The Hypocrisy Of Christian Fundamentalism

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,

Zack Hunt

 

  • Linda File

    Thanks for exposing men like Anderson, Zack. After nearly a lifetime in Christianity (beginning in fundamentalism), I’ve found it imperative to continue drawing the lines out from this discussion to their logical conclusion, one necessary in the pursuit of a life of grace, truth, and thoughtful scholarship. Separating from Anderson, etc., but defending the Bible as inspired accepts the many problems inherent in a ‘spiritual’ book with abundant contradictions as well as disturbing accounts of genocide, misogyny, violence, and hatred (Anderson’s is mild compared to the historical record of those who did & now use this book to malign others), a long historical record of dark events too embarrassing for those in religion to explore (without great shame and eventual separation), the odd history and traditions of the church over two thousand years, and a strange contemporary religious system with a narcissistic pop culture appeal. When you really begin a study of all of these elements and more, the questions do not end. As it turns out, the truth really does set you free.

  • Hannah

    This is so important to remember. Something I didn’t quite understand until I got out of the near-brainwash situation of the fundamentalism I was raised in. I was taught not only that the interpretation of the Bible I was given was the One True Interpretation, but also that I had to hate and fear all other interpretations. But I learned that both things aren’t true and God is big enough to meet people at all stages of their journey. I’ve learned to not be afraid of doubt and questions and not having all the answers or being sure of what the best interpretation is because God is always there anyways, as I work through whatever it is I’m working through. And I need to learn to better respect that others are at different places of the journey instead of trying to drag them to where I am by force (cause I really hate when people try to do that to me! Like Anderson does, above. But I find I end up doing it to others too much also.)
    Love your blog, Zack! :)

  • CKPS63

    I think one of the (many) blind spots of modern fundamentalism is its lack of due respect for the many wise Christian voices of the past; after all, it’s not as if conservative evangelicals are the first to struggle with questions of scriptural interpretation, nor is there any reason why their views on the matter should necessarily take precedence over those of the very people who laid the foundation for the entire Christian religion. In that vein, I always like this quote from Augustine on this very subject — “[W]hen anyone claims, ‘Moses meant what I say,’ and another retorts, ‘No, rather what I find there,’ I think that I will be answering in a more religious spirit if I say, ‘Why not both, if both are true?’ And if there is a third possibility, and a fourth, and if someone else sees an entirely different meaning in these words, why should we not think that he was aware of all of them?’”

  • D Lowrey

    I want to play the Devil’s Advocate here. Not knowing or caring to know what this “pastor” is about…I’m wondering what hangups he’s tried to keep secret while condemning others about theirs? For instance…psychologists have pointed out the more rabid you are about any topic…the more you enjoy or wish to enjoy that topic. He cries about divorce…how many wives has he had? What about the male or female mistresses he has?

  • Chase Sanders

    Thank you for posting this. A subject have been thinking about quite a bit recently. We can get very judgemental and stubborn when it comes to our “right” interpretation of the scripture, and we start to see those with different views as wrong. I have been discovering more and more we are all probably a liitle bit right and a little bit wrong in our interpretations.

  • Kyle Weaver

    Love is the fulfillment of the law. You just have to look at the woman at the well and see Jesus handled her. Or when the prostitute poured oil on his feet…”Your sins are forgiven, go in peace.” I don’t see a lot of that love in this guy…You shouldn’t send people on their way unless they will not repent….two types will be in hell…1} The non-repentant and 2} Those who thought they have repented but have not. This guy needs to repent of his religious affectation and some anger issues in my view…Jesus is Lord.