SAN BERNARDINO, Calif. (Christian Examiner) – While media pundits debated terrorism Wednesday night, the Southern California mass shooting touched off another heated debate on social media over the value of prayer, and the New York Daily News escalated the dispute with an inflammatory and even sacrilegious headline screaming: "GOD ISN'T FIXING THIS."
It isn't clear when the argument on Twitter and Facebook started, although George Zornick, Washington editor for the liberal-leaning The Nation, sent out a Tweet several hours after the shooting with two pictures comparing the Twitter reactions of the Democratic candidates and the Republican candidates for president.
Democrats such as Hillary Clinton called for more gun control – "We must take action to stop gun violence now," she wrote – while Republicans such as Ted Cruz called for prayer. "Our prayers are with the victims, their families, and the first responders," he wrote.
Zornick then wrote, "Compare + contrast" – apparently implying that the GOP response was meaningless. It was re-Tweeted more than 5,000 times, with thousands of people posting replies, giving their own take on prayer.
"They can pray to god all they want. Where f--- was god when this went down?" one person (@futbol420) wrote. Another (@lydiardfan) added, "One set of responses appeals to land of make believe rather than advocating action be taken."
Zornick's Tweet led Emma Green, managing editor of TheAtlantic.com, to post a story claiming Zornick had practiced "prayer shaming."
"There's a clear claim being made here, and one with an edge: Democrats care about doing something and taking action while Republicans waste time offering meaningless prayers," Green wrote, referencing his Tweet. "These two reactions, policy-making and praying, are portrayed as mutually exclusive, coming from totally contrasting worldviews. Elsewhere on Twitter, full-on prayer shaming set in: Anger about the shooting was turned not toward the perpetrator or perpetrators, whose identities are still unknown, but at those who offered their prayers."
Green noted that prayer and political action have been "deeply entwined" in American history, such as during the women's suffrage and civil rights movements.
"At one time in American history, liberals and conservatives shared a language of God, but that's clearly no longer the case; any invocation of faith is taken as implicit advocacy of right-wing political beliefs," Green wrote.
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Green later wrote on Twitter that he was shaming the politicians and not prayer itself, but by then the two sides were deep in argument. The Daily News then got involved, showing Tweets by GOP politicians Cruz, Lindsey Graham, Rand Paul and Paul Ryan, all of whom said they were praying for those in California.
"GOD ISN'T FIXING THIS," the front page headline read, in bold white letters. The subhead continued: "[C]owards who could truly end gun scourge continue to hide behind meaningless platitudes."
The newspaper's story was a bit more nuanced, saying that prayer was fine but it needed to be paired with gun control. Still, the headline seemed to take a heated debate to another level.
"Idiot newspaper, of course God could fix it! Until we turn back to God & seek forgiveness, more evil will spread" one person (@ellietwits) wrote.
Another person (@ctsotsoros) on Twitter wrote, "Shame on you. Proof u r out of touch w Americans on this. Please continue to prove ur lack of objectivity."