Prayer vs Gun Control? US Media in Uproar Over 'Prayer Shaming'

Fox News analyst Howard Kurtz holding up a copy of NY Daily News cover story reading 'God Isn't Fixing This,' published on December 3, 2015.
Fox News analyst Howard Kurtz holding up a copy of NY Daily News cover story reading 'God Isn't Fixing This,' published on December 3, 2015. | (Photo: Fox News video screencap)

A great partisan divide has gripped American media following the mass shooting in Southern California on Wednesday that left 14 people dead, with publications at each other's throats over the role and usefulness of prayer.

The New York Daily News ignited the argument with a front-page headline reading: "God Isn't Fixing This," aimed at Republican leaders, such as Ted Cruz, Rand Paul, Lindsey Graham and Paul Ryan, who offered their prayers in the wake of the shooting, but have historically been opposed to gun control.

"As latest batch of innocent Americans are left lying in pools of blood, cowards who could truly end gun scourge continue to hide behind meaningless platitudes," the NY Daily News added in its Thursday cover.

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The Atlantic's Emma Green pointed out that this attitude set in on Twitter as well, and described it as "full-on prayer shaming."

"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 wrote, and linked to several examples of Twitter comments calling for gun control action rather than politicians posting about their thoughts and prayers.

It continued in its analysis: "There are many assumptions packed into these attacks on prayer: that all religious people, and specifically Christians, are gun supporters, and vice versa. That people who care about gun control can't be religious, and if they are, they should keep quiet in the aftermath of yet another heart-wrenching act of violence."

The liberal Salon pushed back, however, arguing that there is no "war on prayer" taking place, but that the anger and frustration is directed at politicians offering empty gestures.

"It's offensive, after a record breaking Black Friday for gun sales, to go around making shows of piety as if mass shootings are an unavoidable act of nature and not an outgrowth of our revolting, destructive, child murdering national obsession with unrestrained access to killing machines," Salon wrote.

"It's not prayer shaming to say that a lot of us — a lot of us who find comfort in prayer — are sick of the very people whose rhetoric and policies are helping perpetuate a culture of death hiding helplessly behind God whenever blood is shed. Which happens to occur quite often," it added.

Fox News' Howard Kurtz weighed in on the debate by stating: "People get shot and killed. Liberals push gun control, where even modest steps with majority public support are blocked by the NRA. Conservatives push a war on radical Islam, which had resonance after San Bernardino given that the couple had become radicalized."

Kurtz said it is wrong for liberals to blame anti-abortion sentiment in the wake of the Planned Parenthood shooting last week that left three people dead, just as it is wrong for conservatives to blame President Barack Obama when police officers are killed because of the latter's criticism of law-enforcement issues.

"Everyone I talk to is depressed about the rising tide of shootings. Too bad the media are helping to divide us at a very difficult time," Kurtz added.

NBC News re-posted a NBC/WSJ survey from October on gun issues in America, highlighting how deep the partisan divide in society goes on the issue.

The poll found that a notable majority, or 83 percent, of Democratic primary voters insist on stricter gun laws in America, as Obama has called for throughout his time in office, while only 28 percent of their GOP counterparts agreed.

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