Over the past year or so I have seen many of my fellow Christians including people that I can at least at one time call friends lose themselves and their faith, even though they think that they are defending their faith by subordinating to message of the Gospel which the Apostle Paul so well stated “For God was in Christ, reconciling the world to himself, no longer counting people’s sins against them. This is the wonderful message he has given us to tell others.” (2 Corinthians 5:19) or the command of Jesus who said: “But I tell you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who mistreat you and persecute you” (Matthew 5:44)
This is nowhere more apparent in the coarse invective leveled at the current President. Now I can care less whether someone agrees or disagrees with any national leader or politician’s policies. It is their right and duty to disagree and to even forcefully battle those policies in the legislatures, the ballot box and the public square. That is who we are as Americans and it is why we exist as a country. So regardless of political affiliation or political, social or economic policy it is absolutely right for people to support their political parties and social or economic agendas. Thus to those conservatives who oppose the policies of President Obama I say have at it, the same as to liberals who opposed President Bush. However I think for Christians there is a line that we do not cross and this comes from Scripture, Tradition, Reason and the testimony of the men and women who have borne the name of Christ for nearly 2000 years. The line is how we treat those that we are at enmity with especially when those people are the elected leaders of our country. Now to be sure conservative Christians as well as liberal Christians have every right as well as the responsibility to voice their opposition to policies of elected leaders that they believe are in opposition to the Gospel. However even Scripture puts restraints on how Christians are to exercise such opposition.
Paul states in Romans 13:1-7: “Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God. Therefore whoever resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment. For rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad. Would you have no fear of the one who is in authority? Then do what is good, and you will receive his approval, for he is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword in vain. For he is the servant of God, an avenger who carries out God’s wrath on the wrongdoer. Therefore one must be in subjection, not only to avoid God’s wrath but also for the sake of conscience. …”
And again in 1 Timothy 2:1-2: “First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way.”
Peter stated in 1 Peter 2:23: “Be subject for the Lord’s sake to every human institution, whether it be to the emperor as supreme”
But rather than follow these words they decide to follow the path of Old Testament “imprecatory” prayers and Psalms. These are prayers in which the one doing the praying prays for God’s judgment and even death on those who they believe are in opposition to God. The Passage in Psalm 109:7-11 is a case in point, verse 8 has been appropriated for an anti-Obama bumper sticker but the total package looks more like this:
7 When he is tried, let him be found guilty,
and may his prayers condemn him.
8 May his days be few;
may another take his place of leadership.
9 May his children be fatherless
and his wife a widow.
11 May a creditor seize all he has;
may strangers plunder the fruits of his labor.
12 May no one extend kindness to him
or take pity on his fatherless children.
To be sure there are those who use this as a joke, albeit not a very funny joke but others like Reverend Wiley Drake, former Vice President of the Southern Baptist Convention and pastor of First Southern Baptist Church in Buena Park California told Fox Radio talk show host Alan Colmes that he is praying for the death of the President:
Asked if there are others for whom Drake is praying “imprecatory prayer,” Drake hesitated before answering that there are several. “The usurper that is in the White House is one, B. Hussein Obama,” he said.
Later in the interview, Colmes returned to Drake’s answer to make sure he heard him right.
“Are you praying for his death?” Colmes asked.
“Yes,” Drake replied.
“So you’re praying for the death of the president of the United States?”
Colmes asked Drake if he was concerned that by saying that he might be placed on a Secret Service or FBI watch list, and if he believed it appropriate to talk or pray that way.
“I think it’s appropriate to pray the Word of God,” Drake said. “I’m not saying anything. What I am doing is repeating what God is saying, and if that puts me on somebody’s list, then I’ll just have to be on their list.”
“You would like for the president of the United States to die?” Colmes asked once more.
“If he does not turn to God and does not turn his life around, I am asking God to enforce imprecatory prayers that are throughout the Scripture that would cause him death, that’s correct.”[i]
That is pretty rough but there are a fair number of Christians who have this perspective which while it may be “biblical” because it is in the Bible is certainly not a prayer that Christians are commended to utter. In fact Reverend Drake misuses and abuses Scripture in order to wish President Obama dead. To apply a Psalm written towards specific enemies of Israel to an American President of any political party is simply bad theology and rotten hermenutical application of Scripture. In fact it is simply evilness which Reverend Drake wishes to cloak in Scripture.
