Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Praying for Harm

There's been a lot of talk about the individuals and groups that have been praying for Obama's death.  The groups and individuals are varied and take different forms.  For example:
On one hand on the left, we want to uphold freedom of religion and freedom of speech.  Those are two very strong ideals which say we ought to fight for the right for these people to express themselves in this way.

On the other hand, that assumes that we believe that prayer has no effect, that words are just words, doesn't it?  If someone was taking violent action against the president, we'd believe it was the right and responsibility of the law to stop that action, even if that action was done in the name of religion.

And the case has been strongly made before, in such circumstances like Dr. Tiller's murder, that there's a link between this rhetoric calling for harmful action and the harmful action that follows. 

But setting aside the question about whether or not these groups and individuals should be boycotted or even prosecuted, I want to address the question of imprecatory prayer iteself.

In the Wiccan tradition, there's talk about good magic and bad magic, and there's the three-fold law and the Wiccan Rede to follow which tell us that magic is only acceptable if it harms none, and that anything negative you do will come back to you three-fold.

I just wish the average Christian using the Psalms to pray for our President's death had half the moral fiber of the average Wiccan.

Maybe one has every right to pray this sort of prayer.  But just because, once again, one has the right to do something, doesn't mean it's the right thing to do.  Just because imprecatory prayer exists, is legal, and is in the Bible, doesn't mean that it's right or appropriate or Christian of someone to choose to pray that prayer in any circumstance just because he or she disagrees with an elected official.  Everyone has the choice, the ethical choice, given a situation like a president one disagrees with, to choose to pray the psalms for his death or to choose to turn the other cheek like Jesus.  This is a moral and ethical choice.  Maybe both are Christian answers, but both aren't morally right.

And, yes, maybe liberals were secretly or even openly wishing Bush were dead while he was president, but I never heard them praying, to a God they believe answers prayers, for that death to come about.  More often I heard things like, "Well, I wouldn't wish him harm, just wish him out of office." 

My thoughts: praying for the president's death may not be illegal, but it is immoral, and it does make those who choose this path bad Americans and bad Christians.

5 comments:

Bill Baar said...

...where were you with the Bush Assisantion Movie? Jeff Jacoby on the kill Bush crowd back in 2006 http://www.boston.com/news/globe/editorial_opinion/oped/articles/2006/09/10/a_new_low_in_bush_hatred/

Nary a peep out of UUs on this...

RevNaomi said...

Praying for civility, peace, understanding, and good will. Thanks, Rev. Cyn for stating why praying for harm is wrong. It also does nothing to change the person who is praying, which is part of what prayer is for -- taking us to the edge of our abilities and preferences and inviting us into a holy way of being, way past our comfort zones into unimaginable love. I continue to pray for all who are stuck in such hatred.

Cynthia Landrum said...

@Bill - Where was I with the Bush assassination move? Not in the know, that's for sure. I never heard of it. Definitely didn't hear the liberal UUs I know praising it--they weren't even talking about it. Our lack of peeping may be due to the lack of splash.

For the record: praying for ANYONE to die is a wrong use of religion, in my book (okay, caveat: unless it's to put that person out of their own physical agony in a situation where their situation is terminal and unbearable, etc.). I never prayed for Bush to die. I would never have condoned that in my pulpit. That's where the UUs I know were during the Bush years with this issue.

@Naomi - well said!

Bill Baar said...

You Jacksonites are really out of the loop. Bush Assasination fantasies and jokes were rampant. Google a bit for them.

Cynthia Landrum said...

Well, I never said that Jacksonians weren't out of the loop, that's for sure.