and population. By all measurable standards known to mankind, the casualty rate for prayer is thus far zero. Can prayer prevent gun violence? Only insofar as it inspires us to take action. Because laws can prevent gun violence and so common sense mandates this is the tool we should be utilizing in our current crisis.
Now I return to the subject of God. No religion, person or country has a monopoly on the Divine; it is the simple fact of all of creation. "God" is our call to share this planet in the highest spirit of cooperation and symbiosis. What God is NOT is an excuse for marginalization, prejudice, hate and violence. This is why prayer is NOT the answer; WE ARE. We are called act upon the wisdom of the ages--love thy neighbor as thyself and do unto others as you would have done unto you. God is only a helpful construct insofar as you choose to take responsibility for ALL of your neighbors, your global family. We need to act while the sickness is still in the pinky toe. If we work together as one body, our health will be guaranteed. Divided by "prayer", alone with our thoughts of separateness, we allow the cancer to spread. Let us stand united and take steps to diminish threats through every channel available. You can pray, but don't sit still while you are doing it. Our right action is the answer to everyone's prayer.