Some of our leaders are admittedly not the most tech-savvy.
But what happens when you combine the modern know-how of forwarding an e-mail with the intense anti-Obama attitude of Kansas’ Speaker of the House? You get Mike O’Neal, who recently e-mailed what he thought was a hilarious bumper sticker that suggested we should “Pray for Obama. Psalms 109:8.”
Let his days be few, and let another take his office. —Psalms 109:8
Some have taken offense that a prominent public figure would promote a Bible verse that urges God to execute the speedy demise of an enemy. You would think that a public official would think twice before suggesting anyone bump off a President. Rather than deviously sending out a threatening political statement, it’s much more likely that Speaker O’Neal was thoughtlessly giddy after learning a fact about his sacred scripture that some of us long ago discovered: the Bible contains some surprising and at times downright laughable little gems.
O’Neal defended the use of the quote by saying that he just meant the second half of the quote, not the whole part about the killing thing. What we’ve learned in this particular news story is that some conservative Christians, who often complain about people using such quotes out of context, are more than eager to use them out of context when it suits their purposes.
So what is the missing context of Psalms 109:8? If the phrase “Let his days be few” isn’t clear enough, the verse that follows makes it clearer than a Soldier of Fortune classified ad.
May his children be fatherless, and his wife a widow. —Psalms 109:9
So if Bible believers don’t have a problem exploring the Bible’s wild side, I’m sure that Speaker O’Neal won’t mind if I offer a few suggestions for a “Pray for O’Neal” bumper sticker. We’re all just having some fun here, right Mike?
1. Pray for O’Neal: Luke 6:35 But love your enemies, and do them good.
2. Pray for O’Neal: Psalms 34:13 Keep thy tongue from evil, and thy lips from speaking guile.
3. Pray for O’Neal: Psalms 38:5 My wounds stink and are corrupt because of my foolishness.
You will notice that it is actually possible to find appropriate quotes from the Bible that don’t contemplate killing anyone. (Of course, you may have to search around a bit to find them.)
On the somewhat serious side, this does lead to an interesting legal situation:
• Psalms 109:8 threatens to shorten someone’s life.
• The verse is tied to the President of the United States.
• Biblical literalists undoubtedly believe God could make good on this threat if he wanted to.
• It is illegal to make physical threats against the President.
So are they allowed to make this threatening statement with impunity by saying that it’s just a joke? Have you tried making a threat on an airplane and then claiming it was just a joke? If so, I hope your flight crew had the absolutely best sense of humor in the whole, entire world and that you had a good lawyer all lined up.
So I do think that O’Neal’s usage of Psalm 109 was extremely injudicious, mean-spirited toward Obama and to those who respectfully pray for our leaders, AND it was meant as a joke. I also think that violence-encouraging political speech is to be avoided for the good of us all. But, on the other hand, if this episode indicates that Christians are willing to lighten up and explore the unconventional passages of the Bible, then welcome aboard!