Do you know Pastor Steven Anderson?
You might remember him from such epic YouTube videos as this one in which he screams and shouts about how men should “pisseth against the wall” or this one in which he screams and shouts about how “contemporary Christian music is queer & effeminate.”
Pastor Anderson is a proud independent, fundamentalist, Baptist preacher.
Like most other fundamentalist preachers, Pastor Anderson believes that following the Bible is as simple as doing what it “clearly” says.
And screaming and shouting that “clear” message only makes it more true.
Throw in the 1611 KJV and you’ve got truth beyond question.
But Pastor Anderson is, like most other fundamentalist preachers (and Christians), a hypocrite when it comes to the Bible.
He claims to be following a plain reading of the text with unquestioned devotion, but he’s not.
Like all Christians everywhere, he’s following his interpretation of the Bible, a fact he himself demonstrates well in the two videos below.
In this first video, Anderson goes into his normal scream and shout routine about divorce and how divorced people who remarry are actually committing adultery because Jesus said so.
According to Anderson,”not everybody can handle this kind of preaching.”
After declaring this, he proudly describes how 4 or 5 couples have never returned to his church because he refused to marry them because they had been previously divorced. His defense – “Am I going to preach what people want to hear or am I going to tell the truth?”
But whose truth is it?
Anderson claims “what I’m preaching is what Jesus Christ taught 2,000 years ago.”
To that end he is partially right. Though, he’s missing an important fact. Jesus made an exception for divorce – “marital unfaithfulness.” But there’s a much bigger problem in Anderson’s claim to truth. Anderson is being dogmatic about the issue of divorce because, in his mind, it’s an obvious teaching to be taken literally and without question.
Which is curious because later in the same sermon he takes another teaching from Jesus, a teaching that sounds like it could be taken just as literally, and yet he argues that it should obviously be questioned and taken figuratively.
Leaving aside Anderson’s atrocious understanding of Origen, church history, and biblical scholarship, how does he know that Jesus was talking figuratively here, but not when he talked about divorce? It’s not part of a parable or some other sort of story. In fact, it’s part of the very same passage about divorce that Anderson says we should take literally. So, shouldn’t the eunuch teaching be taken literally and without question too, just like the divorce teaching and all the other teachings of Jesus?
Well, according to Anderson, we should actually take this particular teaching figuratively because there are all sorts of other Bible verses that denounce self-mutilation.
But here is where things get tricky and where the hypocrisy of Christian fundamentalism begins to be revealed.
The self-mutilation verses Anderson alludes to are not quite as plentiful as he would have us believe, but they are there. They occur mostly in Leviticus and Deuteronomy.
Also in Leviticus – laws against eating bacon and shrimp or wearing clothes of mixed materials…laws I’m guessing Pastor Anderson doesn’t follow.
But more problematic is the fact that like the Old Testament verses apparently contradicting Jesus’ teaching on self-mutilation, there are also Old Testament verses contradicting Jesus’ teaching on divorce – a fact Jesus himself mentions.
Which means Anderson has a pretty big problem on his hands.
According to his rule for interpreting the literal or figurativeness of Jesus teachings, we must rely on the Old Testament. If it contradicts Jesus, he must not be serious, but if he contradicts it, then he is speaking literally. But how do we know who is contradicting who? Couldn’t Jesus being contradicting the Old Testament teachings on self-mutilation just as easily as Anderson takes him to be contradicting the Old Testament teaching on divorce?
Welcome to the difficult, challenging, and wonderful world of biblical interpretation.
it’s not easy work.
And it always, without exception, requires more than just reading what’s on the page.
It requires human judgment.
Which is why I bring all of this up.
Anderson is emblematic of the hypocrisy of Christian fundamentalism and its claims to absolute biblical truth.
Fundamentalists like Anderson are constantly on the prowl, damning anyone and everyone who contradicts their teaching and preaches, instead, what they claim is “man’s truth” not “God’s truth.”
But here’s the thing…
What fundamentalists claim is “God’s truth” is, more often than not, just their interpretation of God’s truth. In arriving at what they think is the clear biblical truth of God they are, as Anderson demonstrates so well in the videos above, having to make interpretive moves with the text, incorporating their own judgment in order to arrive at a passage’s true meaning.
That’s not a bad thing. In fact, its a necessary and unavoidable part of reading the Bible.
What makes it hypocrisy is the fact that Christian fundamentalists denounce others for doing the exact same thing simply because they don’t agree with their opponent’s interpretation.
If it’s truth we’re seeking, here’s a simple truth all of us should remember – none of us possess the whole truth and nothing but the truth directly from the lips of God.
What we have is the Bible; inspired by God, but written and interpreted by people.
We can kick and scream about inerrancy and the Bible being absolute truth all we want, but it doesn’t change the fact that every single one of us, all of us bring our own interpretive spin to the Bible.
If we didn’t, there would be a lot more eyes gouged out and hands chopped off because Jesus said to do so if they caused us to sin and all of us are sinners.
But since none of us are doing that, let us speak about biblical truth with grace and not in absolutes.
Otherwise, we become the hypocrites Jesus so powerfully denounced, who “tie up heavy burdens, hard to bear and lay them on the shoulders of others; but [are ourselves] unwilling to lift a finger to move them.”
But woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you lock people out of the kingdom of heaven. For you do not go in yourselves, and when others are going in, you stop them. Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you cross sea and land to make a single convert, and you make the new convert twice as much a child of hell as yourselves.
Let’s not be children of hell who lock people out of heaven.
Let’s be disciples of Christ who love mercy, walk humbly, and love generously.
If we can do that, then we’ll be speaking the truth more eloquently and more powerfully than any sermon any preacher could ever deliver.
Grace and peace,