Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Uneasy nights post on W4

I have few readers here who do not also read What's Wrong with the World, but for those few, I want to highlight my new post there called "For Uneasy Nights." It is my recommendation about how we should pray for Barack Obama.

38 comments:

William Luse said...

"how we should pray for Barack Obama."

Do I have to?

Lydia McGrew said...

I know, it's a pain, isn't it?

What I've tried to do in the post, however, is to make it absolutely clear that the injunction to pray for rulers never means and never meant going soft on their evil. Not even a tiny, little, bit. Just because B.O. took that oath of office, I don't stop calling his positions monstrous and his plans evil, and I don't stop seeing our position in relation to him as one of endurance and resistance.

But you see in the comments thread over there how the liberals foam at the mouth at the post. There's even one priest telling me that George Bush should hear the "cries" of the victims of Katrina just as much as B.O. should hear the screams of the victims of abortion. I've never been able to figure out what George W. was supposed to have done to the victims of Katrina, but I do know he didn't support the legality of sucking their brains out.

William Luse said...

Signing yourself Father Michael doesn't make you a priest.

It was a great post, btw. The victims of Katrina were advised to leave town because, you know, they were living below sea level with a monster storm approaching. They didn't leave. At least they got to see the light of day.

Mary Fuller said...

Even if I disagree with BO and his policies (of which I am deathly afraid), I do have to disagree with this statement:

"What I've tried to do in the post, however, is to make it absolutely clear that the injunction to pray for rulers never means and never meant going soft on their evil. Not even a tiny, little, bit."

Jesus himself prayed while on the cross for the men who mocked him and who beat him, even the Jews who sought his crucifixion, "Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do." People who were morally destitute were visited by Jesus, and he taught them a better way. He gave us more grace than we deserved.

Romans 13 was written by Paul as instruction on how to respond to a ruthless government that persecuted Christians, sanctioned infanticide, revered homosexuality as a preferred lifestyle, and crucified our Savior. Titus 3:1-3 says:"Remind the people to be subject to rulers and authorities, to be obedient, to be ready to do whatever is good, to slander no one, to be peaceable and considerate, and to show true humility toward all men. At one time we too were foolish, disobedient, deceived and enslaved by all kinds of passions and pleasures. We lived in malice and envy, being hated and hating one another."

1 Peter 2:17 - "Show proper respect to everyone: Love the brotherhood of believers, fear God, honor the king." Peter summed up our obedience to the king, the governors, etc. by saying we needed to honor them. How could he possibly say that after all the first century church and its society was enduring? I think it came from a view that this life is shorter than eternity, and our social comfort takes a backseat to the eternal destiny of our enemies.

I'm not saying you can't disagree, point out, protest, etc. What I am saying is that in your prayer life, like Jesus, like Paul, like Peter, we need to have a redemptive spirit. A spirit that goes beyond the flesh and this present world to ask God in His mercy to bring the right people, right circumstances into your leader's life to bring him to a saving knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ. Ask God to give him wisdom concerning these very important issues, to help him see the error of his ways. I think this sort of thing is what Daniel prayed for three times a day.

Lydia McGrew said...

I'm sorry, Mary, but I don't see a single thing in any of those biblical quotations that supports "going soft on their evil." Nothing at all.

I say Barack Obama is a moral monster. I say his views and intentions are morally monstrous. I said this during the election, as did others who opposed him, and the sheer fact that he has been elected and sworn in does not negate our right, even our duty as citizens of this democracy, to continue to say it. Nero was a moral monster, too. Paul was no fool. I'm sure he knew this. But then again, Paul was not living in a democracy where Nero was elected and others like him might be elected again by the people, he was busy founding the church, and his civic duties were rather different from those of a 21st century American blogger. We cannot argue from silence: "Scripture doesn't say that Nero is a moral monster; therefore, it's wrong to say this about our leaders."

I am, with reference to the scriptural passages, obedient to government. Scrupulously so, in fact. But I maintain, and will continue to maintain, that praying for Barack Obama to be very uncomfortable because his conscience has been stirred is *indeed* to pray with a redemptive spirit, because that's what the man needs.

My fellow blogger, Zippy, has said that praying for Obama to be happy and comfortable is like supporting a moral case of a pathology in which a person is unable to feel pain. People die from the physical version of such insensitivity. I believe that people die spiritually from the moral and spiritual version. Barack Obama has stood up before the Illinois Senate and spoken against the Born Alive infants protection act, referring to a child who survives an abortion as "not just coming out limp and dead." He then went on to deplore the "burden" it would be to an abortionist to provide care to an infant who happened not to be "just coming out limp and dead." A man who could say those things is a man who needs to have uneasy nights, and I make no apology for wishing for them and calling on other people to pray for them.

This is indeed asking God to help him "see the error of his ways." That is exactly what it is. Precisely.

We Christians need to get over this idea that being good citizens and submitting properly to our government means being "nice." It doesn't.

Lydia McGrew said...

I'll put it this way: We have even less justification for taking it that the Bible condemns harshly worded criticism of government than we have for taking it that the Bible supports slavery because of Paul's relatively laid-back words on the subject of slavery, his enjoining slaves to be subject to their masters, etc. Or, to make another connection, we also have no justification for taking it that Christians must be absolute pacifists and never defend their families from Jesus' words about not resisting evil and turning the other cheek. Both inferences--about support for slavery and pacifism--have been made by some people, neither of them is well-supported by all evidence, yet for either of them there is actually _more_ excuse than for the argument from those passages you cite, Mary, for soft and kindly words in speaking of the American President.

