A Gospel of Hate

bible-evil-cruel

Would you like to eradicate AIDS once and for all from the face of this earth? Here is a simple answer to that question and you can accomplish it with God’s blessing. The answer? Execute all homosexuals! No need to spend all that money on research and testing any more.

What “looney” would say anything like that? I will tell you who.

Steven Anderson, that’s who. And who is Steven Anderson? Steven Anderson is “pastor” of the Faithful Word Baptist Church in Tempe, Arizona. I put quotation marks around the word pastor because while Steven Anderson may have memorized 140 chapters of the Bible, as a pastor myself, I cannot begin to identify with this man and his rhetoric of hate.

Anderson has made some shocking claims as the spiritual leader of Faithful Word Baptist Church. Anderson’s latest claim was made in a sermon on the First Sunday of Advent (November 30, 2014) in which he said that AIDS would be eradicated if gays were executed.

In his sermon, Anderson argued that members of the gay community are “filled with disease because of the judgment of God.” Anderson continued, “Anybody who’s a homo or bi[sexual] – it’s all the same category – sodomite is what the Bible would call them.” The reference here is Genesis 19, which centers upon the story of Lot’s visitation in the city of Sodom by two angels. The men of Sodom tell Lot to hand over the male visitors so that they may “know” them, i.e. sexually know them (giving rise to the term “sodomy”). Lot bargains with the visitors, quite horribly to a contemporary reader’s eyes, by offering the men his virgin daughters instead! However, any reader of ancient literature (of which the Hebrew Bible is a component) would realize the familiar motif concerning hospitality. The story is not one denigrating same-sex practice; instead it upholds the incredible (and ludicrous) hospitality of Lot as a virtue. (Obviously, Anderson has never heard this explanation.)

To back up his claim, Anderson also cites Leviticus 20:13, “If a man also lie with mankind as he lieth with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination, they shall surely be put to death, their blood shall be upon them.” Says Anderson: “It was right there in the Bible all along … if you executed the homos like God recommends, you wouldn’t have all this AIDS running rampant.”

I am sure that Anderson was moved by the Christmas spirit of good will toward all people as he laid out his final solution for all those homosexuals spreading AIDS — simply execute them all, preferably before the day Christians celebrate the birth of that blessed little baby in a manger. Hallelujah! And that, my friends, is the cure for AIDS. It was right there in the Bible all along. It is curable — right there in the Good Book: if you execute homosexuals as God commands, you will not have AIDS running rampant.

Of course, I take exception to Anderson’s premise. Apparently, he has never engaged in any kind of serious Bible study. If he had, he would know that Leviticus 20:13 is part of the Holiness Codes set down for the people of Israel – rules set forth both to define what was clean and unclean before God, as well as what set the Hebrew people apart from their heathen neighbors who worshiped gods other than the one true God.

In practice, modern day Christians have regarded most of the injunctions in the Holiness Codes of Leviticus and Deuteronomy written in the 6th century B.C.E. as culturally bound to the ancient times of the Hebrews, but not binding on us. These same purity codes forbid the eating of shellfish, the planting of a field with two different kinds of seed, and the wearing simultaneously of two kinds of cloth. If followed, the codes would prohibit the ordaining to the ministry of any handicapped person – not to mention women.

Yes, Leviticus 20:13 does proscribe the death penalty for same-sex relations and is quite related to the codes that condemn bestiality, invoke dietary restrictions, and order the wearing of certain fibers. But again, these codes were set down to make the Israelites unique from their neighbors and they reflect a particular time and place in Israelite history. Any contemporary critique must note this reality before invoking the codes as ammunition against same-sex practice. We cannot isolate these passages about homosexual acts and impute to them the kind of enduring authority that we ascribe to nothing before or after these passages. That is just not honest.

Yet the texts regarding homosexuality, reinforced by the ignorance and discrimination of the ages, are still literalized and used to justify dreadful, even murderous, behavior, carried out against those whose only fault, or as religious people might prefer, “only sin,” was that they were born with a sexual orientation different from the majority. (According to a 2013 study from the National Bureau of Economic Research, about 20 percent of the population is attracted to their own gender. That is nearly double the usual estimates of about 10 percent.) The overwhelming consensus of the medical and scientific world today suggests that sexual orientation is a given – as is gender, skin pigmentation and left-handedness. One’s sexual orientation is not a moral choice. It is a description of one’s being, not of one’s doing. It is therefore not morally culpable.

And the texts in question are scant indeed. The most referenced texts are the already cited Genesis 19; the above-mentioned holiness codes of Leviticus 17-26, and in the New Testament, Paul’s First Letter to the Corinthians 6:9 and his Letter to the Romans 1:26-27. Not only does one have to hunt for references to same-sex practices, but there are no gospel texts that treat the matter. There is nothing attributed to Jesus that has anything to do with same-sex orientation. According to the gospel accounts, Jesus never commented on same-sex practices; that fact certainly bears repeating to anyone criticizing the gay community on Christian grounds. I believe that it is safe to say that for the most part, same-sex practice is a topic of little interest to the Biblical authors.

The texts in Leviticus 18 and 20 are simply wrong. Based on ignorance, they should be viewed with other abandoned attitudes as stages in our development that we have outgrown. For example, slavery was once justified by quoting such biblical passages as “slaves, obey your earthly masters with fear and trembling” (Ephesians 6:5), or “tell slaves to be submissive to their masters and to give satisfaction in every respect” (Titus 2:9).To quote these texts today to justify continued prejudice destroys what Christians say they believe about God, and the Christ who invited all to come to him to find rest from their labors. So, too, the very depth of Christianity is violated if the texts of Leviticus 18-20 are given legitimacy.

