Prayer-shaming: Criticism of public figures who, after a mass shooting or other tragic event, offer “thoughts and prayers” but do little or nothing to change policy.
Prayer-shaming was popularized by Emma Green, the managing editor of The Atlantic, in an article published online on December 3, one day after a shooting attack in San Bernardino, California, that left 14 people dead as well as the husband-and-wife shooters.
But it appeared as early as the afternoon of December 2 in a tweet by a conservative commentator (and “freedom enthusiast,” according to her Twitter bio), Kristina Ribali:
I really never thought I'd see the day when prayer shaming was a thing in America.— Kristina Ribali (@KristinaRibali) December 2, 2015
Ribali may have been referencing, among other things, a tweet by George Zornick, the Washington editor of the liberal publication The Nation, which was retweeted almost 5,500 times.
Compare + contrast: pic.twitter.com/vWXoIHd1Uy— George Zornick (@gzornick) December 2, 2015
The Daily News of New York, which also leans left, made a stark statement on the front page of its December 3 edition:
“God Isn’t Fixing This”
Igor Volsky, an editor at Think Progress, kept up a steady Twitter stream contrasting politicians’ “thoughts-and-prayers” tweets with the dollar amounts the politicians had received from the National Rifle Association. Here’s his response to a tweet by Texas Congressman Louie Gohmert:
Got $1,000 from NRA during the 2014 election cycle, so praying is about all you'll do to prevent gun violence https://t.co/fIeSsQRqrH— igorvolsky (@igorvolsky) December 3, 2015
In an article published December 3, Slate contributor Ruth Graham drew a distinction:
This week’s prominent “prayer shamers” aren’t really against prayer. They’re against platitudes. The problem is when “thoughts and prayers” are the only response to a public event that calls for political action
Cartoon by James MacLeod for Patheos.
On December 4, Esquire contributor Charles P. Pierce cited Matthew 23:23 – the passage about whited sepulchres – to make his point that Jesus himself was something of an expert at prayer-shaming.
And on December 5, Republican presidential candidate Ted Cruz referred to the Daily News headline in a speech to an Iowa audience:
“They’ve invented a new term for that, they call it now prayer shaming. Well let me tell the Democrats. Let me tell the mainstream media. Although I repeat myself, There has never been a time in the history of this country that we needed prayer more.”
Prayer-shaming is the latest -shaming compound to hit a popular nerve. Earlier this year, Californians indulged in – or deplored – drought-shaming. There’s a popular Facebook page and Twitter account called Passenger Shaming, launched in January 2013, that compiles photos of badly behaving airline passengers. Also in 2013, fat-shaming entered Urban Dictionary. And I mentioned slut-shaming in my 2012 words-of-the-year roundup, under slut. If there were to be a Suffix of the Year competition, I’d shamelessly nominate -shaming for this year’s top honor.