Curses & Other Prayers
“Pour out your wrath upon them,
let the fury of your anger
Make their camp desolate
with none to dwell in their tents.”
Whoa, wait a minute - some questions:
—Is desolation a healthy ask?
—If a prayer is biblical, is it automatically safe to pray?
—Why haven’t I heard these words at Mass or at Vespers or in religion class?
—Was God violent in the Old Testament, then suddenly nonviolent in the New?
Psalms that call upon God for brutal intervention have always unsettled me. I don’t turn to them in prayer. And yet:
“All scripture is inspired by God
and is useful for teaching,
for refutation, for correction,
and for training in righteousness,
so that one who belongs to God
may be competent,
equipped for every good work.”
Luckily for me, and for you if you share this line of questioning, scholar Timothy Troutner is here to help. Pick your format and dig in:
Troutner’s Essay: “Bring Back the Imprecatory Psalms”
Podcast Conversation between Troutner & my friend Leonard Delorenzo And if you would like to think even more deeply on the topic, here is a piece from one of the all time greats, Gary A. Anderson: “God Doesn’t Break Bad in the Old Testament”
My only 2 notes here on what was best said there:
1. If sidelining the imprecatory psalms was a pastoral move meant to aid in evangelization, ecumenism, and retention of the faithful, then IT DID NOT HELP the American church, and continuing to do so has no prudential justification.
2. Many people leave Christianity when they encounter passages like the imprecatory psalms. These honest seekers wonder why pastors have been ignoring (hiding?) such verses from them, and if so, what such concealment means about the credibility of Scripture and of those who claim it as God’s inspired, inerrant Word. Ministers cannot afford to treat this issue as a sidebar; it is right at the core of handing on the faith.