Quote of the Day: IFB Pastor Steven Anderson’s Hungarian Connection

steven anderson

I was quite surprised to see the following article in my Google Alerts. Being of Hungarian descent myself, I was intrigued by the author’s perspective on Steven Anderson and his wife Zsuzsanna. If you are not familiar with Steven Anderson, please read, Understanding Steven Anderson, Pastor Faithful Word Baptist Church, Tempe, Arizona.

Pastor Steven Anderson of Arizona’s Faithful Word Baptist Church often claims to have a monopoly on “true,” undiluted “Bible-believing” Christianity. In his mind, Christ’s message is not of redemption and forgiveness, but of visceral rage and damnation for a wide range of people on his hate list.

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In Mr. Anderson’s mind, homosexuality and pedophilia are inextricably linked. In his skewed private interpretation of Scripture, he also fails to consider that Leviticus does not refer to committed, monogamous same sex relationships (this concept is not present in Scripture), but rather to sexual encounters associated with idolatry. (For a detailed discussion of this from a progressive Catholic perspective, see the piece in the Liberal Catholic Digest.) While his worst vitriol is reserved for homosexuals, Mr. Anderson publishes anti-Semitic and anti-Catholic material as well, and his view of women (they are to eschew college and remain in the house) also raises eyebrows. In 2016, during a sermon, Mr. Anderson did an impression of the deceased Mother Teresa lying as a corpse in a casket, after which he started shrieking and flailing his arms, explaining to his congregation that “she’s burning in hell right now.”

Mr. Anderson is also a Holocaust denier. “I don’t believe that the official version of the Holocaust is true whatsoever,” he said in a video ominously entitled The Holocaust Exposed. He uses debunked writings of Holocaust deniers in his videos to argue that while some Jews, along with many other people, may have died in World War II, there was no Holocaust, no Final Solution and no concerted effort to annihilate Jews as such. He has also gone on to declare that Jews are the most “wicked” people in the world, holding them responsible for the spread of pornography.

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The 36 year old Steven Anderson’s wife, Zsuzsanna Tóth, is Hungarian and the two met in 1999, in Munich, Germany. Zsuzsa had lived in both Germany and Britain and the young Steven seemed to be mesmerized by her “British” English. (She did not have much of a Hungarian or German accent, apparently.) The young Mr. Anderson was handing out Christian tracts in a public square and this is where the two first met. When Mr. Anderson returned to the U.S., the two remained in touch through email, regular letters and built a friendship. Yet Mr. Anderson believed he could never fall in love with her for a one very important reason. Mr. Anderson writes:

“She was still not saved, and I had absolutely no intention of ever falling in love with, dating, or marrying an unsaved girl, no matter how much I liked her…Every girl I ever dated was saved, and my first step was always to bring them to my church to see if they enjoyed the hard, biblical preaching.”

That very American and individualist understanding of Christian salvation as being a personal, one-time act of “accepting Christ into your heart” and the notion of “hard, biblical preaching,” was foreign to Christian culture in Hungary, be it Catholic or Protestant. Born-again Christianity was brought to the country, and to other parts of Eastern Europe, by American Evangelical and Baptist missionaries. Full disclosure: I am familiar with this first-hand. When I was living in Budapest with my parents in the nineties, they enrolled me in the International Christian School of Budapest (ICSB), located in the southwest Buda town of Diósd. The school was established by American born-again missionary groups, such as the Association of Baptists for World Evangelism, Campus Crusade for Christ and a handful of others. The concept of being a “born-again Christian” was as foreign to me, growing up in a Catholic family, as it was to nearly every other student of Hungarian origins. The notion that somehow I, my family and Hungarian society writ large–built on the narrative of St. Stephen’s Christian state and historic Hungary as being a bulwark of western Christianity in the East–were not Christian, was incomprehensible.

