WORLD

Paul Ryan Defends His Call For Prayers After Texas Mass Shooting: 'Prayer Works'

"The right thing to do is pray in moments like this."

08/11/2017 9:20 AM AEDT | Updated 08/11/2017 9:24 AM AEDT

House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) is defending his call for prayers after a gunman killed 26 people in a Texas church on Sunday.

Ryan and other politicians have been criticized for offering thoughts and prayers instead of legislative action to reduce gun violence. But on Monday night, Ryan told Fox News host Laura Ingraham:

"It's disappointing, it's sad, and this is what you'll get from the far secular left. People who do not have faith don't understand faith, I guess I'd have to say. And it is the right thing to do is to pray in moments like this, because you know what? Prayer works. And I know you believe that, and I believe that and when you hear the secular left doing this thing, it's no wonder you have so much polarization and disunity in this country when people think like that."

Sending "thoughts and prayers" on social media has become a way for both religious and secular people to grieve after national tragedies.

For religious people in particular, prayer is an important form of worship and a way to ask God for guidance and intervention.

Especially after great personal sorrow, faith helps people to cling to hope. The Rev. Frank Pomeroy, pastor of First Baptist Church of Sutherland Springs, lost his 14-year-old daughter and at least 25 other church members in Sunday's mass shooting. He told reporters on Monday that he has decided to "lean into the Lord."

"I don't understand, but I know my God does," Pomeroy said.

But it is one thing for Pomeroy to lean into his faith after the shooting at his church, and something completely different for Ryan to offer prayers without action ― especially after reportedly receiving more than $170,000 in contributions from gun rights groups in 2016.

In a statement, Bishops United Against Gun Violence, a group representing more than 70 Episcopal bishops, said that Christians are called to pray after the tragic shooting in Texas, but that prayer should also be accompanied by deep introspection about "whether we are complicit in the evils we deplore."

"In the wake of the heartbreaking shooting at First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs, Texas, we find ourselves both calling people to prayer, and wishing that the word did not come so readily to the lips of elected leaders who are quick to speak, but take no action on behalf of public safety," the bishops said. "Each of us has a role to play in our repentance. Elected representatives bear the responsibility of passing legislation that protects our citizenry. If our representatives are not up to this responsibility, we must replace them. In the meantime, however, we ask that in honor of our many murdered dead, elected leaders who behave as though successive episode of mass slaughter are simply the price our nation pays for freedom stop the reflexive and corrosive repetition of the phrase 'thoughts and prayers.'"

"One does not offer prayers in lieu of demonstrating political courage, but rather in preparation."

See Ryan and Ingraham's full discussion in the clip above.

This article has been updated with comments from Rev. Frank Pomeroy and Bishops United Against Gun Violence.

Also on HuffPost
Texas Shooting Victims Slideshow

More On This Topic