November 18, 2009

It's too bad Rachel Maddow isn't on MSNBC a bit earlier in the evening. There is not another show on cable television doing the type of reporting and muckraking she is night after night and some of the best interviews as well--tonight's interview with Frank Schaeffer being no exception. Rachel reports on the lastest round of attacks coming from the religious right against President Obama, this time with the use of Psalm 109:8 as reported by the Christian Science Monitor.

Biblical anti-Obama slogan: Use of Psalm 109:8 funny or sinister?

There’s a new slogan making its way onto car bumpers and across the Internet. It reads simply: “Pray for Obama: Psalm 109:8”

A nice sentiment?

Maybe not.

The psalm reads, “Let his days be few; and let another take his office.”

Presidential criticism through witty slogans is nothing new. Bumper stickers, t-shirts, and hats with “1/20/09” commemorated President Bush’s last day in office.

But the verse immediately following the psalm referenced is a bit more ominous: “Let his children be fatherless, and his wife a widow.”

Continue reading...

Here's Rachel's take.

MADDOW: And then there's this, a Biblical quote making the rounds in anti-Obama circles, as reported this week in The Christian Science Monitor: Pray For President Obama - Psalm 109 Verse 8. What's Psalm 109:8? Well, it reads 'Let His Days Be Few, And Let Another Take His Office.' Let his days be few. Uh, it's followed immediately by another verse: 'Let His Children Be Fatherless, And His Wife A Widow.'

And don't forget, that sentiment is now being merchandized on bumper stickers, on mouse pads, on teddy bears, on aprons, framed tiles - those are nice - keepsake boxes, T-shirts. Let his days be few, ha, ha, on a teddy bear. Is anybody else creeped out by this?

Frank Schaeffer joined Rachel to weigh in. Video and transcript below the fold.

MADDOW: Joining us now is Frank Schaeffer, whose father Francis Schaeffer helped shape the evangelical movement in the United States. Mr. Schaeffer grew up in the religious far-right. He's the author of 'Patience With God: Faith For People Who Don't Like Religion Or Atheism. Mr. Schaeffer, thanks very much for coming back on the show.

SCHAEFFER: Thanks for having me on.

MADDOW: Let his days be few and let another take his office. Let his children be fatherless and his wife a widow. This is such strong language in secular terms about President Obama. Can you tell me if this means something less threatening to people hearing this in a Biblical context?

SCHAEFFER: No actually it means something more threatening. I think that the situation that I find genuinely frightening right now is that you have a ramping up of biblical language, language from the anti-abortion movement, for instance, death panels, and this sort of thing, and what it's coalescing into is branding Obama as Hitler, as they have already called him, as something foreign to our shores -we're reminded of that, he was 'born in Kenya' - as Brown, as Black, above all, as not us. He is Sarah Palin's 'not a real American.'

But now, it turns out, that he joins the ranks of the unjust kings of ancient Israel, unjust rulers, to which all these Biblical allusions are directed, who should be slaughtered, if not by God, then by just men.

So there's a direct parallel here with Timothy McVeigh's T-shirt on the day of the Oklahoma City bombing, in which he said that the 'tree of liberty had to be watered occasionally by the blood of tyrants' and that quote we saw again at a meeting at which Obama was present being carried on a placard by someone carrying a loaded weapon.

What we're looking at right now is two things going on. We see the evangelical groups that I talk about in my new book, 'Patience With God,' enthralled by an apocalyptic vision that I go into in some detail in there. They represent the millions of people who have turned the 'Left Behind' series into best-sellers. Most of them are not crazy, they're just deluded. But there is a crazy fringe to whom all these little messages that have been pouring out of Fox News, now on a bumper sticker, talking about doing away with Obama, asking God to kill him...

Really, this is trawling for assassins. And this is serious business. It's un-American, it's unpatriotic, and it goes to show that the religious right, the Republican far-right, have coalesced into a group that truly wants American revolution, and if it turns out to be blood in the streets and death, so be it. This is not funny stuff any more. They cannot be dismissed as just crazies on the fringe. It only takes one.

You know look at the Boston Globe article a few weeks ago saying that the threat level faced by the Secret Service has gone up 400% higher than any other time in fifty two years for any president, Democrat or Republican—these are no jokes and as I talk about in Patience With God, if you trace these origins back to this paranoid, deluded evangelical group of which me and my father sadly were not only members but leaders in the ‘70’s and ‘80’s, the foot soldiers that people like Dick Armey and others are using now to push their political agenda to undo health care are also people that have within their ranks people such as the person who murdered Dr. Tiller and killed three police officers in Pittsburg because they thought Obama would take away their guns. This bumper sticker simply says to them “It’s open season”.

MADDOW: And, to be clear, I mean, over-the-top political criticism is as American as apple pie, and incredibly intense criticism has been leveled at George W. Bush and against every President that's gone before him in modern times, but you're saying that there is essentially a religious inflection in the most extreme of the commentary against Obama that's operating on a religious level, that's a signal to a religiously-minded audience.

SCHAEFFER: Absolutely. Look. This is the American version of the Taliban. The Taliban quotes the Qu'ran, and al Qaeda quotes certain verses in the Qu'ran, in or out of context, calling for jihad, and bloody war, and the curse of Allah on infidels. This is the Old Testament, Biblical equivalent of calling for holy war. Now, most Americans'll just see the bumper sticker and smile and think that it's facetious. Unfortunately, there are 22 million Americans or so who call themselves super-conservative evangelicals. Of this, a small minority might be violent. But, the general atmosphere here is really getting heated.

And what surprises me is that responsible, if you can put it that way, Republican leadership and the editors of some of these Christian magazines, etc. etc., do not stand up in holy horror and denounce this. You know, they're always asking 'Where is the Islamic leadership denouncing terrorism? Why aren't the moderates speaking out?' Well, I challenge the folks who I used to work with that I talk about in my book Patience With God and I would just say to them: 'Where the hell are you? This is not funny anymore. And be it on your head if something happens to our President if you are going to go around supporting and not speaking out against this stuff. It’s not just a question of who’s doing it. The bigger question is where are the people speaking out against these things? I don’t hear those voices raised in the evangelical fundamentalist community and until I do I am, my opinion is they’re culpable and one last thing on this.

And I…one last thing on this—I think it points up the fact that Obama supporters of which I have been one since he began running had better start speaking up in support of him and not sniping at him all the time because he’s not moving towards change as fast as we’d like in every area. This is serious stuff. The chips are down. He has real enemies, some of them are violent and as far as I’m concerned it’s time to support our president and stand with him and not only wish him the best, but as a believing Christian myself, pray for his safety in the face of these religious maniacs who every day, you know, one time I was on your show a while back and they were talking about is he the anti-Christ, now they’re saying he’s an unjust ruler and they’re asking god to strike him down. There are not very many steps left on this insane path.

I do not agree with Schaeffer that we need to get behind the President on policy matters we don't agree with but he's absolutely right that we do need to get behind him when it comes to pushing back against this sort of hate filled rhetoric.

h/t Hissyspitting for part of the transcript.

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