This is in great contrast to the teachings of Jesus, the Apostles and the early Church Fathers all of whom lived, worked, ministered and evangelized under the reign of some of the most despotic and evil Emperors who ever ruled the Roman Empire, men whose policies frequently resulted the persecution and even execution of Christians whose only crime was that the would not confess that “Caesar is Lord.” It is intersting thaty Jesus though very harsh on the Sanhedrin the Scribes and the Pharisees never spoke ill of the Roman Empire, nor Caesar. Following Jesus early church lived and died under such persecution but leaders enjoined Christians never to wish ill on anyone. Tertullian wrote:
“If it is the fact that men bearing the name of Romans are found to be enemies of Rome, why are we, on the ground that we are regarded as enemies, denied the name of Romans? We may be at once Romans and foes of Rome, when men passing for Romans are discovered to be enemies of their country. So the affection, and fealty, and reverence, due to the emperors do not consist in such tokens of homage as these, which even hostility may be zealous in performing, chiefly as a cloak to its purposes; but in those ways which Deity as certainly enjoins on us, as they are held to be necessary in the case of all men as well as emperors. Deeds of true heart-goodness are not due by us to emperors alone. We never do good with respect of persons; for in our own interest we conduct ourselves as those who take no payment either of praise or premium from man, but from God, who both requires and remunerates an impartial benevolence. We are the same to emperors as to our ordinary neighbors. For we are equally forbidden to wish ill, to do ill, to speak ill, to think ill of all men. The thing we must not do to an emperor, we must not do to any one else: what we would not do to anybody, a fortiori, perhaps we should not do to him whom God has been pleased so highly to exalt.”[ii]
And in Chapter XXXII
There is also another and a greater necessity for our offering prayer in behalf of the emperors, nay, for the complete stability of the empire, and for Roman interests in general. For we know that a mighty shock impending over the whole earth—in fact, the very end of all things threatening dreadful woes—is only retarded by the continued existence of the Roman empire. We have no desire, then, to be overtaken by these dire events; and in praying that their coming may be delayed, we are lending our aid to Rome’s duration. More than this, though we decline to swear by the genii of the Cæsars, we swear by their safety, which is worth far more than all your genii. Are you ignorant that these genii are called “Dæmones,” and thence the diminutive name “Dæmonia” is applied to them? We respect in the emperors the ordinance of God, who has set them over the nations. We know that there is that in them which God has willed; and to what God has willed we desire all safety, and we count an oath by it a great oath. But as for demons, that is, your genii, we have been in the habit of exorcising them, not of swearing by them, and thereby conferring on them divine honour.[iii]
When the men and women of the early church refused to obey Roman authorities they did so not to overturn the political system or to pray for the death of whatever Caesar was persecuting them. They advocated respect for Caesar and government authority even when they by the virtue of their faith in Christ could not acclaim Caesar as Lord. Today’s leaders of this movement throw all caution to the wind and elect to pray for the death of the President. Even in the Old Testament there are warnings against cursing the King. “Do not curse the king, even in your thoughts” Ecclesiastes 10:20a and Ecclesiastes 8:2 “Keep the king’s command because of your sacred oath.”
If liberals were saying such things about George Bush or Ronald Reagan the very people who say such things about President Obama would call those who made the comments traitors and call for their censure or even prosecution. This imprecatory prayer campaign against President Obama and others is led by a fringe element of Evangelical, Fundamentalist leaders like Reverend Drake, Reverend Steven Anderson and the ever carping former Chaplain, defrocked Priest and convicted criminal Gordon Klingenschmitt. They are capitalizing on the frustration that many feel in regard to the state of the country and the political frustration of not being in power. Those who play this sordid game have placed a political agenda over the Gospel and have surrendered themselves not to Jesus but to disreputable political hacks who will co-opt faith in order to get votes for their side. Yes I have seen liberals act stupidly and hatefully against conservative Presidents, in fact quite a few times even referring to them as Nazis, but I can never recall anything as blasphemous as I have seen in this campaign. If the leaders of this campaign believe that this will bring people to Christ or change the moral and spiritual climate or course of the nation they are sadly misled. Their impudence may net a short term political gain but it will further drive those who need Jesus away from him and his church. Thanks guys for your great witness to the love of God and the reconcilliation that we are to be ambassadors of, the King who laid down his life that the world might be saved. Oh wait, that salvation doesn’t apply to those that are your political opponents, sorry for the confusion.
[i] Associated Baptist Press Article retrieved from http://www.abpnews.com/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=4126&Itemid=53 on 6 February 2010
[ii] Tertullian Chapter XXXVI retrieved from http://www.ccel.org/ccel/schaff/anf03.iv.iii.xxxvi.html?highlight=respect,for,emperor#highlight 6 February 2010
[iii] Ibid, Chapter XXXII retrieved from http://www.ccel.org/ccel/schaff/anf03.iv.iii.xxxii.html?highlight=respect,for,emperor#highlight 6 February 2010