The President's Prayer
by Laurence M. Vance
by Laurence M. Vance
Just after the war in Iraq began three years ago, I saw this message on the sign of a conservative Baptist church in the town where I live (Pensacola, FL). It was gone after a few weeks, never to reappear. I don't know why. Perhaps the church or the pastor had a change of heart. Or perhaps whoever maintains the sign never uses the same message twice. I have noticed recently that some churches still have similar signs. It is unfortunate that many Christians initially supported the president's endeavor; it is tragic that some of them still do.
Evangelical Christian support for the president and his war is waning. Perhaps it is not out of principle, but at least support for this war has diminished somewhat (although gullible Christians can be counted on to support the next intervention or war if a Republican president undertakes it). But it is a blight on Christianity that many of those who continue to support Bush and his war are evangelical Christians. To their everlasting shame, I suspect that it is evangelical Christians who will support Bush until the bitter end — no matter how many more U.S. soldiers are killed, no matter long the war continues, no matter how many more billions of dollars are wasted, and no matter what outrages the president commits against the Constitution, the rule of law, and Christianity itself.
There is a king mentioned in the Old Testament named Darius who was so full of himself that he signed a decree drawn up by "all the presidents of the kingdom, the governors, and the princes, the counselors, and the captains" which stated that "whosoever shall ask a petition of any God or man for thirty days, save of thee, O King, he shall be cast into the den of lions" (Daniel 6:7). This was done to trap Daniel the prophet, who prayed three times a day toward Jerusalem to the true God. The king later regretted his decision to sign the decree; but nevertheless, since "no decree nor statute which the king established" (Daniel 6:15) could be changed, Daniel was cast into the den of lions. As it turned out, God delivered Daniel, and the king had the men thrown into the den of lions who had accused him.
I haven't heard of any Christians asking petitions of Bush as a form of prayer as yet, but should they decide to do so, I will make it easy for them.
All Christians are familiar with the Lord's Prayer — the model prayer that Jesus taught his disciples found in the sixth chapter of Matthew's gospel:
Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name.
Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread.
And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors.
And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil: For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever. Amen.
Our President which art in Washington, May the U.S. empire be called after thy name.
Thy military come. Thy war be done in Iran, as it is in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Give us this day our daily battle.
And forgive us our pacifism, as we ridicule the critics of your wars.
And lead us into combat, but deliver us from Muslims: For thine is the army, and the navy, and the air force, until your term is up. Amen.
Am I really serious? Perhaps a better question would be: "Are Christians who defend, promote, and support Bush's unjust, immoral, and unscriptural war really serious?" Or perhaps this: "Are Christians who consider Bush to be a great Christian president, God's anointed, or the fourth member of the Trinity really serious?" The way some Christians hagiographically describe the president or blindly support his war — it is only natural to think that the next step would be to offer prayer to him.
Christian, which prayer is it going to be? Is Christ the Lord or is Bush the Lord? If you would never think of praying the President's Prayer then why do you still so highly regard the president after you have had five years to observe his anti-Christian actions? Your standard of Christianity has been lowered to the ground.
And to those Christians who don't care much for the president (and perhaps even loathe him), but are still making excuses for his war of death and destruction in Iraq — because "9-11 changed everything," "we are protecting Israel," "Islam is a false religion," "we must support our troops," "the Lord is a man of war," "the military is defending our freedoms," "we must obey the government," or some other substitute for sound doctrine — I would say this: how many more dead American soldiers and billions of dollars will it take before you finally say enough is enough? Some of you would probably still support the war in Vietnam if it was still going on. I know you don't care about dead Iraqi soldiers and civilians — they are on their way to hell anyway is your attitude. I know you don't care about Iraqis in U.S. custody being abused and tortured — they tried to kill Americans you would say. But what about American soldiers? When more U.S. soldiers are killed in Iraq than people were killed in the September 11th attacks — will you then begin to question the war? What about the dollars of American taxpayers? When the cost of the war reaches a trillion dollars — will you then call for a cost-benefit analysis?
Christian soldiers who would never think of praying the President's Prayer are not off the hook, for they cannot pray Lord's Prayer either. In his immortal work, The Complaint of Peace, Erasmus asks us to
imagine we hear a soldier, among these fighting christians, saying the Lord's prayer. "Our Father," says he; O hardened wretch! can you call him father, when you are just going to cut your brother's throat? "Hallowed be thy name:" how can the name of God be more impiously unhallowed, than by mutual bloody murder among you, his sons? "Thy kingdom come": do you pray for the coming of his kingdom, while you are endeavouring to establish an earthly despotism, by spilling the blood of God's sons and subjects? "Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven": his will in heaven, is for peace, but you are now meditating war. Dare you to say to your Father in heaven "Give us this day our daily bread"; when you are going, the next minute perhaps, to burn up your brother's corn-fields; and had rather lose the benefit of them yourself, than suffer him to enjoy them unmolested? With what face can you say, "Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive them that trespass against us," when, so far from forgiving your own brother, you are going, with all the haste you can, to murder him in cold blood, for an alleged trespass that, after all, is but imaginary. Do you presume to deprecate the danger of temptation, who, not without great danger to yourself, are doing all you can to force your brother into danger? Do you deserve to be delivered from evil, that is, from the evil being, to whose impulse you submit yourself, and by whose spirit you are now guided, in contriving the greatest possible evil to your brother?
Erasmus, who did not know George WMD Bush, nevertheless remarked in his The Education of a Christian Prince that "it happens sometimes that princes enter into mutual agreements and carry on a war on trumped-up grounds so as to reduce still more the power of the people and secure their own positions through disaster to their subjects." His admonition to the president to consider all the catastrophes that would come to the world if he launches a war, which obviously went unheeded, was to think over in his own mind:
Shall I, one person, be the cause of so many calamities? Shall I alone be charged with such an outpouring of human blood; with causing so many widows; with filling so many homes with lamentation and mourning; with robbing so many old men of their sons; with impoverishing so many who do not deserve such a fate; and with such utter destruction of morals, laws, and practical religion? Must I account for all these things before Christ?
Did the president even remotely consider the potential damage to not only the United States, but civilization itself, that his war might cause? I would not want to be in Bush's shoes at the judgment. Or in the shoes of a Christian who in any way defended, supported, promoted, apologized for, or made excuses for the president and his war. I have enough of my own sins to be concerned about without adding to them the blood of thousands of American soldiers and tens of thousands of Iraqi civilians. Don't we all?
April 10, 2006
Laurence M. Vance [send him mail] is a freelance writer and an adjunct instructor in accounting and economics at Pensacola Junior College in Pensacola, FL. He is also the director of the Francis Wayland Institute. His new book is Christianity and War and Other Essays Against the Warfare State. Visit his website.
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