Neu circled Psalm 109, verse 8-9 in one of the Bibles used by the prison chaplain. The text reads, "Let his days be few, and let another take his office... May his children be fatherless and his wife a widow." He marked the passage with a post-it note that said, “Obama Prayer” and left it on the desk of a fellow corrections sergeant. Concerned about the sinister implications of such an association, the fellow sergeant conferred with other officers in the department before ultimately reporting the incident.
Neu insists that he had no intention of violence, though he admits he is not the biggest fan of Obama. Realistically, the controversy itself has less to do with what Neu intended than how it is perceived in the larger realm of society. At first glance, the circled passage and notes merit justification of harm toward a world leader via religious text. That is where the real problem lies.
Despite different takes on different religious texts, the most consistent message among different religions is one of love, respect and acceptance. Despite this near universal dictate for daily living, people of power have, for centuries, construed various religious passages to suit their own agendas. This perversion of overall intent is what creates animosity between religious sects. It's the manufacturing of artificial difference and distinction that fuels continuing wars, cultural strife and the breakdown of interfaith communication for the better good.
It is perfectly acceptable, and in fact, encouraged, to pray for the individuals that lead this country and for the direction that we're headed in. It is perfectly acceptable for Neu or anyone else to disagree with or dislike President Obama. But like it or not, he is the President. If you're going to pray about him, pray for him. Don't like his policy? Pray that he has a revelation. Worried about his judgment? Pray that it improves. Want another candidate to take office in 2012? Pray that it happens, and then go do something about it.
Hateful prayer does little for the soul and less for society. It creates a bad name for spirituality, especially since most people don't practice their faith in that manner. Neu may not have intended for things to get this out of hand, but they have. We are often chided about watching what we say. Perhaps, in some cases, we should watch what we pray.
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