Faith Matters: Thoughts, prayers, policy and change all begin with words

  • The Rev. Dr. Megan Leary at the Central Congregational Church of Orange. STAFF PHOTO/PAUL FRANZ

Central Congregational Church of Orange
Published: 8/18/2023 1:30:22 PM
Modified: 8/18/2023 1:30:03 PM

Most school days I pick my sons up after school. Most of the days I pick them up, I am in line somewhere behind a van with a bumper sticker that reads “Raise Good Humans.” For some reason, this bumper sticker caught my attention and made me very curious. As I sit and wait for the kids to come out of school, I often find myself wondering about the family that belongs to the van and whether or not they are in fact raising good humans.

Bumper stickers are short little tidbits of information or pithy statements about the values of whoever is driving the car are all around us. One thing I have noticed about bumper stickers is that they generally fall into one of four categories.

There are the bumper stickers that don’t elicit much of a response, like stickers from vacation destinations or the kids’ schools.

There are stickers that provoke a great positive response, like those that promote favorite sports teams or feature positive slogans like “be happy!”

There are stickers that provoke a great negative response, like those that promote political candidates or feature slogans like “If you can read this, you’re too close.”

Then there is the fourth and final group. The group that I call the “huh” bumper stickers.

These are the stickers that feature slogans that leave the reader confused, curious or wanting more information, like: “Raise Good Humans.”

I bring this up today because very much like bumper stickers, which we read and react to, often without thinking much about it, there are similarly all these theological snippets that float about. We hear them, we read them on T-shirts, we see them on church signs, and we react — sometimes positively, sometimes negatively and sometimes we go “huh?”

So often we react to these little snippets of theology, and we don’t even realize it, yet they make their way into our subconscious and become integral parts of our own personal ideology.

Sometimes this is a good thing. We hear “God is love” and this takes root in our hearts and minds and becomes part of how we interact with the world around us.

However, there are the little snippets like “they are in a better place,” or “God hates (fill in the blank)” that also worm their way into our subconscious and take root, and they too shape how we interact with the world around us.

These little bumper sticker style phrases have made their way into our spiritual environments and too often warp our theological view of the world. The short sentences seem innocuous, however we need to remember that words matter! Words have incredible power that can harm or heal, depending on how we use them. Even words that seem to be positive or uplifting can have harmful undercurrents if we do not think about the context or way we use them. As I have already stated, words are powerful things and we each hold tremendous potential to bring about change if we use this power well.

For a long time when tragedy or illness struck, people responded by saying something like “I’ll keep you in my thoughts and prayers.” This response was long considered a good, faithful and faith-filled response.

However, I have noticed recently that this response has received much criticism. Not long ago I saw a bumper sticker that had the words “thoughts and prayers” crossed out and the words “policy and change” over it.

Policy and change. This seems to be a good and faithful response to many tragedies that happen; especially acts of violence and injustice.

However, I am not convinced that policy and change is a full response, even if it is a good and faithful response.

And while I understand the criticism of thoughts and prayers and the places from which the criticism stems, I am not convinced that thoughts and prayers should be canceled out, with policy and change used in its absence.

Instead, I’d like to suggest that we as Christians should strive for thoughtful policy and prayerful change. To me it is not a question of either/or but rather an answer of both/and, because words have power, and thoughts, prayer, policy and change all begin with words.

The Central Congregational Church of Orange, United Church of Christ, is located at 93 South Main Street. We currently offer three opportunities for worship: a video worship service posted on YouTube, our church website, or on our church Facebook page. We offer a drive-in style worship at 9:15 am in the church parking lot and a 10:15 a.m. service in our Sanctuary. Our Cellar Closet Thrift Shop is now open Saturdays 9:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m. For more information please call 978-544-6895, email and be sure to like us on Facebook!


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