Here goes nothin'
To my knowledge I have over the last eight years successfully avoided talking about American popular politics on this blog. I've never endorsed a candidate or an issue. My politics are not of this world. I am the voluntary slave of a benevolent totalitarian despot named Rabbi Yeshua. He is my only politic.
When I first embraced this idea I immediately became apolitical in the common sense of the word. I had some revolutionary breakthroughs about my primary identity. I am not - at some foundational level - a Republican or a Democrat. For that matter, I am not fundamentally an American. This doesn't mean that I hate Republicans, Democrats or America. I happen to love all three. I've spent my life announcing good news to the people of America. It is my chosen mission field. But it doesn't change my political allegiance to King Jesus.
I am not trying to be the guy who takes jokes too seriously or stirs things up. Neither am I secretly trying to make some covert pro-Obama statement in what I am about to say. (I'm rather dreading the comments that may follow actually.) That said, as a pastor and theologian, I need to call some evangelical Christians into account for an increasingly hate-filled "joke" that has gone way too far. (Please keep in mind that I am the pastor who makes PG-13 poker-themed comedies in my spare time. I can normally take a joke just fine.)
On social networking sites (and bumper stickers) people have been "jokingly" advocating praying for the death of President Obama. Today three of my Facebook friends invited me into this fan group:
DEAR LORD, THIS YEAR YOU TOOK MY FAVORITE ACTOR, PATRICK SWAYZIE. YOU TOOK MY FAVORITE ACTRESS, FARAH FAWCETT. YOU TOOK MY FAVORITE SINGER, MICHAEL JACKSON. I JUST WANTED TO LET YOU KNOW, MY FAVORITE PRESIDENT IS BARACK OBAMA. AMEN
I get the joke part of this. But I would like to think Christians are better than this. If the last line was, "My favorite pastor is Joe Boyd. Amen" would you still be a fan? Even if you didn't like my ideas and teachings?
There is another similar "movement" that is far worse. I've seen it on Facebook as well, but more frequently on bumper stickers in my neighborhood. (And once in my church parking lot.) It reads "Pray for President Obama: Psalm 109:8"
It seems innocent enough until you read the passage in context:
"May his days be few; may another take his place of leadership. May his children be fatherless and his wife a widow. May his children be wandering beggars! May they be driven from their ruined homes..." - Psalm 109:8-9
This is a curse written by a psalmist (maybe David) several thousand years ago - an occasional practice in Old Testament poetry and literature, but a tactic remarkably absent in the life and teachings of Jesus and his early followers.
Jesus says things like, "You have heard that it was said, 'Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.' But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that?"
Paul says that we should pray for our leaders in this way in 1 Timothy 2: "I urge, then, first of all, that requests, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for everyone— for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. This is good, and pleases God our Savior, who wants all men to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth."
Let's not forget exactly who Jesus and Paul are taking about. Within three years of saying this statement, Jesus' enemies arrested, tortured, framed and murdered him. Yet he did not retaliate...or pray for their death. He prayed on the cross for their forgiveness.
The leaders of Paul's Roman world were, generally speaking, off the charts immoral, violent, selfish ego-maniacs. I Timothy was written in the 60's AD - during the rule of Emperor Nero, possibly the most vile and brutal Christian-torturer of all time. Nero was certified evil. Paul says, "pray for him...that we may live peaceful lives." If anyone deserved a Facebook fan club to pray that God would kill him, it was Nero. Paul must have listened when Jesus said to love his enemies.
Some of my readers and friends actually like President Obama. But, some of you really dislike him. Some of you see him as your ultimate enemy. Maybe he is your enemy. (If he is I refer you up four paragraphs.) I'm not asking you to support his policies. I don't mind if you think he is a raging out-of-control communist ideologue. I'm not that into the politics de jour to care about those sorts of things - again, it's not my Kingdom. My whole point here is that when you joke about praying for his death - or seriously pray for his death - you are inconsistent with the teachings and actions of Jesus and Paul. You are breeding hatred and murderous fantasies in your heart and mind. You are breaking the sixth commandment in your spirit. In my opinion, you should repent immediately and pray for forgiveness and peace. You might even want to apologize to him here. And stop asking people to join you in your sin.