Mary Fuller said...

Oh,I believe we as Americans have a right and a need to stand up for morality, but as you stated, Paul..."was busy founding the church, and his civic duties were rather different from those of a 21st century American blogger." Paul was busy bringing Roman leaders, governors, guards, etc. to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ. Why was focus different than ours? Jesus parting words to his disciples were, "Go therefore" or in its Greek voice, "As you are going, preach..." The purpose of the church then, and now is redemptive. That should be our mission.

I think these passages deal with more than being obedient to the government, and I'm sure you really are. We try to do so as well. But how do we as Americans fulfill the principle in 1 Peter, to "honor the king". What does that mean for today's believer? How does that look to the 21st century Christian?

Lydia McGrew said...

I don't think "honoring" the king means a whole lot more than being generally a good citizen, not wishing harm one's rulers, not fomenting rebellion and revolution, that sort of thing. I suppose one could be also in a situation where it was one's professional duty to guard or protect a bad ruler (as if one were a security guard or a doctor after an assassination attempt).

But in general, I strongly reject the idea that these biblical injunctions mean that we cannot say that Bill Clinton was a low-life, immature, and a disgrace to the office of the President, that Barack Obama is morally monstrous, that it was a sad day when either of them was elected, and so on and so forth. The idea "This person is our President so now we have to talk about him in a nice way and not say what we genuinely believe to be true about his character" just does not seem to me to follow from any of those passages.

And, yes, bringing people to know Christ is tremendously important. But I'm not sure you and I have all the same ideas about the split between that and speaking out prophetically against moral evil. These are not just "political" issues, and I believe people bring their souls into danger by promoting infanticide.

Mary Fuller said...

BTW, I am not advocating praying for Barak Obama to be "happy and comfortable". I'm not praying that for you either. I am praying for God's will to be done here on earth just as it is in heaven -- in your life and in the life of Barak Obama, whom I do not like or trust very much at all. The policies enacted so far by him are monstrous. But he is no greater a monster than you or I apart from grace, and he is very much in need of us to pray for his conversion.

Lydia McGrew said...

Mary, if I understand the theological background of your statement correctly, it could be made about _anything_: "If it weren't for the grace of God, I could be a cannibalistic, torturing, axe murderer." Well, okay, suppose we don't ask exactly what is meant by that but just let it pass. Fine and good: If it weren't for the grace of God, we'd all be cannibalistic, torturing, axe murderers. But the fact remains that we're _not_ all cannibalistic, torturing, axe murderers. So all thanks and gratitude for the grace of God, but let's get back to calling monstrous acts and advocacy monstrous acts and advocacy. I don't accept "there but for the grace of God go I" as any sort of rebuke to plain speaking about plain things, as any sort of, "Now, now, we shouldn't say that sort of thing."

Mary Fuller said...

I think, Lydia, that you have mistaken what I've been saying in these posts. I have not said that you should not disagree. I have not said that I think that now that Obama is in office we should just look the other way and ignore his wrongful policies. I do, and I will speak out against his policies. Please re-read my posts and see where it is that I said we must never disagree or condemn his policies. It appears that that is what you are addressing with me, when in fact, I don't disagree with that.

We are talking about prayer, which was the topic of your post, and that is what I am addressing. We are talking about redemptive prayer. I'll repeat it again, "What I am saying is that in your prayer life, like Jesus, like Paul, like Peter, we need to have a redemptive spirit."

Lydia McGrew said...

Hey, if we don't disagree, all the better. But I continue to maintain that praying for uneasy nights is indeed praying with a redemptive spirit. Perhaps you just aren't sure whether you disagree with that or not, but as best as I can tell, it at least makes you a bit uncomfortable for me to say it.

Richard D said...

I think the conversation is moving along fine so I'm going to take a different tact.

Lydia, you said, "My fellow blogger, Zippy, has said that praying for Obama to be happy and comfortable is like supporting a moral case of a pathology in which a person is unable to feel pain. "

Although I don't know Zippy, I cannot remain silent about his extreme evil and the heresy he is spouting. None of the verses yet mentioned tell me that I cannot say that Zippy is obviously a low-life and a disgrace to the blogosphere.

Scripture quite clearly tells us that the only thing that can bring satisfaction, happiness, and comfort is abiding in Christ. So apparently Zippy is saying that we cannot pray for Obama to be saved and that we must hope for his eternal damnation. I repudiate Zippy in all his zippyness.

May I know apologize to Zippy for using him in his shameless way.

Lydia - Mary and I on our blog did not ever imply, nor should you have inferred that we had said, that now that Obama has become our president that we should "go soft on his evil." We Christians should always speak up against evil, which, from a certain (and biblical) point of view is exactly what I did to your friend Zippy.

My opposition to praying for Obama's discomfort is that you are then praying for evil to happen to Obama. God has the right to send evil to a person or a nation or whomever, we do not have the right to request it outside of God's direct instruction to do so. And I have not seen any scripture defense of praying for evil to befall our president.

Praying that God will reveal Himself to Obama and that he will direct his paths toward righteousness is to be found in scripture, and Mary has already mentioned some of the passages that turn us in that direction. But should Obama follow the paths of righteousness (which he can do only by the grace of God) and if he were to recognize the infinite value of God, he would then be happy and comfortable in a spiritual manner of speaking.

So is praying for his uneasy nights really looking out for his eternal soul or is it in fact massaging our hurt cultural and patriotic pride because the wrong guy got elected?

