Before I hit you with my account of this Sunday's evening service at Tempe's Faithful Word Baptist Church -- home to Obama-death-wish preacher Steven Anderson, and his spritual follower, AR-15-toter and Obama-hater Christopher Broughton -- I should run down some significant points picked up during my post-service chats with both.
First off, despite what some analysts suggested on CNN's Rick Sanchez show this Friday, August 28, Anderson insisted to me that he had not been paid any visits by the U.S. Secret Service. Broughton specifically denied that the Secret Service or any other law enforcement agency, such as the FBI, had spoken with him. However, both men stated that Broughton, who's now infamous for appearing with a loaded AR-15 outside where President Obama was speaking to the VFW on August 17, was present at Pastor Anderson's service the night before, for the sermon where Anderson hoped the President of the United States met an untimely end.
Broughton previously mentioned on moonhowler extraordinaire Alex Jones' radio show that Anderson's his pastor. CNN's Sanchez specifically stated that Broughton was present for the anti-Obama Anderson sermon in question, and both Broughton and Anderson confirmed this to me. (Anderson said he was the one who informed CNN.)
The video of Anderson's infamous August 16 sermon. The wackiness begins about 13 minutes in.
Anderson indicated that he hasn't agreed to be on Rick Sanchez's show yet -- despite Sanchez saying that he has. He said CNN wanted to tape a segment with him, but that he's only willing to go on live, so he won't be edited.
He also mentioned that he has received a number of death threats since news of his fatwa-style imprecations aimed at Obama had spread through the Interweb. Interestingly, this did not give Anderson any pause about wishing another man's wife to be a widow or his children to be fatherless.
"Because, you know what the difference between me and him is?" asked Anderson, his wife and children waiting for him nearby. "He's guilty and I'm innocent."
I laughed incredulously, but both Anderson and Broughton assured me, "No, but it's true." I couldn't help but think to myself that as much as I find Anderson and Broughton's words and deeds abhorrent, I would not actively wish death upon them in any form, much less for Anderson's tots to be dad-less or his wife to be a widow.
But what do I know. I'm an atheist.
Let me backtrack a minute to the service itself, which was also attended by a reporter for ABC 15 news. I got there right at 6:30 p.m., just before the sermon started, so I pretty much rushed in and took a seat. The church is in a strip-mall with a tailor, a salon and other businesses nearby, and the plain interior of the place looks like it's meant for a business as well.
Past a main, empty room with maps on the walls there's another room filled with armless chairs facing a rough-hewn pulpit. About 25 people were in attendance, though a church member named David told me there had been more present for the morning service, and that there had been more media parked outside then, with at least one protester carrying a sign.
I sat for a moment next to a woman I later discovered to be Broughton's mom, who Broughton said was just checking the place out. Unfortunately, she amscrayed before I could ask her whether or not her son played well with others in kindergarten.
Anderson opened by leading congregants in a few hymns. People sang while sitting down, rather than standing up. Generally, it was a casual affair, though there were a few men in suits, including Anderson.
There was nothing about Obama in this sermon, or any other politician, for that matter. In fact, having grown up in the South with Sunday-go-to-meetin' as a practically unavoidable experience, I can tell you Anderson's sermon was the sort you can hear in countless protestant churches on any given Sunday in America. He mostly preached from Ecclesiastes, speaking of the "vanities" of this world, and how you can have access to all sorts of worldly delights and still be unhappy. Pretty ordinary stuff.
(An aside: Like a lot of fire-and-brimstone preachers, Anderson prefers the King James Version of the Bible over all others, and many of those present followed along in their KJVs. I like KJV for literary reasons, but I think you have a pretty hard row to hoe if you want to say that the KJV is the most accurate translation possible, or that somehow the KJV was divinely inspired, whereas all other translations are not. But, hey, if you want your Christ talking like he stepped out of a Monty Python spoof, go for it.)
After the sermon, folks mingled in the larger front room, and I spoke for a few minutes with church-goer David, who told me about the lone protester earlier in the day. He also told me he agreed with Anderson's "Why I Hate Barack Obama" sermon, and that he figured the outrage will probably die down after a week or so.
I spotted Broughton leaving, so I followed him outside as he headed for his motorcycle. When I told him I was with New Times, he tried to wave me away, but after a little cajoling, he relented and spoke with me. He wouldn't tell me how long he'd been going to Anderson's church (Anderson later told me it was for the last few months), and he shrugged off a question about why he hadn't brought his AR-15 with him to church, since he supposedly has it with him at all times.
"Sometimes I take it," he mumbled. "Sometimes I take it on my motorcycle."
Hey, thanks for the non sequitur, Chris.
