Thursday, May 8, 2008

Neoslavery

A friend sent me these links regarding a very disturbing story about neoslavery in America. Douglas A. Blackmon wrote a book titled Slavery by Another Name: The Re-Enslavement of Black People in America from the Civil War to World War II that documents an era of horrible injustice in the South, here in the land of the free:

Under laws enacted specifically to intimidate blacks, tens of thousands of African Americans were arbitrarily arrested, hit with outrageous fines, and charged for the costs of their own arrests. With no means to pay these ostensible “debts,” prisoners were sold as forced laborers to coal mines, lumber camps, brickyards, railroads, quarries and farm plantations. Thousands of other African Americans were simply seized by southern landowners and compelled into years of involuntary servitude. Government officials leased falsely imprisoned blacks to small-town entrepreneurs, provincial farmers, and dozens of corporations — including U.S. Steel Corp. — looking for cheap and abundant labor. Armies of “free” black men labored without compensation, were repeatedly bought and sold, and were forced through beatings and physical torture to do the bidding of white masters for decades after the official abolition of American slavery.

You can hear the author interviewed on NPR and the book’s website has a blog as well. Spurgeon once wrote, “Every time I see a man kick a horse, I want to kick him.” How much more when you see men abuse power to oppress an entire race of men, stripping them of their freedom and their dignity, for no other reasons than greed and hate. Indeed, every time I see a man oppress another man, I want to go Billy Jack on him.

Don’t miss the Photo Gallery; it’ll make you sick. And I’ll bet that Wilson and Wilkins are just twisted enough to gloat that maybe the slaves had it better on the plantation.



Thank you.

8 comments:

Anonymous said...

One of the contentions of SSAIW is that the antebellum South was arguably the most harmonious multiracial society the world has ever seen. This book is an illustration of the violence and oppression that lay at the root of the antebellum southern economy --- it was still manifesting itself for decades after the war. One wonders what Wilkins would say to this evidence of the character of post-bellum (and thus of pre-bellum) southern society.

Thanks for your 'blog,

Sam

Mark T. said...

Excellent point.

A friend mentioned the other day that he was reading Wilberforce’s biography and that the writer noted all of the arguments that Wilberforce had to overcome in his fight against slavery. And he said that Wilson’s and Wilkins’ objections to the abolitionists in SSAIW corresponded with those who opposed Wilberforce right down the line. He concluded by noting that Wilson and Wilkins have more in common with Wilberforce’s enemies than with Wilberforce, contrary to their propaganda blitz.

Of course, we all know this is true and it’s just one more example of Wilson dissembling but I think the more important issue that no one has explored is Wilson’s and Wilkins’ deep-seated racism. Why would anyone take the time to publish a book sanitizing such a horrible point in American history? Why would they want to paint a happy face on the poor oppressed slaves? Why would they want to lionize the slave-holders as “honorable” Christians?

There’s something really sick here that deserves consideration.

I would say, however, that this is more cumulative evidence pointing to Wilson’s sociopathic nature.

Thanks so much for the link.

Carl said...

I agree with your assessment of Wilson and Wilkins' racism. However racism in American history isn't unique in its various manifestions against blacks only. Many other ethnic groups have also been subjected to similar forms of racism. There is much in our history that can and should be condemned.

I'll have to read Doug Blackmon's book. Maybe it's more convincing than his web site? I certainly hope so.

You said, "Don’t miss the Photo Gallery; it’ll make you sick." Sorry. It doesn't work for me. You can far more easily find a thousand times as many photos of the identical thing where whites were subjected to the same kinds of "forced labor," including being forced to labor for private companies "I wear the ball and chain, they call me by a number not a name." That was standard fare for many years in this country for convicted felons of all ethnicities, not just blacks.

"Oh Brother, Where Art Thou" shows a fairly accurate representation of prison life of the convicted felon. I'm not saying it was right. I'm saying let's not portray this as an issue that only blacks were made the victims. And please don't tell me that it's only black people who have been falsely convicted of crimes they didn't commit. It happened to many poor and underpriviledged, regardless of race.

