Wednesday, September 02, 2009
Rob Boston of Americans United for Separation of Church and State has a post up about Pastor Steven L. Anderson of Faithful Word Baptist Church in Tempe, Arizona, who is praying for the death of President Barack Obama and one of whose parishioners showed up outside Obama's Phoenix event carrying an assault rifle and a handgun. You can see more of Anderson's hateful (in all meanings of the word) rhetoric at Religion Dispatches.
It is easy enough to dismiss such people as a few fringe nuts. But Boston points that ain't necessarily so:
Reflecting on all of this, longtime Religious Right researcher Fred Clarkson made an interesting point: Stuff like this doesn't happen in vacuum. Anderson is extreme and strange, but he's merely the latest manifestation of a long-running impulse in American religion and politics.
Christian Reconstructionists have for years called for the imposition of "God's law" in America. They believe in a literal application of the Old Testament's legal code and talk openly about executing gays, adulterers, fornicators, "witches," those who worship false gods and even disobedient teenagers.
Reconstructionists tend to publish their ideas in fat books and obtuse journals that most people don't see. When they gather for meetings, they usually look bland and non-threatening. Most people see them as cranks and write them off as a band of eccentrics with a bizarre philosophy that few take seriously.
The problem is, the Reconstructionists have influenced the Religious Right in ways most don't fathom. The idea that government has a duty to enforce the laws of God – which is at the end of the day the bedrock of the philosophy of the Religious Right – springs from Reconstructionism.
Prior to the rise of Reconstructionism, many conservative Christians believed politics was not their calling. There was another world awaiting them, they believed, and there they would enjoy God's kingdom. All they had to do on Earth was seek converts by spreading their religion through private channels and await the Second Coming.
Reconstructionists dismiss all that. They argue that society can be "perfected" – that is, "reconstructed" – right now. Indeed, they argue that the right type of Christians have an obligation to create a "godly" order and say Christ will not come back until society has been reordered along the proper "biblical" lines.
So religious liberty must go. Legal abortion must go. Gay rights must go. Evolution in the public schools must go. Salacious books and movies must go. Government institutions must be saturated with fundamentalist Christianity.
Pastor Anderson may be another crank looking for 15 minutes of You Tube fame. Or he could be a truly dangerous extremist who has drunk deeply from the wells of a dangerous philosophy.
I'd rather not find out which he is. I'd rather someone rein him in now. The logical candidates for that job are the Religious Right leaders who have so worked him up over the years.
Today Americans United is asking Religious Right leaders to publicly denounce Anderson and call him out as the extremist that he is. The sooner the better, please.
But don't try to carry an open liquor bottle around in public.