After citing a controversial biblical quote during a speech Friday, the office of Sen. David Perdue clarified he did not intend to pray for the death of President Barack Obama. The Republican senator said Americans had to be very specific about what they asked God and mentioned a psalm in which David prays for the destruction of his enemies.
Speaking of the conservative Faith and Freedom Coalition’s Road to Majority event, the Georgia politician called on Americans to pray for their country, for their leaders and even for Obama in his role as president.
We should pray like Psalms 109:8 says. It says, ‘Let his days be few, let another have his office,’” Perdue added. There was some laughter and he continued to say “In all seriousness, I believe that America is at a moment of crisis.”
Although the senator only quoted that single verse, Democrats quickly started accusing Perdue of wishing for the death of the president. The assumption was caused by the nature of the Biblical passage, which right after the phrase Perdue mentioned delineates the following curses:
Let his children be fatherless, and his wife a widow.
Let his children be continually vagabonds, and beg: let them seek their bread also out of their desolate places.
Let the extortioner catch all that he hath, and let the strangers spoil his labor.
Let there be none to extend mercy unto him: neither let there be any to favor his fatherless children.
Kristen Orthman, a spokesman for Democratic Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada, told ABC News in an email that the Republican senator had left the impression he was asking God for the death of President Obama. Orthman suggested that comments like this one explained why someone like Donald Trump was the Republican nominee.
Sen. Perdue tells Faith and Freedom attendees to pray for Obama. "We should pray like Psalm 109:8 says: Let his days be few"
— Betsy Woodruff (@woodruffbets) June 10, 2016
A spokeswoman for Perdue, Megan Whittemore, said in a statement that the media should be added to the senator’s praying list given that it was “pushing a narrative to create controversy.”
“Senator Perdue said we are called to pray for our country, for our leaders, and for our president. He in no way wishes harm towards our president and everyone in the room understood that,” Whittemore said, according to ABC News.
The political use of the passage is ambiguous because it is hard to know whether Obama’s opponents honestly want him to step out of the White House, or they want him dead.
Harvard Divinity School professor Michael Coogan, who said he did not believe the senator had meant the message he recited, told ABC News that Psalm 109 is an imprecatory psalm to pray for the punishment of one’s enemies. He explained that the authors of such psalms were unjustly persecuted by the time they wrote them and asked God to make justice and curse those enemies often described as “pack of dogs” or “raging lions.”
Republicans have been using the Biblical passage since Obama first took office
This is not the first time Republicans use Psalm 109 to refer to Obama. During the first year of his presidency, bumper stickers were reading “Pray for Obama: Psalm 109:8.” And government officials who have not been laid off after citing it have apologized over the years of his administration.
In September 2010, Sgt. Matthew Neu was suspended for 26 hours without pay for violating professional standards after he left a note sticking out from inside Sgt. Martha Nash’s copy of the New Testament on her desk. She found the passage of Psalm 109 circled with a pink highlighter and told ABC News she had been shocked by the sinister meaning of the text.
Neu said investigators in sworn testimony that he had no malicious intentions towards the president.
— zpolitics (@zpolitics) June 8, 2016
Source: ABC News