Rev. Evan Dolive: Prayer is not a weapon
As the Republican and Democratic National Conventions have come to a close, we are officially in election season. Between now and Election Day (Nov. 6), we will be inundated with attack ad after attack ad on why one particular candidate is better than the other. Each will tout their record, their plans, their reasons for why they believe they can move this country into an era of prosperity and greatness.
Since the beginning of this Presidential election cycle, debates have been held, mud has been thrown, and names have been called. To be honest, I believe it has gotten completely out of hand. One can not access social media sites such as Facebook or Twitter without being bombarded by other people’s advertisements for the person they support. Some have taken to engage in serious conversations, while others are advocating for Tim Tebow or even Jesus Christ himself to run for President.
Well in Victoria, Texas some one as taken upon themselves to buy a billboard in honor of the President. No, this billboard doesn’t thank the President for his service or one promoting his policies or even supporting electing Gov. Romney; this particular billboard is one that is passive aggressive attack all under the guise of religion. The billboard reads “Pray for Obama – Psalms 109:8 (sic)” (Before we get into why this is an undermining of religion, I need to point out that when you refer to a particular Psalm, there is no need to refer to it as “Psalms”, rather refer to it in the singular.)
Psalm 109:8 reads, “May his days be few; may another take his office.” This is a completely disingenuous use of prayer and use of scripture. For starters, this piece of scripture is not referring to an American President or even anyone from the last 2000 years. This Psalm is a cry to God from King David. Dr. Robert Cargill, Assistant Professor of Classics and Religious Studies at the University of Iowa stated that “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.” This ad was a direct attack against the President. This is why the Secret Service was called to investigate. Some will say that this is free speech and it should be left alone. Others will say that is a threat and all threats should be taken seriously. I am not a lawyer, but a follower of Christ, this is making prayer and scripture a weapon.
Is this the prayer that God wants to hear? Is this the way that God wants humanity to act toward another person? I do not care if you disagree with the President or even Governor Romney, the fact still remains that we are all called to live out the gospel each to our own understanding and conscience. No one person, no one denomination, no one pastor or anyone has a monopoly on God and on how the gospel is to be carried out. Does this mean that I agree with all expressions of the Christian faith? Absolutely not. Does this mean that I am going to spend money and buy a billboard passive aggressively “praying” for them. No, I will not. Imagine what good could have been done, how many people could have been helped, how many bellies could have been filled if that money that was used to incite and divide was used to complete and make whole.
One day while listening to the radio I heard someone call in to a show and say that they believe that God was calling all followers of Christ to vote for a particular political candidate. I believe that God does not care who wins the election of the President of the United States of America. I believe that God has bigger things to worry about. This does not mean that our faith does not inform our decision making, but to say that God is trying to direct all Christians in the United States to vote for a particular candidate is stretch for me.
Many followers of Christ learn from a young age that prayer is an important spiritual discipline. People go on spiritual prayer retreats/walks to get back in touch with the Divine. Prayer is not a weapon that is to be pulled out when someone thinks differently than we do. No, it is a gift that has been given to us so that followers of Christ may continue to have a close, personal, relationship with God. People refer to the ‘power of prayer’ and how prayer sustains them and fulfills them. There a beautiful quality to prayer. Karl Barth, a Swiss theologian, once wrote, “To clasp the hands in prayer is the beginning of an uprising against the disorder of the world.” Prayer is powerful when it is used to stop the disorder in the world. I do not mean political leaders, but the disorder or disease, famine, hate and malice. This is the disorder that Jesus Christ came to put and end to, this is the mission that all followers of Christ are called to embody. So as we draw nearer to Nov. 6, 2012, let us remember to at least try to be civil with one another. It’s the only we are going to get through it.
Rev. Evan M. Dolive is an ordained minister in the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) and author of evandolive.com. He can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.