To be sure, my time at ICSB was not characterized by the type of vitriol that forms the basis of Mr. Anderson’s preaching, even if there seemed to be a broad consensus that Catholics were not saved and anti-Catholicism most certainly existed in some circles. The American missionaries on the outskirts of Budapest worked hard to raise enough money in their churches back home to allow them to live quite modestly in Hungary. They often learned Hungarian, tried to integrate into Hungarian society and were clearly driven by a deeply held belief that they could bring eternal life in Christ for the people of this post-communist society by convincing them to perform a simple, personal gesture of faith.

When Zsuzsa visited the Steven and his parents in Roseville, California, “saving” this young Hungarian woman was clearly a consideration. The same day her plane landed, she was introduced to a most extensive collection of Bibles. Mr. Anderson explains:

“I showed her the big bookshelf in my room that I was pretty proud of which had 3 long shelves (I have always love books and done a lot of reading). The top shelf contained about 40 different King James Bibles…She thought having forty-some Bibles was a little bit excessive. I told her that at least if I were ever burned at the stake, there would be plenty of fuel, and that didn’t seem to make her feel any better about it…”

Mr. Anderson continues with his first impression of this young European:

“Being an unsaved girl from Europe, she had been brainwashed into believing a lot of left-wing ideology such as socialism, feminism, humanism, gay rights, etc., and she was definitely against spanking… I remember explaining to her why there was no way that evolution could actually be true. She had never in her life even heard of anyone questioning it.”

Indeed, even conservative Hungarian Catholics and Protestants would not generally question evolution–it was simply not a topic of debate in Hungarian society in the nineties…nor elsewhere in the region. But Zsuzsa was softening, as she was introduced to the Anderson family’s faith life. “On Sunday morning, we went to Regency Baptist Church with the whole family. This was her very first time in a Baptist church. She still wasn’t a believer, but she really enjoyed the service and said that she liked it a lot better than Catholic church,” recalls Mr. Anderson.

The young man had clearly developed feelings for Zsuzsa Tóth, but was troubled by the fact that she was not “saved.”

“I went to my room with a heavy heart. I had really become fond of Zsuzsa, and I was sad that she still wasn’t saved. I got on my knees and wept, praying to God that she would get saved. Little did I know that at the exact moment my tears were flowing as I prayed for her, she was upstairs in her room, asking Jesus Christ to save her.”

And there it is: Zsuzsa Tóth become a Christian. In Roman Catholicism, salvation is a life-long process and one’s relationship with the divine and indeed the mystery of the incarnation is more layered, multifaceted and much more communal in nature than to fit neatly into a one-time formula, invoked in private.

Despite her conversion, Zsuzsa, coming from a European background, was horrified by the death penalty in the U.S. and about Steven’s visceral hatred towards homosexuals. Mr. Anderson recounts:

“I told her that I believed that our government should give homos the death penalty. This made her very upset and became our first fight. It was not that she had a particular soft spot for homos, it was just that she had always been taught that the death penalty was wrong in general, and especially for something other than murder! Basically, she was just emotional because she considered me to be a nice guy and could not believe that I would condone of such a “violent” measure. It seemed like a contradiction to her at the time. Keep in mind that she had just gotten saved only 6 days before…”

The two spoke a fair bit about marriage as they got to know each other better. Somewhat oddly for a born-again Christian so serious about his faith, they tried to get married in 2000 at what they believed was a 24/7 wedding chapel in Reno, Nevada, which turned out to be closed by the time they got there. In the end, they had a 2-minute wedding ceremony at a place called the Chapel of the Bells, without even Steven’s parents present or knowing about it, upon which they “headed back to Roseville to consummate the marriage.”

Zsuzsa returned briefly to Germany, so the young couple were in a long-distance marriage for the next three weeks, until her return to the U.S. Zsuzsa was then baptized at Regency Baptist Church, one month after being “saved.” Mr. Anderson initially worked for a residential alarm company, installing home alarm systems. Zsuzsa gave birth to nine children and Steven established his church, Faithful Word Baptist Church, in 2005. He emphasizes that he never completed college or university, but is disciplined about memorizing large parts of the Bible–and has memorized nearly half the New Testament.

