Things like this pop up in the news every now and again, and I took a hit for the team today and actually listened to Pastor Steven Anderson’s full sermon entitled: “AIDS: The Judgement of God.” It came as no surprise that he generalizes people, uses stereotypes and exaggerates, and does some pretty horrible handling of scripture.
This preacher is not mainstream Christianity. He’s not even mainstream for Baptists, even non-affirming Baptists. He’s not doing good exegesis of scripture. He abuses his concordance by picking and choosing uses of English words across the breadth and width of scripture. And I have to take a moment to repudiate his message and proclamation. I won’t join him in name calling and I won’t join him in screaming. But I won’t sit by and let this be done in the name of Christ, with the accompanying laughter of his congregation, without a strident denial of the message of vilification, violence and anger.
I had hoped to just mention a few things he did wrong, but it’s a long sermon. I ended up with at least 14 things he did that were disrespectful of people and/or disrespectful of our scriptures.
1. Jokes about HIV/AIDS and people’s health and suffering. Really, he laughs about AIDS rates and people having AIDS. He repeatedly jokes about their suffering and about efforts to help them. HIV is a laughing matter to him.
2. Backward reading of Romans 1 and dismissal of Romans 2. He ignores Paul’s point to the verses in chapter 1 which is made in chapter 2: Don’t judge. Since he ignores Paul’s point of not judging, he is then free to read the verses in chapter 1 any way he wants. I outline in depth this kind of problematic reading of Romans 1 in another post here at the blog.
3. Associating HIV/AIDS with Romans 1:27. I didn’t think people still did this, but he actually makes it the sermon title that he believes HIV/AIDS is the penalty mentioned in Romans 1:27. Do we have to go into the problem of reading a disease in our current time backward into scripture from 2,000 years ago? This is so disrespectful of scripture that it defies explanation when coming from someone so stridently claiming “biblical authority” for his message.
4. Use of the word “sodomite.” If we are honest about the destruction of Sodom as biblical writers spoke of it, then we have to know that using the word (which was created long after the scriptures were written) to reference a specific sexual activity is a warning sign that we’re listening to a severe lack of education on biblical topics and a lack of respectful interpretation. Again, I wrote on this in a previous post. Using sodomite as an adjective would more correctly denote gluttony, pride or a neglect of poor people as scriptural writers spoke of Sodom’s destruction.
5. Defining words with a concordance. He jumps around an English translation of the Bible to define biblical terms in one instance by the use of that term in another instance, as if it were all originally written in English, yesterday.
6. Setting up straw arguments which he of course wins. He says, “They said *blah blah” to which I say “blah blah*” and wins the argument… of course. He makes everyone who disagrees with him sound stupid both in their intention, content and inflection.
7. Advocating the execution of homosexuals. He claims that we can have an AIDS free world in short order by killing all LGBTQ people, as we were told to do in Leviticus. His words normalize and justify violence against sexual minorities.
8. Name calling. Psycho. Homo. Satanist. Freak. Hypocrites. Bastard (speaking of President Obama). Twinkie.
9. Vilification and criminalization of homosexuals in every possible sense. He says, “Homos are gross.” “Homos go both ways.” “No queers allowed in this church.” “All homos are pedophiles.” He actually asserts that all gay men are pedophiles. He asserts that all gay men are trying to spread AIDS to straight men and women. He says that gay men are to blame for any straight person who has AIDS, which of course he can assert by believing that God gave gay men AIDS in Romans 1:27. He claims that gay people only want to be married to be insulting to straight people. *Sigh*
10. Believing the gospel means that a person cannot become gay. He asserts that becoming a Christian means that a person cannot be then tempted to explore gay sex and negates any previous leaning toward gay sexuality. Since when does faith work that way with anything we might consider a sin? And of course, since I don’t believe that being gay is a sin, then I’m left further befuddled.
11. Misuse of a verse from Jude to link homosexuals with the destruction of Sodom. He misuses a phrase “strange flesh” from Jude’s short letter, almost as an afterthought, to link homosexuality with Sodom. The phrase is sarkos heteros in the Greek… very hard to link homo-sexuality with hetro-flesh, but it doesn’t stop our preacher in this instance. I hope we all know that hetro- means different not male. Therefore heterosexuality is attraction to the opposite sex.
12. He doesn’t know any gay Christians. Not just to repeat points 9 & 10, but it’s so sad that he doesn’t know any gay Christians, whose faith has at times put my own to shame. His narrowed and incorrect view of sexuality limits him from a fellowship which would do him such good.
13. “I’m not going to stone them with stones… this is not a violent sermon about harming anyone.” After asserting that we would have an AIDS free world if we’d only execute homosexuals, he then claims that he won’t himself use stones to kill anyone and isn’t meaning to advocate violence. Too late.
14. He engenders fear, “Don’t just put your kid on a school bus.” …because gay people are waiting everywhere to devour your children, with government support. He speaks with the language of fear and abuse. He himself is fairly stereotypical in his language when not only vilifying gay people but also the public educational system and politicians.
Now I have to pray and find a way to detox from this sermon. His anger, his venom and his excited joy in condemning and ridiculing people is injuring to the soul. Please, my LGBTQ sisters and brothers, don’t listen to this man. No one should be swayed by his screaming tirade and twist of scriptural passages and words. Don’t believe that he in any way speaks for our Christ, our God or our Church.
I can’t muster the spirit at this point to listen a second time, but I’m fairly sure he never once quotes Christ in this sermon. I can’t even recall that he mentions Christ. I do know he at one point makes fun of Christians who emphasize love. Hmmmmm. Let that sink in and be a warning flag for the future. If he did mention Jesus, then it was so passing as to not even register in my memory. Know that you cannot preach as this man preaches if you are tuned into the heart of Christ, a heart that breaks with every ridiculing joke and sneering dismissal of a human being from this man’s mouth.
Hearing that Jesus had silenced the Sadducees, the Pharisees got together. One of them, an expert in the law, tested him with this question: “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?” Jesus replied: ” ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” Matthew 22:34-40