Thursday, November 19, 2009

Bumper Sticker Politics, T-Shirt Theology

Do you remember all those T-shirts and bumper stickers from a few years ago that read “01.20.09?” Did you think they were funny? Well I didn't. I thought they were negative and mean spirited. They brought nothing to the debate but acrimony. You want to criticize the president, his party or policies, then fine, do so. But leave the empty-headed negativity to sports, where you can indulge yourself by saying the team from some other town stinks. It's still obnoxious, but at least it doesn't really matter.

Today I read about T-shirts and bumper stickers that say “Pray for Obama: Psalm 109:8” The verse reads “May his days be few; may another take his place of leadership.” I like that one even less. Taken out of context, the verse cited simply calls for another to take his place in the Oval Office, no different than the 01.20.09 signs and the 01.20.13 signs I've already seen. But biblical verses do not exist without context. The next two verses continue: “May his children be fatherless and his wife a widow. May his children be wandering beggars; may they be driven from their ruined homes.”

That isn't even close to funny. It is, in fact, it's a stone's throw from being illegal.

Psalm 109 is a curse, what biblical scholars call an imprecatory psalm. The psalmist calls upon God for help against lying, deceitful enemies who falsely accuse him. He calls down a terrible curse upon those enemies. Its use is nonsensical, as the president, while he may be viewed as an enemy by his political opponents, does not stand accused of bearing false witness against anyone. This disconnect between the quoted verse and the target of the curse suggests a glibness in the use of the Bible that I find to be somewhat distasteful.

Contemplating this, I find myself comforted by another verse -- Proverbs 26:2.

“Like a sparrow in its flitting, like a swallow in its flying,
an undeserved curse goes nowhere.”

No comments: