I was having a conversation earlier today with a friend about a status he posted to facebook. The status reiterated a popular right-wing jab at Obama which calls dissenters to "Pray for Obama," followed by a citation of Psalm 109:8, which reads, "Let his days be few, let another take his office." Cute. Real cute.
The conversation grew intense (although, for the most part, respectful). My particular problem with the status is that it is primarily tongue-in-cheek sarcasm. Obviously, when a politically fundamentalist person (on either the Left or the Right) posts something like this, it is to ruffle feathers or to make a joke, rather than a show of earnest faith. Jesus did not command us give lip service prayers about people we don't agree with. In everything we do, we must do it earnestly, with good intentions and pure hearts.
Another problem I had with the premise of the discussion was the context of the psalm. Some articles and pundits argue that, given the context of the rest of the psalm, people who post this sentiment and slap it on their cars in the form of bumper stickers are actually calling for the President's death (read the whole psalm, you'll understand what they mean). I wouldn't go that far. I don't think there are many people (especially Christians) who would actually and seriously wish for Obama's assassination. My problem stems from the fact that--aside from being just plain mean-spirited--the quote is taken out of the larger context of David praying to God that his enemies will be destroyed.
But of course, we Christians know better than to pray for the destruction of our enemies, right?
One lady in the conversation even went so far as to say this:
"That is your interpetation and that is great, but obviously not D--'s and thats great too. Because you don't agree with his interpetation doesn't mean yours is right and his is wrong. We all have our own sense of what the scriptures mean to us, and yes we use it that way in our lives. You can't shove your beliefs down anyone elses throat because you think theirs is wrong. I'm Baptist and i know D-- is Catholic and i accept him just the way he is, and he the same with me. We don't agree 100% on politics either but We don't argue and try to make the other feel wrong or stupid. I don't know if he is right or me and it doesn't matter. We are all ppl in this world trying to get through it with honor and dignaty and we are all different in many ways. When i read something i don't agree with i leave it alone, except for this cause i just hate it, and nothing positive is gonna come from your comments. You will NOT change his mind. I don't know you but i have to believe you have no malice in your comments and you believe in what your saying to the fullest, but so does D--. I've known D-- since school which is alot of years without telling my age lol and he is one of the finest men i know. Plz give it a rest."
I understand that not all people are as educated about scriptural exegesis and historical criticism and contextual analysis. I also understand that there are many people who know much more about those things than I do. I also understand that those things don't always matter. Jesus proclaimed a Way of Life--he said, if you want to follow me, THIS is how you do it. And he laid out specific guidelines: love your neighbor (and not just your neighbor, but your enemies!), pursue God with your entire being (not a government, not a president, not a political agenda, or a specific way you think the country should be run), be meek, give to all who ask of you (a particularly difficult scripture for us in America), feed the poor, visit and care for the sick and imprisoned...The list goes on and on.
But my question, then, is this: Can we (or, more importantly, do we) take Christ's call to not judge and to not worry about the speck in our neighbor's eye too far? Is there absolutely no circumstance under which one can say to another, "I'm sorry, your interpretation of scripture here is wrong, and it can not be tolerated"? And, if not, how do we move forward in our faith? How do we avoid pulling ourselves in a thousand different directions of disunion in pursuit of our American-given (or at least, American-recognized) right to believe whatever we want, even at the risk of disregarding other teachings of Jesus?
I ask these things not because I have an answer, but quite the opposite. I have been frustrated with what I perceive as injustice and unholy actions within the church, and among people who profess Jesus as their Lord. However, any time I try to point this out, I am usually met with "Do not judge," or "Take the plank out of your own eye first." How are they to see that their actions are harmful and wrong if nobody tells them? Doesn't Paul even tell Christians to "restore one another in the spirit of gentility"?
Do we take tolerance and our freedom to believe whatever the heck we want too far here in the West?
Please leave your thoughts. Iron sharpens iron, you know.
Grace and love and peace to you all (whether you agree with me or not),