Hate, Violence, and the Religious Right
In light of the attempted murder of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-AZ) in a shooting spree resulting in the death of 6 (including federal judge John Roll
) and the wounding of 12 others, I want to underscore the culture of violence and threats of violence being furthered by the Religious Right by reprising (slightly edited) a post from 2009 in which I reported how Arizona pastor Rev. Steven Anderson called on God to kill Barack Obama, and encouraged a member of his congregation to protest an Obama speech by carrying an assault rifle outside the venue. (See the entire post on the flip.)
It is also worth noting that during the election campaign last year, Giffords Opponent, Jesse Kelly, Held June Event to “Shoot a Fully Automatic M16″ to “Get on Target” and “Remove Gabrielle Giffords”; and Sarah Palin put Giffords in a crosshair target graphic on her web site.
There is no apparent connection between these events and Anderson. However, all are part of the far right political culture that encourages such ideas and actions. Anderson has continued to promote violent ideas, and the Southern Poverty Law Center recently listed Anderson's church as a hate group.
We could also discuss the history of how the theology of hate and violence and related rhetoric directed at abortion providers relates to the quarter century of arson, bombings and murders and more that have been directed at abortion providers. But for today, let's recall the words and deeds of Rev. Steven Anderson.
A Call to Hate
by Frederick Clarkson
I have a piece over at Religion Dispatches that discusses the religious right back story behind the guy who made national news by showing up an a protest where Obama was speaking -- carrying an assault rifle.
Chris Broughton, 28, made national news when he showed up to protest a speech by President Barack Obama in Phoenix, Arizona with an AR-15 automatic rifle slung over his shoulder and a handgun. While Broughton claims that his (apparently legal) actions were not meant to threaten the president, there was more to the story than a single citizen's dubious actions and pronouncements. Local print and television coverage in Phoenix, and bloggers all over the country, have led the way on an interesting and important story of religion and politics that has been almost entirely ignored by the traditional media.
Here is what they missed.
The night before Broughton's fifteen minutes of fame, he attended a fiery Sunday sermon by his pastor, Rev. Steven L. Anderson, at Faithful Word Baptist Church in Tempe, Arizona. Rev. Anderson, also 28, explained not only "Why I Hate Barack Obama," but also why he and God both want the president dead. "When I go to bed tonight," Broughton's pastor declared, "Steven L. Anderson is going to pray for Barack Obama to die and go to hell." He even goes so far as to claim that:
"God appointed [Obama] to destroy this country for the wickedness of the United States of America. God appointed him because that's what our country has turned into. That's who we deserve as a president."
At a teabagger rally in Arizona, Anderson denounced both the Republican and Democratic Parties, declaring without a hint of irony that Obama, the "worst president" in American history, is "selling us into slavery and serfdom." Further research revealed Anderson's involvement in the Constitution Party, the third largest "third party" in the U.S. In a June speech to the state convention of the Arizona Constitution Party he introduced himself (in addition to being pastor of ) as owner of a "firearms business" operating in "several states" and closed with a plea for an American government based on God's laws as set out in the Biblical book of Deuteronomy.
The Constitution Party, which has tended to be the political home for people with views strikingly similar to Anderson's, is frequently dismissed as a fringe party of little electoral consequence, even though its significance lies elsewhere. It is in fact a steaming hotbed of far right factions with theocratic, vigilante, and sometimes revolutionary ideas whose like-minded members get together to make their plans, just like any other organized faction in American public life. The party says it is 100% pro-life and pro-gun.
Many of the party's early leaders were Christian Reconstructionists, or heavily influenced by Reconstructionism, including party founder and three-time presidential candidate Howard Phillips. Reconstructionism is a theocratic systematic theology whose seminal thinker, the late R.J. Rushdoony, spoke at the Constitution Party's founding convention and was a longtime advisor to Phillips. Reconstructionism was one of the significant theological catalysts for the modern Religious Right--a movement, like other social and political movements throughout history, that has transcended party identification.
The Constitution Party has also been a political home to a wide array of militia proponents, including one of the movement's leading theorists, Larry Pratt, head of Gun Owners of America, Rev. Matthew Trewhella, founder of Missionaries to the Preborn who has urged parents to buy each of their children "an SKS rifle and 500 rounds of ammunition" for their church militia; Operation Rescue founder Randall Terry, (who ran as a Constitution Party candidate for Congress in 1998, but who has since become a Republican); and even Rev. Michael Bray, a convicted felon and longtime leader in the Army of God.