“Pray and Work” for a Better, Safer America

Latin for “Pray and Work”

Over the past two decades, Americans have been doing a lot of praying for all the massacres that have taken place in the public schools and universities of the United States, remembering the victims and their families. Of course, prayer is a good start to addressing the problem of mass murder in America. However, prayer, as good as it is, needs to be supplemented by action. For example, in the Scriptures of the Christian tradition, James writes,

“14 What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if someone claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save them? 15 Suppose a brother or a sister is without clothes and daily food. 16 If one of you says to them, ‘Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,’ but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it? 17 In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead” (James 2:14-17, NIV).

“Faith” pertains to saying prayers, mentally assenting to God’s existence, reciting creeds and even knowing the Scriptures. “Deeds” refer to applying one’s faith to real-life situations and problems. For James, a do-nothing kind of faith is empty, not relevant to life. Such faith is, as cliche as it may be, “all talk and no action.” After all, when has the world ever been changed for the better by good people doing nothing about its problems?

While the debates over gun control have been continuing in Washington for decades, American citizens, simply by going about their daily activities, say, enjoying their lives at a concert, are gunned down in cold blood. Others, for example, children, simply by attending primary schools of education, are senselessly and systematically murdered. No place, it seems, is off limits, including the workplace, universities, movie theaters, night clubs, restaurants, stores, malls, churches, mosques and synagogues. It is “open season” on the American people themselves. Politicians talk incessantly about the epidemic, but more, much more, needs to be done to stop it.

Good ideas are just that – ideas. They remain as such until they are implemented, brought to bear on the real world of flesh-and-blood human beings. Similarly, talking about the epidemic, bringing it to consciousness in the American people, is a necessary condition, but not a sufficient condition, to addressing America’s epidemic, because something concrete, something practical, must done about the problem. Likewise, in addressing the moral issue, praying about it is only half the equation. The other half is hard work, a relentless effort by both Republicans and Democrats in Washington to implement practical steps to curtail, if not virtually eliminate, the scourge of senseless killings sweeping across the nation.

I am an American and, therefore, I respect the Second Amendment to the Constitution of the United States, which grants to American citizens the right to bear arms. In the words of a Latin principle, Usum non tollit abusus, which may be translated “Abuse does not remove use.” That is to say, misusing rights, which are guaranteed by the Second Amendment, is not a legitimate reason for abolishing the right to bear arms. However, more, much more, can and should be done to disarm those who, due to their criminal history or emotional disorders, should not bear arms.

The Rule of St. Benedict, namely, ora et labora, “pray and work,” is right! By taking action in passing better and safer gun laws, the elected officials in Washington honor the victims of mass shootings, being a voice for them, saying, in effect, “Their deaths will not have been in vain.” Indeed, let Americans pray and work toward a better, safer nation; one in which its citizens may go about their lives without fear of being murdered; one where people may live to a ripe, old age, not being massacred by semi-automatic weapons.