— Christopher Adam, Hungarian Free Press, Pastor Steven Anderson — A Vitriolic American Baptist and His Hungarian Connection, January 23, 2018

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13 Comments

  1. ObstacleChick

    This story of Zsuzsa is heartbteaking. A close friend of mine grew up in Communist Poland so it’s somewhat similar to Hungary with Catholicism being the main religion. As progressive as they were in Eastern Europe with some ideas (evolution, socialism, women in the work force) they are incredibly traditional with private gender roles. My friend and her friends/relatives came to USA when they were teens or college age, and she doesn’t know a single man who does any cooking or other housework other than repairs. And the women don’t do car or yard work – she doesn’t even fill up her own car with gas, yet she has a full time job. And she isn’t even 40 yet so not talking about older people. So maybe it isn’t a stretch to think Zsuzsa would accept complementarianism. Still it’s sad…..Steven’s hate and vitriol in the name of Jesus – REVOLTING.

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  2. oldbroad1

    Omgomgomg. My mom was from Hungary. They were Greek Catholics (interesting history) from eastern Hungary. When they immigrated to the US they became Roman Catholics. Fuck Steven Anderson! Poor Szusza and all her children. Sigh.

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  3. oldbroad1

    Also, my mom was a Toth. Of course Toth is the “Smith” of Hungarian surnames. Poor woman, run baby,run!

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  4. Rachel

    Up to a point, I feel sorry for Zsuzsa. (Anyone who CHOOSES to live with someone as disturbed and hateful as Steven Anderson has got a lot of psychological problems of their own.) But only up to a point. On her own website (“Are they all yours?” Sigh) she gives free rein to a lot of very ugly ideas. She is totally against vaccinations. She hates (and I do mean “hates”) women who use IVF in order to have a baby. And she is a Holocaust-denier.

    I feel very sad for the children who have no choice at all. But where are the child protection services in Arizona? I can’t believe they don’t exist. It doesn’t take a genius to listen to this man and conclude that he is unhinged.

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  5. GeoffT

    I have nothing but contempt for anyone who is a holocaust denier. I was born in the UK during the 1950s and I went to a primary school that had a very big Jewish contingent. As a result I had many friends who were Jewish, including one I rate as one of the nicest people I have ever known. I didn’t properly appreciate it at the time, but most had direct relationships with people who were victims of the holocaust and one, perhaps my best friend at one time, who had a German name for which he took some stick, had parents who had fled Germany to escape.

    Anderson himself is bad enough, but for a Hungarian to be a denier is just beyond belief.

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    1. Rachel

      Quite. I lived and worked in Hungary for 2 years and evidence of the Holocaust is everywhere. How can anyone born and raised in that setting tell themselves it never happened?! Having said that, Zsuzsa manages to embrace all kinds of delusional belief on a daily basis so maybe this is just one more example.

      Having read some of her blog, I am at a loss to distinguish which views are truly hers and which are simply parrotted from her husband. I doubt she herself knows: she is totally in his grip. This isn’t a family so much as a cult.

