If he’s not the most racist pastor in America, then he’s at least got to crack the top 10 list.
You’ll see why in this clip where he rants about the sin of interracial marriage.
Which, as you can see, isn’t grainy video from way back in the Jim Crow 1950s.
It was recorded in 2013.
WARNING: You may want to watch this video from a safe distance as it will most likely result in you wanting to repeatedly punch your computer screen.
NOTE: I’m posting this clip because a former church member sent it to me, which reminds me (and hopefully others) that real people are listening to and being hurt by this sort of evil. I think people like Reagan need to be exposed and, maybe it’s a long shot, but I hope that exposure will either result in him being kicked out of the pulpit or, at the least, hopefully people who suffer under this sort of “ministry” will know that they’re not crazy to think their pastor is crazy and can find the courage from others’ outrage to leave their toxic church.
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.
Ole St. Augustine and I don’t always see eye to eye on everything, but there are few in the history of the church who have had a more profound impact on the theology of the church than St. Augustine of Hippo.
Which mean if you call yourself a Christian, it’s probably important to pay attention to the things he said.
One of my favorite things St. Augustine ever wrote is his 5th century treatise On The Literal Meaning of Genesis.
Nearly a millennium and a half before Ken Ham took the stage with Bill Nye to defend what Ham portrays as the faithful Christian reading of Genesis – a literal 6 day creation – St. Augustine had some choice words for those who would one day call themselves “creationists.”
Given all the attention surrounding the debate last night and the response today, but more importantly in light of the fact that there are still countless Christian either convinced of the necessity of believing in creationism or who feel guilty having doubts about it, I thought it was the perfect time to share these words of wisdom from one of the greatest of the church fathers and the ancient reason he gives for why believe Christians shouldn’t believe in creationism.
I don’t want to ruin the quote for you, so I’ll just say this.
If he were alive today, Augustine wouldn’t be a big fan of Ken Ham.
Usually, even a non-Christian knows something about the earth, the heavens, and the other elements of this world, about the motion and orbit of the stars and even their size and relative positions, about the predictable eclipses of the sun and moon, the cycles of the years and the seasons, about the kinds of animals, shrubs, stones, and so forth, and this knowledge he holds to as being certain from reason and experience. Now, it is a disgraceful and dangerous thing for an infidel to hear a Christian, presumably giving the meaning of Holy Scripture, talking non-sense on these topics; and we should take all means to prevent such an embarrassing situation, in which people show up vast ignorance in a Christian and laugh it to scorn.
The shame is not so much that an ignorant individual is derided, but that people outside the household of the faith think our sacred writers held such opinions, and, to the great loss of those for whose salvation we toil, the writers of our Scripture are criticized and rejected as unlearned men. If they find a Christian mistaken in a field which they themselves know well and hear him maintaining his foolish opinions about our books, how are they going to believe those books in matters concerning the resurrection of the dead, the hope of eternal life, and the kingdom of heaven, when they think their pages are full of falsehoods on facts which they themselves have learnt from experience and the light of reason?
Reckless and incompetent expounders of holy Scripture bring untold trouble and sorrow on their wiser brethren when they are caught in one of their mischievous false opinions and are taken to task by those who are not bound by the authority of our sacred books. For then, to defend their utterly foolish and obviously untrue statements, they will try to call upon Holy Scripture for proof and even recite from memory many passages which they think support their position, although “they understand neither what they say nor the things about which they make assertion.”
In recent months, maybe years, I’ve noticed an upswell of blogs, blowhards, ministries, and demagogues dedicated to defending the faith, absolute truth, Christian values, even God.
I’ve also noticed that the absolute truth being defended often looks conspicuously like a political party platform and the defended gospel, a lot like theological systems invented more than a millennium after Jesus walked the earth.
Nevertheless, these campaigns are taken up with unbridled religious fervor as if the fate of all humanity rested on the rhetoric of the righteous.
If you find yourself in the ideological trenches, spending all your time and energy fighting off the heretics and the godless, as if you and your fellow prophets are the last light of truth in a world of darkness, I urge you to recall the words of God spoken through Isaiah and know this.
You’re defending the wrong thing.
When you come to appear before me,
who asked this from your hand?
Trample my courts no more;
bringing offerings is futile;
incense is an abomination to me.
New moon and sabbath and calling of convocation—
I cannot endure solemn assemblies with iniquity.
Your new moons and your appointed festivals
my soul hates;
they have become a burden to me,
I am weary of bearing them.
When you stretch out your hands,
I will hide my eyes from you;
even though you make many prayers,
I will not listen;
your hands are full of blood.
Wash yourselves; make yourselves clean;
remove the evil of your doings
from before my eyes;
cease to do evil,
learn to do good;
rescue the oppressed,
defend the orphan,
plead for the widow.
This is what, or rather who, we should be defending.
The least of these right outside our door.
But like the Israel of Isaiah’s day, we suffer from an idolatry of faith that values theology and tradition more than people. We’re plagued by an idolatrous obsession over ideas that’s driven by a unquenchable need for control, a paranoid fear of the other, intense personal insecurity, and a pathological need to be right and have others recognize that we’re right.
But the gospel isn’t about absolute truth.
It’s about absolute love.
Yes, I know that 1 Peter 3 (and a handful of other New Testament passages) talks about defending the faith “to anyone who asks for a reason for the hope that is in you,” but we need to remember how Jesus went about doing the work of mounting a hopeful defense. It wasn’t through long sustained debates with the Pharisees and Sadducees and Teachers of the Law every time they cornered him with questions. In fact, most of the time, he dodged their questions altogether.
Jesus mounted a hopeful defense by incarnating the gospel.
By standing between the persecutors and the persecuted, by fellowshipping with the ostracized, by embracing the outcast, and by defending the least of these.
You see, if we could temper our religious fury for a moment, unclinch our fists, open our eyes, and look around we would see that we’re just preaching to the choir. Those supportive comments and thousands of Facebook shares and roaring amens? They’re not coming from the newly convinced or from those on the outside eager to hear more.
They’re coming from the people sitting in the pew next to us at church.
It only seems like a loud chorus because we’re preaching in an echo chamber.
As passionate as we might be about defense of the faith and absolute truth, people aren’t dropping their nets to follow our demagogy.
They’re not inspired by our denunciations of everyone but ourselves.
Nor are they moved by our refusal to listen to others or ever admit we were wrong.
In fact, these things are at the very heart of why the church is hemorrhaging people.
We’ve been asked for a reason for the hope that is in us, but instead of incarnating that hope through acts of love for those in need, we offer compassionless rhetoric and a sales pitch.
And so people leave and search for hope elsewhere.
There is a place for defending the faith with our words, but the best apologetics are lived, not ranted.
Which is why we need to talk less and love more.
Otherwise, the ones who need to gospel the most, won’t be listening to what we have to say.