Monday, 4 January 2010

Theology FAIL: praying for Obama's death

Apparently some Southern Baptist pastors have been using Psalm 109:8 as a prayer for Obama's death: "May his days be few; may another take his place of leadership. May his children be fatherless, and his wife a widow." This even inspired a line of creepy bumper stickers and T-shirts that read "Pray for Obama."

One of these pastors says: "You’re going to tell me that I’m supposed to pray for the socialist devil, murderer, infanticide, who wants to see young children, and he wants to see babies killed through abortion and partial-birth abortion and all these different things. Nope. I’m not gonna pray for his good. I’m going to pray that he dies and goes to hell."

Fail submitted by Paul Fischer.

45 Comments:

remylow said...

This reminded me of something Stanley hauerwas once said, that americans no longer posses the necessary character for reading the bible. Thus, it should be taken out of their hands.

Ari said...

The story gets better when you find the videos of him (Steven Anderson) being tasered by US border security guys.

Weekend Fisher said...

Of course you do (and should) find it appalling that there is a hate-monger praying for Obama's death, or that anyone would join in such nastiness.

But I'm curious, exactly where do you draw the lines on which people should love their enemies and which it's ok if they don't?

I don't think we get to draw lines, do we? (I know people _do_, obviously, but whether it's the mark of a follower of Christ is a different question.)

Take care & God bless
Anne / WF

Mike Bull said...

Dear Ben

Yes, these guys are nuts, but...

Modern Christians fail to understand the need for imprecatory prayer. When leaders do evil, praying for God's judgment is what we are called to do. That is our ministry. We are Spirit-filled elders with access to the true thoneroom. When we pray, in unity, it changes history.

We are to obey those in power, and we are also to leave vengeance to God. Praying for judgment upon a leader with bloodlust of any kind (whether murdering civilians overseas or slaughtering the unborn) is godly ministry. Bombing abortion clinics is not.

These bumper sticker guys, despite the gimmick, and the attitude Hauerwas describes, are correct. But what action would Hauerwas advocate? To withhold such judgment is to hand your culture over to Satan. Biblically, there is such a thing as good death. It is a judicial death to be carried out by the state:

"Good Death"
http://www.bullartistry.com.au/wp/2009/04/10/good-death-7/
See also:
"Dashing Her Little Ones"
http://www.bullartistry.com.au/wp/2009/07/21/dashing-her-little-ones/

Obama gets the FAIL on this issue. And vengeance will come upon our entire culture if we don't change. To doubt that is to doubt the character of God. Do we think He doesn't hear the screams? Our reprobate minds show we are already under His judgment.

No offense, but your post on this issue is just as creepy.

Blessings from Oz.

Rev. Mike Srpeng said...

They certainly propose a fundamentalist version of praying the Psalms. But let's face it, praying the so-called "imprecatory" Psalms is a Godly pursuit. I pray that God would do whatever it takes to get this man to stop what he is doing and if a Psalms fits in then it fits in. let’s just make sure we are not boasting about it with bumper stickers and other ghetto venues.

Anthony said...

At what point do our prayers for judgement become our own vengeance, as if we might in some way bring about the demise of our leaders? Too often, Christians seem to feed off the possibility (is this perhaps the basis of their hope?) that something bad, that is, judgement, might happen to somebody else. I am not sure that praying for judgement on others is in our brief. Indeed, I am sure that the opposite is true; that we are to pray for peoples' salvation.

These guys and Hauerwas cannot both be right. Hauerwas' polemic is against 'these guys'. Hauerwas would remind us that the polis of peace has nothing to do with the polis of violence.

remylow said...

Maybe we could start with bush and Cheney then, that "god's righteous judgment will come down" upon them. But hang on, god only cares about some types of violence.

Arni Zachariassen said...

There's a fail to this fail, which I blogged about a couple of months ago (quoting Scot McKnight - http://www.arnizachariassen.com/ithinkibelieve/?p=524 ):

"Here's the sad and tragic irony: interpreters today (Goldingay, Alter) agree that vv. 6-19 are the words of the opponents, the accusers, the enemies of God's king (David) and not the words of the man of God! ... In other words, these folks have clipped -- probably reading the psalm mistakenly -- words from the opponents of God and used for themselves."

