Wednesday, August 29, 2007
When you ask God to send you trials, you may be sure your prayer will be granted.
— Léon Bloy, Pages de Léon Bloy
For those who are skeptical about the power of prayer to say nothing about the existence of God, it was an encouraging development. Indeed, it may well have turned a number of atheists into devout Christians. And an unlikely path to conversion it was. Although at first blush his critics might have labeled Mr. Drake a kook, closer inspection reveals that his suggestion is in fact more civilized than the practice followed by the Crusaders of the 13th Century and their contemporary counterparts who believe that in slaying the infidels lies the path to salvation. Not that Crusaders had the IRS, al Qaeda or the Iraqis to deal with. Nonetheless, Mr. Drake’s suggestion is a preferred method of dealing with the problem to that employed by the Crusaders and Mr. Bush.
Wiley S. Drake is the pastor of the First Baptist Church of Buena Park, California. Mr. Drake has used church stationery and his Internet radio program to encourage his followers to support Mike Huckabee’s campaign for the presidency. The Internal Revenue Code, which is read with far greater reverence and taken more seriously by its readers than the Bible, proscribes the involvement in political campaigns of religious organizations that are known as 501©(3) organizations. By using his church, a 501©(3) organization, for political purposes, Mr. Drake (who presumably finds it easy to obey the 10 Commandments) was violating one of the thousands of commandments found in the Internal Revenue Code.
In response to Mr. Drake’s activities, the Americans United for Separation of Church and State (AUSCS) asked the IRS to investigate and consider revoking his church’s tax-exempt status. Mr. Drake was understandably upset with the AUSCS. Unlike George Bush who, upon becoming upset with Saddam Hussein embarked on a course that left hundreds of thousands of Iraqis homeless and resulted in the deaths of thousands of Americans and Iraqis, Mr. Drake embarked on a far more pacific route. He invoked something called Imprecatory Prayer. In a Media Advisory of August 14, Mr. Drake says that having been unsuccessful in attempts to talk to AUSCS, “we must begin our Imprecatory Prayer, at the key points of the parliamentary role in the earth where we live. . . . . The righteous have dominion, but only through imprecatory prayer against the ungodly. . . . David, as our Old Testament shepherd, gives us many Imprecatory prayers, and can be found to be in best focus in Psalm 109.” He closes by saying: “Please join us, with Bible in hand, and let us do battle against the enemies of God.”
In the Media Advisory Mr. Drake asks his followers, in their prayers, to specifically target Joe Conn or Jeremy Learning, it apparently being they who signed the letter to the IRS. In explaining his action Mr. Drake said that “The prayer does call for serious, serious punishment on people. But I didn’t call for that, God did.”
Psalm 109 that Mr. Drake offers as a guide to the kinds of things one might ask the Lord to consider, has many good suggestions for getting even with one’s enemies but the beauty of it is, the Lord takes care of doing it all and man does not have to get involved beyond praying for bad things to happen. Among the bad things the Lord might want to consider inflicting on the psalmster’s enemies, the psalmster suggests (on the off chance the Lord won’t think of them Himself) are “May his days be few; may another seize his goods! May his children be fatherless, and his wife a widow!. . . May the creditor seize all that he has; may strangers plunder the fruits of his toil!” etc. Those are, of course, exactly the consequences of what George Bush, acting, he would have us believe, as God’s surrogate, has done in Iraq. The difference between Mr. Bush and Mr. Drake, is that whereas Mr. Bush took it upon himself to do the Lord’s work, Mr. Drake is content to simply ask the Lord to do those things and leaves the rest up to him. There are hundreds of thousands of Iraqis who wish that George Bush had incorporated all of Psalm 109 by reference in his prayers, asked his subjects to do the same, and left the rest up to God. Mr. Bush, of course, declined to follow this route. There may be a reason.
Sister Thomas Bernard MacConnell, founder of the Spirituality Center at Mount St. Mary’s College in Los Angeles explains: “It is very possible that my enemies are not God’s enemies.” It is likely Mr. Bush didn’t want to take a chance on that being the case which explains why he took things into his own hands rather leaving it up to God. That’s too bad. If Imprecatory Prayer was good enough for King David one might have thought it would be good enough for King George.