The full version is: “Do not revile the king even in your thoughts, or curse the rich in your bedroom, because a bird of the air may carry your words, and a bird on the wing may report what you say.”
I don’t know about you, but I receive a near continuous barrage of hateful, paranoid and panic-filled emails brimming with rumor and speculation related to our current president.
Virtually all of these, and certainly the most vicious (and preposterous) are sent to me by people who call themselves Christians.
Among many other scriptures they have ignored or violated are “hate every false way” (Psalm 119:109) and, of course, “I urge, then, first of all, that requests, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for everyone— for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. This is good, and pleases God our Savior…” (1 Timothy 2:1-3).
And of course, Philippians 4:8: “Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.”
Our words define us – and literally “express” who we are. We have the choice to bless or curse:
“This day I call heaven and earth as witnesses against you that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Now choose life, so that you and your children may live” (Deuteronomy 30:19).
And don’t you think we should “provoke one another to love” (Hebrews 10:24) instead of provoking paranoid fantasies?
Or even worse.
You may have heard of the movement to “Pray for Obama” with Psalm 109:8 prominently displayed. Each translation is slightly different of course, but here’s the New American Standard version “Let his days be few; Let another take his office”.
Even prominent politicians have taken up this cause, most notably Kansas House Speaker Michael O’Neal.
It is difficult to imagine anything more cynical or a more alien to the message and power of the Gospel.
One of the aspects I love about the Bible is its unvarnished (and sometimes gruesome) insights into the frailities, absurdities and contradictions of humanity. Our propensity to hatred and self-destructiveness is the stuff of history – and, of course, the Bible.
Consider these words from C.S. Lewis on this same Psalm:
In some of the Psalms the spirit of hatred which strikes us in the face is like the heat from a furnace mouth. In others the same spirit ceases to be frightful only by becoming (to a modern mind) almost comic in its naivety. Examples can be found all over the Psalter, but perhaps the worst is in 109.
– Reflections on the Psalms, p. 20
This is perhaps only the most recent (and vicious) of these rumors and personal attacks, but we’ve all seen similar and more surreal emails about Barack Obama, UFOs, the ACLU and the continuing antics of Madalyn Murray O’Hair (even though she’s been dead since 1995).
You can tell how true these are by the humility of the anonymous author, and of course, the urgency of the message makes any pesky documentation or dating superfluous.
You also have to love these missives for their passion and their gleeful and preposterous disregard for reality. Could anyone really believe that the ACLU could control the US military? Or that (dead) Madalyn Murray O’Hair could change broadcasting laws across America? Or that various politicians and celebrities have been abducted/trained/programmed by UFOs?
Does anyone remember the “Ground Zero Mosque” hysteria? It wasn’t a mosque, and it wasn’t at Ground Zero, but it certainly generated a flurry of emails. The whole reaction made Christians look stupid, racist and uninformed. (My personal bias is that people of faith should be the most prudent, measured and discerning in any inflammatory situation).
I get these passion-filled surreal emails on a semi-regular basis. Some people send them to me (I think) because they know I will appreciate the absurdist irony, but others, I fear, actually think there is some worthy content there and I should be eager and honored to pass them on.
The ultimate irony is that most, if not all, the bizarre, paranoid and irrational (and often, blatantly racist) emails I receive are sent to me by people I generally consider rational, intelligent and, even more ironically, faithful Christians.
At the risk of sounding like a New Age or New Testament prophet, I urge everyone who calls themselves a follower of Christ, to “Be the blessing”.
In fact, to paraphrase Gandhi, “Be the blessing you want to see”.
You have the time. You have the money. You have God’s permission – in fact His calling – to step out of the cesspool of ranting from unhinged cable news and talk/shock/shout radio and into the enduring light and truth of Grace.
We can wallow in fear, hysteria and rage, or we can nurture our higher and better selves and seek the unfettered grace of the God who heals and restores communities as well as individuals.
As always, the world is watching, and waiting for God’s people to lead the way…
Morf Morford considers himself a free-range Christian who is convinced that God expects far more of us than we can ever imagine, but somehow thinks God knows more than we do. To pay his bills, he’s been a teacher for adults (including those in his local county jail) in a variety of setting including Tribal colleges, vocational schools and at the university level in the People’s Republic of China. Within an academic context, he also writes an irreverent ESL blog and for the Burnside Writers Collective. As he’s getting older, he finds himself less tolerant of pettiness and dairy products.