Graham Greene’s excellent Monsignor Quixote is mostly one big excuse to discuss the overlap between religious and political faith. A one point, Quixote relates a story about a saint from La Mancha who was being raped by a Moor in her kitchen. She had a knife, and the man had nothing. Yet she allowed him to rape her. Sancho responded sarcastically, “She wanted to be raped, I suppose.” And Quixote counters, “No, no, her thought was quite logical. Her virginity was less important than the salvation of the Moor. By killing him at that moment she was robbing him of any chance of salvation. An absurd and yet, when one thinks of it, a beautiful story.”
The point of the story is about God’s love and redemption and all that Christian stuff. I don’t find it compelling, but then I’m not a Christian. Just the same, I find it impressive. And it certainly has theology to back it up. But most Christians in America would have the same reaction to it that the atheist Sancho has, but without the sarcasm, “She wanted to be raped…” But she didn’t. She just took her religion really seriously. It would be asking too much to expect Christians to live by this. But it isn’t asking too much to expect them to understand and appreciate this.
But far too many, I’m afraid, are like Pastor Steven Anderson of the Faithful Word Baptist Church. When faced with Caitlyn Jenner’s Vanity Fair cover, his reaction was that he was looking at a “filthy sodomite.” Okay. I guess that opinion is consistent with the Bible. It’s not exactly clear because I don’t remember anything about dress codes in the Bible. But being against transgenderism has got to be more supported by that Iron Age dogma than being against abortion. And being supremely judgmental is fully within the Christian tradition.
But Anderson went much further than “hating the sin.” He said, “This person is just the evangelist of sodomy and filth to the world, and people are like, ‘Oh, we need to pray for him so that he finds Jesus.’ I’m going to pray that he dies and goes to Hell.” This is exactly the opposite response as we saw from the saint from La Mancha. He also said, “I hate him with a perfect hatred.” According to Raw Story, he said this “as congregants murmured amen.” Truly vile preaching like this does not exist in a vacuum. It exists because it sells.
Anderson and his church have quite a colorful history. In 2009, Anderson announced that he was praying for the death of Barack Obama. And not surprisingly, the Southern Poverty Law Center has designated the church as a hate group. But I haven’t been able to get much of an idea about how big the congregation is. The church’s website has very few picture of the members. But their Facebook page has almost 4,000 likes. And the place where Anderson rants looks like it holds a few hundred people. It sounds like there are as many as a couple hundred people at his most recent sermon. I know that doesn’t sound like that much, but go to a Baptist church in your town next Sunday and I doubt you will see any more than that — and you are likely to see a lot less.
Anderson’s argument in this case is that “turning the other cheek” can only be taken so far. He mentions serial killers. But isn’t the idea that anyone can be saved through God’s love? Looking at the guy, I have a feeling that he isn’t so big on turning the other cheek when it comes to more minor sins. Regardless, I also wonder if he doesn’t have homosexual thoughts. It’s always hard to escape that conclusion when people lose all composure regarding the sex lives of the LGBT community. Of course, Anderson seems to have a more general hatred, so who can say?
One thing is for sure: God’s love does not seem to be flowing out of the Faithful Word Baptist Church. It seems to be one big excuse to justify whatever its pastor hates. If I were a Christian, I would pray that they all find God’s love. But I’m not, so I’ll just write them off as another hate group that uses the Bible to justify themselves.