There's a T-shirt which is creating a ruckus. It's yellow, and emblazoned on the front is, "Pray for Obama" and underneath, "Psalm 109:8." The actual line in Psalm 109:8 states, “Let his days be few; and let another take his office.” A hope that Obama gets voted out of office, or something more sinister?
(President Obama remains in office and unsmited, as can be seen from this photo taken yesterday.)
A company called Zazzle was purportedly selling this particular t-shirt, but no longer. This statement was released on Wednesday:
“…it is only after great thought that we have determined that these products, in the context of the full text of Psalm 109, may be interpreted in such a way as to suggest physical harm to the President of the United States. In deference to the Office of the President of the United States, and in accordance with federal law prohibiting the making of threats against the physical wellbeing of the President of the United States, Zazzle has therefore determined that these products are in violation of the Zazzle User Agreement and not appropriate for inclusion in the Zazzle Marketplace.”
The full text of their statement can be found here.
Another company called Cafepress is, however, selling another t-shirt with the same slogan (but not in the seizure-inducing neon yellow which Zazzle was.)
Supporters of the President are up in arms, and declaring that the t-shirt is an exhortation on the part of Christian Conservatives to cause grievous harm to the President. While the actual passage in Psalm 109:8 reads, “Let his days be few; and let another take his office” the rest of the psalm is an entreaty to God to ruin the supplicant’s enemy, to “Let his children be fatherless, and his wife a widow” (the next line.) Clearly, it could be interpreted that some who buy and wear the t-shirt want President Obama deeply incapacitated, to put it mildly. However, other commentators have countered that it’s taking Psalm 109 out of context; all 109:8 declares, they say, is that those who are opposed to the President wish him to not be re-elected. That’s all. There’s no murderous intent, nor are they praying for lethal divine wrath to be visited upon Obama or his family.
Now, the actual psalm itself, read as a whole, is a lament against an oppressive and wicked time; it is also a call by David to bring down righteous vengeance upon his transgressor. But not just to smite down; the oppressor’s familial lineage must also be exterminated, and his deeds stricken from the public records. Taken in literal form, this was part of the no-holds-barred approach in the dog eat dog world that was the ancient Holy Land. It’s tribalism in the purest form, and utter destruction of an enemy was paramount if you wanted to survive. Which brings us back to the t-shirt’s original intent. Is the t-shirt, the fridge magnet, and the bumper sticker (all of which list “109:8”) code for “we hate Barack Obama and hope God or someone does grievous injury to him?” Or was it simply quoting that single line, “Let his days be few; and let another take his office” as a simple statement of political dissatisfaction? Which, by the way, is free speech protected by the First Amendment. When it’s a provable exhortation to violence, then it becomes hate speech.
The only person who could truthfully address the intent is the designer of the offending apparel and the other brickabrack. And if his or her purpose was to maliciously incite the more homicidally inclined amongst the Christian community, then that’s a matter to be settled between the t-shirt designer and God. And the Secret Service. Apparently, they take a dim view of threats (implied or otherwise) against the President of the United States.