If patriotism is the last refuge of a scoundrel, 1 Timothy 2:1-2 is the last refuge of a warmongering, conservative Christian.
In those verses, oft repeated in the fellowship halls of American churches, Paul instructs Timothy to pray for a Republican president, congress, and courts. And, most importantly, an overly strong military that will shine as the beacon from our city upon a hill.
That is the quintessential conservative Christian prayer – or so it seems at time.
However, the full passage from Paul’s powerful instruction reads much differently:
2 Therefore I exhort first of all that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks be made for all men, 2 for kings and all who are in authority, that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and reverence. NKJV
The last clause of verse 2 contains the reason for the prayer. Yet, those citing the passage typically gloss over it or drop it altogether.
We are not to mindlessly pray for our leaders. And we are not to pray for them to rule the world on our behalf. We are, instead, to pray for them to leave us alone in our Christian walk.
However, American Christians rarely take Paul’s instruction to heart, although the same is not true elsewhere in the world.
Christians have lived in the Levant from the time the Apostles began spreading the good news of Jesus Christ. They have persisted in that region despite oppression, war, etc. Nevertheless, for most of the region, Christianity and its good news may not survive the next four years. And it will be American Christians, proudly calling themselves conservative, who are cheering its eradication.
When Bush lied about weapons of mass destruction and called for the support of American Christians, he, in the end, appealed to the god of democracy. And, once again, my fellow Christians pulled that idol from the fire and fell on their knees and worshiped. That their Christian brothers and sisters in Iraq would soon face the wrath of democracy meant nothing – not a word was mentioned. The US military would free them of Saddam Hussein and bless them with the right to vote. Salvation on earth.
Of course, my fellow Christians know the result. They also know that our Iraqi Christian brothers and sisters have suffered immensely due to war after war, as well as the overthrow of a leader who protected Christians and allowed them to, for the most part, lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and reverence. Yet most conservative Christians have not taken that to heart.
Nor have they taken this to heart as well: when they were praying through the first half of verse 2, the Christians in Iraq were finishing the full prayer. And it appeared that God had answered it – Saddam was leaving them alone.
Conservative Christians can throw up any objection they like. However, Paul was explicit in his instruction. He was not calling for prayers of politics or power. He was calling for prayers, seemingly mundane, for leaders to leave Christians alone in their faith. And we can assume Iraqi Christians followed his instruction and prayed the whole verse, reaping its reward, until the US military, cheered by American churches, arrived to evangelize a different god – democracy.
Certainly, Syria’s Assad is a vile man, as was Saddam. However, Assad also allowed, for the most part, Christians to lead quiet and peaceable lives in all godliness and reverence. Still, American Christians scoff at such silliness. Why pray to be left alone when you should be praying for military might and world domination?
So, today, American Christians arrogantly pray for the end to Christianity in the Levant. And not a silent end, but a vicious end once Assad falls and the allies of the US (including local franchises of Al Qaeda) deliver their rage and fury on what remains of Christianity in Syria.
The irony is the god of democracy will not rise in the land. And American Christians know it. Yet they will continue to support the foreign interventions of the state simply because they refuse to read to the end of 1 Timothy 2:2.