After a major tragedy like the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting, people offer condolences with the pledge to keep victims in their “thoughts and prayers.” But many have become disillusioned by the phrase.
The deadly shooting happened on Ash Wednesday, a day of repentance for many within the Catholic and Protestant Christian traditions. Religious leaders in South Florida say faith communities can offer more besides prayers.
“I think thoughts and prayers are appropriate for people to say that they're opening their hearts and their minds to see comfort happening for the people who have been affected,” said Rabbi Dr. Rafael Goldstein.
For him, prayer is a starting point. The next step is to have government act, and communities of faith should be working together to inspire change.
“I would love to be able to say that we could pray it away. The world doesn't work that way. God doesn't work that way,” said Goldstein. “God helps us to find the strength and the courage to do what we need to be doing, not do it for us.”
Rev. Durrell Watkins from Sunshine Cathedral in Fort Lauderdale says that religious leaders haven’t said enough on the issue of gun control and that clergy needs to challenge their congregations to be more politically involved.
“We are people of prayer, but when prayer becomes an excuse to not do anything then that isn't true prayer and it does cheapen the meaning of prayer. It even becomes part of the problem,” Watkins said.
He believes their one job is to use their platforms to help those who are hurting and confront injustices.
“Religious leaders need to re-embrace their prophetic tradition. We need to speak truth to power,” Watkins said.
Marjory Stoneman Douglas students have turned their grief into activism with the Never Again hashtag. Watkins and Goldstein believe faith communities should follow this example.