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Abject Terror: My Experience at the Anchorage Baptist Temple

September 9, 2009

[Contributed by our friend Marcin Druzdzel.]

I have only recently become informed of a very very conservative group within Anchorage. I did not know anything about the Anchorage Baptist Temple until I got involved at the Ordinance 64 Assembly meetings, and they definitely shocked me with their backwardness, stubbornness, and dogmatism.
For the past few months I have wanted to go to an ABT service to see what it’s like—to go to the lion’s den and see what makes the people against gay rights be against gay rights. Earlier today, I finally went to one of the services. Like I said earlier, I was shocked and scared at what I saw.

Grandparent's Day is September 13th

Grandparent's Day is September 13th

The subject of the sermon was “Grandparents Day”, which Pastor Prevo decided to celebrate a week early in order to remind the congregation to send cards to out-of-state grandparents in time for the national Grandparents’ Day next Sunday. Mellow enough topic, right? Nothing controversial there at all. What intrigued me, however, was how he elaborated on the importance of grandparents, telling the story of Noah’s genealogy (from Enoch to Shem in Genesis). Anyone familiar with the Bible should remember that these figures allegedly lived for a very long time (Methuselah being the longest-lived at 969 years old). Pastor Prevo stated that because of Noah’s virtue, he was spared from the flood and lived to father the ancestors of Abraham. He made some allusions to the wickedness of Noah’s contemporaries and the modern world. Touchy, at least getting really close to controversial. Most conservatives are quite worried about the moral decay of society. Also, I was under the impression that the Old Testament wasn’t followed at all, or at least that’s the impression I got in my discussions with the protestors at the rallies. Perhaps they only believe the useful parts (which would make them hypocrites, as they accuse more tolerant churches of doing that too).

Jerry Prevo identifies with Noah

Jerry Prevo identifies with Noah

What started to get disconcerting was the pseudoscience that went into Jerry’s explanation of the flood. Before the flood, he said, there was no rainfall and no oceans, but instead the atmosphere was heavily-laden with water vapor, which kept the plants moistened, distributed heat all across the globe (accounting for dinosaur fossils in currently inhospitable climates [Dinosaurs are apparently just reptiles that lived a long long time and kept growing]), and dissipated the sun’s UV rays enough to allow for the extreme longevity of the Biblical figures (no account, of course, of Telomerase protein caps on the DNA strands in the chromosomes that limit cells to about 50 divisions). That’s scary in itself; that someone with that much sway over the mindset of so many (the congregation is numbered in the thousands) puts absolute faith in an old book with many unknown and anonymous authors (at least he acknowledges that God ‘inspired men’ to write it), and bullshits his way through specific scientific facts to make the story sound legitimate. He also stated multiple times that faith was genetic, hereditary, and in the DNA (does evolution exist or not, pastor?).
Now, the thing that does worry me is the mindset that the Pastor is fostering. Time and time again, he alluded to Noah’s contemporaries. Just as Noah’s contemporaries laughed at him for building a boat on a hill, because they didn’t know what rainfall or floods were, that outsiders of the modern churches would laugh at their (and by extension, his) beliefs. Then, just as in this age, they would realize too late that it was them that were wrong. In Noah’s time it was this mysterious water that fell from the sky, but God’s going to mix it up and annihilate people in some different way next time. They believe that the rapture is coming. Wait, that doesn’t express it enough….they REALLY believe Jesus is going to show up next week and spirit them into heaven, and they don’t get disappointed by the fact that he’s a no-show. They just keep waiting and hope he shows up the week after that. This worries me too, as how much can you care about the well-being of a planet you’re planning on leaving sometime next week?
This mindset that I am so appalled and scared of, the stubbornness the Pastor was instilling in the congregation, has many implications. They are taught to believe that they are the only right ones, and that leaves no room for compromise, as there is only one way to earn God’s salvation–God’s way. This puts them in a black-and-white mindset that undoubtedly transfers into the rest of their lifestyle. How can they compromise in politics, or come to mutual agreements with coworkers at their earthly jobs if they feel like only they are entitled to the truth, and that they are on the path of righteousness? How can they be tolerant of other beliefs? They can’t… any time they refer to the First Amendment, it is an effort to either shield their views from criticism or to try to push them on other people.

This mental block prevents them from being able to debate towards a greater truth. This was quite apparent at the assembly meetings. They stated the same things, over and over and over again, with no regard to counterarguments made by Ordinance 64’s supporters. This arrogant righteousness is what puts me off of debating religion. It ends up being an exercise in futility, as they are too stubborn to question their values and beliefs, much less change them. I saw this all too often. Now I am beginning to understand how this mental block got put in place.
sheepleI must say I felt something when I was there. The music, the lighting, the sermons… something almost supernatural. There was something more there. However, I must hope that I’m not the only one who can see the puppet strings. I saw what technicians labored to accomplish behind the scenes, because that’s all it was, complete with a glitch or two. The congregation was captivated like strung-up puppets. Simple, repetitive musical pitches and vocal inflections along with synthesized drums made a very simple but potent mix of music that sounded damn near inspirational. Prevo used many different vocal tones to captivate the audience. He was definitely a skilled puppet master, a shepherd of sheeple. It was a bit annoying to hear some guy in the pews moaning “amen” after everything the pastor said. They also had a visiting Christian musician, Dennis Agajanian who had some acoustic guitar skills, which did surprise me. I was under the impression that Christian musicians were simply bad musicians cashing in on the faith factor. That’s not based on reality though, but instead on South Park. I’ll look into it if I continue studying ABT’s services.

