Twenty six people were killed this weekend in a shooting at a church in Texas. Among many, many others, House Speaker Paul Ryan tweeted about the tragedy. “Reports out of Texas are devastating. The people of Sutherland Springs need our prayers right now.”. In response, actor Wil Wheaton (among others) fired back: “The murdered victims were in a church. If prayers did anything, they’d still be alive, you worthless sack of shit.” (Apologies for the language).
Wheaton has since walked back his tweet, saying that he intended no offense to people of “sincere faith”, and that his only intent was to point out the lack of action of the House Speaker in particular (and the GOP in general) on the matter of gun control. That’s a pretty interesting interpretation, since the tweet said literally nothing about gun control or what the Speaker could have done to prevent this – all it did was call prayer useless and throw crude language around.
There are a few points I’d like to bring up about this twitter exchange, as a Christian and a libertarian. Briefly, I’ll mention a couple of points from a Christian perspective:
Wheaton’s not a Christian, but he (and plenty of others) seem to have a misunderstanding about Christianity and prayers. Ryan’s tweet was not about the safety of the people of Sutherland Springs – it was too late for that. Christians offer prayers in time of tragedy to ask God to comfort the survivors. I think that mentioning these prayers publicly on Twitter or Facebook is tacky, but many feel that it’s a way of sharing sympathy and support.
Also, Christians don’t expect safety here on Earth. A look at the Bible will confirm that. Christ Himself was killed, after all, and the Bible has plenty of other examples of apostles who were persecuted for their beliefs. We are told, several times, that we will be hated for our belief in Christ, and for Wheaton to act like this somehow disproves our faith shows a fundamental misunderstanding of what we believe.
The more interesting point to me isn’t what Wheaton believes about my faith (which is between me and God, and isn’t impacted in the slightest by any commentary from Star Trek actors) but what his later comments reveal about his own faith. Wheaton seems to believe that more gun control laws would have prevented this tragedy. Shooting people in general is illegal, and the shooter had been dishonorably discharged from the military, which is equivalent to having a felony conviction on his record. It was illegal for him to have a gun, let alone shoot someone with it.
In closing, I’d like to add one more comment. Wil, the murdered people were already protected by law. If laws did anything, they’d still be alive, you worthless… well, you know the rest.