I have to say: It’s very surreal to watch a sermon from a Christian hate-preacher, only to find out you’re the subject. You’re the example he’s using as a warning to the congregation. You’re the guy all of them have to fight against.
On Sunday night, the New Independent Fundamentalist Baptists closed out their annual “Red Hot Preaching Conference” with a sermon by Aaron Thompson of Sure Foundation Baptist Church in Washington. (Thompson was recently linked to a man arrested for threatening violence at a Pride event, though he hasn’t affirmed the connection or spoken publicly about it.)
Thompson’s sermon was called the “Militant Atheist.” I would’ve guessed that meant spreading the usual Christian apologist lie about long-dead atheist dictators who allegedly killed people in the name of atheism… and he certainly mentioned them.
But a much larger portion of the sermon—20 minutes—was focused on the real terror: me.
The full clip is below (beginning at the 2:03:40 mark), but I offer a shortened version in the tweet underneath it:
I won’t bother including a transcript because nothing he says is worth listening to. It’s a mix of anti-LGBTQ slurs and personal attacks—nothing out of the ordinary for New IFB preachers. But if you set aside all the tangents and bigoted comments, he did say something that caught my attention.
Thompson repeatedly talked about how the clips of New IFB sermons that I frequently post on Twitter cause “a lot of persecution.”
… Listen, this guy, he’s… really pushing hard to get us persecuted, to get us banned off of social media, and all that stuff…
… these militant atheists hate us, and they hate the message of God. They don’t want us to have… our message go out to the masses. They want us off of YouTube. They want us off of Facebook. They want us off of all these platforms… And, you know… why do we want to even be on them? Because the truth is powerful. That’s why. And we want to be on these be so we can preach the truth, and people will know what the truth is…
If that feels like word vomit, let me translate and explain:
New IFB churches are relatively tiny. They rent out space in strip malls and preach to tens of people at a time. However, years ago, they learned the power of live-streaming their sermons on YouTube, allowing casual viewers from all over the country to listen to their preaching. In any given week, the number of people watching their sermons is comparable to a fairly decent-sized church, which is why the pastors always make sure their video cameras and microphones are working. They preach multiple sermons a week and put everything online.
Here’s the problem, though. Unlike most of those other churches, the New IFB people are antisemitic and anti-LGBTQ. They believe that, in a perfect Christian world, the government would prosecute gay people, convict them on sodomy charges, and execute them. Not only do they openly call for the government-sanctioned murder of gay people, they are downright giddy when a mass shooting takes the life of LGBTQ people. (After the Pulse nightclub shooting, preacher Roger Jimenez said the real “tragedy is that more of them didn’t die.”)
That means they’re directly violating the Terms of Service for sites like YouTube which say “Hate speech is not allowed.” YouTube will remove videos that are “promoting violence or hatred against individuals or groups,” including hate speech against LGBTQ people. Sometimes, a single video may be removed. If it happens repeatedly, an entire channel could be banned.
The ringleader of the New IFB crowd, Steven Anderson, had his channel banned for that reason. Attempts to circumvent the ban by creating new channels to post his sermons failed after they, too, got banned. (Anderson himself is now prohibited from stepping foot in about three dozen countries.)
The other preachers have faced similar predicaments. They want to preach “hard” against gay people… but they recognize that their greatest megaphone, YouTube, will punish them for doing it. That’s led to a giant game of Whac-A-Mole, with the preachers and their followers constantly creating new accounts to spread their sermons. They’ve also set up an entire website to store their content in case the other channels get banned.
So when Aaron Thompson whines about being “persecuted,” he’s saying that when people like me share clips of him saying indefensible, violent things, it often leads to strikes or bans on his YouTube channels, which prevents his bigotry from reaching larger groups of people than he ever could on his own.
What sort of things does he say? Well. Let him tell you:
For what it’s worth, I don’t share those Christian hate-preacher clips because I hate Christianity. If they didn’t say outlandish, cruel things all the time, I wouldn’t post about them. Most preachers aren’t in the business of creating content for atheist YouTubers and podcasters; these guys absolutely are. I don’t have to take them out of context because their in-context remarks are awful enough on their own.
I’m holding up a mirror to them, and guys like Thompson don’t like what they see.
As for getting them banned from YouTube, I’ll be honest: I don’t report them. I care less about getting them banned and much more interested in having other people realize what Christian extremists sound like when they take the Bible literally. I do wish, however, that YouTube would take its own rules seriously. If they say hate speech isn’t allowed, then why is it so damn easy to find videos on their website of New IFB preaching that includes violent rhetoric against gay people? Either enforce the rule or get rid of it.
I guess there’s one silver lining to all this.
It’s nice knowing that, in this economy, I can live rent-free in Aaron Thompson’s head.