Up until a few decades ago "paying your debt to society for your crimes" actually meant something. Men didn't just get locked up in cells to lounge around all day and watch TV. They "paid" for their crimes with "hard labor." Prison populations were dramatically lower then than they are today, and for good reason. The prospect of going to prison was frightening. Chain gangs could often be seen out working in public engaging in hard labor in many places. It was a visible constant reminder to the public that "crime doesn't pay." Now our society is far more "charitable" by allowing felons to "rest" and "rehabilitate" by playing ping pong rather than "paying for their crimes."

Certainly blacks have been subjected to a great deal of bigotry in this country, and the 13th amendment didn't end the bigotry. Bigotry is a reality to this day, but blacks are not unique in having historically been subjected to it. So have a lot of poor whites, like the Irish and various other immigrant groups.

Sympathy for the oppressed and downtrodden shouldn't turn a blind eye to the fact that people of all races, not just blacks, have been its victims. I may be missing something, but it appears to me that that is exactly what Doug Blackmon is attempting to do. He's portraying this as being a problem that uniquely victimized blacks. If you're going to argue that Doug Wilson has made false representations about history, how can it be helpful to your case to rely on another "historian" who makes equally specious and self serving historical claims?

In my estimation the truth lies somewhere in the middle of these two Dougs.

Mark T. said...

Hi Carl,

I agree with your assessment of Wilson and Wilkins’ racism. However racism in American history isn’t unique in its various manifestions against blacks only. Many other ethnic groups have also been subjected to similar forms of racism. There is much in our history that can and should be condemned.

Agreed.

I’ll have to read Doug Blackmon’s book. Maybe it’s more convincing than his web site? I certainly hope so. You said, “Don’t miss the Photo Gallery; it’ll make you sick.” Sorry. It doesn’t work for me. You can far more easily find a thousand times as many photos of the identical thing where whites were subjected to the same kinds of “forced labor,” including being forced to labor for private companies “I wear the ball and chain, they call me by a number not a name.” That was standard fare for many years in this country for convicted felons of all ethnicities, not just blacks.

Believe it or not, I saw chain gangs where I grew up, which was far from the South, and I don’t remember any blacks. But the one photo I had in mind was the little children dressed in stripes. Call me naive or shallow, but that one closed the deal.

Oh Brother, Where Art Thou? shows a fairly accurate representation of prison life of the convicted felon.

Gopher?

I’m not saying it was right. I’m saying let’s not portray this as an issue that only blacks were made the victims. And please don’t tell me that it’s only black people who have been falsely convicted of crimes they didn’t commit. It happened to many poor and underpriviledged, regardless of race.

Agreed.

Up until a few decades ago “paying your debt to society for your crimes” actually meant something. Men didn’t just get locked up in cells to lounge around all day and watch TV. They “paid” for their crimes with “hard labor.” Prison populations were dramatically lower then than they are today, and for good reason. The prospect of going to prison was frightening. Chain gangs could often be seen out working in public engaging in hard labor in many places. It was a visible constant reminder to the public that “crime doesn’t pay.” Now our society is far more “charitable” by allowing felons to “rest” and “rehabilitate” by playing ping pong rather than “paying for their crimes.”

The “penitentiary” system is a joke, mostly because most prisoners are not penitent. I am not persuaded, however, that chain gangs are the remedy. Interestingly, I read in SI yesterday where Michael Vick had written three letters to the owner of the Atlanta Falcons. He said he was cleaning pots and pans in the kitchen and doing janitorial duty, for 13 cents a day, which in my mind is too much for the crimes he committed. They should have put him down like a rabid dog.

Certainly blacks have been subjected to a great deal of bigotry in this country, and the 13th amendment didn’t end the bigotry. Bigotry is a reality to this day, but blacks are not unique in having historically been subjected to it. So have a lot of poor whites, like the Irish and various other immigrant groups.

Agreed.

Sympathy for the oppressed and downtrodden shouldn’t turn a blind eye to the fact that people of all races, not just blacks, have been its victims. I may be missing something, but it appears to me that that is exactly what Doug Blackmon is attempting to do. He’s portraying this as being a problem that uniquely victimized blacks. If you’re going to argue that Doug Wilson has made false representations about history, how can it be helpful to your case to rely on another “historian” who makes equally specious and self serving historical claims?

