Friday, August 28, 2009

Death Wish

There are some really interesting people in the pulpit these days. One such is a fellow named Steven Anderson at the Faithful Word Baptist Church in Tempe, Arizona. Among his sermons that include the usual diatribes against gays and anybody else who doesn’t believe in every word written in that book that starts out with two naked people and the talking snake, he calls for the death of the President of the United States.

Let me tell you something: Barack Obama has wrought lewdness in America. America has become lewd. What does lewd mean? L-E-W-D? [Pause] Obscene. Right? Dirty. Filthy. Homosexuality. Promiscuity. All of the — everything that’s on the billboard, the TV. Sensuality. Lewdness! We don’t even know what lewdness means anymore! We’re just surrounded by it, inundated with it!

… And yet you’re going to tell me that I’m supposed to pray for the socialist devil, murderer, infanticide, who wants to see young children and he wants to see babies killed through abortion and partial-birth abortion and all these different things — you’re gonna tell me I’m supposed to pray for God to give him a good lunch tomorrow while he’s in Phoenix, Arizona.

Nope. I’m not gonna pray for his good. I’m going to pray that he dies and goes to hell. When I go to bed tonight, that’s what I’m going to pray. And you say, ‘Are you just saying that?’ No. When I go to bed tonight, Steven L. Anderson is going to pray for Barack Obama to die and go to hell.

You say, ‘Why would you do that?’ That our country could be saved.

Ironically enough, Mr. Anderson is alleged to be an adherent to a faith that worships a man who was called “The Prince of Peace” and who admonished his followers to “turn the other cheek.” Perhaps someone should introduce Mr. Anderson to his teachings; he might learn something. (I also think the United States Secret Service might want to have a little come-to-Jesus meeting of their own with Mr. Anderson. He is the pastor of the gentleman who showed up at the president’s speech in Phoenix last week toting a semi-automatic weapon.)

There will be some people who will use Mr. Anderson’s fervor as an excuse to bash Christianity and organized religion, but I really don’t think that would be fair to either Christians or organized religion. Mr. Anderson represents Christianity the same way the Taliban represents Islam or the Ku Klux Klan represents American patriotism; perverted and grotesque rather than affirming and inclusive. The vast majority of Christians in this country — and they number about 80% of the population — are nothing at all like this nutball, and many of them support the idea of gay rights, reproductive choice, and universal healthcare. Organized religion has been a force for good in this world, too; I’m thinking of groups like the American Friends Service Committee (although some Quakers might have an issue with being called “organized”), and many other groups that are affiliated with faith that do not discriminate on the basis of belief or use it as a method of evangelism. Like all human endeavors, religion has been exploited and turned into a horrible distortion of its original intent — a quest for knowledge and understanding — but so have a lot of other human endeavors, such as government and the rule of law. That doesn’t mean we should give up on it; it only means we need to discard the people who have exploited and perverted it.

There are also some people who think that giving Mr. Anderson any publicity by writing about his hatred only gives him visibility and the attention he so desperately craves. But I think we need to call attention to these people and make sure that the public is aware of this despicable and perverse kind of discourse. Keeping it in the shadows only gives them the room to grow and spread.