In my complacency I thought that I could let the protesters against the President's talk to schoolchildren stand as the idiots of this week as well as last, but because I was home for the holiday today I found myself watching CNN as they updated their apparently ongoing coverage of the preaching of Steven L. Anderson, pastor of the self-founded Faithful Word Baptist Church in Tempe AZ. Anderson is a Christian Reconstructionist, one who believes that Christianity requires the enforcement of all Old Testament laws and penalties, including (he'll forgive the adjective) liberal use of capital punishment. He has become notorious (depending on your news sources) for preaching that he hates Barack Obama and wishes the President to die a painful death as revenge for the suffering of aborted fetuses. Here is a more detailed report of his utterances, and here is a clip of his response to a parishioner questioning his characterization of the President.
Before anyone jumps to conclusions, Anderson is no partisan. He has denounced both George W. Bush and the Iraq War in the past. He seems to identify with the "Tea Party" movement and has preached before one such event this year. In this clip he really does lay into the GOP, calling them a party of Pharisees, while affirming that as of July in his first year in office Barack Obama had become the worst President in American history. He also proposes an alternate bipolarchy of the Constitution and Libertarian parties, representing the right and left wings of the small-government movement.
Anderson actually recorded the tazing incident he describes and posted the scene on his YouTube page.
There have been some mean-spirited comments about this video following reports of Anderson's political views, but the liberal in me still says not to wish that kind of treatment on anyone. To his own credit, Anderson's hostility toward government abuse of power extends to the treatment of suspected terrorists. He claims that torturing the detainees violates both the Eighth Amendment and the will of God. The fact is that power is being abused in this country, but the problem with people like Anderson is that they blame the abuses on imaginary conspiracies with malevolent motives. It's no surprise, the more you learn about Anderson, to see him turn up on the communications center of 21st century conspiracy-mongering, the Alex Jones program. In this clip, he responds to critics who told him that Paul's Epistle to the Romans instructs him as a Christian to obey the rulers of a country.
I leave that particular issue to the theologians, but I notice that Anderson wants to fudge the meaning of Romans while insisting elsewhere on literal application of all the barbaric regulations of Moses. The larger question, of course, is who gets to define lawful authority. In a democracy it's okay for individuals to question the lawfulness of government actions, but they shouldn't attempt to nullify them unilaterally without making themselves accountable as well. Too many people today seem to think that because they're "free" their interpretations of events and their responses to them can't be wrong, especially if, like Anderson, they consider themselves accountable to God rather than to the government or their fellow citizens. That's why Anderson can, with apparent sincerity, claim that he had done nothing wrong by publicly wishing death on the President of the United States. So he says in his latest video, responding to what he calls the lies of CNN.
Anderson is a prolific YouTube poster and you can find plenty more where the above came from, including full-length sermons that are either highly infuriating or highly entertaining, but probably a little of both. I think I've included enough here to make my own case for his year-defining idiocy. Some readers, however, may feel that I'm trivializing the menace Anderson represents. I would remind them that it's no great threat to pray for God to kill anyone, since for obvious reasons God's not going to do it. Of course, if any parishioners decide they need to be instruments of God's will as defined by Steven L. Anderson, that will be another story.