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  6. Brian

    Anderson’s hard teaching of a hard Bible is exactly the equivalent of radical Muslim clerics who use the Koran as a weapon of hatred. In Anderson’s way of thinking, the government should be killing homosexuals and doing God’s work of Love. Bruce suggests that one look at the history of Christianity to see how it has been excessive but it is important to realize that Christianity is still used very actively today as a tool of hatred among white supremacists and IFB hate-mongers like Steven Anderson. Is there any city in the West that does not sport street-preachers howling with hatred for others and calling for Jesus to save us all? Does anybody really believe that a government run by these people would be essentially better than the worst Muslim extremist government? Isn’t it time for us to clearly state that IFB-style religion is a tool of hatred that needs to be vilified and not condoned with tax-free status?
    USA is uniquely blind to its own extremism in these ways because of its ugly brainwashed-from-birth patriotism based on bombs bursting in air and a lily-white Jesus at the rear cheering and waving the Stars and Stripes as the drones prey on the world for profit. (I realize this is a strong statement and might offend some of my American friends but with the moron-bully in the White House now for over a year, it is time to say it… USA is punching its way blindly into oblivion now and will soon be (if it isn’t already) the most hated/feared nation on earth. This is exactly what Trump wants when he says, Make America great again. Don’t even dare question the bully of the world.
    Steven Anderson really should be advising the present Oval Office. It would fit. (As a Canadian, I wish young Trudeau would speak the truth about Trump and distance us from his thuggery but we are so entwined with the US as to make that unlikely… in fact, we are considered the dumb big brother in the North who gets directed politically, told what to do… In a way, we too are responsible for what is now happening in Washington. We like to suggest that we are different but we are not very different. We live in dark times.)

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  7. Mary

    Zsu’s story is very sad. She just had the tenth child, so she is now in a situation that would be very difficult if not impossible to extricate herself and the kids from. She seems to really love the kids, but she still accepts the poor theology in many ways. At the very least, her kids have it better than most pastors kids materially. They have a stable home and have not been moved all over the country every few years. Very sad to think what her life could have been.

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    1. Brian

      Zsu doesn’t sound very healthy to me. To latch on to a sociopathic personality is a very bad sign of dependency. Steven tells her what to believe and she parrots him. Their home would be a nightmare for a child. Mary, you suggest that they have some ‘at least’ things to be thankful for…. At least she seems to really love her kids even though they are subject to Steven’s ‘hard’ teaching. My upbringing was IFBish with a preacher dad and nothing near the extremes of the Anderson home. It scares me to death to think of the children there.

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    2. Matilda

      Really, her kids are in an OK environment? If you read her account of the birth of that 10th child, she refused to allow any of the usual simple health checks on the newborn and said the doctor ‘Played the dead baby card on me’. That disgusts and horrifies me – and obviously she’s anti-vax too. Oh, and all male obs/gynae doctors are ‘perverts’ but guess she had to have one attend her when it looked like she could die of an obstructed labour.

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      1. Rachel

        Yes, she has a really deep paranoia about “the state” having any say on what she does and on how she and her deranged husband raise their kids. As do many anti-vax, home-ed enthusiasts. . .though it would be difficult to meet two as extreme as Pastor and Mrs Anderson.

        She was happy enough to accept an epidural in the hospital, I notice. Something she would probably condemn another woman for doing. There is a real loathing for other women in her posts. And a real loathing for gay people. And. . .

        The children’s physical health is ALREADY being endangered. And the damage to their emotional wellbeing will be incalculable. It’s terrifying how much power disturbed people like this are allowed to have. Pastor Anderson probably would be fired after a week in any normal work environment (“anger management issues”) but no-one sees fit to do anything about the fact he lives with 10 defenceless children.

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        1. Brian

          Rachel, when we look objectively and distance ourselves from decent human response emotionally, it becomes clear that the world we live in still has considerable contempt for the helpless and would prefer to desert them with the likes of the Andersons, rather than face the fact of their own inner harm and disdain and then do some hard work to redeem themselves. It is far easier to give it to God. God, by the way, is the ultimate imaginary prick. If it was real, this God-thing, then it would be worse than a prick; it would be a monster.

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          1. Rachel

            I agree with you, Brian. I grew up in an abusive household myself. My parents were charm personified outside the home; not so, within it. Yet more perceptive people could have noticed things that were wrong, and maybe they did, but it made no difference. When I had a serious breakdown in my teens, the child and adolescent mental health team (psychiatrists, mental health nurses, a social worker) stood fairly and squarely in the corner of my parents, consistently accepting their testimony over mine. My mother is still alive and still accepts absolutely no responsibility whatsoever; she hands it all over to God who has, she insists, forgiven her. You are right: a God who witnesses all that (and much worse) every day and who does nothing IS a monster.

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