Prooftexting, Psalm 109:8, & Obama [bad.hack]

Prooftexting is taking verses from the Bible or a religious text and using them to buttress one's points or as "bullet" points to teach sinners a lesson.  We prooftext often when answering a question about Christian beliefs or in calling another person to accounting for their sin.  Dr. McGrath has a good summary of prooftexting's follies here, including out-of-context shenanigans and its sheer uselessness given the diversity of voices in religious texts. 

But prooftexting reached a new low in recent weeks.  On the Rachel Maddow show (video starting at 3:25ish), she highlighted a Christian merchandising move that sells "Pray for Obama, Psalm 109:8" t-shirts and bumper stickers.  Here's my exact reaction process of seeing the t-shirt for the first time:

  1. Hey, they are finally praying for Obama instead of shouting at him...progress!  I wonder what that Psalm is...[grabs bible]
  2. Psalm 109:8 "Let his days be few and another take his office." OH, it's SNARK!  Ha! Good one.  But there's no election of leaders in the ancient for a  leader to leave office he would have to...oh, this can't be good.  I wonder what the context is...[reads next verse]
  3. Psalm 109:9 "Let his children be fatherless and his wife a widow." OH, it's CALLING for a leader's DEATH.  Yea for Christians calling for assassinations!  UGH. [weeps]
So, there you have it.  The email forward you thought was clever and witty is actually calling for the assassination of a President, or at least the quick death of one.  Awesome.  And another example of religion being used to promote hatred and violence.

Too bad the guys didn't read the rest of Psalm 109:
Let mine adversaries be clothed with shame; and let them cover themselves with their own confusion, as with a mantle.
bad.hack indeed.


Anonymous,  November 19, 2009 at 11:06 PM  

I was wrestling how to respond to people hawking this merchandise. Thank you for this very well reasoned and thoughtful response.

Anonymous,  November 20, 2009 at 12:16 PM  

Isn't it ironic that the entire psalm is really a prayer from the prophet David on behalf of those persons who are falsely accused. The specific verse is just one of a litany of bad wishes and accusations from a lying witness.
How about we go back to using Jesus' words, "Love one another" and douse the flames of fear and hate???

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