What would Katharine Lee Bates think, I wonder, if she were around today to hear Pastor Steven Anderson preach his Gospel of Hate at Faithful Word Baptist Church in Tempe, Arizona? Surely, the author of America the Beautiful would be shocked and saddened by Anderson’s incredible display of venom. The daughter of a New England Congregational pastor (photo below) saw America as a beautiful land bright with promise, and she asked the Almighty to perfect His great creation:
America! America! God mend thine ev’ry flaw;
Confirm thy soul in self control, thy liberty in law
America! America! May God thy gold refine,
Till all success be nobleness, and ev’ry gain divine!
America! America! God shed His grace on thee,
And crown thy good with brotherhood, from sea to shining sea!
Brotherhood. I suppose back in 1895 there was some indication that Americans would one day embrace that concept. Or, perhaps Ms. Bates led a sheltered life. But the thought that brotherhood could exist in America now seems laughable. What seems to be growing most robustly in the country these days is the poisonous flower of hatred, watered by racial prejudice and fertilized by lies.
Pastor Anderson (photo at left) is just one manifestation of America’s new culture of hate. You must have heard of him. He is the guy who prayed to God to give President Obama fatal brain cancer “like Ted Kennedy.” Here’s a sample of his rhetoric:
Now, look, if somebody wants me, if somebody twisted my arm and tells me to pray for Barack Obama, this is what I’m going to pray, because this is the only prayer that applies to him: ‘Break his teeth, O God, in his mouth. You know, as a snail which melteth, let him pass away. Like the untimely birth of a woman, that he thinks – he calls it a woman’s right to choose, you know, he thinks it’s so wonderful. He ought to be aborted. It ought to be, “Abort Obama.”
He goes on to equate President Obama with Hitler, Stalin, and Jeffrey Dahmer. Then he declares that:
God is a God of wrath and vengeance. And that’s the message that oughta be thundering from every pulpit in America today. People oughta be trembling today. People in America oughta be scared to death and trembling! And saying, “Oh God! What are you gonna do to our country?! Oh, God! Are we gonna be able to survive?! Oh, God! Are you gonna allow us to go into the depths of socialism, and communism with Barack Obama!?”
Anderson goes on to reinvent Obama’s personal history, claiming the President was actually born in Kenya (using a torrent of racist stereotypes along the way), and then says that people like Obama are “so wicked” that they become “animals” who are “not human” and “past feeling.”
And his hatred is not limited to the President. He demands that all gays and lesbians face the death penalty, for example.
You might be tempted to dismiss Anderson as just another lunatic. After all, he has done such crazy things as fighting with the Arizona Border Patrol, getting himself bludgeoned and Tasered. But he has a lot of followers. And they could be dangerous. A member of his congregation brought a gun to an event where President Obama was speaking recently.
Besides, Anderson is not alone in spewing vitriol against the President. The Internet has been infected with the virus of right-wing hatred, and the airwaves – especially talk radio – reek with incitement to violence against the state. Much of the poison comes from the fear of changing times and the hardships imposed by a devastating Recession. But behind the current outburst is an organized campaign masterminded by public relations companies in Washington and other organizations funded by economic interests with an ax to grind.
Coordinating the crusade is the Republican Party – or at least some segments of the party – in an over-the-top response to the thrashing Republicans took at the polls in November. Obviously, these politicians are willing to do whatever it takes to regain power. They are prepared to spread divisiveness and hate, to pit white against black, faith against faith, retirees against factory workers… in effect to destroy the fabric of this great nation and put a stake through any hope of brotherhood.
And to think that crowds still sing America the Beautiful, and from time to time, someone suggests making it the National Anthem.