Idiots.

Anthony Paul Smith said...

I opened the comments hoping I would find a bunch of Christians pulling the "but, aren't they sort of right" card. So glad I wasn't disappointed, for I might have to rethink things if you ever were to surprise me.

This is why you can't accept the pervasive nihilism behind third way approaches that attempt to bring together "the bright ideas of conservatives" with progressive ends.

Anonymous said...

In times like these, I tend to defer to Tupac

Time to heal our women, be real to our women
And if we don't we'll have a race of babies
That will hate the ladies, that make the babies
And since a man can't make one
He has no right to tell a woman when and where to create one

(Keep Ya Head Up, 1993)

Robert Minto said...

The greatest thing about these theology FAIL posts is the scarifying defenses they garner. I open the comments each time with a shivery, macabre delight, knowing that I will encounter within real live specimens of whatever species of theological failure is under consideration at the moment... But seriously, Rev. Srpeng above said the creepiest thing I've heard all year (all three days of it): "I pray that God would do whatever it takes to get this man to stop what he is doing and if a Psalms fits in then it fits in." Gulp.

Hill said...

I think I can do one better: not only did I anticipate the posts here, I anticipated Anthony anticipating them and commenting. God's in his heaven; all's right with the world. Interesting thought experiment: would it have been ok to "pray for" GWB in this fashion? (I'm operating under the assumption that he was at least the proximate cause of a significant amount of morally dubious warfare.)

John David Penniman said...

"Ghetto venues?" wtf?

Also, I am new to this: are imprecatory prayers like the cruciatus curse?

Tyler Wittman said...

Wouldn't it be better to just pray for a change of heart? Imprecatory prayers? Fine, but I don't see why we have to hope he ends up in hell.

Every one of us is just as wicked as Obama without Christ, but you aren't hoping you end up in hell. This is stupid.

J said...

"Let death seize upon them, and let them go down quick into hell: for wickedness is in their dwellings, and among them." Psalms 55:15. Se-lah

The Psalmist could sling a bit (tho' he's chockful of ressentiment, as the PoMo's say---).

Robert Angison said...

These fellows dont' speak for the Southern Baptists. Drake is simply an individual who happen to be Southern Baptist.

As a Southern Bapitst I am opposed to this kind of silliness. Also I would like to point out that Steve Anderson is not a Southern Baptist. He is an independent Baptist, and a rather peculiar one at that. Though Wiley Drake served as a 2nd VP for the convention it doesn't mean much.

Sadly my home convention is encumbered with people like this, though most Baptists I know are far more informed than these two ruffians. So please, don't confuse the rest of Southern Baptist life with these two (paricularly Anderson as he is not a Southern Baptist.)

You are the Church!
Robert Angison

prayingpsalm109:8forphilosophyposeurs said...

Here's a prime example of philosophy FAIL:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AwTJXHNP0bg

Josh said...

As someone above has indicated, some of the responses to this post have been even scarier than the bumper sticker in question.

It seems to me that there are parts of the Old Testament, including those psalms that convey hate for enemies, that are simply irreconcilable (though understandable when their original context is considered) with the enemy-love taught by Jesus in the New Testament. I suspect persons who fail to recognize and admit as much hold to notions of divine dictation and biblical inerrancy.

Weekend Fisher said...

Those who *really* hold to Biblical inerrancy hold to "love your enemies"; anyone else is just paying lip-service.

The "FAIL!" series is a prime example of the same moral conundrum as the Obama-haters: if you're convinced someone is evil (as that guy is of Obama, and as Ben is of that guy), then how do you do take an unapologetic stand against the evil without falling on the wrong side of "love your enemies"?

Take care & God bless
Anne / WF

kim fabricius said...