I have not received the book yet, but I seriously doubt Blackmon would turn a blind eye to oppression of other races and I understand his thesis to be the South’s use of chain gangs to re-enslave blacks after the Civil War. I do not doubt that many other folks got jacked by the system, but I am not aware that anyone has established that the South specifically targeted another race, such as the Irish, for chain gang duty. Regardless, you have not established that anyone has made claims equally as specious as Wilson’s. You’ve only speculated.

In my estimation the truth lies somewhere in the middle of these two Dougs.

I realize this is a comment section of a blog and that you probably pencil sketched your thoughts rather than developed them across the board and that this point is probably more rhetorical than anything; but I cannot agree.

Thanks for stopping by.

wesley said...

The racism at Auburn Avenue Presbyterian Church was open and blatant. The “N” word was frequently used by many in the church, barely out of earshot of the church’s black members. The Martin Luther King Jr. holiday was routinely referred to as “Martin Luther Coon Day” or simply, “The Coon Holiday.” When Auburn members purchased land or houses in outlying areas, they usually discussed how many blacks were in the area. While speaking of one purchase in glowing terms, the Auburn purchaser (a deacon) stated, “And there aren’t any n---s out there, either.” When asked why there were no blacks in the area of his new land purchase he said, “They got the Klan.” They are very aware of the chilling effects on blacks of the Klan’s terrorist activity over the years in some of these outlying areas. They hosted Sons of Confederate Veterans camp meetings at the church for years. Many of these SCV camp members came from nearby parishes. Many of the SCV member’s ancestors held membership in the Klan and talked openly about the old days. One typed and copied story about the Klan’s terrorist activities in a nearby parish during the 1920’s was passed around the church, so it is inconceivable that Wilkins simply did not know about the recent oppression of blacks in this part of the country. He is no more ignorant of their recent oppression than he is of their oppression during the time leading up to the Civil War. He lies about any history to suit his purposes in the same way that he lies about the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

The reason Wilkins does this? In a word: Power. Emotions over the Lost Cause run deep. There is a great deal of pride in Southerners over their ancestry. Whitewashing the Lost Cause and making that effort seem noble and religious is big business. His books on this subject sell. Historical memory and religion are two powerful forces that when joined create powerful political movements. People will give their lives for these causes and Wilkins knows this. That is the type of committed follower he is seeking.

Like all political movements, whitewashing slavery has its necessary work. Publishing a book whose premise is that the Old South was the most harmonious multiracial society in the history of the world does not ring true if your church has no black members. You must practice what you preach. To do this, you have to get black people to attend your church. Getting and keeping black members here in the South under the conditions that existed at Auburn was no easy task and required a good bit of effort. Auburn’s black members did not join through normal procedures. The Auburn leadership actively pursued black people for membership in the church. One of their first attempts ended in failure. They brought a reformed black minister from New York to spread their message to the black people of this area. He was not well received by either the black community or the Auburn congregation. Initially, he was more comfortable in coffeehouses than he was in the streets of Monroe’s black communities, as might be expected of an educated person from a major city. Their overblown expectations of reaching Monroe’s oppressed and impoverished black community through a big city reformed preacher illustrates just how disjointed from reality they have become from listening to years of Steve’s anecdotes about how the original Biblical multiracial southern society functioned. Auburn’s black reformed preacher left the church under less than ideal conditions. He left Auburn to join a local “Bible” church co-founded by an ex-Auburn member. The Auburn leadership knew that they needed black members to help counter the charge of racism. A “normal” person joining the church would not be asked to join. He might inquire about membership a few times after attending. He might state an interest in joining. He would probably be given thick books to read. Some who eventually came to hold membership in Auburn church attended for over a year and inquired many times before being “allowed” to join. They might be told that they needed to read more. One was told, “It’s ball season and it’s hard to get everyone together at the same time” (he was told he and his family needed to meet with the Elders as a group). “We’ll have to wait until after ball season and vacations are over.” He waited another six months and inquired again. About this, other members stated, “Oh, they (the Elders) like to play hard to get. That’s just part of Calvinism. They want to make sure you’re one of the Elect.” By contrast, they pursued black people in order to get them to join. They were definitely of “The Elect;” their membership went through on greased skids. Shortly after the black widow woman and her daughter joined, they printed a thank-you note in the church bulletin. They thanked the church for retiring years of credit card debt for the black widow woman, who then worked as a manager at a local mall store. She left her job at the mall store a short time later. After that, she worked helping care for children. Auburn deacons openly discussed amounts paid by the church for the woman’s monthly support. Some deacons believed there were other widows in the church and other families that had been faithful members longer and were in as much, if not more, need of help. They saw the unprecedented amount of help this family quickly received and their quick membership as unjust. Ironically, some cynically referred to this as Auburn’s “affirmative action” program.