I hate to say it, but it looks to me like the latter is what you are promoting here. And that truly would be evil. So before you search too deeply for the speck in Obama's eye...

Lydia McGrew said...

Rich, I can't quite tell if that was meant to be satire or parody or what about Zippy's comment, but let me just say that I entirely agree with him. An uneasy conscience is not a comfortable thing. In praying for uneasy nights, I mean to be praying for an uneasy conscience. And an uneasy conscience is needed for a person in Obama's position and holding his positions to realize that he is wrong. I think the C. S. Lewis quotation on my longer version of the post directly addresses your statement that this is wishing evil to befall him. No, it just simply isn't. It is not tantamount to (as you implied on your blog) wishing that his children would be murdered. No, it is wishing precisely for what you would, I presume, call the conviction of the Holy Spirit. And that just plain ain't fun. As Lewis says, you asked for a loving God, you have one. But the love of God has to come to someone in Obama's situation through showing him that he's been badly, badly wrong. How many children will be murdered as a result of the very executive order he just signed today? If he ever realizes that, it's gonna hurt. If he even begins to realize it or to wonder about it, it's going to keep him awake nights. But one has to go through that conviction process. One has to go back. That's what repentance is. And the farther one has gone in the wrong direction, the harder it is. That would be one of the best things that could happen to him.

Lydia McGrew said...

I'm just thinking about this, and I'm not sure where the dickens all this is coming from about wishing eternal damnation on Obama. Surely I've made it clear enough that the point of what I'm saying, and of Zippy's analogy, too, is that you are likely ultimately to _die_ if you have this disorder where you can't feel pain. And in the same way, the soul and conscience that is seared is in danger of spiritual death. The whole point is to wish the opposite of damnation for the person--that he would wake up and live.

If Barack Obama were ever to realize that abortion is murder, really realize it, that'd be rough. Even beginning to realize it would have him wondering, "What in the world am I going to say to all of my supporters? How can I turn around on _that_?" Which is quite a recipe for uneasy nights--when you start to realize that some sin is woven into the whole warp and woof of your life and identity and what it would take to tear it all up. But that would be a very good kind of "rough."

Not, I have to admit, that I expect it to happen. But much of what we pray for on behalf of an evil ruler is going to be stuff that we don't expect to happen. That's the nature of the case.

Richard D said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Richard D said...

Lydia - I did not liken the prayer request for evil to befall Obama to praying for his children to murdered. In fact, that IS a biblical prayer. And the people I mentioned who were using it were quoting it directly from scripture, which put them on much more solid ground than you are on by praying for evil to befall Obama.

Mary quoted a few scriptures that give us direction regarding how we behave toward our leaders. You dismissed those scriptures, although they are divinely inspired, apparently in favor of C.S. Lewis.

The concern that I have here is that you are showing tremendous animosity toward our president. That is not an advisable thing, spiritually speaking. I oppose pretty much everything he stands for and I do so strongly. I have, in fact, been excoriated regularly on my blog for my strong opposition to his policies. And I was deeply disappointed that he got elected. But I cannot view him as less than me somehow, because he simply is not less than me. I am what I am only by the grace of the sovereign God. And he is what he is by that same grace. He and I are exactly alike, fallen sinners in need of a perfect Savior.

I don't really understand why you reject the simple idea of praying that God will guide him and will draw him to himself. That is clearly a biblical prayer and would accomplish the same thing that you are claiming to want with your prayer, and yet without the apparent animosity built into it.

And, no - I was not attempting satire with Zippy. I was demonstrating how very easy it is to attack someone and call them names, which is what you've done to President Obama. I am very unhappy with his executive orders, which is why I blogged just today about a few of them. But if I show animosity toward him in my posts (which I'm sure I have done in the past), I am sinning.

So what I am saying, Lydia, is that I think you should try to lose what appears to me as animosity. You can still pray for him to be brought to repentance for his non-biblical stands without appearing to desire evil to befall him.

There may be people out there who know you and who have disagreements with you over things they hold to be biblical mandates. I'm sure you wouldn't want them praying for bad things to happen to you. And I'm also sure that you'd likely appreciate it if they prayed that God would lead you into the truth. Because that prayer would accomplish the same thing without pleasing the person because of the damage it caused to you.

Tim said...

Rich,

Mary quoted a few scriptures that were not pertinent to the point in question. Lydia has not "dismissed" the scriptures but merely pointed out that they are not relevant to the point in question. It does not advance the discussion for you to misrepresent her in this way.

Lydia has made it plain that, in praying for uneasy nights for Obama, she means to be praying for a good -- an uncomfortable good, to be sure, but for a man committed to desperately evil policies, one of the most important possible goods -- to befall him.

You counter that, in praying for him to have uneasy nights, she is praying for an evil to befall him.

Rather than simply contradicting Lydia, you could at least help the rest of us to understand where you are coming from by offering an argument for your conclusion that to pray that Obama would have a tender conscience with regard to his sins is a prayer for evil to befall him.

If you think there is such an argument, you should lay out your premises. One corollary of this would be, apparently, that it would be a good thing, all else being equal, for Obama to continue to have a hardened conscience on these points. It would be interesting to see on what grounds you would attempt to justify this conclusion.

If you do not have such an argument, then you should reconsider your evaluation of Lydia's proposal and withdraw some (at least) of the harsh language you have used in describing it.

Lydia McGrew said...

