It’s become a sort of twisted American ritual: A lone white gunman opens fire on a crowd of people. Americans cry out for someone to do something and are met with shoulder shrugs, mumblings about “the price of freedom” and assurances that the people elected to protect them are sending their “thoughts and prayers.”

Politicians have managed to make a once benign, if not comforting, phrase sound almost profane.

It’s not that there is anything wrong with praying for those who are suffering. In fact, if you are a religious believer, it’s an imperative. I’m not in the camp that dismisses prayer as superstitious mumbo-jumbo embraced only by the unenlightened. I’m a person who prays and who has been prayed for and knows its power.

But it’s not enough. Nor is it what we hire politicians to do. We elect them to fix problems, enact policies and keep us safe.

Instead, we have elected officials – many of them self-described conservative Christians who also happen to take money from the National Rifle Association – using cries for “thoughts and prayers” as some sort of inoculation against responsibility or action when it comes to gun violence.

In his address to the nation Monday, instead of offering specific action, President Trump and his White House team avoided any discussion of policy, as though it were only a spiritual matter.

“We pray for the entire nation to find unity and peace, and we pray for the day when evil is banished, and the innocent are safe from hatred and from fear.”

But Christians especially believe that our faith leads us to action.

“If we profess to follow Jesus, all of our talk must be indivisibly connected to all of our deeds. If there are no deeds, then the talk is meaningless,” the Rev. Eugene F. Rivers III told me.

“The contrived, empty platitudes (from these politicians) are a public relations gimmick to avoid confronting this ideologically captive religion which bears no fruit.”

The “ideologically captive religion” to which Rivers refers is white evangelical Christianity, which has so intertwined itself with the Republican Party and conservative political ideology, it’s hard to know where one ends and the other begins.

Strangely, when it comes to other issues these same Christians don’t feign helplessness and limit solutions to “thoughts and prayers.”

If the gunman in Las Vegas had been named Mohammed, you can be sure that these same leaders would be offering a laundry list of “solutions” to keep more Mohammeds out of America.

For that matter, have you ever seen a politician just throw up his or her hands about legalized abortion – which has been the law of the land for 40 years – and say there is nothing that can be done, but “thoughts and prayers” all around?

For those of us who identify as Christians, it’s particularly painful to watch elected officials use their Christian faith to try to spiritualize mass murder, while their inaction leads to people traumatized, maimed, disabled or dead.

Mass shootings are not acts of God. They are not natural disasters. We know they are preventable, because no other country lives with this kind of madness.