Most realized that having black members was necessary because of the church’s stand on Southern issues and slavery. They realized that they would be open to the charge of racism if they did not have black members. They had read the accounts of racial relations in “Southern Slavery As It Was,” and listened to years of preaching from Steve on the subject, particularly the humorous accounts of warm familiarity between the races during the time of slavery that was detailed in the book and in Steve’s teachings. They knew what a harmonious multiracial Biblical society was supposed to look like; Steve had worked excerpts from his book and other materials into his sermons and lectures for years. They had learned their lessons well; many would line up to make a show of kissing and hugging the black widow woman after church when she attended. Some would go overboard. While waiting in the line, the worst of these would regularly exclaim, “Gone get me some chocolate!!” This could be heard all over the Sanctuary. He would continue making similar statements as he waited his turn. He would purse his lips in a huge duck-like pantomime of a kiss and holler, “Love dat chocolate!,” in a black dialect as he smacked her loudly on the cheek. He smacked her so hard you could hear it across the Sanctuary. He’d hug and smack her again saying “Mmmmm, mmmmm, mmmmm!” He’d move away proclaiming, “Got me some chocolate! Love dem chocolate kisses!” Others picked up on this. They began to outdo each other with their displays of affection. They were, as we say here in the South, “putting on the dog.” A young woman sitting near the back row one Sunday, who was visiting the church with her husband, was heard to say, “Oh look, Honey. They’re so comfortable with…” here she paused as if looking for the right word, “…race. That’s good… Isn’t it?” He just grunted. The couple never came back.

At least one person talked to the worst offender to try to get him to tone it down. The duck-lipped smacker was told that he was disrespecting the black woman. “That’s the stupidest thing I ever heard,” he said. “She likes it.” “No,” he was told, “she’s a middle-aged mother and a widow. Deep down in her heart of hearts, she just wants to be respected and treated like everyone else. She knows you expect her to act like a jokester all the time, so she just goes along because she thinks she has to. Try treating her with respect and dignity, instead of a piece of chocolate candy. She’s not a Hershey bar.” He wouldn’t stop. Any time he came near the woman, he started up with some sort of black-oriented or chocolate-themed line of joking. She played her part and joked along as she knew was expected of her. The duck puckered lover of chocolate was told that he should try to imagine men lining up to parody kissing his wife, while stating that they loved vanilla and acting like she was some sort of vanilla dessert, simply because she’s white. He was asked how he would feel if a group began gathering at his seat for this purpose after each and every service, since he thought nothing was wrong with the practice. He was asked how he would feel if this group cried, “Gone get me some ‘Nilla!! Love dat Nilla!!” while waiting their turn at hugging and loudly bussing his wife, “They better not! They won’t do it but once!” he threatened. Despite this, he and others continued these practices. It’s no wonder that the object of all their affection would go AWOL and not attend church for periods of time. The Elders attributed her absence to her health concerns, even though she was regularly seen around town in shopping areas and restaurants during these times. “Normal” members would have been disciplined for this. There was nothing about her presence there at Auburn Avenue Presbyterian Church that was normal.