Such a prayer for anyone is psychologically pathological and theologically obscene - with the possible exception of Simon Cowell. Besides, what kind of imprecatory prayer is a petition for someone to go to hell when our hope must be that there he will meet the One who has emptied it and stands guard?

Nate W said...

I think it's important to point out that Steven Anderson, the guy most infamous for this kind of thing, and one of the few who actually seems to be serious about it, only has about ten people in his ultra-fringe church, and thank God for that. Just about everyone else I've run across who've been quoting Psalm 109 have used it as a tasteless joke, but I've never gotten the impression that they're actually praying for Obama's death.

joshuacurtisdorman said...

Lots of terribly unexpected comments. Joseph Blenkinsopp has a nice short essay in his "Sketchbook of Biblical Theology" on whether or not we can anymore pray prayers like Ps. 109. Of course people like Pete Peters (http://www.scripturesforamerica.org/) are rare . . wait . . right? Thanks for the Fail: it is.

Adam Kotsko said...

I predicted Hill's comment, and further predict that he will claim to have predicted mine!

CJW said...

Another blog has importantly pointed out that OT interpreters generally see the words quoted from Ps 109 as the words of his enemies, not the psalmist. In this case, these are words by God's enemies, not his anointed; the cruel and deceptive accusers mentioned earlier.
http://blog.beliefnet.com/jesuscreed/2009/12/this-pray-for-obama-bumper-sti.html

Paul said...

The sad thing about this FAIL is it is not a position that can any of us can neutralize in the least. The quote Ben pulled, where the pastor is confident Obama "wants to see babies killed" betrays a mentality so divorced from reality it cannot be coaxed or forced back by fellow citizens or by fellow Christians.

I've encountered rumblings on the web from people from "deep red" states who are genuinely frightened for the President, based on the hatred for him they've noticed in their communities.

An Obama effigy was hung from a noose in Georgia this past weekend. The hatred is only growing, and people who identify themselves as Christians are abetting it.

Ben Myers said...

Just a quick note on this thread: although I don't normally censor comments, I decided to delete the comments by "J", as well as the string of commentary by others about "J". My apology to those regular commenters who've been deleted -- it's nothing personal, I just felt that this whole "J" business had released a bad odour into the atmosphere, and I wanted to clear the air...

John Hartley said...

Hey, come on chaps ... lighten up!

The great thing about prayer is that you can't use it to twist God's arm: it's up to us to pray, and it's up to him to decide what to do in answer to our prayers. So if I pray for something bad ... well, God is not fooled and he won't be taken in! Alleluia!

Yours in Christ - JOHN HARTLEY.

kim fabricius said...

The psalmist cursed s.o.bs. That is not in dispute. And the psychology of imprecation - e.g. as a defence mechanism or a coping strategy (cf. the Stockholm Syndrome) - certainly bears thinking about. Okay. But it is simply a category mistake to move, willy-nilly, from the descriptive to the prescriptive.

Above all, however, there is the little problem of the New Testament for the Burn-in-Hell! brigade. Or does it make you a liberal, or a Marcionite, to suggest that, for example, Luke 6:27f., Romans 12:14ff., and James 3:10ff. - a pretty good NT spread - rule out imprecatory prayers for Christians?

John Sullivan said...

“I’m going to pray that he dies and goes to hell.”
Show me how this is compatible with Christ.

john sullivan said...

J.
You can't possibly suggest that these scriptures you've cited speak of imprecatory prayer? Telling President Obama that he may go to hell if he doesn't change his actions is a far cry from praying that he die and go to hell.
Speaking out about sin and it's consequence is ok but what these guys are doing is not that... and frankly they may be in danger of hell fire themselves for this kind of thing.
It's chilling.

William Black said...

