Which black hole has Audrey fallen down today, you ask? Well, I'll be happy to share.
This video clip is one of dozens which has been posted by a Baptist preacher out of Tempe, Arizona in the last few years. This guy is a NUT JOB. Unfortunately, he's handsome (Jack from Lost, anyone?), affable, articulate, has ample proof of his personal virility (seven kids), and enjoys wearing a suit and tie. I say unfortunately because all of these things make him prime preacher material, whether or not he has any real handle on the Truth.
Today alone, I've watched him preach on the role of women (surprise, he doesn't like Feminists), gender (he thinks women shouldn't wear pants), and our President (Barack Obama is the devil... "and get the hell out of my church if you don't want to hear it!").
In the clip I've posted, Pastor Steve Anderson holds forth on the "righteous government" which at least one of the original thirteen colonies had in place back in 1639. This government did away with jolly old religiously-persecutorial England's rule of law which included a whopping 150 crimes which were punishable by death. Whew. Because killing someone who forged a check is just dotty ! And then the New Haveners in the Connecticut colony instated the Hebrew rule of law which had a much more reasonable list of 11 crimes punishable by death.
You're wondering how this is better than the old British standard the colonists escaped, aren't you? Good news for check forgers: they just get time in the stocks. But the new and improved list includes the following crimes:
- Perjury against the life of another
- Sodomy ("Which is homosexuality... being GAY!" Wait for the jazz hands. Seriously excellent.)
- Blasphemy in the highest degree
- Rebellion against parents
Now, I'm not going to get into a debate with anyone about capital punishment. At least not here. So, why post this?
Because it frightens me and I want to call it out of the darkness by name.
I've often wondered if, as Eve walked the gardens of Eden and named the animals, she was afraid. That's not a Biblical thought, right? Before the fall of man, Adam and Eve knew no evil. But evil existed. And technically, God had warned both of His human creations what they needed to avoid: fruit from the tree of knowledge. So I guess it's possible, then, that as she walked the gardens before that moment of truth, seeing the creeping, crawling shapes of many species scurrying around her for the first time, she was afraid. Perhaps she kept one eye on that corner of the world she had been warned away from and called out the names of the birds, magpie and emu and pheasant and heron, to soothe her worried heart. Making it about control. Making it about keeping her mind and hands from resting idle. Making it about identifying the things she feared so that they were less fearsome, somehow then belonging to her. A brand.
I call out this guy. One random, conservative, zealous preacher in the vast American southwest. Not because I think he's going to leave any great mark on mankind, but because I know he's not alone, and what he says is dangerously regressive.
Not only because he called his wife up in front of the congregation to have the crowd consider her choice of wardrobe (a pink floral, polyrayon blend dress with a modest neckline and hemline) as an example of what a godly woman should wear. Nor because he grasped a lock of her mouse-brown hair and lifted it straight up and asked the crowd whether it was long enough, Biblically speaking. Though this moment made me speak the word "bastard" aloud in my empty flat. To no one. To myself.
(Don't worry. I've read Mrs. Anderson's blog. She's cool with it this livestock-auction style of living-by-example teaching.)
What this preacher is hollering from his little pulpit is collectively backward, and he has the scripture to back it up. But Christians have been misinterpreting scripture since the beginning of time. What's the difference?
Very subtle, but did you catch the beginning of Mr. Anderson's fun little history lesson?
"Our country declared independence from England in 1776, right? And then, of course, the Constitution is 1787. But this country was already filled with people long before that. People started coming in the early 1600s. And the Americas were populated with people all throughout the 1600s and 1700s, and they had governments."
You might think I'm nitpicking here, but what disturbs me most is Mr. Anderson's failure to mention that, in fact, the continent of North America had been populated for centuries prior to the arrival of the original colonists, centuries prior to Columbus's arrival in what today is The Bahamas. It's as if he doesn't consider them worth mentioning. Sort of the same mentality the people who moved into the colonies must have had in order to justify the annexing of land which had been home to the native people since prehistory. Is that a stretch?
Maybe. Or maybe this man, the leader of a congregation of indeterminate size (though their website references a recent move to a larger church building to accommodate a growing number), actually did just say that the government formed by the people of New Haven, Connecticut in 1639, the one that burned witches and was willing to put children to death for disrespecting their parents, was not only right in doing so, but aligned with the will of God.