Rich, honestly, I think I'm being remarkably unemotional and direct here. I'm answering you, point by point. I haven't lost my temper. Please re-read my last two posts. They were replies to what you've said. I have not dismissed the scripture passages. I interpret them differently (it appears) than you do. That's surely allowable, as I'm sure you'll agree. But what it means is that I _do_ dismiss the notion that they stand as some sort of rebuke to what I've said here. That's your interpretation and application of them.

Strong language is not the same as animosity, unless one just defines them as being the same. John the Baptist said to some who came to him, "Ye generation of vipers. Who told you to flee from the wrath to come?" "Generation of vipers" isn't kindly language. One might even think that perhaps John the Baptist thought that they _were_ a generation of vipers and he _wasn't_, which might make uncomfortable those who say, or imply, that we should never say anything negative about someone else that we wouldn't say about ourselves.

I suppose one could define what John the Baptist said as "animosity," but that wouldn't be very helpful, since it clearly wasn't wrong for him to say it.

You can say until the cows come home that I have the wrong attitude towards Barack Obama. It is, of course, your right to think it and to say it. I don't dispute your right to that opinion. But remember: _You're_ the fellow who says that it is Pharaseeism to impose our _interpretations_ and _applications_ of Scripture upon other people. I understand that it is your interpretation and application of Scripture that it is wrong to call the President a moral monster, and that to do so and to wish that his awakened conscience should give him uneasy nights is to exhibit wrongful "animosity" towards him, to fail to honor him, and generally to take an unbiblical attitude towards him. But since it is possible to disagree with this interpretation and application, and since Scripture never says in so many words, "Thou shalt not use harsh language regarding the ruler of thy country," shouldn't you by your own lights say to me instead, using your own recommendation from an earlier discussion, "I've been convicted about this, and I just want to put it before you for your consideration in case God would convict you about it, too"? That, after all, is what we are supposed to do in such areas, or so you have said elsewhere, most emphatically. I even recall your saying it about my example of a man who put up semi-pornographic pictures and swore like a sailor on his web site.

Apparently putting up those things on a blog is less straightforwardly unbiblical in your opinion than saying what I have said about Barack Obama here.

Which does make me feel just a little bit like I'm living in Looking Glass world.

zippy said...

The thing is, though, that President Obama's positions on abortion, euthanasia, ESCR, etc are morally monstrous, vile, despicable positions. That is just the truth about his expressed positions. Folks who try to soft-pedal the fact that they are morally monstrous, vile, despicable positions are - assuming they do so with good intentions - telling themselves lies. Praying for President Obama to receive the gift of a severely uncomfortable conscience is praying for a very good thing, an unequivocally good thing; because a severely uncomfortable conscience is what necessarily lies between him and not holding morally monstrous, vile, despicable positions. Praying for him to receive the gift of a severely uncomfortable conscience is like praying for a drowning man to receive air.

William Luse said...

I re-read the original post and didn't see where you were "praying for evil to befall Obama."

That's because you're a better Christian than I. I like Psalm 83: "O my God...persecute them with thy tempest, and make them afraid with they storm; Fill their faces with shame; that they may seek Thy name O Lord. Let them be confounded and troubled forever; yea, let them be put to shame and perish: That men may know that thou, whose name alone is Jehovah, art the utmost high over all the earth."

According to Peter Leithart, that's one of the milder of about 31 Psalms of imprecation, some of which so horrified C.S. Lewis that he called them "wicked," "sinful" and "dangerous."

But, says Leithart, "these Psalms are part of God's inspired word, and even saints in heaven call on God to avenge their blood" and "Paul himself curses Judaizers who preach another gospel."

His conclusion: "If prayers of imprecation and judgment arise out of vindictiveness and hate, they are sinful. But refusing to pray these Psalms may arise from our sinful tolerance of evil, and our sinful apathy about injustice. When we pray imprecations, we should consciously be praying for something good – the good of God's justice. We should pray seeking the kingdom of God and His righteousness above all...These prayers are not incompatible with loving action toward our enemies...'Bless those who persecute; bless and do not curse.' That should be the dominant tone of our prayers and preaching. But Scripture shows that we are also to ask God to take revenge against His enemies." He then quotes my 2nd favorite Psalm (see above).

Anything you said was far less than any of these, so I think you're on safe ground.

Now, if you need someone to stop by and wish him ill, you've got my email.

Richard D said...

Tim-You are asking me to defend a premise I have not made in opposition to a proclamation that has not been put forward by Lydia. James Dobson encouraged folks to pray that Obama would have uneasy nights. In plain English, without the postmodern addition of innuendo, cause and effect, and word usage intended for obfuscation, this is a prayer for evil to befall our president.

To be clear on definitions here, evil means "bad stuff."

Lydia has taken up this idea and is encouraging others along with Dobson.

So I am not arguing against the idea that we should pray for Obama to have a tender conscience. Lydia was not promoting that act, so I am not arguing for or against that act. I believe, to use your words, your statement about this was "not pertinent to the discussion."

I base my premise on my understanding of how Christians are to live. I must base this on scripture, and I must read scripture as narrative when it is narrative and as proscriptive when it is proscriptive. John the Baptist, in Lydia's example, was narrative. Narrative is not normative. The fact that John the Baptist called people "vipers" is not a command for me to do so, nor is it a demonstration of good behavior. It is simply narrative. I would also argue that John the Baptist's diet and attire are not mandatory for today's Christian. Another narrative that I think would be best not to imitate is St. Peter's denial of Christ, and yet it is narrated in the Bible.