For all the pious posturing that seems to be going on with our praying friends, I'm just glad that these guys are not the ones in charge and on the throne. Is Obama's sin any worse than mine, or Bush's, or Clinton's, or Reagan's, or Carter's or Nixon's? What about those Southern 'Christians' of multiple denominations who for generations cheerfully justified chattel slavery from the Bible? Or the priest who sexually abuses boys? Or the 60% of Evangelical men who view online pornography? I can only be grateful that God the Son wasn't so alarmed at the behavior of the Herods and Augustuses and Caiaphases, as well as the prostitutes, sodomites, tax collectors and valueless Democrats of his day, that he tried to find some better batch of humans to deal with. Yes, there are imprecatory prayers in the Psalms and commandments to stone sinners in the Torah. But there has only ever been one person who had an actual right (obligation, even?) to pray those prayers or fling the first stone. And so far as I can tell, the record indicates that he refused to do so. Those are alarmingly strong epithets to hurl at our President - baby killer and what not. Perhaps these pray-ers are better people than I, but the charge that God lays against me (and them, too, if they have ears to hear) is actually far worse. You see, I crucified Jesus. It was my sin that nailed him to the cross. It was my bondage to sin and death that made his rescue mission necessary. If Jesus loves sinners, even such sinners as Mr Obama, who am I to refuse to love them? The problem with that sort of calculus is that one is likely to find oneself on the wrong side of the judgment equation. Jesus himself tells stories about people who are freed from impossible-to-ever-repay debts (let's call him sinner #1), but who then turn around and demand that the next guy (sinner #2) pay up or else. I seem to recall that things did not turn out well for sinner #1 as a result of his inability to connect the dots of grace. I personally think that these good people should leave the judging to God. A willingness to suffer for the cause of love and the sake of the poor and oppressed will always be a much better fit on those who profess to be followers of the Jesus of the gospels.

Kampen said...

Cripes.

Also, since when do American's know what Socialism is? (Or Fascism, for that matter, which Obama has also been accused of.

Anonymous said...

Fundamentalist stupidity is one thing, stupidity masking as erudition is another:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AwTJXHNP0bg

Weekend Fisher said...

William: Thank you.

Anonymous said...

one can come close to following the 'logic' of these people when you grant that they fervently believe that america is a 'christian nation'

from here it follows that anyone doing harm to america is anti-christian and to be opposed

combine that with their fox-news driven belief that'everything the president does is wrong and he is actively working to destroy america'
and suddenly president obmama is the anti-christ
and must be stopped -
he's intentionally destroying god's church/state!

im of course not defending it as reasonable -
im trying to point out the danger of the church-state mentality and the need for the church to oppose this theology head-on
(see also: declaration, barmen)

Anonymous said...

Never curse anyone for any reason whatsoever because the act of cursing always diminishes the feeling heart of the person who offers the curse.

Never submit to hatred. This discipline is obviously always difficult. But it is our obligation. See what a wound life is. Reality Itself calls everyone to forgiveness, love, and the acceptance of limitations. This is what love requires. This is what love does.

Every individual is only seeking not to be destroyed.

Daniel said...

I found myself unconsciously wishing/praying for colonel Quatitch to get killed in the movie Avatar as he was bulldozing the Tree of Souls. The Na'vi were more generous in their spirituality initially only calling on the "total life force" to come to their defense (it/he/she didn't, well, sort of). Turns out the evil colonel dies, but not at the hand of a Na'vi but a marine-wolf in smurfs clothing. Perhaps some Moravian missionaries will show up in Avatar 2 and introduce the Na'vi to Christian non-violence, but more likely evangelicals will have them wearing brassieres and joining the NRA after signing away their land. Still, it's difficult to resist not having hard, even violent, thoughts/prayers about the RDA Mining Corp. and the CEO's etc. that bankroll the genocide on Pandora. And, well, there's the board of directors, and the big stock-holders.... Do you think one has to name them all individually in one's smiteological prayers? Or can one just ask God for a neutron-like judgement that kills all the corporate sinners along with the sin but leaves the financial investments in tact? The future holds some difficult moral questions to wrestle with, obliged.

dontwaitforme said...

