The theodicy of federal government seeks to defend the goodness of government in the face of tragedy. So just as some religious groups might blame a weather event on insufficient fealty to the relevant god, some progressives blame — before we actually know what is even going on in a given tragedy — insufficient fealty, sacrifice, and offerings to the relevant god of federal government. And so they explain that the god of good government would have been able to take care of us if only we’d given it sufficient power to do so. In this case, that power is gun control. Progressives tend to believe that government — if made to have sufficient size, scope, and proper management over the affairs of man — will fix or at least seriously mitigate the problem of evil in the world. Conservatives tend to believe that human nature is flawed and inclined toward bad things. Conservatives believe that government, being made up of humans, will also be inclined toward bad things, and therefore it must be restrained and not given a dangerous amount of power. They tend to see greater success for fixing problems in society with voluntary associations and institutions, such as families and community and organizations. Progressives tend to believe that man can be perfected, and perfected through government action. These almost cartoonish denunciations of prayer we saw yesterday, combined with the implicit praises of government action, are best understood as a sort of primitive religious reaction to the problem that growth of the state still hasn’t fixed the problem of evil in the world….
Now, many gun control advocates said they weren’t disparaging prayer — however much that was exactly what was going on — so much as calling for other action. It’s good to remember that prayer is action. But whether your God is God or the FBI (or whatever agency you hope will seize up to 300 million guns in the country), it’s also true that there is no conflict between praying to God, who, as the Founders put it, creates us and endows us with certain inalienable rights, and other action. That could be working within a community to change people’s hearts and minds from violent ideology. It could be working with your neighbors to help them avoid choices that lead to dangerous social isolation. It could be teaching Sunday School or otherwise inculcating children in the faith. It could be managing your family well. It could be gun control or efforts to help families with adult members with mental illness. It could really be any number of things.
There is no conflict between praying to God and other action.
What’s wise is to understand that there are many options for working to improve society. If, like so many journalists, your particular religious denomination is the one that’s fundamentalist on gun control, fine. But understand that not everyone is part of your religious sect or shares your assumptions.
The bizarre outpouring from journalists of anti-Christian sentiment yesterday was not becoming. And some of it was downright alarming. But consider that many journalists didn’t really understand what they were doing. They are bad at understanding the religious practices of much of the country, of course. But they’re not particularly good at understanding their own theodicy and its attendant rites and rituals either.