Q & R: responses to psalm 109:8 post

I received some interesting replies to my recent piece about the “Pray Psalm 109 for President Obama” story … (after the jump)

A reader wrote:

Q: Before I can join you in your rage over the out-of-context use of Psalm 109:8 I need to know if this is a pure rage on your part or driven by political ideology. If you can point me to the following I will be able to support you in your outrage at the minority of people who are using this Bible vierse to vent their frustration.
1. Have you spoken out against (blog, book, etc) the movies and fantacising many within your political ideology had about assassinating the former president?
2. Have you spoken out against (blog, book, etc) preachers such as Rev. Jeremiah Wright who use their pulpit not to rail against one individual, but a whole group of people? A person who preached not the destruction of the president but the country?
BTW the news article you link does a poor job of separating verse 8 from verse 9. And…since the verse is obviously meant to be taken out of context (otherwise just include the whole chapter) verse 9 can be assumed to not be part of this politically charged faux-prayer.

R: First, I’m not sure I’ve ever had “pure rage” about anything. Everything I do or say has some amount of impurity in it, I’d say. Be assured, I wouldn’t expect you to join me in any emotion unless you feel it yourself. Second – I’m not sure if your assumptions about my “political ideology” are accurate … I hope you won’t make unwarranted assumptions in that regard.
Regarding President Bush, I honestly never heard or read anything by anyone about him that is close to what is being said about President Obama. I’m not saying it never happened, just that I never came across it. I certainly never heard any Christian advocating praying for his death! I disagreed with many of the former President’s policies, but if you read the message I wrote to him some years ago, you’ll see that I sought to address him with sincere respect.
But let me assure you: if I heard anyone speaking in such a way about President Bush, or any person, I would not care if they were of my political persuasion or not: I would be against that kind of rhetoric. As a follower of Jesus, I aim to focus on saving and healing, not destroying or damning. Regarding Rev. Wright, although I wouldn’t use the kind of rhetoric he did, I don’t interpret his statements as meaning what you suggest they meant. But again, if he or anyone did advocate the destruction of human beings, I would of course be against it.
Another reader wrote:

Q: I’m very thankful for Christians who stand up against right-wing (and left-wing) hijacking of our faith. It’s difficult in my circle when far too often sympathy is given for those “Left Behinders” (who maybe should be called “Right [Behinds]”!!!). So thank you for standing up.
But I couldn’t help notice a possible inconsistency in your frustration in evangelicals not standing up against such horrible things like the Obama Prayer shirts and teddy bears, while a week or so ago you praised Paul Rauschenbusch for his mild scolding of whites for wishing Muslims and other “other” groups to “stand up against” actions done by their own people.
The difference as I see it is only subtle: race and faith are different, and as white folks we must certainly be conscious and aware of our position in this particular society (but for the record, I really do ask, “How will this reflect poorly on me?” when I hear of white extremists doing evil and murderous things). And as well you are speaking as an evangelical, not as a Richard Dawkins-like character pointing out exactly the “problem” with our faith.
So it seems to me perhaps mildly inconsistent to be upset about no outrage from evangelicals, while at the same time wishing whites would think twice when asking another group to show outrage at such things coming from their group.
Thanks for your time… and thank you so much for your contribution to my faith journey. Without your writings, I’d still be pretty lost in my faith. …I too am a “recovering fundamentalist.” I espouse all of your books, and have gained immensely from them, even if I haven’t yet come to the same conclusions on all issues.

R: This is a good question and it gets me thinking about the issue of consistency. You may be right – this may be inconsistent. But I think that people with power have obligations that people with less power don’t have. (A rough quote of Spiderman?) In the US, white people have kinds of power that we’re often unaware of (white privilege), and that power (along with related fears of losing it, I think) is very much in play in these contentious times. White Evangelicals have all the issues of white privilege, plus the added obligation to seek to reflect the character of Jesus Christ in all they say and do. (White Evangelicals have also been organized into a powerful political block, for better or worse – another dimension of power with attendant responsibility.) That’s part of the reason I respond so strongly to stories like the Psalm 109 prayer. But you may be right – I may be inconsistent on this. I’ll continue to think and pray about this, and thanks for pointing it out.