But to continue. This is not the first time that Anderson has spewed some pretty awful things, all in the name of the Lord and all based on his understanding of the Bible.

Earlier this year, Anderson argued that “remarriage is adultery,” based on his understanding of Matthew 5:31-32. Needless to say, there are other interpretations of these words of Jesus than those of Anderson’s rather limited understanding, but it will take another posting to take up that issue.

Anderson has also argued in favor of keeping women silent in church. “Let the woman learn in silence with all subjection,” he said in a sermon, using as his authority I Timothy 2:12: “But I suffer not a woman to teach nor to usurp authority over the man.”

And just this past March, Anderson went on a tirade over women who so much as dare to utter an “amen” in church, telling the women in his congregation that their place was subserviently in the home.

He has also had some choice words for Jewish people, declaring that “Christ-rejecting Jews are children of the devil.”

But it was in 2009, that Anderson really made a media splash when he delivered a sermon during which he prayed for President Obama’s death! In his sermon, entitled “Why I Hate Barack Obama,” Anderson repeatedly insisted that he would be in no way responsible if one of his followers went out and tried to kill the president. I honestly do not recommend you listening to his sermon, because I did, and now I feel dirty. But for a taste of what I mean, here is a few lines of what Anderson said in that sermon: “I’m going to tell you something. I hate Barack Obama. You say, well, you just mean you don’t like what he stands for. No, I hate the person. Oh, you mean you just don’t like his policies. No, I hate him.”

“I am not going to pray for his good. I am going to pray that he dies and goes to hell.”

“What goes around comes around. You love violence. You hate that which is right. You love to harm others. You love to hurt or kill the unborn or the innocent or the righteous. He is saying, God is going to bring that upon your own head, because whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap.”

“Now, turn back to Psalm 58 and let me ask you this question. Why should Barack Obama melt like a snail? Why should Barack Obama die like the untimely birth of a woman? Why should his children be fatherless and his wife a widow, as we read in this passage?”

“Well, I will tell you why. Because, since Barack Obama thinks it is OK to use a salty solution, right, to abort the unborn, because that’s how abortions are done, my friend, using salt — and I would like to see Barack Obama melt like a snail tonight.”

“If you think God is in control of this country, you’re insane. A madman is in control of this country.”

Speaking of a madman, perhaps now you can understand why Steven Anderson is such an anathema to me and why I do not want to be associated with him professionally. Actually, I believe that he is out of touch, out of control, and the Secret Service better be on to him, for he is a very dangerous man. Apparently, his words hold so much sway with his parishioners that one of them  was caught with an assault rifle at an Obama Rally in Arizona.

Truly this is not a man of God’s loving peace, this Steven Anderson. But just who is Steven Anderson? What do we know about him?

Steven Anderson started Faithful Word Baptist Church on December 25, 2005. He holds no college or seminary degree, but has well over 140 chapters of the Bible memorized word-for-word, including approximately half of the New Testament. Of course, memorizing the Bible does not mean understanding the Bible or living its precepts.

But there is another side to Steven Anderson. According to the Southern Poverty Law Center, Anderson is the operator of the True Sons of Liberty website and he calls for abolishing the IRS, the Federal Reserve, Social Security, and Child Protective Service state agencies. In April 2009, Anderson refused to get out of his car or answer questions from Border Patrol agents at the California-Arizona border and agents had to break his window and taser him as a result. Anderson was charged with refusing to obey a lawful order and blocking a public highway. A jury found him not guilty of both misdemeanor charges brought against him.

And what about his church, the Faithful Word Baptist Church? Faithful Word Baptist Church is a small congregation located in a strip mall in Tempe, Arizona. According to their website: “Don’t expect anything contemporary or liberal. We are an old-fashioned, independent, fundamental, King James Bible only, soul-winning Baptist church.” The Southern Poverty Law Center has listed the church as an anti-gay hate group, noting that Anderson described gays as “sodomites” who “recruit through rape,” and “recruit through molestation.” A few days after the listing, Anderson said: “Do I hate? Absolutely. I do hate homosexuals and if hating homosexuals makes our church a hate group then that’s what we are.” Anderson said further that he preaches his hatred for homosexuals and wishes death upon them. How is that for compassion! Whatever happened to “hate the sin, but not the sinner?” Unfortunately, there will always be people like Steven Anderson who use religion to justify their bigotry and hate. I feel sorry for them, because hate only breeds more hate.

When word of Anderson’s recent hate speech masquerading as a sermon became known to Planting Peace, a global nonprofit organization founded for the purpose of spreading peace in a hurting world, they decided to turn the situation into something positive while rebuking bigotry at the same time. Accordingly, they launched a fundraiser to help people with HIV/AIDS, and declared that for every donation made, they would send the Faithful Word Baptist Church a lump of coal, the traditional gift for naughty children of Christmases past.  Every lump of coal the group sends will be wrapped in a “festive” package, complete with a bow, and will be delivered on Christmas Eve. As of this date, the fundraiser has brought in over $20,482 in donations and will presumably be sending hundreds of lumps of coal on their merry way soon.

What a wonderful idea!

Merry Christmas, Steven Anderson! Watch your mailbox for your Christmas gifts!

lump of coal

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