I also view all the early Church fathers and the saints down through the ages in the same way the bible views them--as vile, disgusting sinners, depraved through and through. So before I look to C.S. Lewis, John Chrysostom, or the Venerable Bede for instruction on daily living, I must look first to scripture. Then I can tell if the saints of old were speaking in harmony with scripture or were, in fact, in opposition to scripture.

Here is what I see in scripture that directly impacts how we should view the mandate for us to pray for our leaders:

Luke 6:27-31 - Jesus is speaking when he says, “But I say to you who hear: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, and pray for those who spitefully use you. To him who strikes you on the one cheek, offer the other also. And from him who takes away your cloak, do not withhold your tunic either. Give to everyone who asks of you. And from him who takes away your goods do not ask them back. And just as you want men to do to you, you also do to them likewise.

I find tremendous weight in this passage on many levels. It is from the most famous sermon ever preached, the Sermon on the Mount. It contains a direct command (but I say to you, do this...). It ends with a concept so important that it has been given a name, "the Golden Rule." And it comes directly from the mouth of the author and finisher of our faith, Jesus Christ. So this passage is boiling down the essence of Christianity as understood by the founder of Christianity.

So Jesus is telling us to bless Barack Obama, if we see him as an enemy.

Matthew describes Jesus' words in this way: But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven; for He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.

The Apostle Paul encouraged the Phillipians in proscriptive terms that they should: in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself. Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others.

You may certainly twist the intent of this command by saying, "oh, but it would be good for Obama to have sleepless nights because that indicates that his conscience has been smitten by God." But why then would we not pray that his doctors would find cancer in his next examination. After all, if they find it they will be able to do something about it - and that's a blessing.

This is just twisted thinking. The commands (so far from Jesus and Paul) are that we are to bless others and not curse them and that we are to want for them what we want for ourselves and we are to look out for the interests of others just as we look out for our own interests -- and I don't expect any of us to pray that we will have sleepless nights. And, yes, I know the context of is to the Philippian believers, not to non-believers. But Barack Obama claims the name of Christ. It is not up to us to say that he is not a Christian. He certainly does not hold the values that I expect Christians to hold, but denying his salvation when we have no way of knowing that he is lying about his claim would be a violation of Jesus' command to "Judge not, that you be not judged" (Matthew 7:1). We can certainly judge (discern) whether his policies are right or wrong according to scripture, but when we discuss the state of his eternal soul in absolute terms we are in violation of this command from the founder of our faith, who then went on to ask why we look for a speck in another person's eye when we have a beam in our own eye.

I will end the the foundation of my premise there with the only addition being that the New Testament continues in that vein throughout.

And that brings me to why I drew Mary's attention to this conversation and why I have commented here as well.

Lydia - I believe you misrepresented the conversation on my blog. Nowhere did I say or imply that we should go soft on Obama now that he's our president. In our form of government, we are given the opportunity to oppose evil through orderly means. And we should avail ourselves of such means.

I don't see this in the same light as the other conversation you mentioned. I see direct commands in scripture for us to bless each other rather than curse each other. And when I see something as a direct command in scripture, it is no longer simply a matter of personal conviction--it is a matter of conformity or non-conformity to scripture.

If your intention for praying for Barack Obama to have sleepless nights is truly motivated by a desire that he will come to a better understanding of Christ, then you will not have a problem praying that very thing directly, rather than going through the roundabout path of praying a curse upon him (in order that he might come to a better understanding of Christ).

If, however, your intention is really that you want Obama to be pained because of his policy stands, then you will be reluctant to pray blessings upon him, in spite of the biblical mandate to do so.

Tim said...

Rich,

You write:

James Dobson encouraged folks to pray that Obama would have uneasy nights. In plain English, without the postmodern addition of innuendo, cause and effect, and word usage intended for obfuscation, this is a prayer for evil to befall our president.

Did you even bother to read Lydia's post on W4? In particular, this bit:

Yet the scriptural injunction to pray for kings is unequivocal. So I think that Dobson's idea is a very good one. It is not to wish ill on a man as badly wrong as Barack Obama to wish that he may be made uncomfortable by his conscience in the areas where he is wrong. It is, in fact, to wish him great good.

One of the hallmarks of postmodernism -- and I should know, as I have been fighting it for many, many years -- is a a failure to look in a commonsense way at context in order to determine meaning. I do not mean to suggest that you are a postmodernist, but submit that you have allowed an initial careless judgment to obscure Lydia's very clear and explicit explanation of what she (and, I presume, Dobson) means by "uneasy nights." Hence, your claim that this is

a proclamation that has not been put forward by Lydia

is not only false but flies in the face of what she has said most explicitly in the original post and several times in this discussion as well.

The rest of your post is predicated on this error and therefore not only misses Lydia's explicitly stated point but does her a grave discourtesy. It is, to say the least, impolite to persist in misinterpreting someone once that misinterpretation has been pointed out.

I would stop here, but there is one other statement you make that deserves a brief comment:

You may certainly twist the intent of this command by saying, "oh, but it would be good for Obama to have sleepless nights because that indicates that his conscience has been smitten by God." But why then would we not pray that his doctors would find cancer in his next examination. After all, if they find it they will be able to do something about it - and that's a blessing.

This is just twisted thinking.


It is indeed -- but the twistedness lies in your analogy, not in Lydia's thinking. Obama is already in a morally cancerous state. Lydia is not praying that he will degenerate morally; she is praying that he will come to realize his moral errors. Hence the disanalogy with wishing that a presumptively healthy man will be diagnosed with cancer.

