Faith & Social Justice: In the spirit of Richard Overton and the 17th C. Levellers

“Christian” Hate-Speech & Inciting to Violence Returns

Those items to the left, along with T-shirts and bumper stickers with the same slogan seem like more American civil religion, right? Remember all the “Prayer groups for the President” during Bush’s first term?  Wrong.  Psalm 109: 8 reads “May his days be few and may another take his office!” It is one of the imprecatory or cursing psalms.  Written by someone persecuted by one of the wicked kings of Israel, this Psalm asks for Divine Violence against the person “prayed for.” In other words, these cute teddy bears, buttons, etc. are calling Pres. Obama a “wicked ruler” like one of Israel or Judah’s wicked rulers and asking for God to smite him dead!

Look at the verses that follow: May his children be fatherless and his wife a widow.  May his children wander about and beg, seeking food from the ruins they inhabit.  May the creditor seize all that he has; may strangers plunder the fruit of his toil.””  It goes on in this line.  Toward the end, the Psalmist says why he is so angry at the ruler he is cursing in prayer:  Because he has favored the rich and not the poor.  Well, I’m one who doesn’t think Pres. Obama has yet done enough for the poor, but American Christians have not prayed for the deaths of Presidents Reagan, Bush I, or Bush II, who all did so much damage to the poor in this country. 

Is it appropriate that we urge American Christians to pray cursing psalms?  Is that the kind of praying for enemies that Jesus encourages in the Sermon on the Mount?  I want us to share the Psalmist’s passion on behalf of the poor and the Psalmist’s fearlessness of those in high places–rather than cringing toward those in authority–but I find the violence in the heart displayed in this psalm to be exactly what Jesus was AGAINST.  And it leads to actual violence.

There are people out there who have mental problems–and many have guns.  What if Christians who don’t like a certain president, encourage this kind of hate and then someone decides to HELP God “honor this prayer” –to become a self-appointed instrument of God in smoting this president or another?  I think all those involved in making or marketing this kind of garbage, and every preacher who does not denounce it (especially preachers who do not like the current president), will have blood on their hands if someone attempts to assassinate Pres. Obama based on this Psalm.  Conservative Christians especially say that Muslim leaders do not do enough to denounce violent Islamic extremism (the Islamic leaders I know spend HUGE amounts of time denouncing such and trying to get rid of it). So, they need to be held to their own standards.   This is trawling for “Christian” terrorism and should not be tolerated.

Lest someone think that my concern stems only because I voted for this president, let me say this: I refused to speak in 2005 at a peace rally that included the leadership of a secular peace organization known as A.N.S.W.E.R. (Act Now to Stop War and End Racism) because ANSWER is actually a front group for an oldline Marxist organization that hates Israel (NOT just Israeli policies–ANSWER denies Israel’s right to exist at all!) and they passed out signs saying “Draft the Bush Twins.”  I did attend some mass rallies that ANSWER also attended (you can’t predict who else will show up), but I denounced their signs and brought my own with better messages–and I wrote about why such signs were not helpful, no matter who made them.  Everyone knew and still knows that I consider George W. Bush to deserve a trial for war crimes and crimes against humanity–but I denounced hate speech by some on the left against him and his family at every turn.

This is ALWAYS wrong–and it is especially dangerous in a society like ours with a long history of political violence.  The pulpits that either encourage this or are silent about it are no different from those that encouraged or were silent about the violence against civil rights workers in my childhood.

Time to be counted. My conservative Christian friends:  If you do not speak out against this, you are no worse than the hatemongers who stir up terrorists.  There are times when silence equals complicity and this is one of them. Speak up–no matter how you feel about this president.  In fact, the MORE you dislike him and the more your church knows that, the MORE you need to condemn this violent “praying.”  It is an abomination before God.


November 21, 2009 - Posted by | prayer, U.S. politics, violence


  1. Right On, Michael!!!

    Comment by Steve Schuler | November 24, 2009

  2. I would be a hypocrite if I criticized those people. Certainly, they are doing very wrong and you are right at writing this article, but I thought about doing the same when G.W. Bush was in charge (mea culpa).

    Comment by mountainguy | November 24, 2009

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