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Should schools teach foe smiting?

ORANGE COUNTY

Imprecations and implications.

Orange County Pastor Wiley Drake was minding his own business when two enemies of God came after him last week. That’s how secular humanists operate, you know -- they’re just looking for ways to undercut people doing the Lord’s work.

At least, that’s how Drake sees things. Faced with that, the 63-year-old Buena Park Baptist had limited options. First, he says, he tried to resolve things with them privately, as Matthew 18:15 directs.

However, when Americans United for Separation of Church and State rebuffed him, Drake had other choices: He either could turn the other cheek, or he could ask his fellow Christians to pray for the demise of Joe Conn and Jeremy Leaming, two of the organization’s officials.

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With God speaking to him, Drake chose the latter course, exhorting his supporters to “begin our imprecatory prayer,” and directing them to Psalms 109.

Under the heading “How To Pray,” Drake quoted, verse by verse, the imprecations.

The temptation is to liken Drake’s action to the fatwa ordered by the Iranian ayatollah in 1989 against author Salman Rushdie, whose “Satanic Verses” was deemed a blasphemy against Islam.

Obviously, a significant difference is that the ayatollah called for someone to kill Rushdie, while Drake is simply asking for prayer that would encourage God to handle things as he saw fit. Still, two of the verses in the 109th Psalm suggest physical harm when speaking of the enemy: “Let his days be few; and let another take his office. Let his children be fatherless, and his wife a widow.”

Friends, I have met Wiley Drake.

I have interviewed Wiley Drake.

I actually like Wiley Drake.

Wiley Drake is no ayatollah.

He’s a Southern Baptist from Texas who is cookie-cut from the mold of men who like to preach the Gospel and issue press releases. I wrote 10 years ago that he “likes microphones for breakfast,” and Drake didn’t dispute it.

He acknowledged then that he probably had “been rightly accused of being somewhat self-aggrandizing and a media freak” but added that he’d actually accepted years earlier that he wasn’t going to become famous. However, he did become something of a media figure in 1997 after bucking Buena Park City Hall over a homeless shelter he established on his church’s site.

And he liked it. Over the years, his name occasionally found its way into the news -- not a bad thing for a guy who has an Internet radio show and who loves to talk.

I do not fear for Conn and Leaming, whose organization drew Drake’s ire for suggesting the IRS investigate him. The group sounded that trumpet because Drake endorsed GOP presidential candidate Mike Huckabee in a press release bearing church letterhead and did likewise on his church-based radio show.

Both actions violate federal tax law, according to the watchdog organization.

Even assuming that Conn and Leaming will be spared, there are implications here that keep me from simply dismissing the whole thing as Wiley Drake just being Wiley Drake.

Those implications relate to those pushing for teaching the Bible in the public schools. Yes, their argument is that the Bible should be taught as literature or as a cultural touchstone.

The problem is, not all teachers or students would let it go at that. We know what would happen in some classes once discussions got rolling. All of a sudden, someone will be invoking Scripture as a code of conduct. And not just the Ten Commandments.

Do you want the public schools discussing a “How To Pray” section in which students learn how to ask God for someone else’s demise? With Wiley Drake as guest speaker, perhaps.

Teacher: “Today, students, we’re going to discuss how to ask God to smite our enemies. Let’s open our Bibles to Psalms 109:10. Sara, would you mind reading aloud?”

Sara, a sophomore: “Let his children be continually vagabonds, and beg; let them seek their bread also out of their desolate places. . . . Let there be none to extend mercy unto him; neither let there be any to favor his fatherless children.”

Teacher: OK, and don’t forget the dance in the gym after the game tonight.

Forget the fact that people interpret Bible verses in different ways. At least one website I visited thinks those Psalmic verses aren’t directed against the “enemies.” But just to show you how subjective it is, Baptist preacher Wiley Drake obviously doesn’t share that view.

The dueling sides in this dispute have called on powerful forces: God and the IRS.

I’m no fool. I refuse to take sides.

I can’t afford to have either side raining down on me.

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Dana Parsons’ column appears Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays. He can be reached at (714) 966-7821 or at dana.parsons@latimes.com. An archive of his recent columns is at www.latimes.com/parsons


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