The only way to make the parallel would be to stipulate that Obama has colon cancer already. But in that case, it would be unequivocally good to pray that it be discovered soon, while there is still time for something to be done about it.

Lydia McGrew said...

Rich,

Because I owe you a lot from the past, and because you are a personal friend, I am somewhat constrained in what I can say here. So I intend to continue to speak carefully.

I think you rather conveniently argue that I am here in violation of a clear command of Scripture when the example I gave in the earlier discussion on your blog was of something (displaying semi-pornographic pictures) that is in far more obvious violation of many, many clear commands of Scripture concerning purity, etc., which I will not bother to list, than anything I have done. Yet there you considered it “pharisaical” to give anything other than the mildest, most personal comment on the matter. I see that your worries about “imposing extrabiblical [hence, to your mind, unbiblical] standards on others” are not going to stop you when it comes to lecturing those with whom you disagree to the right of yourself, such as (apparently) me, because you will always insist that the people you are lecturing _are_ violating an express biblical command whereas, however extreme the example in question otherwise, the person in the example _isn’t_ violating an express biblical command unless the exact words condemning his actions can be found in Scripture. This is a ridiculous game, and it is one I will not try to play with you, now that I realize how the moves go. I did not think in any event that the excessively rigid standard you held on your blog for rebuking people for their behavior on Scriptural grounds was legitimate or practical, so it is perhaps rather ironic that I should be trying to point out your violating it, but since it turns out that you don’t recognize what you are doing, I might as well not bother.

As for your question of why I reject your insistence that I pray for something more general for Obama instead, I will answer that, too. (This, in hopes that you will see that I have answered you point by point rather than engaging in fits of emotion.) We pray for specific things for people all the time. If all we ever prayed were that God’s will would be done for people and that they would be saved, our prayer lives would be very limited. We pray that people will get a job, or be healed, or whatever. I can even imagine, if someone were (say), engaged to someone and seemed poised to make a disastrous marriage, that one might pray that the marriage wouldn’t come to pass, despite the fact that it would cause short-term pain for the engagement to be broken off. Unless it can be shown that there is something _wrong_ with the specific prayer I have urged for Obama, I am in no way bound to drop it in favor of a more general one, anymore than I am bound to drop any other specific prayer I pray for someone, or you are bound to drop a specific prayer you pray for someone in favor of a more general one. I absolutely reject, and have already answered carefully, the type of analogy you are here making in the form of “why don’t we just pray for doctors to discover that Obama has cancer.” That’s praying for harm to come to him. I am not urging that we would pray for harm to come to him. You can call uneasy nights caused by an awakened conscience “bad stuff” happening to him, but your saying it doesn’t make it so. Now I have answered you on this point _again_ and am done doing so.

I realize that you feel I have misrepresented things you have said. So I will say this openly: I do believe that in a confused and unintentional way the kind of lecturing of people who speak sharply of Obama and some of the other things you have said (for example, your very strong objections to my mild-mannered prayer for uneasy nights) do indeed encourage a certain pietistic type of softness. There has to be some reason why you break out into these injunctions when people use terms like “vile, monstrous,” etc., to describe his positions. You even implied in this very thread that you disapprove of my position because you think to do so implies that he is “less than” ourselves. I wonder if you would do the same if someone said the things I have said of Hitler. I really do genuinely wonder. And so that sort of “Now, now, that’s not right” talk directed immediately at those who speak as I do about Obama does indeed imply that one shouldn’t do so. And I disagree with that implication. However, I very _deliberately_ did not impute softness on evil to you. I didn’t even so much as link anything you have said from either of these pieces, and no one who read either of them, other than perhaps you, would have known what might have set me off. I was scrupulous about that. In this thread I said that I wrote the blog piece to argue against such softness, which you are free to conclude is not your own position. Oddly, that very sentence was the first one with with Mary said (perhaps mis-speaking) that she disagreed, while you, in contrast, are indignant at any implication, however indirect, that you might thus be soft. Well, you are two different people, though co-bloggers, and are free to express yourselves in different ways, though this particular defense of your joint position seems a little miscoordinated. But I can only say that in the blogosphere I reserve the right to be inspired by things someone says on his blog to make _general statements_ against positions with which I disagree. If I _impute_ those positions to you or even link to you when discussing them, I’m obliged to support that imputation directly. If I don’t but rather merely describe the position, then you are free to shrug it off (since I haven’t imputed it to you) or to defend it, if you so desire. But I am very careful about what I actually impute to people, and I do not grant your right to be indignant about my careful and general comments merely because you think they might have been inspired by something you have said. If the shoe fits, wear it. If not, then you have nothing to worry about.

If you’d rather I stopped reading your blog, you are also free to request that, and I will most seriously consider the request.

Rich, it seems to me that the truth is that you just disagree with my evaluation of Barack Obama. That, too, you are free to do. But because of your particular theological commitments, you cannot bring yourself merely to say, “We have a disagreement. I don’t think Obama’s positions are as bad as Hitler’s or deserve to be called monstrous; I think you are being too hard on him when you pray that he should have uneasy nights. I think your whole approach to him is exaggerated, and that bugs me.” Rather, you have to cast everything as a “biblical violation.” I realize, also, that rather surprisingly something you are “into” is hunting heretics to the right of yourself. Anyone who looked at your blog would find this incredibly surprising, but it just turns out to be true. You are, I am gathering, a lot more careful about what you say about, e.g., Rick Warren (who is somewhat to the left of yourself), than about me. Well, if you keep reading Extra Thoughts, you will probably find a lot of fodder for this particular sort of heretic hunting to the right of yourself. But I’m afraid I have to ask you, in love, to please not do that sort of heretic hunting in my comboxes. If you think about the matter objectively, I think you can understand why I don’t appreciate that sort of lecturing, especially coming from an old friend.

