Mark Burns’ RNC “Benediction”

Mark Burns’ RNC “Benediction” July 19, 2016


Pete Enns shared the prayer offered by Rev. Mark Burns at the Republican National Convention, saying that it is not a benediction. Historically, I beg to differ. To the famous set of Jewish prayers known as the Eighteen Benedictions, a nineteenth was added at some point which is a “blessing” of the heretics (birkat ha-minim). Of course, it is in fact cursing the heretics. But there is a long history of what are known as imprecatory psalms and prayers, calling for support of our own group and wishing that harm befall our enemies.

And so this is nothing new. It is at odds with the teaching of Jesus that we are to bless our enemies and not curse them, to be sure. And so it is ironic for Rev. Burns to be emphasizing belief in the name of Jesus in a prayer like this one. But praying against enemies has a long history of being called a “benediction” nonetheless, even if it may be awkward (to say the least) to consider it a Christian one.

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  • John Thomas

    I agree. Book of Psalms too have many verses cursing the enemies and prayers that Yahweh bring destruction to the enemies of the author.

    • Such as Psalm 137:9
      “Blessed shall he be who takes your little ones
      and dashes them against the rock!”

  • I’m not so sure Jesus’ “woes” look very different from curses:

    For example, from Matthew 11:

    21 “Woe to you, Chorazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! For if the miracles that were performed in you had been performed in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes. 22 But I tell you, it will be more bearable for Tyre and Sidon on the day of judgment than for you. 23 And you, Capernaum, will you be lifted to the heavens? No, you will go down to Hades. For if the miracles that were performed in you had been performed in Sodom, it would have remained to this day. 24 But I tell you that it will be more bearable for Sodom on the day of judgment than for you.”

    • That’s a fair point, although I would draw attention to the fact that Jesus is not wishing these cities ill, but warning that they are in danger because of their stubborn refusal to repent, which contrasts with other cities that the Jewish inhabitants of Bethsaida and Chorazin would have looked down upon as pagan.

      • I think you are drawing attention to an interpretation, not a fact. Most curses are delivered because of the perceived failures of the party being cursed. But Jesus isn’t providing a warning in this verse; he is telling these cities that they will go down to Hades, and that their judgment will be worse than the fire and brimstone delivered to Sodom. He doesn’t say whether he wishes them ill, but he is certainly pronouncing them ill.

        • Personally I think there is a difference between the person who says “you’re going to hell” (because they believe that to be a consequence of your life as an unrepentant serial killer, for instance) and the person who says “go to hell.”

          • I’m in agreement that Pastor Mark Burns gave a lame and divisive “benediction”. I’m only saying that appealing to Jesus against him is only an appeal to an interpretation of Jesus.

            Maybe Jesus did say “you’re going to hell”. Who said “go to hell”? I’m no fan of Mark Burns, but his awful benediction can no more be interpreted as “go to hell”, than Matthew 11:21-24.