The Disingenuous Nature of the Christian Right Summed Up on a Texas Billboard

A billboard with a biblical scripture on it has popped up on a Victoria, TX billboard, and the Secret Service has been called in to investigate.

Pray for Obama Billboard w/ Psalm 109:8

A billboard in Victoria, TX asks people to “Pray for Obama”, and then disingenuously cites Psalm 109:8, which reads, “May his days be few; may another take his office.”

The billboard asks people to “Pray for Obama”, and then disingenuously cites “Psalms [plural sic!] 109:8″, which reads:

“May his days be few; may another take his office.”

At first glance, the “speech” is not hateful. In fact, the billboard appears to be anything but – a call for all people to pray for President Obama, complete with an image of hands gently folded in prayer, a portrait of the president, and a Bible verse.

However, it is the verse that is cited (Psalm 109:8) that is causing the stir. The single verse (8) simply calls for the removal of someone (King David in the original context) from “office”.

However, the Secret Service was probably called in because the full text of Psalm 109:8-15 reads:

(8) May his days be few; may another take his office. (9) May his children be orphans, and his wife a widow. (10) May his children wander about and beg; may they be driven out of the ruins they inhabit. (11) May the creditor seize all that he has; may strangers plunder the fruits of his toil. (12) May there be no one to do him a kindness, nor anyone to pity his orphaned children. (13) May his posterity be cut off; may his name be blotted out in the second generation. (14) May the iniquity of his father be remembered before the LORD, and do not let the sin of his mother be blotted out. (15) Let them be before the LORD continually, and may his memory be cut off from the earth.

(The Bible is pleasant, huh?)

The fact that the context of Psalm 109 is actually recounting the words of a righteous King David, who is complaining about the lies and threats his enemies are making against him is apparently lost on the individual who placed this ad.

The beginning of the Psalm (109:1-7) reads:

(1) Do not be silent, O God of my praise. (2) For wicked and deceitful mouths are opened against me, speaking against me with lying tongues. (3) They beset me with words of hate, and attack me without cause. (4) In return for my love they accuse me, even while I make prayer for them. (5) So they reward me evil for good, and hatred for my love. (6) They say, “Appoint a wicked man against him; let an accuser stand on his right. (7) When he is tried, let him be found guilty; let his prayer be counted as sin. (and then Psa. 109:8) May his days be few; may another take his office…

Like most fundamentalist prooftexting and exegesis, the self-indicting context is completely ignored. The fact that the one proclaiming the words “May his days be few; may another take his office” is said to be a wicked man is completely ignored. Likewise, the fact that David is appealing to God about the lies and threats his enemies are making against him is a contextual fact completely overlooked by the one who created this disingenuous billboard.

I say the billboard is “disingenuous” because Christianity does preserve a tradition that Christians should “pray for” those in authority. It is found in 1 Timothy 2:1-3:

(1) I urge, then, first of all, that petitions, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for all people, (2) for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. (3) This is good, and pleases God our Savior…

However, despite this clear Christian command to pray for (not against) those in power, the Victoria, TX billboard prays for President Obama’s demise:

“May his days be few; may another take his office” (followed by all those pleasant verses calling for the death and demise of his family).

It is not so much that the billboard is “hate speech”, unless you want to argue (as many do) that the Bible is filled with what can be described as hate speech, like the prayer at the end of Psalm 137:9 where the author begs for revenge against his enemies and proclaims:

“Happy shall they be who take your little ones and dash them against the rock!

(because celebrating the murder of innocent children always plays well in religious circles.)

Rather, for me this billboard exposes the sheer duplicity and disingenuous nature of many conservative Christians, who seek to pick and choose scriptures that serve their preconceived political desires, and who use the Bible to heap hate and wishes of demise upon their perceived political enemies. It looks bad for all people of faith, and only adds to the ever growing body of evidence supporting the claim that the deliberate infusion of religion into politics in this country is approaching the downright toxic levels that we find in Islamic republics around the world. Conservative Christians rightfully denounce the religious oppression of these fundamentalist Islamic regimes, but then call for the very same Christian version of sharia law in America. Go figure!

Of course, this isn’t the first time that conservative Christians have used Psalm 109 to deride their political opponents. Joel Watts has chronicled several instances of the abuse of this particular scripture in politics.

