When Thoughts and Prayers Aren't Enough

A Shooting Survivor's Journey into the Realities of Gun Violence

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Pub Date 20 Jul 2021 | Archive Date 05 Aug 2021

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Foreword INDIES Book of the Year Award Finalist Taylor Schumann never thought she'd be a victim of gun violence. But one spring day a man with a shotgun walked into her workplace and opened fire on her. While she survived, she was left with permanent wounds, both visible and invisible. In When Thoughts and Prayers Aren't Enough, Taylor invites us to see what it means to be a survivor after the news vehicles drive away and the media moves on. Healing is slow and complicated. As she suffered through surgeries, grueling rehabilitation, and counseling to repair the physical injuries and emotional trauma, she came face to face with the deep and lasting impact of gun violence. As she began grappling with the realities, Taylor experienced another painful truth: Christians have largely been absent from this issue. Gun violence undercuts God's vision of abundant life and community—and the silence of the church rings loudly in the ears of survivors and families of victims. Taylor weaves her own incredible story of survival and recovery into a larger conversation about gun violence in our country. With compassion and honesty, she encourages readers to reconsider their own engagement with the issue and to join her in envisioning a more hopeful, safer future for our nation. Move beyond thoughts and prayers and enter into grace-filled dialogue and action.

Foreword INDIES Book of the Year Award Finalist Taylor Schumann never thought she'd be a victim of gun violence. But one spring day a man with a shotgun walked into her workplace and opened...

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When Thoughts and Prayers Aren't Enough by Taylor S. Shumann is the brave story of a woman that survived a workplace shooting. Taylor does an amazing job of writing out what happened to her, exactly how she was feeling, and what we can do to potentially decrease gun violence. I appreciated so much her honesty in her writing. I loved this: "If the measurement of who we are is how important we are in the world, it will be nearly impossible to remember all of us have inherent worth simply because we are made in the image of Christ." Thanks to NetGalley for the free digital review copy. All opinions are my own.

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A 5-star non-fiction read! I'd like to put a copy into the hands of every Christian I know. The first part of the book covers the authors experience as the victim of a school shooting, as well as the aftermath (surgeries, hospitalizations, the healing process, PTSD, etc.) The middle part of the book covers gun violence, and how we can advocate for gun reform, providing statistics throughout. Schumann highlights the claims often made by gun rights activists and the lack of evidence for their claims. In fact, fewer guns and better laws (closing loopholes, background checks, safety and storage, instituting red flag laws, etc.) reduce gun violence in the home, reduce suicides, and reduce law enforcement shootings, both by police officers and against police officers. Throughout the book, she handles this controversial topic with a posture of humility and grace. In the end, she shares information about the "God and guns" culture and provides Bible verses, stories, and questions for Christians to reflect upon and consider. Ultimately, we ought to be mindful of the 300 victims of gun violence every single day in the United States (100 deaths, 200 injuries) and the vast cost to our communities. I highly recommend purchasing this book and giving it a read, no matter where you currently stand on the topic of guns. There is plenty of food for thought and every reader will learn something. Thank you, IVP and NetGalley.

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This book accomplished what it set out to achieve in its premise: telling a personal story that had a right to be told and connecting its message with a cultural wound that keeps bleeding. This author is qualified to pen a gripping critique on the gun violence pandemic that rages in America, given her own victimhood as a survivor of a school shooting. The factor of her faith is what helps make this book stand apart. Hands down, this book unpacks the best argument I’ve seen regarding the need for gun policy reform in our fair land, especially given the fact that the death toll is so very high. I doubt even the most ardent gun rights advocates could wrestle with the truths of this book and live thereafter unchanged. This is a sobering and essential read.

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Due to the heavy nature of the subject matter, it took me a while to make my way through it, but I think it helped to give her story some space. I was constantly impressed with the grace and nuance Taylor brings to this conversation. She establishes early on that she’s not simply interested in changing anyone’s mind but that her story is an invitation to take a new look at a hard topic. I kept finding myself reminded of the way Sarah and Beth have discussions on Pantsuit Politics . Some chapters are necessarily more statistic/numbers heavy, but they are balanced out with chapter that are more memoir feeling, which worked well for me as a reader.

While never proposing an obvious easy answer for gun violence, I appreciated Schumann’s focus on action, noting that we can’t fix this problem overnight but that doesn’t mean it’s not worth trying. Overall, Taylor’s story left me hopeful and more engaged in a conversation I’d previously found overwhelming.

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“It is hard and heavy work to reconcile your faith with your circumstances when your life looks different than you thought it would.“

I finished When Thoughts and Prayers Aren’t Enough with tears in my eyes and fire in my heart.

Part memoir and part research, Taylor Schumann shares her story as a shooting survivor and activist for gun control.

Part 1 is "A Survivor's Journey" and Part 2 is "Our Societal Challenge". Taylor's story is relatable to even those who haven't survived a shooting or similar trauma. As the opening quote illustrates, anyone whose life hasn't turned out as expected and who has struggled with dissonance in the contradictions of life will find themselves in parts of Taylor's journey.

"The answer to our prayers does not always mean God heals us of the suffering. Sometimes, it means we are sustained through it." Taylor shows us that when we can learn to hold these contradictions and tensions in both hands, we can experience peace.

Something that stood out to me in Taylor's story is how she said the day of the shooting wasn't the worst day of her life. Every day after the pain and trauma continued. The trauma continued in each new way her life was challenged and changed by the effects of the shooting--having to forgo "normal" activities on her honeymoon like swimming, hiding her scars in her wedding photos, struggling with tying her shoes or helping her child get dressed. All of these reminders of the trauma brought fresh grief and pain to the surface.

The way the trauma affected her thinking also helped me understand my clients when they have lived through "worst case scenarios". A major technique in cognitive-behavioral therapy is to challenge client's "irrational" fears by thinking of the low likelihood of worst case scenarios. But when you have lived through one of these unlikely events, what hope do you have left to cling to? When God didn't protect you or save you from the trauma, how do we continue to trust in his goodness and power?

When Thoughts and Prayers helps readers see how "everything happens for a reason" and other platitudes are mostly for our own comfort--so we don't have to face the reality that bad things sometimes happen for no reason. Taylor also challenges the mostly Western belief that our identity and value are tied to our accomplishments at work and progress toward goals. For when our ability to work as we did before is taken from us, where does our worth and value come from?

The research in part two covers domestic violence and firearm suicides; school and mass shootings, the cost of gun violence to communities; arguments against gun reform; and the personal cost of advocating for gun reform. While this section is largely research- and fact-based, I still found it very accessible and relatable. Her presentation of the statistics on the various loopholes and types of background checks with research-supported steps to reduce the violence taught me new arguments in support of gun control.

"I understand why people resort to thoughts and prayers; it is self-perseveration. And it effective for everyone but the victims. In the months after my own experience, this response began to feel increasingly insufficient. As I watched more lives taken and more lives ruined by gun violence, I found little solace in people offering to think and pray."

Taylor's ending brings the issue of gun violence back to our faith and theology to round out the research-based arguments in Part 2. "We are called to fight injustice because it grieves God's heart when any part of our community suffers--whether we experience it personally or not."

When one part of the body of Christ suffers, we all should feel that suffering. And we should all be compelled to respond. Taylor's story prompted me to think and pray a lot--but I want it to also prompt me to act.

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