The recent mass shooting in New Zealand that resulted in the death of dozens of Muslims in a mosque has sparked some outrage in the United States. While most of the reactions have been sincere and genuine, there are the outliers that are simply using this tragedy as a way to attack people and positions they don’t like.
The prime example of this would be Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s response to the shooting. In a moment of scholarly brilliance, she tweeted out, “What good are your thoughts & prayers when they don’t even keep the pews safe?”
The people who offer those thoughts and prayers are almost genuine, and they are doing everything they can to help the victims spiritually. I’m sure that sounds ridiculous to atheists like Bill Maher, who laugh at people they see offering up prayers for the deceased instead of turning in their firearms as a reconciliation for someone else’s actions.
From a spiritual perspective, prayers do quite a lot. In Catholicism, for example, thoughts and prayers can help a soul that is trapped in purgatory, a sort of spiritual waiting room for heaven, leave and enter into an eternal paradise. The act of praying for someone is not a casual act either – it is how some people ask God to help those struggling around them.
Thoughts also offer support to victims and their families. When someone says they have somebody in their thoughts, that means they are thinking about them. In this sense, the thoughts serve as a way to console the victims and let them know that they don’t have to feel alone. Whenever somebody is going through a rough patch in life, it always helps if they feel as though they are not roughing it alone. People are hardwired to be social, and one of the biggest amplifiers of pain is loneliness. When you keep someone in your thoughts, that is the most practical way of being there for people you don’t live near or know at all. It is the best way you can make sure that person isn’t alone.
Thoughts and prayers are never wrong. The act of standing in solidarity with victims of a tragedy should never be ridiculed. The politicians who scold others for offering them don’t understand the importance of thoughts and prayers.