Monday, October 15, 2007

Feeding Habits of Covenant Squirrels

Commenting on the booklet Southern Slavery As It Was, which Douglas Wilson and Steve Wilkins co-plagiarized about 10 years ago, Bob Mattes notes:

Slavery, including in the imaginary lost paradise of prominent Federal Vision leaders Steve Wilkins and Doug Wilson, is based on kidnapping people and selling them to other men, and the Bible clearly requires that the sellers and buyers be put to death. Hardly sounds like God condones this activity, but with some Federal Vision magic exegesis, I’m sure that Ex 21:16 really means that we should feed the covenant squirrels on Wednesdays. I see no caveat in Ex 21:16 or surrounding verses concerning how the kidnapped individuals are treated, which real historians say wasn’t nearly as ideal as Wilkins and Wilson’s publications let on. . . To this day, neither Wilkins or Wilson have retracted one word of their writings on this subject.

While I am not an authority on the feeding habits of covenant squirrels, the following quote from Douglas Wilson should terminate any expectation to see Wilson or Wilkins retract one word of their hillbilly revision of Southern history. On Monday, October 27, 2003 (two weeks after the scandal broke), Wilson posted this to Vision 20/20:

Bill says I have been stepping away from my little booklet. Here comes the level of debate to which we are all acccustomed [sic]. Have not.

When this fracas broke out, I went back and read it again, and still agree with everything in it. We still publish it, still sell it. Backing away?

There it is. He agrees with everything in it. But this is beside the point. Wilson is smart enough to know that Southern Slavery As It Was should embarrass anyone whose mother and father don’t enjoy a brother-sister relationship. He’s also smart enough to know that when he repackaged SSAIW into Black and Tan, he had to revise some of his revisions in order to save face, which brings us to Dr. William Ramsey’s observations about Black and Tan:

Behind his public intransigence and propaganda, however, Wilson knew the booklet was flawed and, worse, that the obvious nature of the flaws made the core argument more difficult to sell to a mainstream audience. He discontinued publication of it (easily done since he published it himself) and privately sought the advice of scholars who were sympathetic toward his religious views and his classical school movement in order to revise it. . . . the revisions in the new work are telling. . . Gone from Black and Tan, for instance, is the claim that “slavery produced in the South a genuine affection between the races.” (38) Gone are all references to the beneficial effects of slavery on the “black family” and the raw denunciations of “abolitionist propaganda” and “civil rights propaganda.” Wilson ignores the WPA slave narratives altogether in the new book and has even taken our advice with respect to the edition of Robert William Fogel and Stanley Engerman’s Time on the Cross that should be used: the 1989 as opposed to the 1974 edition. Gone also is his original co-author, Steven Wilkins, whose role in founding a secessionist hate group might have raised concerns about his objectivity in discussing the history of southern slavery and race relations. Cognizant of mainstream observers, Wilson no longer contends that “there has never been a multi-racial society which has existed with such mutual intimacy and harmony in the history of the world.” (24) Aside from the obligatory ad hominem attacks on me and my colleagues at the University of Idaho, I could hardly have asked for more under the circumstances. It represents a serious capitulation to the obvious.

What remains is mostly an attack on the empirical evidence that forced him to make those concessions. . . There are no such things, Wilson now claims, as “neutral facts.” “Believer and unbeliever alike,” must abandon all hope of finding “the pristine data.” Pastor Wilson thus urges us to regard “objectivity as a false God,” and declines to provide evidence for his positions on the grounds that it would be like pulling a thread from a “tightly knit sweater.” (6) “One thing will always lead to another,” he explains, “and answering one objection will always lead to another objection.” (66) Nevertheless, in a sly nod to the Neo-Confederate audience still fond of his former unabashed defense of racial slavery, he expresses the hope that sympathetic readers will “weigh charitably the possibility that I have not manufactured all these opinions ex nihilo.” (67) In this and other ways, I feel, he effectively “grandfathers” many of his previous contentions, which recent controversies have taught him are too outrageous for public scrutiny, into his new work even as he dismisses the need to prove them. Obviously, such an attitude toward the very idea of evidence makes the violent misrepresentation of it a matter of only passing concern for Wilson and his admirers. . . .

So while out of one side of his mouth, Douglas Wilson absolutely positively affirmed he agreed with every word of Southern Slavery As It Was, out of the other he backed away from the book’s most preposterous, indefensible claims without ever admitting that he committed any mistakes, which is the one common denominator in all of Wilson’s controversies. Douglas Wilson lacks the moral ability to concede error of any magnitude on any platform and this moral failure inevitably paints him into a corner where he must turn Scripture, logic, common sense, historical facts, and anything else on their heads in order for him to escape. It is really quite a remarkable phenomenon.

And we see this same dynamic at work today in the Federal Vision controversy, where Wilson has turned Holy Writ, logic, Reformed theology, and Church history completely upside down because he and his fellow scoundrels have cornered themselves and they would rather disrupt the peace and purity of the church than humbly confess they stepped out of bounds while on a sacramental binge. And the end will be no different. Wilson will continue to harden himself against reality; he will continue to divide the Church; and he will not be satisfied until everyone agrees with him — even when he secretly changes his mind.


Publius said...

I am not a member of the Steve Wilkins Fan Club, nor the League of The South, but calling the latter a "hate group" is extreme. For what these guys actually believe, see:

Publius said...

Why is plagiarizing the 1989 edition of "Time" better than plagiarizing the 1974 version? The only difference is the foreword...