Over the last few weeks (Gawker, via Ackerman) the words “Prayer for Obama – Psalm 109:8” have been popping up on t-shirts and bumper stickers, bandied about by the same obnoxious pinheads that make up the Teabaggers and the Radical Reactionary Right, the kind of people who support Palin and Bachman and listen obsessively to Limbaugh and Beck, the astounding 26% of the country who persist in believing that Obama is not legitimately our sitting President.
The 8th verse is the one being cited (KJV):
v8. Let his days be few; and let another take his office.
This is, supposedly, a jest of sorts aimed at Obama, but it isn’t very funny given the text of the Psalm’s next verse and our history of Presidential assassinations:
v9. Let his children be fatherless, and his wife a widow.
This “prayer” then is clearly a wish for Obama’s death. Does disseminating this message constitute a threat against the president, under US law? Well, no; there has to be an actual demonstration of serious intent. There were many overt “Kill Bush” placards and t-shirts shown around publically and none of them resulted in prosecutions, covered by 1st Amendment free speech protection although IMHO they were all despicable. We can’t, in a democracy, settle our differences through violence and advocating for it is irresponsible and counterproductive.
Legal though it may be, even hinting at killing a government official is, at the least, in very poor taste as Digby, Amanda Marcotte and CathyFromCanada have noted. CafePress, where the “Psalm109:8” t-shirt was on offer, has quite properly closed down the page as they did with a “Kill Bush” shirt a few years ago. Many rational Christian bloggers were equally appalled. Diana Butler Bass, writing on a Beliefnet blog, cites the eminent CS Lewis who wrote:
In some of the Psalms the spirit of hatred which strikes us in the face is like the heat from a furnace mouth. In others the same spirit ceases to be frightful only by becoming (to a modern mind) almost comic in its naivety. Examples can be found all over the Psalter, but perhaps the worst is in 109.
The hatred is there–festering, gloating, undisguised–and also we should be wicked if we in any way condoned or approved it, or (worse still) used it to justify similar passions in ourselves.
Worse still, indeed.
But as Michael Bryson in comments at Digby’s points out, Psalm 109 was according to tradition written by a fellow named David, who was the leader of his nation. David was kvetching about some of his detractors, who were lying and plotting his downfall:
v1. Hold not thy peace, O God of my praise;
v2. For the mouth of the wicked and the mouth of the deceitful are opened against me: they have spoken against me with a lying tongue.
v3. They compassed me about also with words of hatred; and fought against me without a cause.
which sounds much like what the Teabaggers and healthcare improvement opponents and global warming denialists are up to.
This sounds a lot like them, too:
v16. Because that he remembered not to shew mercy, but persecuted the poor and needy man, that he might even slay the broken in heart.
Just exactly the attitude of those on the Right who would deny even minimal healthcare to the poor and needy, and whose solution to the absence of health care for millions of Americans is that those who cannot afford it should just go ahead and die.
The great irony here, then, entirely unappreciated by the VRWC supplicants, is that those who offer Psalm 109 as a “Prayer for Obama” are actually praying for their own destruction and not his. It is the most ignorant and foolish prayer possible, condemned by critical Christian thinkers, vile and despicable and entirely grounded not in Christ-like philosophy but rather in blind unadulterated hatred, so blind that they cannot see that their hatred is directed at themselves.
And this is the nut of the problem with contemporary Christianity, a co-existing duality of rational thought and outright insanity cohabiting under a single appellation. On the one hand there are ignorant “Christian” fools like the Psalm 109 fanatics, blind and ignoble and disgusting in their hatred for The Other, actually a long list of Others, spewing condemnation without thought or rationality, merely gut-level antipathy founded on their own self-generated loathing for anyone and everyone not just exactly like themselves, claiming to be Christian without feeling any need to adhere to anything near Christ’s teachings. On the other hand there are rational – if mildly deluded – Christians who take the teachings of the Gospels to heart and want to engender peace, tolerance and love as the basic emotional components of a godly and goodly existence in this life. Until the Good Christians openly and unreservedly condemn the evil spewing of hatred and divisiveness by the False Christians, however, the haters will continue to dominate the field and eventually devour us all. Tolerance of the evil-doers will not suffice.
While there are no entirely “peaceful” religions, some are less onerous than others. Satan’s minions of hate and violence will continue to control the public face of Christianity unless and until gospel-based Christians stand up for what is right and cast them out. That hasn’t happened, though, in nearly 2000 years of inter-nicine conflict. Until then it seems to me a truly secular government, as ours is supposed to be, should no longer tolerate religious-based interference with our governance at the same time we prop up those same interfering religious organizations with tax breaks.
The whole notion of tax exemptions for religious organizations should be revisited, and those who will not expressly forbid their communicants from actions like advocating for the death of a president should start paying taxes for the privilege of speaking their mind, just like the rest of us.
No taxes, no free speech. Simple, straightforward, and easy to understand.