During one of her lengthy hiatuses from church, which the Elders attributed to her health, an Auburn member ran into the black widow woman at an expensive restaurant. He had never been to the restaurant before. He wanted to do something special to celebrate one of his children winning a statewide competition. As he was looking over the menu trying to get over the sticker shock, he began to wonder if he had made a mistake in coming there. He waved the waiter away several times as he and his wife contemplated what to order with their children. They considered getting up and walking out, since everything was so expensive. There were some cheaper items on the menu, but even they were high, and they didn’t know what they were. Auburn’s middle-aged black member came in and sat down next to them. The waiters knew her by name and she knew the menu. He asked the widow for some help in ordering. “What’s good?” he asked. “It’s all good,” she said. “Me, I’m going to have a 22 ounce steak.” He looked at his menu. The steak’s price was considerably more than a widow’s mite; it was the most expensive item on the menu. Despite the illness that had prevented her from attending church, she polished the steak off with a salad and ordered dessert.

Wilkins was not the only person at Auburn who learned to cash in on Southern white guilt regarding slavery. The church’s black members knew that the church needed them to counter the charge of racism. In fact, they knew that, in spite of all the church did for them, Auburn needed them far more than they needed Auburn. It took quite a bit to keep black members in the church with all that was going on. It takes a lot to get black people to hang around and worship with white people who use their religion to justify and defend slavery as it was practiced in the Old South. Considering what was at stake, Auburn was for the most part happy to pay the price, whatever it might be, in order to defuse the charge of racism. Their black members, unlike their ancestors in the Old South, had a choice and could leave at any time of their own free will. The older woman relished her freedom and seemed to enjoy giving the much younger deacons a fright when they depended on her to show up and be seen by our visitors. Saying you have a black member is not nearly as effective as having that member present so she could be subjected to their parade of affection. There was a stark contrast between her treatment and the treatment of other widows in the church. There was simply no comparison. For one thing, others would have been offended and would not have put up with the foolishness. She knew what was expected of her as an Auburn member. Usually the Elders were very strict about attendance. She flaunted breaking the attendance rules. And every once in a while, she rebelled even more by going AWOL even on those special occasions when they told her to make sure she was present. She gave the Auburn deacons in charge of getting her there fits by hiding out when she knew they were relying on her to be seen by our visitors playing her part in their foolish caricature of affection.

The mechanics of whitewashing slavery is not all a bed of roses. The work, while necessary, is sometimes distasteful. The Auburn group proved equal to the task. To say that Wilkins is deceitful is a misstatement. He could not accomplish a tenth of all that he does alone. He has standing behind him his trained followers.

He has Rahab’s Army.

Mark T. said...

Hi Wesley,

Interesting story. For the record, there is nothing that I would not believe about that lying thief Wilkins because he’s as shameless as he is morally bankrupt. If you reported that he was a Klansman, I would believe it. If you said you overheard him bragging about a lynching, I would believe it.

I remember reading on the now-defunct Little Geneva website that the site’s hosts had no doubts about Wilkins’ racism in 2003–2004 when Wilson busied himself whitewashing his. Every time Wilson distanced himself from anything racist, they ridiculed him and noted that they knew Wilkins would never do such a thing. And given that site’s explicitly racist theme, which makes your “dem chocolate kisses” story sound harmless, they sure wrote from “We know what we’re talking about” position.

I have two questions for you, one related one not:

1. In the note below, which Wilson posted to Vision 20/20, please tell us what Wilkins didn’t say.
2. Please tell us the size (in numbers) of AAPC. Wilson courted Wilkins for years, which means that he coveted that sepulcher for years; was it so large that Wilson could not successfully split it for his kingdom?

Thanks.


Visionaries,

Below is a letter from my good friend, Steve Wilkins. FYI.

Cordially,

Douglas Wilson


Dear Friends,

I was sent a copy of an article that recently appeared in your paper titled “Confederate Christianity in Moscow?” Since I was mentioned in the article, I thought it might be permissible to respond.

