Despite the serious-sounding title, I’m laughing as I write this post. Yes, Americans United for Separation of Church and State is under attack. Yes, the perpetrators are a group of radical Christian dominionists who want to turn this country into their own vision of theocracy. Yes, their aim is to cause great harm and possibly even death to members of Americans United. So why am I so unconcerned?
Because the attack is being waged through prayer.
In light of the recent attack from the enemies of God I ask the children of God to go into action with Imprecatory Prayer. Especially against Americans United for Separation of Church and State…. Specifically target Joe Conn or Jeremy Learing. They are those who lead the attack.
It seems that Wiley Drake, pastor of the First Southern Baptist Church of Buena Park, California, recently issued a press release on church letterhead endorsing former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee in the Republican presidential primary. Drake also promoted Huckabee on a church radio show, and made it clear that he was endorsing Huckabee not just as an individual but in his official church capacity:
“I believe Mike Huckabee is, indeed, a man that I can endorse. As Second Vice President of the Southern Baptist Convention, I put out a press release to that effect.”
Naturally, Americans United took note, asking the IRS to investigate this blatant violation of U.S. tax law. Churches are tax-exempt organizations, and one of the restrictions that comes with that status is that they cannot endorse or attack specific candidates for office. If a church wants to endorse a specific candidate, there is no law preventing them from doing so, but they must rescind their tax-free status.
Furious at being caught out, Drake hastily issued a press release asking Christians to pray “imprecatory prayers” – in other words, prayers asking that God use his supernatural power to injure or kill someone – targeted at AU. Drake specifically suggests following the prayers modeled in “Psalm 109… [a]lso chapters 55, 58, 68, 69, and 83”. Here are some of the prayers he presumably means:
“Let his children be fatherless, and his wife a widow.”
“Let death seize upon them, and let them go down quick into hell.”
“Break their teeth, O God, in their mouth… let them be as cut in pieces.”
“Do unto them as unto the Midianites; as to Sisera, as to Jabin, at the brook of Kison: which perished at Endor: they became as dung for the earth.”
Apparently alarmed by these threats, Bruce Prescott of Mainstream Oklahoma Baptists announced that he would be praying counter-prayers, and was enlisting others to join him. (Perhaps he envisions his prayers as a sort of supernatural antiaircraft fire, shooting down the hostile prayers as they fly in to attack their target.)
While I appreciate Dr. Prescott’s concern, I can assure him that his efforts are unnecessary. AU and its employees are not in danger. Prayer is a useless superstitious ritual that cannot directly affect anything outside the believer’s own mind. No matter how many people Drake gets to pray along with him, the greatest effect their prayers will have is to slightly stir some air molecules around them. We ought to greet this ridiculous threat with the same amused disdain with which we would regard a witch doctor who announced that he was going to cast a hex on AU by dancing in circles and sticking pins into wax dolls. Both these rituals are powerless relics of a credulous age.
Mainstream believers will doubtless dismiss Drake as a fringe kook. But he is not the first Christian conservative to fantasize that his prayers have magical power to strike down his enemies. Recall this incident from the 700 Club in August 2005, in which Pat Robertson asked God to kill some sitting Supreme Court justices so that George W. Bush could appoint replacements:
“Take control, Lord! We ask for additional vacancies on the court.”
…Lynn noted that Robertson has a history of controversial activity, whether it’s commanding hurricanes to go out to sea or smiting communities that incur his wrath. He once speculated that Orlando might be hit by a meteor for allowing gay flags to be flown on city streets.
(And let’s not forget when Robertson, like a none-too-subtle mafiosi, suggested that God would smite the citizens of Dover, Pennsylvania with natural disasters to punish them for voting out several pro-creationist school board members: “I’d like to say to the good citizens of Dover: If there is a disaster in your area, don’t turn to God. You just rejected him from your city.”)
All levity aside, there is something to be concerned about here. It’s not the prayers themselves that should concern us, for it’s been amply documented that prayer does not work. The real issue of concern is the hateful, aggressive attitude that lies behind them, the one which holds that believers are always entitled to have their own way and that anyone who opposes them is an evil infidel who deserves suffering and punishment. This attitude fosters militarism and intolerance and encourages religious groups to think that they never have to compromise or cooperate. At its worst, it may even tip the mentally unhinged over the edge into actual violence.