Robert Angison,
Thank you for defending our denomination. As a born and raised Alabama-sinner-turned-Southern-Baptist Christian by the grace of God alone, it pains me to see that a small fragment of people (who knows how they stay in the convention?) are able to shame the name of the whole.
William Black,
Is it completely necessary to include "Southern" in the description of the the Christians who tried to defend slavery with the Bible? You and I both know that they were not only in the South. The South is no longer as backwards as we get debit for. There are just as many backwards people in blue states who prayed for Bush to die.
Anyone who prays (to the air mind you) for someone to die and go to hell needs Jesus, because they don't have faith in Him. Just like I needed faith 4 years ago, and still do.

andib said...

How far away can a pastor go astray?
Unbelievable!

Mike Bull said...

After reading Arni's quote from Scot McKnight, I had some more thoughts about this that you might find interesting:

http://www.bullartistry.com.au/wp/2010/02/01/may-his-days-be-few/

alterfaith said...

I had some Romans 2:24 Bumper Stickers made up and am pasting them over the Psalm 109 stickers.

The problem with imprecatory prayers is it only takes one deluded soul who thinks he is called to be the rod in God's hand to answer the prayers of the righteous.

As far as I know our president has never forced a woman to have an abortion or counseled anyone to become gay or forced anyone to get married. It is arrogant to call someone evil because he has different ideas about how people in a divers society can get along.

Have we become a nation of brainwashed dittoheads?

bundesbedenkentraeger said...

Praying for death, judgement and other bad things happening to poeple is not of God, it is caused by hates, and God hates hate.
We are to love, we are to pray for guidance. We are to love our next which means we sshall not want to see them judged, we shall want to pray for them so they change their minds and see the truth.
Praying for judgement means having decided already yourself what is for God to decide. You order God to execute your own commandment. So I pray for those who pray for Obamas death or judgment, whatever, because I think they are being decieved by Satan to set themselves above God and reject love to chose hate. I dearly hope God will hear my prayers and make them love again.

God bless you all
De Benny

bundesbedenkentraeger said...

Praying for death, judgement and other bad things happening to poeple is not of God, it is caused by hates, and God hates hate.
We are to love, we are to pray for guidance. We are to love our next which means we sshall not want to see them judged, we shall want to pray for them so they change their minds and see the truth.
Praying for judgement means having decided already yourself what is for God to decide. You order God to execute your own commandment. So I pray for those who pray for Obamas death or judgment, whatever, because I think they are being decieved by Satan to set themselves above God and reject love to chose hate. I dearly hope God will hear my prayers and make them love again.

God bless you all
De Benny

Daniel said...

I found myself unconsciously wishing/praying for colonel Quatitch to get killed in the movie Avatar as he was bulldozing the Tree of Souls. The Na'vi were more generous in their spirituality initially only calling on the "total life force" to come to their defense (it/he/she didn't, well, sort of). Turns out the evil colonel dies, but not at the hand of a Na'vi but a marine-wolf in smurfs clothing. Perhaps some Moravian missionaries will show up in Avatar 2 and introduce the Na'vi to Christian non-violence, but more likely evangelicals will have them wearing brassieres and joining the NRA after signing away their land. Still, it's difficult to resist not having hard, even violent, thoughts/prayers about the RDA Mining Corp. and the CEO's etc. that bankroll the genocide on Pandora. And, well, there's the board of directors, and the big stock-holders.... Do you think one has to name them all individually in one's smiteological prayers? Or can one just ask God for a neutron-like judgement that kills all the corporate sinners along with the sin but leaves the financial investments in tact? The future holds some difficult moral questions to wrestle with, obliged.

dontwaitforme said...

Robert Angison,
Thank you for defending our denomination. As a born and raised Alabama-sinner-turned-Southern-Baptist Christian by the grace of God alone, it pains me to see that a small fragment of people (who knows how they stay in the convention?) are able to shame the name of the whole.
William Black,
Is it completely necessary to include "Southern" in the description of the the Christians who tried to defend slavery with the Bible? You and I both know that they were not only in the South. The South is no longer as backwards as we get debit for. There are just as many backwards people in blue states who prayed for Bush to die.
Anyone who prays (to the air mind you) for someone to die and go to hell needs Jesus, because they don't have faith in Him. Just like I needed faith 4 years ago, and still do.

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