Answering the Critic: Prayers of Harm & Violence
…Let their children be orphaned, cut off without a father. Let their wives be widows, and we pray that their children would be desolate, having to beg their bread in empty places. We pray that the extortioner would come back at them, catching them in their plots, and taking all that they have. May strangers and aliens pillage them and leave them with nothing. We pray that when this happens, and Your hand is evident, that no one would show mercy, and that no kindness would be extended to his fatherless children. Cut off his posterity; may his name and his line come to nothing. Recall how sinful his father was, and call up again the sins of his mother. May their sins come before Your throne continually so that their name may be blotted out, and remembered on the earth no more.…Tie those curses around him permanently. Let this be the clothing of all our enemies. Let them curse, so long as You bless. When they get up in the morning, and hear of the blessings You have bestowed on us, let them be greatly ashamed. Let confusion cover over them completely, as though it were a mantle. I pray that You stand at our right hand, and that You would always save us from those who would condemn our souls….
This is nothing less than the missionary zeal of the Apostle Paul or the healing love of Jesus for the gentiles! May the gospel of peace go out into our community…our community of enemies and public critics! If you recall, there was a regular prayer meeting conducted by Christ Church leadership for the sole purpose of calling down literal harm on X-members who had become public critics of Doug Wilson. Wilson has received, unsurprisingly, a good deal of public exposure about this sort of practice, and I had noted an increase in this kind of prayer in regular congregational services before I finally stopped attending Christ Church.
In this new post, Wilson has written out a very long imprecatory prayer for the purpose of justifying this violent use of imprecatory prayer-ritual in the past. However, such an ad hoc and superficial prayer construction is not going to be perfectly representative of the actual practices of Christ Church. Wilson is writing up this prayer for apologetic purposes; he notes explicitly at the beginning of this post that he is presenting this prayer as explanatory self-defense. An example of a real imprecatory prayer from Christ Church can be found here.
Ironically, however, even this creatively crafted and lengthy prayer does little to get Wilson off the hook. Wilson’s attempt to pray against his public critics like an Old Testament barbarian king in the time of literal blood shed is simply not going to come off as the reasonable behavior of a New Testament Christian minister, no matter how rhetorically creative Wilson gets. This attempt at self-justification is laughable.
However, Wilson employs confusing, manipulative rhetoric at the front end to disorient his following. Wilson claims that critics use the practice of imprecatory prayer to demonstrate that he is a fundamentalist. But Wilson knows this is a lie. Fundamentalists don’t pray imprecatory prayers; they don’t pray literal harm against the public critics. Wilson’s public critics would only hope that Wilson was a run of the mill fundamentalist. This has not been the nature of the steady criticism of Wilson’s imprecatory prayer. There are no doubt plenty of fundamentalists running around North Idaho who do not attend Christ Church. Rather, the past practice of imprecatory prayers has revealed the remarkably unique sociological violence that Wilson desires and consciously provokes. These prayers reveal Wilson not as a fundamentalist, but as a dangerous cult leader. It is therefore a comfort to know that God is not listening to Doug Wilson’s prayers about us critics.
Ironically, those “enemies” that deserve such prayers at Christ Church are most often those who are damaging Doug Wilson’s personal reputation, and not those who are violent criminals against the weak and defenseless. One commenter on the book Wilson links to writes:
In this book Dr. Day methodically examines the scriptural framework for proper Christian response to persecution of God’s people that is unremitting and unrepentant. It is a must read for all Christians, as Christians are emerging as the primary target of the extremist cry of “kill the infidel.” More than five centuries have passed since Christians in the West have personally had to face such an issue.
Update: So far there have been three comments to Wilson’s post. The first commenter seems to explain that he cannot bring himself to praying this way.
The second comment speaks in agreement but then entirely misinterprets what Wilson had just said and the nature of the prayer: “I hope your prayers are answered and that your enemies turn back to God, as you prayed. I guess that’s the kindest curse I’ve ever read, but (boy!) does it sting!” Well, I’m sorry, but that was not the prayer. Wilson was not praying that God would turn back all enemies to God. Go read it again. There is the trite move of “well, help them, but if they don’t repent, kill them.” But I have already dealt with this many times over; this is incoherent. The logic of the imprecatory prayer is to remove enemies. Period. This is the point regardless of the method and you will note that the method of granting mercy is given nothing but a wink before getting to the really fun stuff. Further, the question arises, “kill them when?” In three days, a month, 10 years? There simply is no intelligent way to process this stuff; it is simply liturgical violence, suited to gore and temple prostitutes, not coherent theology and Christian living. Perhaps Wilson should start talking about how he hopes his critic’s wives will get get raped, poetically describing the way they scream. Enough is enough people. Let’s stop the madness.
