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Deconstructing West City Bible Baptist Church

Thu 11 Dec 2014 In: Comment View at Wayback View at NDHA

Recently, I was informed about a reprehensible West Auckland fundamentalist gentleman (sic) named Logan Robertson, who runs "West City Bible Baptist Church." This fellow delivered a vitriolically abusive response to an ex-fundamentalist gay man who is trying to provide an account of the destructive impact of fundamentalist sects on LGBT lives. When I read the words "independent fundamental Baptist" as the church descriptor, I groaned inwardly. As cumulative New Zealand census data shows, the denomination has been in an adherent nosedive for the last twenty years or so. Back in 1991, it numbered 70, 155 people- about 2.08% of the total New Zealand population. Over the intervening two decades, it has further diminished to 54,345 (2013) at the last census- now only 1.22% of the New Zealand population. I am not sure how Baptists would identify themselves in response to census questions- whether they are members of the Baptist Union or not. Some ex-Baptist New Zealanders are critical of how the Baptist Union has been over-influenced by the fundamentalist US Southern Baptist Convention since the seventies and eighties and attribute the decline of denominational membership to those dogmatic assertions. The denomination itself has a sorry track record, from opposing homosexual law reform to its Christian Right activist NZ Baptist newspaper editor Julie Belding in the nineties to unsuccessful agitation against Auckland's Hero Parade in the mid-nineties to individual church opposition to the Marriage Amendment Act in 2013. There are some liberal individual New Zealand congregations within the Baptist Union, however. As Robertson describes his church as 'independent and fundamental' (ist), however, it seems to have never been affiliated to that denomination. After ascertaining the above, I then visited Robertson's Facebook page and had a good look around. Unsurprisingly, he appears to be an acolyte of one Steven Anderson, minister at the "Faithful Word Baptist Church" in Tempe, Arizona. Anderson established this unpleasant little hardcore fundamentalist Baptist sect in 2005. Anderson appears to be something of a media hound- in August 2009, he disgusted many people when he ranted that he was praying for the death of current US President Barrack Obama. He did clarify that he wanted Obama to die from "natural causes", however. Anderson is an anti-abortion fanatic as well as a homophobe, yet believes in the death penalty and that HIV/AIDS is "just retribution" for the "sin" of gay sex and relationships. He appears to be a credulous individual who believes that LGBT communities "recruit" through rape and child sexual abuse. For rebuttal of that nasty little canard, see the references at the end of this article. Unsurprisingly, his sect has been labelled as a "hate group" by the anti-racist Southern Poverty Law Centre. Recently, Anderson's histrionics and temper tantrums have earned him media coverage by Pinknews, Gay Star News, the New Zealand Herald, Fairfax newspapers, TVNZ and 3 News, Towleroad, David Farrar's Kiwiblog, and even Christian Today!. Faithful Word isn't the only fundamentalist Baptist antigay group that the SPLC lists- the Georgia-based "Sons of Thundr" (sic) Faith Baptist Church and Oklahoma's Windsor Hills Baptist Church are also on that list. On the other hand, other "Bible Baptist" churches in Marlborough, Auckland, Wellington and Timaru are not, and their own websites give no indication that they are. As for Robertson, homophobia isn't his only stock in trade. According to his Facebook page, he is also an anti-fluoridation zealot as well as a member of the "homeschooling" fundamentalist movement, which tends to be a hotbed of militant fundamentalist indoctrination and political extremism, espousing the likes of the (defunct) Christian Heritage Party, opposing evolutionary theory and indoctrinating its children with Christian Right subcultural dogma related to abortion, homosexuality, feminism, environmentalism, climate change, and so on. He also likes a website called "God, Guns, Guts and Glory," which seems to espouse creationism and conspiracy theories about the 9/11 al Qaeda attack on the Twin Towers. And this is relevant to everyday New Zealand life how, exactly? "I'm Not Buying That" refers to boycotting progay businesses and service providers, although again, it refers almost exclusively to US progay corporates. Nor, for that matter, are debates over gun ownership or regulation major issues in New Zealand society, for that matter. As for capital punishment, Walter Bolton was the last New Zealander to be executed, and that was almost sixty years ago, in 1957. In 1961, New Zealand ended the use of capital punishment thereafter. And it may just be coincidence, but I found something interesting on a Tennessee-based "Bible Baptist" Publications website. Finally, there's the matter of defamation. In labelling Mr Marjoram a "child molesting fag," Robertson may have crossed the line between robust free speech and the verdict in Parminter v Coupland (1842), the venerable British case that defined defamation as "a publication without justification or lawful excuse [that] calculated to injure the reputation of another and expose him [or her] to hatred, contempt and public ridicule." According to our own Hadlee versus New Zealand Newspapers [1996], the threshold is what a 'reasonable, ordinary' person would understand to expose a potentially defamed individual to "hatred, contempt or public ridicule." Moreover, reliance on unsubstantiated rumour or hearsay is similarly actionable, according to Truth New Zealand versus Holloway (1961). Granted, Mr Marjoram may be inclined to be merciful in this context, but he might have good grounds should he wish to take Robertson to court over his inflammatory comments. However, for similar reasons, we should be similarly reticent about making claims about Robertson that are not based on directly verifiable facts. Allegations about his mental health and history are flying around the internet. Whether they are true or not, Mr Marjoram is quite correct when he states that we should refrain from provocative behaviour and harassment of someone who might be a mentally ill individual in this context. Apart from possible concerns over defamation of Mr Marjoram, Robertson is quite entitled to believe what he likes, given that he is not tangibly harming anyone else. However, neither he or we should be under any illusion that he represents a significant proportion of New Zealand society. Yet again, he seems to be another tiresome New Zealand fundamentalist drone in cultural captivity to the US Christian Right's propaganda, strategies and tactics, not particularly applicable to our more mainstream western society. Not Recommended: West City Bible Baptist Church (NZ): .nz Faithful Word Baptist Church (US) John Melton: "The Sin of Sodom" (1996): http://www.biblebaptistpublications. org/homosexuality.html Recommended: John Burrows and Bill Wilson: Media Law: Wellington: New Zealand Law Society: 2003. Greg Herek: "Facts About Child Molestation and Homosexuality": html  Politics and religion commentator Craig Young - 11th December 2014    

Credit: Politics and religion commentator Craig Young

First published: Thursday, 11th December 2014 - 10:22am

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