WashU Expert: ‘Thoughts and prayers’ for San Bernardino highlight our deep differences

It’s a response made all too often by politicians in the wake of a mass shooting or violent act of terrorism: Keeping all in “thoughts and prayers.”

This week, in the wake of the Dec. 2 shooting incident in San Bernardino, Calif., that sentiment seemed to reached a breaking point and shed light on the wide political and rhetorical chasm dividing the country, said an expert on law and religion at Washington University in St. Louis.

“The war of words over ‘thoughts and prayers’ in response to the San Bernardino massacre is the latest illustration that our culture is fractured not only politically, but also along the transcendence line — the line that divides those who believe in a God who intervenes in the world and those who do not,” wrote John Inazu, JD, associate professor of law, in an opinion piece published Dec. 4 on CNN.com.


“Our deep differences are not going away anytime soon,” Inazu wrote. “Our own friends, neighbors and colleagues will increasingly fall on both sides of the transcendence line. In light of this reality and other deep differences between us, I have elsewhere argued that we might move toward a ‘confident pluralism,’ where we might try to extend tolerance, humility and patience toward those with whom we fundamentally disagree.”

That’s going to take work, he wrote.

“It will require slowing down our social media impulses, drafting and redrafting our written words, and pausing before our spoken words. None of this will be easy. But the coming years will give us plenty of opportunities — the transcendence line is here to stay,” Inazu wrote.

Inazu is author of the book “Confident Pluralism: Surviving and Thriving Through Deep Difference,” scheduled to be released in April 2016.

To read the full opinion piece, visit cnn.com/2015/12/04/opinions/inazu-thoughts-and-prayers-transcendence-line/index.html.

Editor’s Note: Media interested in interviewing Inazu can contact him at jinazu@wustl.edu or 314-935-6273.