The third comment also misconstrues the clear meaning of Wilson’s post and claims that all this is to be given out by God in egalitarian fashion. But I wonder if this doesn’t make the result even all the more barbaric and horrifying. In any case, it is remarkable how Wilson’s followers are unable to sincerely admit what it is he is teaching. But this commenter seems to have a fairly twisted notion of important biblical events to begin with: “Any God who would leave His Son upon a cross crying, “Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani?” is not a God to be trifled with.” So this commenter compares God leaving his son to his son’s own chosen means to loving the world with giving people over to the experience of unending murder, rape, pillage, disease, shame and despair? The prayer is clear; at some point, Wilson truly hopes that God refuses to show mercy to current, particular enemies; e.g., “May their sins come before Your throne continually so that their name may be blotted out. . .”
The next commenter, our friend Kurt Smith, hops on and thinks Doug Wilson’s readership would like to read 8 posted comments from his own point of view. Since Kurt attempts ridiculing satire about Winnie the Pooh instead of threatening me with a law suit and demanding I remove everything about him from my web site, it seems we are happily beyond that stage of Kurt Smith’s loving and wooing of a dear Christian friend who has fallen into moral confusion. As for Smith’s satire, it is not funny, factually accurate in what it implies, or at all argumentative coherent; so I will not waste more than this one sentence here in reply. However, his thoughts about imprecatory prayer are troubling, but also just one further attempt at misreading Wilson’s post.
Kurt chalks up concern about Wilson’s post and his very unique practice of imprecatory prayers against local critics as merely sentimentalism about strong words. But this is plain silly, and it is hard to believe Kurt even believes this is the case. Apparently, Kurt’s conscience about the “serrated edge” no longer troubles him at all, and apparently, Kurt finds nothing but glorious N.T. language in Wilson’s post as he once again eagerly hopes and begs God to take a bunch of people currently living (some at the University, some at the local book store, some currently posting on Vision 2020 right now) and harm them irreparably. Wilson is praying that God would right now harm certain concrete people to the point that they will never have their sins forgiven, that they will never find rest, and that they will forever be tormented with shame for apposing God’s anointed—which in Wilson’s world means primarily Doug Wilson and his new reformation.
Kurt’s feverish posting goes in every which direction however, and he notes his wonder at how Wilson’s critics “can accuse him of trying to win marketshare and consolidate political power.” What critic ever accused Wilson of this? Critics are concerned about Wilson’s cultish presence, which will harm a small sub-group of people in society while he scorns the broader marketshare, educational establishment, and our legal/political tradition. But once he gets on topic, Kurt reinterprets Wilson’s post; apparently Kurt cannot even stomach Wilson’s proposal: “I take it that Wilson wants God to deal with His enemies however He sees fit and isn’t afraid to pray across the Almighty’s full range of options, just like Jesus did…” And yet, this is clearly not what Wilson was saying and not the desires expressed in Wilson’s lengthy imprecatory prayer.
Doug Wilson was expressing his desires, what he wanted God to do, and was hoping that God would hear his prayer and therefore act on it, thereby causing irreparable harm to many people currently living. This is simply not the kind of prayer a humble person who thinks they themselves have been shown mercy could pray and it is completely opposed to the teaching of the New Testament. Wilson’s link to the book on imprecatory prayer is a dishonest rhetorical maneuver, since just from the first commenter on the book it is clear that the book does not support Wilson’s imprecatory practice at all. Getting written about in the newspaper and the internet because your are an arrogant and offensive fundamentalist pastor is not the same thing as having Wilson-like Muslims (kill the infidel) butchering your community unrelentingly after only seeking social peace with all men. This latter scenario is the only kind in which the question of imprecatory prayers is even supposed to arise, according to this one read of this book. There is no way around this. This is madness; and Doug Wilson is a dangerous man.
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