Today’s fundamentalist Christianity definitely has a militant streak, well-supported by scripture and history. So I’m not surprised by this news:
Until this month, “imprecatory prayer” was not in many people’s vocabularies. But then the Rev. Wiley Drake, pastor of First Baptist Church of Buena Park, Calif., urged his supporters to use Psalm 109 to focus prayers directed at the “enemies of God” — including the leaders of Americans United for Separation of Church and State. Drake was urging the use of imprecatory prayer — prayers for another’s misfortune or for vengeance against God’s enemies. Now such prayer is the talk of blogs and letters to the editor.
The controversy flared Aug. 14, the day the Washington, D.C.-based church-state group asked the Internal Revenue Service to probe the tax- exempt status of Drake’s congregation. Churches, as tax-exempt, are prohibited from campaigning for candidates. Drake earlier had issued a statement on church letterhead endorsing former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, a Republican presidential candidate. Drake told his supporters that he attempted to talk to Americans United for the Separation of Church and State about the issue. He cited a verse from the Gospel of Matthew that says, “If your brother sins against you, go and show him his fault, just between the two of you.” Drake said his efforts were rebuffed.
“Now that all efforts have been exhausted, we must begin our Imprecatory Prayer, at the key points of the parliamentary role in the earth where we live,” Drake wrote. Under the heading, “HOW TO PRAY,” he listed all 31 verses of Psalm 109, in which King David appeals to divine justice. Drake provided his congregation the King James Version of the psalm, including Verse 9, which says: “Let his children be fatherless, and his wife a widow.” On the advice of his attorneys, Drake has declined to be interviewed.
Happily, this story should bring the generally good work of Americans United for Separation of Church and State to the attention of those who don’t wish to live in a nation run from pulpits.