Rejecting Reality was kind enough to link to my post about Wiley Drake’s let-us-pray-agin-em campaign directed against Americans United for Separation of Church and State, and to say lovely things about my blog. Plus, he knits. Lovely! I aspire to knit but I suppose that would involve sitting down and, you know, concentrating long enough to learn it.
He also said something that shocks me:
I went to a church for many years that would pray that President Clinton would be removed from power ‘by any means necessary’. Really? I don’t remember Jesus praying that Herod or Caesar would befall harm.
Wow. Has anyone else been to a church like this? People honestly pray for presidents to be removed from office? Wow. I guess it’s the “by any means necessary” that freaks me out, and I can see why RR is not pleased by it. I wonder, did people pray for him to be assassinated? Have a heart attack? Get hit by a car? Zowie.
I did find more on imprecatory prayers at www.bible.org, in a lengthy essay by Bob Deffinbaugh, Th.M., entitled “Psalm 109: A Prayer for the Punishment of the Wicked.” This at least made it seem as though there are very particular conditions that should be met before imprecating is an option.
David’s Indictment of His Enemies: His Innocence and Their Iniquity (109: 1-5)
“1 For the choir director. A Psalm of David. O God of my praise, Do not be silent! 2 For they have opened the wicked and deceitful mouth against me; They have spoken against me with a lying tongue. 3 They have also surrounded me with words of hatred, And fought against me without cause. 4 In return for my love they act as my accusers; But I am in prayer. 5 Thus they have repaid me evil for good, And hatred for my love.” (NASB)
Verses 1-5 are crucial, not only to this psalm, but to our understanding of imprecation. In this introductory section David makes two claims: (1) his innocence and (2) the iniquity of his enemies. The God who is the object of his praise (v. 1; cf. also Deut. 10:21; Jer. 17:14) is also the One who receives his petitions. David’s plea that God not remain silent in verse 1b is a cry for help, as elsewhere (cf. Ps. 28:1; 35:22; 83:1). The basis for David’s petition is then given in verses 2-5. David is accused by his enemies but is innocent of their charges. He has done good to his enemies, which they have repaid with evil.
I believe that verses 1-5 are crucial to a correct understanding of imprecatory prayers because they inform us about the prerequisites for imprecation. The requirements are rigorous for those who would thus pray. Likewise, those who are worthy of divine wrath are carefully defined. Only the innocent dare pray as David does, and only the wicked need fear the fate which David petitions God to execute.
This sounds very similar to the concept of jihad among the Muslims. The Koran laid out specific reasons for jihad and also conventions to observe during jihad, such as not bringing jihad against women or children. Most likely someone will send me a death threat, but basically everything al-Qaeda doesn’t observe in this regard, the Koran seems to require. Then again, what do I know? I’m just a little agnostic in a big world. And I haven’t seen what they’ve seen.
Also, unless I’m mistaken, it doesn’t sound like Wiley Drake thought about it this way. AU informed the IRS of a church that was breaking the law. The complaint they sent to the IRS did not say that Drake couldn’t talk about the candidates he approves of, only that he couldn’t use his position as the leader of a tax-exempt 501(c)3 organization to do so. They merely observed that the law requires churches to refrain from political activity or lose their tax-exempt status, and that Mr. Drake’s chosen actions violate this law. In this sense, Mr. Drake is clearly not “innocent,” and therefore is not entitled to unleash the wrath of the Lord on AU. Unless, of course, he thinks he’s above the law, which is something we have entirely too much of in this country.
Off to read the latest issue of Outreach and to stomp my size 5 1/2 foot at something else…