But given that Christians are commanded to pray for their leaders, this billboard is nothing more than disingenuous religious prooftexting.

Then again, what more should we expect from the Christian right these days?

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16 Responses

  1. These charming “Christian” ditties are called imprecatory prayers. They call up destruction, ruin, death, etc. upon the families of those whom the devout despise. Jesus would be so proud.

  2. Lord, thank you for your generous gift of President Obama to the people of America. Thank you for his shining character, his exceptional intellect and his loving acceptance of those that despise him. May his days in office be long and may he have many grandchildren to enjoy. In Jesus’ name we pray, Amen.

  3. Christian Conservatives support this.

    Christian Liberals likely do NOT support this, but there are only a couple dozen of them around.

  4. The disingenuity of the Christian Right summed up in this one, solitary billboard which was likely sponsored by one person or one small group is ALMOST as disingenuous as ascribing the thought behind this one solitary billboard in downtown Only-God-Knows-Where to ALL Christians with conservative political ideologies.

    The author should be embarrassed by their own startlingly flawed thinking.

  5. Just a small comment. Terrific piece, insightful analysis that is right on. Great work.

  6. a) i love how conservatives think these are all ‘isolated incidents’.
    b) i love how your attempted ‘defense’ of the billboard is to attack the critic (and apparently the city in which the billboard is located).
    c) i love how you are ‘embarrassed’ for me, instead of being embarrassed of what someone professing your own political ideology said on a billboard.

    then again, this is what we’ve come to expect from the christian right. congrats! you made my point for me.

  7. Reblogged this on okieprogressive.

  8. I first became aware of your blog when reading about the Copper Scroll Project. I happen to live in the same town where Jim conceived of his wacky discoveries. In coffee shops, I have spent a few minutes listening to the man go on about the stuff he promotes. I enjoyed your commenting on the Copper Scroll. Thanks again for the great blog you have here. Thanks. I am not a fan of the far right Christian loonies.

  9. Shalom,

    Here we find a classic example of the conservative church taking scripture out of context, something they are adept at. Their entire theology is built on this fundamental mis-practice, and now they prove it publicly. May they continue in this manner and drive all to the Truth!

  10. Your point is excellent. I’m glad to have found your blog through Reddit.

    In another vein: I pray a lot of ugly prayers not unlike the verses you cited. I’m not proud of what I say then, but am grateful that I can spill my guts to God.

  11. cool,

    i think it’s good to have an outlet where you can say the things you really feel deep down, be it a close friend, a counselor, or in prayer. i think if a lot of people said things in confidence to friends, there’d be a lot less spilling of hostile language on blogs and on billboards ;-)

    thanx for your comments.

    bc

  12. I would agree with your take on it if, and only if, the billboard mentioned verses 9-15. It does not. Therefore, no threat is intended. It’s just another person, using bible verse out of context, making their point. Don’t read too much into it. They intended for people to look at that verse…and ONLY that verse. No blood, no foul.

  13. It looks bad for all people of faith, and only adds to the ever growing body of evidence supporting the claim that the deliberate infusion of religion into politics in this country is approaching the downright toxic levels that we find in Islamic republics around the world. Conservative Christians rightfully denounce the religious oppression of these fundamentalist Islamic regimes, but then call for the very same Christian version of sharia law in America. Go figure! – I have been trying to tell people this to no avail – it is nice to hear it from another like mind for a change – kudos.

  14. Isn’t the real crime here the terrible clip art?

  15. I urge, then, first of all, that petitions, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for all people – for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. This is good, and pleases God our Savior.
    - 1 Timothy 2:1-3

    I’m sorry but this sort of toxic politics simply wouldn’t fly in a place like Australia. Church leaders wouldn’t excuse this sort of thing, and more than likely it would lead to both the church and its message to ridicule.
    Paul wrote these words under the rule of the emperor Nero, who was far far worse than any perceived badness that a president of the US might have.

    Looking from outside the fishbowl of American politics, it looks as if there isn’t really such a thing as a “Christian” right, merely the right, with a Christian whitewash and wallpaper.

  16. Nicely done, Bob. I especially like your point that these Christians are placing themselves on the side of the wicked liars!

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