We then got down to brass tacks, and he affirmed that he'd like to see President Obama deader than a doorknob.
"It would be good for the country if he were to go sooner than later," said Broughton, no doubt making his ma really proud.
Even if someone kills him, I wondered?
"However it happens, I'm going be happy that it happens," he boasted. "I'm gonna be a happy man...I would rejoice."
Then Broughton removed all doubt that he's an idiot by asserting ye ole Adolf Hitler comparison, a sure sign that you have no argument, or originality. He asked me if it would have been better if somone had taken Hitler out back in the day, suggesting it would be equally cool if Obama got similar treatment.
I pointed out that this was incorrect. We don't live in Nazi Germany, and if we did, folks like him showing up with loaded weapons to oppose such rallies would likely be imprisoned, tortured, and executed. So, see, dullard Chris, it's a dumb comparison. Simplistic. Moronic. Asinine.
(Sigh.) But of course Broughton isn't the only one peddling this false analogy, and that's why it's disturbing when a delusional young man such as Broughton, with a clear hatred for the President, shows up with a loaded AR-15 to the site where the president is speaking. It's the beginning of an unacceptable pattern.
For the record, Broughton insisted that he wasn't threatening the president, and that he wouldn't be pulling the trigger. But he did offer up the shibboleth that Obama's guilty of countless murders.
"A lot of people want to call a murderer [by] a different name," said Broughton. "That's fine if they want to call killing another human being something else, but killing a human being, an innocent human being, is murder."
Not that Obama's performed any abortions himself, of course, he just supports a woman's right to choose. And here on planet earth, in America, year 2009, abortions performed in the early stages of pregnancy are legal. Ask the U.S. Supreme Court, bubbee. Just wanting Obama to be guilty of murder doesn't make it so.
Broughton mentioned that things like slavery have been deemed legal in our nation's past, though they were still morally wrong. True, but those who were enslaved were living human beings, not masses of cells that might one day turn into human beings that can survive outside the womb. I mean, we can disagree on abortion, but once again, this is another false analogy.
For the gals reading out there, keep in mind that, according to the New York-based Guttmacher Institute, which advocates for sexual and reproductive health, "Nearly half of pregnancies among American women are unintended, and four in 10 of these are terminated by abortion."
So, imagine a world governed by the theology of American Taliban-types like Broughton and Anderson. Simply put, there would be a whole lot of women's heads on the chopping block if now-legal abortions were to be treated like murders. Ditto for the doctors involved, the nurses, the people who manage the hospitals, etc.
At last, Anderson emerged from the church with his family, and I cut short the confab with Chris to parlez with the pastor. He spoke to me while holding one of his kids in his arms, and though I still think he's a certifiable loon, he's an affable one, and far less defensive than Broughton. I complimented him on what I found to be an apolitical sermon.
"Most of my sermons are," he stated. "I preach 156 sermons a year."
I asked him about the ex-Secret Service agent on CNN's Sanchez show talking about how he was walking a very thin line with the law, and that he might be perceived as exhorting others to violence.
"Anyone who listens to that whole sermon will hear that I very clearly said, `Hey, we shouldn't take the law into our own hands, we're not a vigilante [group],'" he claimed, adding, "`This is what justice is, but it's not our job to wrestle against flesh and blood. It's a spiritual battle.' And I made that very, very clear. and they all know that...That's why they haven't knocked on my door, despite what they said."
Anderson claimed he wasn't backpedaling on his incendiary, Obama-should-die-and-go-to-hell sermon, though that's exactly the way it sounded to me.
"I even said, clearly to many people, `I hope he dies of natural causes, 'cause then he won't be a martyr, ya know? And what good is that?'" explained Anderson. "Stop and think about it, if someone were to kill Obama, okay, then we have Biden, and whatever. It's not going to be any different.
"I'm not out saying, `Let's kill him,'" continued the preacher man. "I'm out saying, this is what the Bible teaches, that he is worthy of death for what he has done. God is the judge. Vengeance is mine, sayeth the Lord."
Shucks, I feel so much better about it all now, pastor. Thanks for setting me straight on that one. When we all parted ways, I kiddingly told both Broughton and Anderson, "Now you two try not to kill anyone, okay?"
Broughton stopped short, annoyed, as if taking me seriously. Anderson got the snark, and shot back something about having to pray for me. I think that pretty much tells you where these two guy are psychologically.
Anderson intrigues me, despite my disgust with his imam-like, anti-Obama curses. I have a feeling we haven't heard the last of this wacky pastor. More on his run-in earlier this year with the U.S. Border Patrol and Arizona DPS when I get chance.