Mary Fuller said...

Tim, I will make a concession if you will make one as well. I am going to give you the benefit of the doubt that neither you nor Lydia wish Barak Obama ill, but are wishing him good, eternal good. If that is indeed the intent of this prayer, God is honored. I for one, would feel uncomfortable praying for you to have sleepless nights, but this may simply be an issue of an improper perception. I make that concession.

And as Zippy said, I agree one hundred percent. He said, "President Obama's positions on abortion, euthanasia, ESCR, etc are morally monstrous, vile, despicable positions. That is just the truth about his expressed positions."

The difference between Zippy's post, and Lydias, is that Zippy calls the acts monstrous. For me, and again, this is perception, I know that all of us outside the grace of God are capable of these very things. I have not done any of those things, but that's because God grabbed me at an early age.

The concession I would like you to make is that when I disagree with praying for sleepless nights because I see that as harmful, rather than good, does not equate my position with "going soft on evil." Zippy wrote, "Folks who try to soft-pedal the fact that they are morally monstrous, vile, despicable positions are - assuming they do so with good intentions - telling themselves lies." I am upset by being painted in this manner, when I repeatedly stated that the opposite is true.

But, even if you disagree with Rich's line of arguement on an apologetic level, he did post an interesting question. Would you or Lydia feel that I am being soft on sin if I pray that God do whatever is necessary to bring Obama to repentance? Isn't that a more direct approach to the outcome Lydia desires? It also acknowledges that God, not I, knows exactly what it is that Obama needs to bring him to repentance. Perhaps, as with me, uneasy nights will make him less approachable, less wise in decision making, less logical in thinking.

Will you then agree that because I find such a prayer as "uneasy nights" to be less direct and given to a misunderstanding of the motive behind it, that does not mean that I think that I have "oppose(d) a political candidate until he wins and then, when it is all over, will chide one for sharp criticism of the very same person."

I will continue to pray for mercy for our president, I will continue to pray for his redemption in whatever way God chooses to bring that to him. I will continue to point out the absolutely horrible policies that he enacts. I have done so regularly.

Lydia McGrew said...

Mary, I appreciate the moderation of your position. Here is what I would say: It certainly isn't "going soft on evil" for you, personally, to pray somewhat differently than I am recommending in this post. That, after all, is entirely between you and God. You will notice that in the post on W4 I said of my unnamed friend that he must follow his own conscience in this matter concerning whether he, personally, would be mean-spirited if he made this particular prayer.

I also appreciate your making your own position plain and esp. your making it plain that you agree with the very strong characterizations of Obama's positions and actions (as you quote Zippy in your last comment).

The only remaining thing I would say, and that I would just ask you to consider, is this: In your very first comment on this thread, you quoted what I said about "going soft on evil" and then you said that you _disagreed_ with my comment, and proceeded to quote a number of Scripture verses about forgiving our enemies, Jesus praying for his enemies on the cross (narrative, I might add, for Rich's benefit), being obedient and subject to rulers, and the like. Now, I think you might want to realize that such quotations and injunctions, made in instant response to and apparently disagreeing with such a comment as mine, are open to what I gather from your later comments is a misconstrual. They are open to the construal that you indeed dislike talk against "going soft on evil" and that you indeed think we should in some sense be "softer," not speak too harshly of people, etc., and that my words about Obama and my suggestion for prayer for him is somehow in violation of Scripture, because it is being insufficiently loving, etc., towards him. Rich, in fact, has criticized me expressly along these very lines and has said in so many words that I am breaking biblical commands. Now, _that_ sort of criticism of _my_ sort of post does indeed _sound_ to me like "going soft on evil." That's my own perception. I really don't think it's the best idea for the first reaction of conservative Christians to the election of someone like Obama to be to turn around and start lecturing their fellow conservative Christians on being respectful of him, not judging others, etc., etc. It gives a certain impression--namely, the impression that the other Christians are poised to do something _wrong_ by criticizing Obama too harshly. And it is that _implication_ that I disagree with.

Again, I present this perception for what it is worth to you and merely ask you to consider it, and I do appreciate your clarification of your own position.

Tim said...

Mary,

Blessings on you for that irenic note.

You write:

Tim, I will make a concession if you will make one as well. I am going to give you the benefit of the doubt that neither you nor Lydia wish Barak Obama ill, but are wishing him good, eternal good. If that is indeed the intent of this prayer, God is honored. I for one, would feel uncomfortable praying for you to have sleepless nights, but this may simply be an issue of an improper perception. I make that concession.

This seems very reasonable. If you feel uncomfortable praying in that way -- if you feel that, in doing so, you would be unable to avoid wishing Obama ill -- then by all means pray, as you go on to indicate you will,

that God do whatever is necessary to bring Obama to repentance

In itself this certainly doesn't indicate any desire to go soft on evil. If your prayer is answered, Lydia's almost certainly will be too, since the prickings of conscience are an indispensable part of coming to repentance.

Richard D said...

Jesus praying for his enemies on the cross (narrative, I might add, for Rich's benefit)

No, Lydia. When Jesus prays for his enemies on the cross it is not just narrative. Jesus was perfect and never sinned, so if he is doing something that we humans are capable of emulating, we should emulate it.

