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Credit: Lucky Jackson@mrluckyjackson via Twitter

Writer Anne Lamott re-tweeted this post from Twitter user, Lucky Jackson, and when I saw it, I realized something.

The phrase “thoughts and prayers” is analogous to “everybody knew.”

A lot of the people in Hollywood who were aware that men in power were abusive have come out with this sanctimonious sound bite: “everybody knew,” as if to say, Yeah, all of you other people. You should have done something about this! Shame on you!

And then there’s “thoughts and prayers.” Normally, I don’t have a problem with people using this phrase, but it’s starting to get under my skin.

It could be that those who were killed today in Texas were in a church already. They were already awash in prayers. Then someone with an axe to grind came in with a gun and ended their lives.

Now, if he’d only had an actual axe with which to take out his frustrations, more likely than not, he would have only been able to harm a few people before being stopped.

But with a semi-automatic weapon? Wholesale slaughter.

What’s irking me is the fact that these politicians are using this platitude as their entire response to the issue. As if there’s no other recourse.

So I say, yes, let’s keep the victims in our thoughts and prayers, but, simultaneously, put our heads together to come up with a way to end this insanity. There must be a way to restore the soul of this nation.

Mother Emanuel Church

On the day before, he’d felt that his life wasn’t going the way he’d hoped. He might have thought of getting his GED or enrolling in trade school.

On the day before, he was just another kid with an ill-advised haircut. Most of his free time was spent surfing the net, looking for something he couldn’t quite name.

In another version of this day, he might have found a supportive mentor. A teacher from his youth who suggested a project to help the community, or a friend who offered him a job.

But on this day, his life took a terribly wrong turn. Dylann Roof brought a gun into a church and killed nine cherished children of God at a prayer meeting. The whole world cried out in pain upon hearing of this senseless tragedy.

What happened next was astounding. On the very next day, victims’ family members addressed him directly and said they’d forgiven him and were praying for him.

Now he’s entered into the public consciousness as a perpetrator instead of a person. It’s possible that with education and encouragement, he might have gone down a different path, using his own sense of disenfranchisement to help others in similar situations.

If only he had felt that his life had meaning on the day before. If only he’d known that no one else stands in the way of the life he’d hoped to achieve. If only he’d known that God’s grace extends into the hardest of hearts on the darkest of days.

Now, on this day, may we take comfort in the words of this wise sage, and come together to heal as a nation.

“We ask questions, Lord, we ask why… But even as we walk through the valley of the shadow of death….we can look through the windows of our faith and see hope and light, and we can hear your voice Lord, saying, I’m with you.”

Rev. John H. Gillison, Emanuel AME Church

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