Thursday, November 19, 2009



A friend writes of this story:
And do you know why the Psalmist is calling down such horrid curses on the leader's head?

According to my NRSV, the Psalmist says at 109:16--

For he did not remember to show kindness, but pursued the poor and needy and brokenhearted to their death.

And at 109: 30-31, the Psalmist concludes--

With my mouth I will give great thanks to the Lord; I will praise him in the midst of the throng. For he stands at the right hand of the needy, to save them from those who would condemn them to death.

Google THAT, Cheri Douglas.

Aunt B is rightfully horrified by the “Pray For Obama: Psalm 109:8” T-shirt. She writes:

So, when this small subset of folks start throwing out Bible verses like only a small, chosen group will know or be able to find out what they mean? They look like dumbasses. Guess what? The Bible is a perennial best seller. Churches give them away for free. You can read them on the internet. Your secret code is not secret.

And therein lies the problem. We live in a secular culture, and in the internet age, free and easy access to Scripture is coupled with Biblical illiteracy to create a whole mess of problems. The result is everything from a botched bumper sticker slogan to people claiming there’s a Biblical justification for bigotry, war, oppression, and even “free market ideas.”

For those in the dark, Psalm 109:8 reads:

"Let his days be few; and let another take his office."

Ha ha. That’s so funny. Neat little inside joke for the wingnut Obama-haters. Problem is, Psalm 109:9 says:

"Let his children be fatherless, and his wife a widow."

Ooops. Not so funny anymore.

I think what we have here is a classic case of someone cherry-picking a piece of Scripture to make a political point, and folks, that just never ends well.

And yes, they end up looking like dumbasses:

Twitter user Cheri Douglas felt compelled to share the psalm with others. Reached by phone, she said she found it on a website while searching for Bible passages relating to leadership – a topic on which she writes, speaks, and consults for a living.

Ms. Douglas was unaware of the verses that followed the ones she referenced and doesn’t think that those who shared the psalm wish the President harm.

“I don’t believe there’s Christians who wish him ill will,” she says.

But Douglas does say she’s unhappy with the president and used the psalm to convey that she’d like him to serve only one term.

I don't think anyone any of these folks seriously wish the president harm either. But this is what it means to live in a post-Christian world. People who don’t really understand Scripture, are unfamiliar with the meanings of certain passages (like a Psalm sung for “Vengeance Invoked upon Adversaries”), and have no sense of context or Biblical interpretation just throw shit out there without really knowing what they are doing.

A hundred years ago this would have been called blasphemy. Now it’s just called reading the Bible on the internet. But then, a hundred years ago this never would have happened because religion was a much bigger part of American society then, and people weren't quite so Biblically illiterate.

Even better are the people who take these passages of Biblical Scripture out of context and try to make a mint hawking T-shirts and bumper stickers. The intersection of church and market is always an interesting place, fraught with peril and full of all sorts of spiritual potholes. Jesus overturned the money-lenders’ tables for a reason, people. Maybe the Cheri Douglases of the world haven’t Googled that particular piece of Scripture yet.

It’s a dangerous thing when people who are basically Biblically ignorant can Google their way through the Old and New Testaments and think they’ve got some kind of spiritual authority. Have you ever read the Bible? It’s tough stuff. It takes more than just a mouse click to understand what you are reading.

But this is where we’re at, people. This is how we get ridiculous ideas like the Conservative Bible project and people convinced that Obama is the anti-Christ. You know, a little religious education in schools wouldn't be the worst thing in the world.