I'm sorry that you have taken so strong an opposition to my comments here. Your theoretic reference to "semi-pornography" in the comments on my blog is a matter not easily discussed outside of its original context. "Pornography" is not defined in scripture and has been very hard to nail down in our judicial system. Semi-pornography all the more so. And the fact that it was theoretical and rhetorical made it all the more problematic. Thus my resistance to making a public condemnation of such a person.

The bible is not at all clear, as you have indicated, on such things. I have attempted to show in my comments here that I think it is clear how Christ would like us to act with regard to President Obama. And I think it is vitally important for Christians to encourage civility toward our president at a time when we are all inclined to a knee-jerk reaction of disgust. We are to be known by our love, not by our anger.

I did not mean to make a personal attack against you, Lydia. And I thought that your blog and web site were gathering places for "thinking" Christians, so I thought my comments would be welcome, whether they were in agreement or not with your initial premises. That is the reason that your blog and your site are both linked in the sidebar of my blog.

I would not "go looking for heresy" on your blog, in fact, I don't do that anywhere. But you brought a discussion that began on my blog over here and I simply followed the discussion. I'm sorry it has caused consternation.

zippy said...

But why then would we not pray that his doctors would find cancer in his next examination.

I think a critical difference here is that we already know that the President has moral cancer, and are praying for the cure.

Lydia McGrew said...

Well-put, Zippy. It picks up on something that Tim said, above.

Indeed, Rich, I accept disagreement. Mary has disagreed. You have assumed the obvious and absolute rightness, and indeed the bindingness on other people, of your own controverted interpretations and applications of Scripture. It is all the more ironic that you have previously taken so strong, even so extreme, a stance against applying extrabiblical standards to others. As I said once in a thread on your blog, it's easy enough for me to be sentimental about Baptist fundamentalists when I don't have to deal with them lecturing me on a day-to-day basis. But there we were talking about people who condemn, say, drinking.

And that's all I'm going to say on this subject.

Richard D said...

Zippy and Tim - thank you both for pointing out the faulty analogy. You are right.

I forgot to respond to the Hitler question.

Yes, I would object to any Christian calling Hitler a monster. He is absolutely no different from any of the rest of us--all sinners.

I would not object to calling his actions monstrous in the same way that I object to calling Bill Clinton a low-life but not to saying that he brought disgrace to the office of the presidency.

Does that make sense?

Richard D said...

Here is a prayer that perhaps we can all agree on.

Tim said...

Rich,

Thanks for the retraction on the cancer analogy; it's always admirable when someone can admit a mistake. May I have as much grace on the occasions when I need it.

We can agree to disagree regarding whether Hitler was a moral monster. But I do not think that this disagreement is created by a difference in our willingness to take scripture seriously. All sins are sins, and hence all sinners fall short of the glory of God and are in need of redemption and reconciliation. But the Bible overflows with evidence that, nevertheless, God does not consider all sins to be on a par. Though all sins are detestable to a holy God, some are more detestable in His sight than others (see Ezekiel 8:15); some will incur more severe judgment than others (see Matthew 10:15); some drove Jesus not only to harsh words but to physical violence against the perpetrators (see John 2:15).

You may, if you like, disagree as to whether these scriptural examples of prophecy, pronouncement, and practice give a divine sanction to Lydia's willingness to single out some sins for harsher characterization than others. But in that case, your dispute is interpretive rather than being a dispute over whether to take scripture seriously.

Lydia McGrew said...

I can certainly see a rhetorical point in saying someone's acts are monstrous rather than that he is a monster, etc., but I strongly suspect I would disagree with any absolute theological reason for making that distinction in principle. I would add that human moral monsters have been saved 'ere this.

William Luse said...

...people who condemn, say, drinking.

Now there's a heresy.

Richard D said...

Lydia - it may help you to notice the way in which I am taking the same position in my argument here and in what I argued in the previous conversation you mentioned. In both cases I was strongly opposing folks looking down on others because of their apparent failures. I quite likely respond to strongly to that, but I do respond in much the same way each time.

In that conversation I was speaking against those Fundamentalists you have mentioned that you don't want lecturing you (except, in that case they were lecturing others), in this case I have been speaking against your lecturing Obama in the Fundamentalist tradition.

Perhaps our motivations are quite similar--both of us reacting with disgust to the Fundamentalism we had to deal with as we grew up. And perhaps both of us still have some of the Fundamentalist desire to force our own interpretations of right and wrong on others.

The old joke is that you can tell a Fundamental Baptist because if his right hand offends him, he cuts off the right hand of everyone in the neighborhood,.

Lydia McGrew said...

Well, I'm afraid I have to say, Rich, that I _do_ notice a similarity, but that it's the very thing I meant by "heretic-hunting to your right." Exactly that, in fact. Where the extreme and impractical standard that says, "Never even tell anyone he's wrong unless his actions contradict the ab-so-lute-ly explicit words of Scripture, naming the exact thing he's done in so many words," can be used as a stick with which to beat the fundies and call people "pharisees" who criticize others for things like bad language, impure images, or immodesty, then that's the standard you promote. Otherwise, where it would cramp you in criticizing a conservative who, in your opinion, speaks of Barack Obama too harshly,...not so much. I'm afraid what I see there is a blatant double standard in the service of a rather surprising bias.

I'm afraid the similarity you are noting is therefore not a commendation of the pattern, in my view. But I'm trying to speak as charitably as possible, here.

Richard D said...

I'm trying to speak as charitably as possible, here.

I noticed.