For example, an article over at Salon.com notes the following about Southern Baptist Pastor Wiley Drake:
What has garnered [Pastor Drake] the most media attention is what he said to national radio talk show host Alan Colmes in June.
“Are you praying for his death?" Colmes asked Drake, referring to President Obama. "Yes," Drake replied. "So you're praying for the death of the president of the United States?" Colmes asked. "Yes." "You would like for the president of the United States to die?" Colmes asked once more. "If he does not turn to God and does not turn his life around, I am asking God to enforce imprecatory prayers that are throughout the Scripture that would cause him death, that's correct."
Pastor Drake is not alone:
Pastor Steve Anderson of Faithful World Baptist Church in Tempe, Ariz., also incorporates this form of prayer in his worship. In fact, Frederick Clarkson of Religion Dispatches surmises that Anderson inspired one regular attendant of Faithful World Baptist, 28-year-old Chris Broughton, to show up to a speech by the president with two guns in hand when he issued the following sermon:
"You’re going to tell me that I’m supposed to pray for the socialist devil, murderer, infanticide, who wants to see young children, and he wants to see babies killed through abortion and partial-birth abortion and all these different things," Anderson said, referring to President Obama. "Nope. I’m not gonna pray for his good. I’m going to pray that he dies and goes to hell."
The article continues by nothing that Psalm 109 "is now a top Google search" and that this prayer "even inspired a line of bumper stickers and T-shirts that sinisterly read 'Pray for Obama,' while pointing to the Psalm, and in particular, the passage that calls for an end to present leadership."
Read it all.
My initial response was to say that it's one thing to oppose (even angrily or bitterly oppose) the President's policy initiatives and his positions on particular moral issues. But it's quite another thing to actively pray for his death and for his eternal damnation in hell. That's morally evil. And it's anti-Christian.
In response to all of this, I also recalled a particular passage from a New Testament epistle:
We know that we have passed from death to life because we love one another. Whoever does not love abides in death. All who hate a brother or sister are murderers, and you know that murderers do not have eternal life abiding in them (1 John 3:14-15 NRSV).
Using Psalm 109:8 as an imprecatory prayer for the President's death is a striking and disturbing example of abiding in death.
But let's say that a Christian genuinely regards the President as an enemy. I believe someone in a position of authority had something to say that's relevant to that scenario, too:
But I say to you that listen, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you (Luke 6:27 NRSV).
The person who invoked theological ethicist Stanley Hauerwas in response to a piece on this over at Faith and Theology has a point. Here's what Hauerwas says:
"Most North American Christians assume that they have a right, if not an obligation, to read the Bible. I challenge that assumption. No task is more important that for the Church to take the Bible out of the hands of individual Christians in North America. Let us no longer give the Bible to all children when they enter the third grade or whenever their assumed rise to Christian maturity is marked, such as eighth-grade commencements. Let us rather tell them and their parents that they are possessed by habits far too corrupt for them to be encouraged to read the Bible on their own."
When Christians use the Bible to pray for the death and damnation of other people, it does, indeed, suggest that such persons possess corrupt habits that disqualify them from reading the Bible on their own. Perhaps it should also disqualify them from exercising the authority to teach and preach as well. I'd wager that the writer of the first epistle of John would agree.