At the end of the service, Pastor Prevo briefly referred to the bill to notify parents of their children’s abortions, and mentioned something about either a vote or contacting politicians (I don’t remember which it was). Doesn’t that violate the 501(c) status (or whatever the tax-exempt status is called)?

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12 comments

  1. I must say that I too have had the unfortunate experience of attending a ABT service. I had been feeling slightly guilty about how much I despised Prevo and his teaching, and yet I had never heard him speak or met him. I attended the service a Sunday before you, and I’m afraid to say that it was worse than the one you went to.
    He had an hour of talking about the rapture. The ‘fire shall scour the Earth but only those who listen to me will escape it’ rapture. It was horrendous.
    One of the few things that has stuck in my mind from that was a jab he made at the GBLTQ community. He was speaking about how one of the sign of the rapture coming was that ‘there woudl be one who woudl control all buying and selling’ and, of course, he used the government for this. He used the example of airline tickets, which coincidentally aren’t sold by the government, and how you *Gasp* had to write down your full name, birthday, whether you were male of female, and here it got ugly. I believe these were his exact words, “Wait, that’s right. Male and female. Not bisexual, not gay, not lesbian,” around ‘gay’ it became hard to hear him over the applause and the ‘hear hear, that’s right!’ I was so mad I was trembling in my pew.
    After the service I waited patiently for Prevo to come into the VIP room where he apparently went after services. Once he finally got there, I shook his hand, and at the question, “Will you be attending next week?” Replied with a large smile and, “Not a chance.”

    I don’t feel guilty anymore.


  2. These Christians were in their own church, listening to their own pastor teach them about the Word, in which they believe. Under the First Amendment, they are entitled to do this. Granted, you disagree with their beliefs, but they still have the right to believe what they do. If their beliefs are so offensive to you, you should not attend their services.


    • So did David Koresh, Jim Jones, and Charlie Manson. When they start stockpiling weapons it’s time to intervene.


  3. “When they start stockpiling weapons it’s time to intervene.” So much for the 2nd Amendment. Why is it that when you disagree with a group’s ideas you want to deny them their Constitutional rights?


  4. I do not deny they have first amendment rights. The problem comes when because of their beliefs, they deny others their beliefs.


  5. By attending services in their own church, they are not denying you your rights. They are practicing their own rights to freedom of religion and freedom of speech. I repeat: If you do not like them, then do not attend their services.


    • Janet, I understand what you’re saying, and to a certain extent, I agree. But this particular church is not keeping their teachings within their own congregation. They are actively seeking to influence political decisions, and they are doing so in a passive-aggressive way, by claiming that their motives aren’t hateful, but in the next breath telling people that do not subscribe to those beliefs that they are destined for an eternity in Hell.

      People live in fear in this city because this religious group, ABT, seeks to undermine the lives of people who are not a part of their congregation. People also have good reason to take a peek at these religious services, even if it’s only to know what they’ll have to defend themselves against.


      • One of the things that come out of these churches is that people think it’s okay to kill people who for example doctors who do abortions, that just happened again this year. Also gay and lesbian violence come out of these churches because the ministers are so busy spewing hate and so people get it into their heads that we are terrible monsters who molest children and are going to hell anyway and so they might as well send us there. Look at the Westboro Baptist church, they picket the funerals of gay people who die of Aids, they carry signs that say God hates Fags, they picketed Matthew Shepherd’s funeral and told anyone that would listen that the individuals who killed him did the world a favor, shouted to his family memebers that Matthew was going to hell for being gay. You weren’t here the last time we tried to get Gay rights in Anchorage, Rev Prevo and ABT helped kill that one too. We had bumper stickers that Dan Carter made which said “Annoy Prevo Think For Yourself”, the funny thing is that when the Westboro Baptist church came to twon to picket our Gay parade, we thought they were going to come and picket at Immanuel Presbyterian church (that’s where MCC used to be) but they ended up picketing Anchorage Baptist Temple because Prevo and his group didn’t join their ranks. That was the year that Mystrom was Mayor and there was the law suit concerning the PFLAG exhibition at the Loussac Libray. My partner and I were here both times and we remember what happened. I don’t care what Prevo does in his church but when what we does affects my life then I am going to speak up.


  6. Not only is this idiocy immoral by most standards, it is dangerous, as it can incite violence or hate crimes. However, 100% completely legal. You can’t muzzle it, and it has become a stereotype of anybody that’s further left than Palin to want to silence people. We must deal with Prevo and the mindless bible-zombies with patience, reason, and politeness. In other words, we must deal with them in a very Christ-like manner, whether they are Christ-like themselves or not.


    • My point exactly. Whether they are determined to condemn us as demons from hell or simply as immoral humans (who are apparently going to collapse the entire government system by our mere existence), we must retaliate only with well though-out arguments and smiles. Heh, who’ll be on the moral high-ground then?


  7. i could write a book about the hypocracy and discrimination at ABT and ACS. I am a product of both. many years of exposure and many years later i still have re-acuring dreadful dreams of my experences there. it makes me have a scared feeling just to think of it. it is a terrible terrible place. my life is deeply effected by the years i spent there.what a den of lies


  8. I went to Pastor Prevo’s church for almost ten years, and everything that he preaches is from the Bible, whether you agree or not that is the word of God, unfortunately you do not like to hear the word of God that is between God and you, may you need to expend more time reading your Bible and ask the Holy Spirit to teach you.



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