Mike O’Neal, Speaker of the Kansas House of Representatives, is the focus of protest after he sent out a memo to his Republican colleagues containing “a biblical prayer for our president” asking that the Christian god intervene in American politics to kick Barack Obama out of office: “Let his days be few. Let another take his office.”
O’Neal was quoting Psalm 109 from the Christian Bible, which is a prayer for divine revenge, including death and destruction for an enemy. Psalm 109 reads, “Hold not thy peace, O God of my praise, for the mouth of the wicked and the mouth of the deceitful are opened against me. They have spoken against me with a lying tongue. They compassed me about also with words of hatred, and fought against me without a cause. For my love they are my adversaries, but I give myself unto prayer, and they have rewarded me evil for good, hatred for my love. Set thou a wicked man over him, and let Satan stand at his right hand. When he shall be judged, let him be condemned, and let his prayer become sin. Let his days be few, and let another take his office. Let his children be fatherless, and his wife a widow. Let his children be continually vagabonds, and beg. Let them seek their bread also out of their desolate places. Let the extortioner catch all that he hath, and let the strangers spoil his labor. Let there be none to extend mercy unto him: Neither let there be any to favor his fatherless children. Let his posterity be cut off and in the generation following let their name be blotted out. Let the iniquity of his fathers be remembered with the Lord; and let not the sin of his mother be blotted out. Let them be before the Lord continually, that he may cut off the memory of them from the earth. Because that he remembered not to show mercy, but persecuted the poor and needy man, that he might even slay the broken in heart. As he loved cursing, so let it come unto him. As he delighted not in blessing, so let it be far from him. As he clothed himself with cursing like as with his garment, so let it come into his bowels like water, and like oil into his bones. Let it be unto him as the garment which covereth him, and for a girdle wherewith he is girded continually. Let this be the reward of mine adversaries from the Lord, and of them that speak evil against my soul.”
It goes on, and on, with dreary verses of self-pity and vengefulness, in which the author moans in self pity that nobody loves him, and everybody hates him, and that he should be exalted, while the people he hates should be cursed. Anyone who says that the message of the Bible is a consistent message of love should remember this part of the text. In citing Psalm 109, Mike O’Neal is not just hoping that Barack Obama dies soon. O’Neal is praying that Obama’s daughters never have any children, and that wander the country homeless, without receiving pity from anyone of whom they ask help.
In an odd part of the protest against Mike O’Neal’s cursing prayer against Barack Obama, two Christian ministers from Kansas, Tobias Schlingensiepen and Jim McCollough, are saying that they condemn O’Neal’s prayer because they are Christians. They write in an open letter, “As people of faith, we believe that Scripture should never be used to justify praying for the death of anyone. Speaker O’Neal’s hateful abuse of Scripture is unacceptable and a disgrace to his office, and he should immediately resign.”
The thing is that Psalm 109 clearly does justify praying for the death of other people. The cursing prayer is right there in the Bible, so it’s difficult to see how being “people of faith” has anything to do with rejection of violent prayer. Right there in the Psalms, a person of faith prays for death and destruction with pity. Schlingensiepen and McCollough say that O’Neal is abusing the Bible, but actually, O’Neal was soft-pedalling the Bible by not citing Psalm 109’s most nasty bits.
Furthermore, Schlingensiepen and McCollough are themselves pursuing a nasty path of Christian theocracy as they state that it is unacceptable for anyone in public office to “abuse” the Bible, to cite their holy text in a way that they don’t approve of. That’s establishing a religious test for public office, which is specifically prohibited by the Constitution of the United States of America. Schlingensiepen and McCollough are preaching their own version of religion in government to condemn O’Neal’s version of religion in government. That’s a maneuver as morally inconsistent as that of the writer of the 109th Psalm, who curses his enemy for cursing.
As for O’Neal, he has made his prayer, and in doing so, he has offered a simple public test of the power of prayer. O’Neal has prayed to his god that Barack Obama should have few days left in office. If prayer really works, then Obama should indeed have few days remaining as President of the United States.
How many is a few? Three? Seven? Twenty?
Few is a vague term, but I think that most people would agree that few definitely refers to a number less than one hundred.
So, that’s a pretty fair standard for evaluating Mike O’Neal’s prayer, I think. If Barack Obama is no longer President 100 days from now, we won’t be able to know whether the prayer was responsible. However, if Obama is still President of the United States 100 days from now, O’Neal’s prayer will have proved to be ineffective. If Obama’s days as President are not few, O’Neal will have significant cause to question the validity of his religion.