This Week in God

THIS WEEK IN GOD…. First up from the God Machine this week is a push among conservative political activists on something called “imprecatory” prayers, which are basically appeals to God to hurt, or possibly kill, a specific target.

It’s become an offensive political development, because a growing number of right-wing outlets are praying for something bad to happen to President Obama. Rabbi Brad Hirschfield had this report on BeliefNet this week. (thanks to reader K.P. for the heads-up)

Any time the citizens of a state, particularly a democracy, invoke their faith to pray for the demise of those they oppose politically, we should be concerned. When the call for such prayers becomes one of the most popular Google searches in the country, we should shake, especially those of us who believe in God, prayer and the Bible. Psalm 109, verse 8, went viral this morning in just that way.

Among the world’s top Google searches today are phrases that contain the words “Psalms 109 8”, and “Psalm 109 8 prayer for Obama”. For those of you who may not know that particular verse, it reads “May his days be few, may another take over his position.” And before anyone excuses this toxic use of scripture as nothing more than the wish that President Obama not be re-elected to a second term of office, the next verse in the psalm reads, “May his children be orphans and his wife a widow”.

In fact, the entire chapter is about the prayer for death of an evil person. Not to mention that anyone who knows enough Bible to have thought about this verse in particular, surely knows the entire chapter and appreciates its message. Pretty scary stuff.

All this is especially upsetting in light of the last weeks’ events at Fort Hood. Exactly how long is it going to take us to figure out the danger of linking faith claims and violent fantasies?

A few too many on the right have begun taking this very seriously, putting “Pray for Obama: Psalm 109:8” — prayers, in other words, for something awful to happen to the president — onto t-shirts, bumper stickers, mugs, and even teddy bears. It’s a bit of a dog whistle — the typical person who sees it might think it’s simply a prayer in support of the president, but a closer look makes the malicious intent clear.

Frank Schaeffer told Rachel Maddow this week that the right-wing activists embracing this lurid nonsense are dangerous, threatening, and “genuinely frightening.”

The more people in faith communities speak out against this nauseating hatred, the better.

Also from the God Machine this week: A large group of evangelical, Roman Catholic, and Orthodox Christian leaders have teamed up to promote something called the “Manhattan Declaration: A Call of Christian Conscience.” As the NYT reported, the signers of the document agree that “they will not cooperate with laws that they say could be used to compel their institutions to participate in abortions, or to bless or in any way recognize same-sex couples.”

The “Manhattan Declaration” is intended, at least in part, to signal the relevance of the religious right movement, and declare that those involved with the project will be unyielding on issues like gay marriage, abortion rights, and stem-cell research.

A friend of mine was on hand for the D.C. event unveiling the Declaration, and asked a good question: “The divorce rate is 50 percent. Earlier, Mr. [Chuck] Colson indicated that fatherlessness impacts the prison population. Is anyone here willing to state, for the record, that divorce is a bigger threat to the American family than same-sex marriage?”

The speakers didn’t want to touch it. Imagine that.