No, I don't think inferring Mr. Anderson has little respect for people of other religions, races, creeds, or colors is a stretch.
The fact that he has little extra-Biblical respect for women isn't a wild guess on my part either. There's a perfectly lovely video clip of him literally jumping up and down while he proclaims the reasons he would never, never ever!, vote for a woman to lead the United States of America. (Oh, and he wants to know whether Janet Reno is a man impersonating a woman. But he said that sarcastically, and he is admittedly confused by the advent of skinny jeans on men, so that could be a joke or his own stupidity. Hard to tell.)
Again, I will remind you that he's not alone. Far from it.
At my home church in California, someone (anonymously) wrote a prayer request which was posted on a board at the back of our sanctuary which called out President Barack Obama as the Antichrist. Of course, that was in 2008; maybe that particular church member was merely suffering from a temporary case of bigotry and/or ignorance.
That's why, once I stopped laughing at ludicrousness of what Steve Anderson is posting himself saying, I shivered.
It's small-time and grassroots and locally-grown.
He's got a knock-on-doors "soul winning" ministry.
He's a squeaky clean husband and father, and if he coached your son's soccer team, you'd likely invite him over for dinner. It's that easy. Because Americans, for the most part, are still friendly, accommodating people. When one earnest guy in a starched shirt starts selling crazy across the coffee table, we're more likely to smile and nod and wait it out than we are to call a spade a spade and throw him and his 17 th century Puritanical morality out on his ear.
This wouldn't be so worrisome, by the way, if 27% of Americans didn't believe God plays a role in who wins in a football game . (You read that right. Not only do they believe God watches football, but they think he cares and takes a side and makes it happen. I wonder if they think he's got Miller Lite on tap in heaven, too.)
I don't want bigots in America's pulpits. Nor do I want preachers who call for me to have lots of babies and get back in the kitchen, for crying out loud. Think this doesn't happen? I recently, and ill advisedly, picked a fight with a conservative religious female blogger who opted to turn the matter over to her preacher husband rather than responding to me on her own. One of his emails was closed out as follows:
"I do not know you, but I bet you would make a fabulous Mom, with much wisdom and joy to share with a couple kids. It's time. Maybe you found [my wife's] post by help of the Spirit. It is time to put away your selfish happiness and step up to the responsibilities to which God has called you. And if you choose to do so, train them in God's Word. All of it. Not in worldly wisdom or what the crowd of Christians are doing, but what God wants and demands from His creation. You will find your happiness turn to the deepest joy imaginable... to have your children choosing Jesus because they love Him and are His."
To be fair, I stuck my nose in. Why did I think it wouldn't get tapped condescendingly by the patriarch?
I can't silence these men. Honestly, as a patriotic American, I don't want to. The First Amendment is that important to me. What I want is for people to stop listening to them or, at the very least, listen once and hear them for what they are, hear their message for how utterly lacking and detrimental it is, and then turn away.
Westboro Baptist Church pisses people off, not because they carry horrible, degrading signs, but because they damn everyone all at once. No one is safe from their judgment. The whole country is bound for hell. The whole world. President Obama. Our troops. The Jews. The Amish. The Swedes. Christians. Anyone not named Phelps. Seriously. The brush scrapes over us all, and that's why they make easy pariahs. Wrapped in upside-down American flags and wearing bandanas which read "Thank God for Cancer," they're nobody's scape goat. The WBC folks are simply the enemy.
But we look right past people like Steve Anderson.
And try as I might, I couldn't tell by looking who among my fellow churchgoers believed President Obama to be the Antichrist. Nor could I, unfortunately, have told you with certainty many people who definitely did NOT believe that about our President.
Guard yourselves, friends. If you believe in God, guard your
heart against this kind of teaching. If you don't believe in God... try not to
hold what he says against all Christians everywhere.
Some of us believe that the Native Americans had a completely valid claim to the land before the massive European migration in the 17 th and 18 th centuries. Some of us think women are well-equipped to serve in political office at every level. And some of us believe the Hebrew rule of law with regard to the use of capital punishment is barbaric and should only be referenced as a cautionary tale.