I happened to be watching Rick Sanchez on CNN yesterday when he reported about a young African-American man, armed with an assault rifle, Chris Broughton, who attended an Obama event in Arizona admitting that his pastor was Steven Anderson of the Faithful Word Baptist Church in Tempe, Arizona. [More here].
Steven Anderson, it turns out, recently preached to his congregation an entire sermon devoted to why he hates Obama, and that he was praying for Obama's death. The Secret Service interviewed the pastor, but, as the CNN analysist admitted, the pastor must know enough about what he is doing, or enough to not explicitly incite assassination of the POTUS in violation of law.
Cowards typically don't carry out their wishes on their own, but instead blow the proverbial dog whistle to be heard by some delusional whack-job convinced he is carrying out the Lord's will. Since the U.S. has a storied past with POTUS assassinations and attempts, these cowards need to be taken seriously. Especially considering the growth in membership of hate groups in recent years, and the recent murder of an abortion doctor and Holocaust museum security guard, it is not inconceivable that there is some "lone wolf" out there plotting.
It turns out that Steven Anderson has a history provoking law enforcement officials and constructing himself as a potential martyr. He appears to thrive on these confrontations, as if to prove his victim status and gain ideological converts along the way. He claims adherence to a literal interpretation of the King James version of the Bible, but focuses most of his hate towards the gay community by cherry-picking Leviticus and missing the fact that Jesus never said a word about or against same-sex love but advised "love thy neighbor."
I am not trying to support any one reading of the Bible but rather suggest that the text is open to interpretation, obviously, since there numerous "Christian" denominations, and even many that are gay-friendly and led by openly gay leaders and activists in their communities. I would recommend Steven Anderson's congregation shop around for their spiritual health rather than following someone with such obvious mental health issues that he brings to mind Rev. Phelps or Jim Jones. (Steven Anderson proudly admits that he does not have a formal religous education, and that his credibility rests on that he has memorized sections of the Bible). I'll speculate in a moment why this so-called pastor has a following, though interpreting the Bible is something of a Rorschach test, meaning that our attitudes influence our reading. Where one sees a god of love, another sees an angry, vengeful god.
It is likely that Steven Anderson, given his preoccupation with gays, has had a traumatic experience that shaped his views, but for whatever reason (was he raped, taken advantage of?) he has a hostile attitude towards gays. His preaching is not the standard Fundy "love the sinner but hate the sin," but rather the "God hates fags and instructs them to be killed." He even uses the word "faggot" in sermons.
This is not a message that appeals to the Ned Flanders variety of fundamentalism, but rather the Christian jihadist with roots in the apocolypse and miltia milieus. They were largely complacent during the Bush administration, not protesting the illegitimate Iraq War nor resisting any "perceived tryanny" in warantless wiretapping or the torture at Guantanamo Bay, rather supporting these policies as a matter of religious crusade. These were the people who thought Bush was ordained by God to be POTUS or the Second Coming, who may have been so heavily immersed in the Left Behind serious to recognize any real erosion of civil liberties. I'll speculate that the only thing that mattered to these people during the Bush administration was the right to bear arms, as if in preparation for the ultimate Plan B, in case Bush didn't install a theocracy, and the political landscape reverted back to a secular society led by the Democratic Party.
I will speculate even further that this fear-mongering culture thrives on fear, and now that social and political environment of the U.S. is shifting Left, it may be that they fear that they will be left behind. Convenient scapegoats are gays, African-Americans, Mexicans (or "illegal immigrants"), Muslims, Jews, welfare recipients, liberals, and now U.S. Representatives advocating universal health coverage and the government in general. We saw glimpses of them last November before the elections at Palin and McCain rallies shouting about Black Nationalism and Adolf Hitler and Nazism or socialism. They jumped on the tea bagger bandwagon (rather ironic given the double entendre) and joined ranks with the anti-tax, "government is bad," proud NRA card-holding libertarians, if only to have access to mainstream media in voicing their resentment to the shift in power.
Growing up in Indiana, I got glimpses of right wing fringe groups. Former KKK communities dot the landscape -- poor, disenfranchised whites who own red pickups with Confederate flag license plates who are obsessed with telling racist jokes to anyone who will tolerate them. There is also the "Right to Life" crowd in various stages of extremism, along with members of James Dobson's Focus on the Family. As well as those who listen religiously to Rush Limbaugh and Fox News to validate their view that the world has gone to hell in a handbasket and there's nothing they can do but buy a new recliner and watch the end-of-times unfold. Often the various varieties of right-wing fringe groups coexist in harmony with each other. They probably do not grasp the real threats of climate change or upwardly spiraling health care costs (something that may effect them more immediately), but they do see these issues now as part of a new world order imposed upon them by their enemies. They were the political losers in this last election, and so now they have been scared off the recliner and into the town hall to create chaos and obstruct the now evil government, led by a Black president who scares the hell out of them.
Rather than look for pragmatic solutions to real problems, these right wing reactionaries hemmorage mutiny. They find belonging in hate groups. Their mode of operation is armed and vocal obstruction. Gasbags such as Glenn Beck and Rush Limbaugh (more idiotic than ever), feed red meat to their fears, until this population is terrified that at any moment the Obama Police will bust into their houses to rip the guns from their grips. The majority of this country sees these fringe groups as absurd at best, dangerous at worst.
Ironically, present day far right fringe groups seem to be stealing the Panther Party's "by any means necessary" approach in their attempts to gain media attention to their cause and recruit new followers. (I am not comparing the far right fringe to the Panther Party. The Panthers were about feeding and protecting black communities, and addressing actual police oppression and conspiracy). The present day far right has conceded loss (at least on the surface) in the culture wars of the '60s, and they welcome converts of all races as evidenced with Chris Broughton. As long as these minorities adhere to the group and follow orders. The new enemies are "the gays."
Enter Steven Anderson. Who knows what led him to such a level of hate as to call for the deaths of sexual minorities? He has claimed that all the gays he has met are either predators, rapists, or pedophiles with the intent to "recruit" new members. It does make me wonder about his actual encounters with gays. What is the reason for his hate, if he is happy as he claims? Does one merely take up a cause without personal emotional investment? Is his hatred towards gays motivated by opportunism or revenge?
Queer volatility has always intrigued me as a subject of academic interest. I wonder if Steve Anderson has so throughly repressed his sexuality, that his sermons of hate are a projection of his self-hate. Could this personal jihad of his, under the disguise of "old-time Christianity," be his way of redeeming himself as a "normal heterosexual," whatever that is.
Whatever it is, I hope someone is on this nutcase.
Additional reading can be found at Pam's House Blend and Box Turtle Bulletin.