At a time when some people confuse losing an election with living under tyranny, it’s perhaps no surprise that a day set aside for marking past presidents’ birth has become, for some, a day for praying for the current president’s death.
Praying for President Obama’s death has become a sick cottage industry for some evangelicals on the lunatic fringe. Bumper stickers, T-shirts, and teddy bears are sold with the wholesome-sounding slogan “Pray for Obama” but tagged with the more troublesome “Psalm 109:8”—which reads “May his days be few; may another take his place of leadership” followed by “May his children be fatherless and his wife a widow.”
“If you have an evil leader above you, you pray that Satan will stand by his side and you ask God to make his children fatherless.”
In Wingnut circles, it’s known as the “Imprecatory Prayer.” Offered not just from select pulpits, but increasingly expressed through tweets and forwarded via email, this decidedly un-Christian Christian subculture has found its most enthusiastic advocates in a few Obama Derangement Syndrome-afflicted preachers—notably Orange County’s Wiley Drake and Arizona’s Steven L. Anderson.
Pastor Wiley Drake kicked off this Presidents’ Day Weekend with an email blast to his supporters saying “Imprecatory Prayer is now our DUTY” and announcing a daily teleconference call to advance the cause. Drake has been an enthusiastic advocate of imprecatory prayer since he announced that God answered his call with the murder of Kansas abortion clinic doctor George Tiller in church last May. “George Tiller was far greater in his atrocities than Adolf Hitler,” Drake said at the time, “so I am happy. I am glad that he is dead.” This emboldened him to add “the usurper that is in the White House … B. Hussein Obama” to the list said in his church on Sundays.
Sadly, Drake is not a complete fringe figure. He served as a second vice president of the Southern Baptist Convention in ‘06 and ‘07. In ‘08, he received 47,000 votes as the vice-presidential nominee of the American Independent Party, alongside conservative activist Alan Keyes, Obama’s GOP opponent when he was elected to the Senate in 2004. I drove out to visit him in December for a profile in my book Wingnuts. I wanted to get a better sense of what someone is like who would pray for the president’s death.
Drake’s First Southern Baptist Church stands less than a mile from Knott’s Berry Farm amusement park in Orange County. It’s a beige cinderblock building constructed in the 1950s. In its front yard, a broken wooden set of Ten Commandments juts out of a rock while a sign reading “ETERNITY” hangs over a flickering Coke machine. Out back, a genial gray-haired man greeted me, looking every inch the Western grandfather of five. He was wearing a red shirt with black suspenders and a senior citizen-friendly big-buttoned cellphone hung on a string around his neck. Wiley ushered me back into the empty church, past a sign saying “God Bless America,” and we sat in the front pew.
“I’m known as a birther, you know. I don’t believe Obama was born in this country. He’s an illegal alien and so forth,” Wiley told me, matter-of-factly. “And so I began to pray what the Bible teaches us to pray and that is imprecatory prayer. An imprecatory prayer is very strong. Imprecatory prayer in Psalms 109, for example, says if you have an evil leader above you, you pray that Satan will stand by his side and you ask God to make his children fatherless and his wife a widow and that his time in office be short… Other Psalms say when they speak evil, God will break out their teeth and when they run to do destruction God will break their legs.”
To those offended by the idea of praying for death, Wiley shrugs. “I’m praying the word of God. I didn’t write it. Don’t get mad at me.”