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'Pray for Obama' sign stirs controversy

By Jennifer Lee Preyss
Aug. 29, 2012 at 3:29 a.m.
Updated Aug. 30, 2012 at 3:30 a.m.

A controversial sign on North Navarro and Stanly Streets refers to Psalm 109:8, which reads, "May his days be few; may another take his place of leadership." Subsequent verses call for the destruction of the leader and his family. The sign was purchased by Milton H. Neitsch Jr., of Victoria.

PSALM 109 NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION

1 O God, whom I praise,

do not remain silent,

2 for wicked and deceitful men have opened their mouths against me; they have spoken against me with lying tongues.

3 With words of hatred they surround me; they attack me without cause.

4 In return for my friendship they accuse me,

but I am a man of prayer.

5 They repay me evil for good, and hatred for my friendship.

6 Appoint an evil man to oppose him; let an accuser stand at his right hand.

7 When he is tried, let him be found guilty, and may his prayers condemn him.

8 May his days be few;

may another take his place of leadership.

9 May his children be fatherless and his wife a widow.

10 May his children be wandering beggars; may they be driven from their ruined homes.

11 May a creditor seize all he has; may strangers plunder the fruits of his labor.

12 May no one extend kindness to him or take pity on his fatherless children.

13 May his descendants be cut off, their names blotted out from the next generation.

14 May the iniquity of his fathers be remembered before the Lord; may the sin of his mother never be blotted out.

15 May their sins always remain before the Lord,

that he may cut off the memory of them from the earth.

16 For he never thought of doing a kindness,

but hounded to death the poor and the needy and the brokenhearted.

17 He loved to pronounce a curse - may it come on him;

he found no pleasure in blessing - may it be far from him.

18 He wore cursing as his garment; it entered into his body like water,

into his bones like oil.

19 May it be like a cloak wrapped about him, like a belt tied forever around him.

20 May this be the Lord's payment to my accusers,

to those who speak evil of me.

21 But you, O Sovereign Lord, deal well with me for your name's sake; out of the goodness of your love, deliver me.

22 For I am poor and needy,

and my heart is wounded within me.

23 I fade away like an evening shadow; I am shaken off like a locust.

24 My knees give way from fasting; my body is thin and gaunt.

25 I am an object of scorn to my accusers; when they see me, they shake their heads.

26 Help me, O Lord my God;

save me in accordance with your love.

27 Let them know that it is your hand, that you, O Lord, have done it.

28 They may curse, but you will bless; when they attack they will be put to shame,

but your servant will rejoice.

29 My accusers will be clothed with disgrace

and wrapped in shame as in a cloak.

30 With my mouth I will greatly extol the Lord;

in the great throng I will praise him.

31 For he stands at the right hand of the needy one,

to save his life from those who condemn him.

A sign erected on North Navarro Street asking drivers-by to "Pray for Obama" is stirring controversy in the Crossroads.

The sign, at the corner of North Navarro and Stanly Streets next to Car West Car Wash and Uncle Mutt's Bar-B-Q, references a seemingly kind suggestion to pray for the nation's president.

But below a pair of hands folded in prayer, Psalms 109:8 is stripped across the bottom.

"When I first saw the sign, I thought, 'Oh good, we should pray for our leaders' ... but when I got out my Bible and looked up the verse, I realized the verse was calling for the death of a leader who the writer (King David, of Israel) believes is evil," said the Rev. Amy Danchik, of Christ the Victor Lutheran Church, located on the same street.

Psalms 109:8, which reads, "May his days be few; may another take his place of leadership," provoked Danchik to petition area clergy for the removal of the sign, citing its inflammatory implication that Obama should die.

On its own, Danchik said Psalm 109:8 is "bad enough," but the verses immediately following secure the tone of the "Pray for Obama" sign.

Psalm 109:9-10 reads, "May his children be fatherless and his wife a widow. May his children be wandering beggars; may they be driven from their ruined homes."

"When I read the entire Psalm, which I believe you have to do to get the full context of each verse, I realized the meaning of this sign isn't Christianity as I know it. God calls us to pray for our enemies, not their deaths," Danchik said. "It's the wrong message for Jesus followers."

The sign was purchased and erected by Milton H. Neitsch Jr., of Victoria, who owns the properties where Uncle Mutt's and the car wash are located.

Neitsch, who said the two businesses located on his properties are not responsible for or affiliated with the sign, said he did not intend for the billboard to be controversial.

"I did not mean to imply what's in those other verses, only Psalm 109:8," Neitsch said. "The country is losing its Christianity and that sign was put up in good faith to support the prayer for Obama, even though I don't support his policies."

Neitsch said the sign was purchased online and paid for by several supporters of its message. He said he received only one complaint since the sign went up a week ago, and everyone else has praised the billboard.

"I believe in God and I believe there's still time for this country, but I believe we can't put up with what we've had the last four years," he said. "I only support what's written in Psalm 109:8, which says 'Let his days be few.' Obama happens to have 69 days left and when he's gone someone else will take his place."

But Danchik said the act of removing one verse from the entire passage, known as "prooftexting," is an insufficient method of reading scripture and may promote an incorrect message of Christianity.

"The world already sees a hateful form of Christianity, and this is one of the reasons - this billboard," she said.

Jared Mayfield, the city of Victoria's director of development services, said no regulation or ordinance would require Neitsch to remove the sign from his property.

"If it's on his property and it's legal, he can change the message on the billboard," Mayfield said. "The city doesn't have any regulations or sign ordinance that would address the content of the sign."

Victoria resident David Allen, who was not immediately aware of the message of the sign, said he does not support Neitsch's billboard.

"I don't think it should be up there. For him to say that a person should die, that's not right. Obama shouldn't be president, but he doesn't need to die," Allen said.

Yet another Victoria resident, Gabby Herrera, said while she doesn't support the message of the sign, she supports Neitsch's right to post it on his property.

"Yes, it's in a public place, but it's on his property," she said. "I'm not saying I'm for or against Obama," but Neitsch has the right to express his opinion.

Danchik has launched a community-wide effort to remove the sign and is circulating a petition among clergy and Victoria residents requesting it be taken down.

"This is not about bashing the man who put it up. I have no hatred for him, and I'm speaking the truth in love," Danchik said. "But I'm holding him accountable to scripture. I'd like to see it taken down for the sake of the gospel."

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