I need first simply to deny outright the implications and accusations of the article. Neither Doug Wilson nor I (nor George Grant) are interested in reviving “Confederate Christianity” (whatever that might be) or reviving the Confederacy or creating, condoning, or encouraging any other kind of nationalized faith. We are all quite happy with Biblical Christianity which embraces all peoples, tongues, tribes, and nations, and we have all devoted our lives to defending and promoting this faith. Unlike modern liberalism which condemns and excludes those who differ from their accepted “orthodoxy,” Biblical Christianity breaks down barriers and is the sworn enemy of all self-righteousness. We will even call racists to repent and welcome the penitent into our fellowship with open arms!

Second, all of us have been active (and quite public) nearly all of our adult lives, in our opposition to racism (racial pride, racial superiority, and any other religion based upon pride in created distinctions). Further, our opposition has not been merely intellectual or academic but open and public (I wonder if any of the folk so upset up there have ever received death threats from racists as we have). So, the implication that we are racists is so far off the mark as to be delusional.

Third, none of us has ever implied or stated that the Old South was sinless, perfect, or innocent. We believe it to have been as corrupted by original sin as the North or the West or any other section of the country. None of us has ever implied or stated that the institution of slavery as it existed in this country (whether North or South) was sinless or right. Indeed, we have been careful to point out specifically where it was wrong and have declared that it was (and is still) indefensible.

We do confess that we are deeply grieved over the self-righteousness and arrogance that seems to have pervaded our country in this century. And we are especially distressed over the intolerance, naivete, and gullibility demonstrated by those who profess to be the champions of tolerance and reason.

So, all three of us have been brought to agree with the Apostle Paul that all have sinned and come short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23) and, in spite of protestations to the contrary, even Northerners and Westerners, educators and politicians, newspaper reporters and editors, stand with the rest of us in desperate need of the grace of God.

Sincerely,
Steve Wilkins

wesley said...

Wilkins has openly taught in favor of secession from the United States federal government. He has co-founded and hosted in his church organizations that were started for this purpose. He has allowed their materials to be passed out at his church. He has mailed their flyers and announcements for events co-hosted with League of the South and the Southern Heritage Society from his church, with the church’s address listed on the return portion of the envelope. In short, he has worked for the cause of replacing the existing United States government with one that, he believes, would be a more Biblical government. He has built his political clout and capital over the years by playing host at his church to organizations like the Sons of Confederate Veterans and the Southern Heritage Society. His political influence is far greater and extends much further than the numbers of his church membership might seem to warrant.

What did Wilkins not say? His statement, “Second, all of us have been active (and quite public) nearly all of our adult lives, in our opposition to racism (racial pride, racial superiority, and any other religion based upon pride in created distinctions),” is a direct contradiction to what he has preached, but he does not say this. He states in the lecture, “Black Partisans of the Southern Cause,” that the Old South was a harmonious multiracial society because it did not deny the natural God-given distinctions among men. This God-ordered society was stratified and that hierarchy reflected its member’s God-given distinctions. This, he makes clear, was why it was harmonious. The society of the Old South was more stratified than the society that exists here today. Some had a higher place in that society, even among the free men. Some sat on the porch in the shade all day and became some of the wealthiest people on earth. Some were slaves and worked in the hot sun with little or no pay. Our society is not harmonious now, yet they were then, according to Wilkins. His vision of an ordered, hierarchical, “God-ordained Biblical society” is the crux of the difference between then and now. As a minister of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, he should never have wasted five seconds defending or extolling the society of the Old South’s virtues. Yet he has done that most of his adult life. He now wants to come in after the fact and claim he’s denounced racism all along. Again, he claims that he is “misunderstood.” He should be able to see that printing statements like "Christians who owned slaves in the South were on firm scriptural ground," “(Southern Slavery As It Was) and preaching that the society that existed in the Old South was harmonious because it did not deny the God-ordained distinctions among men would lead people to believe that he endorsed that society. Using the “N-word” in a joking manner while mitigating the effects of the institution of slavery in the Sanctuary of a house of worship does not help either. His audience was clearly not offended by Wilkins’ brave use of this racially-charged, derogatory name associated with historical periods of race-based bondage and oppression. They can be heard laughing raucously on the tape.

Wilkins’ letter does not address the fact that he spent years telling anecdotes about Southern slaves who aided their masters in the War Between the States. His implication was that they recognized which side of that conflict was “right:” they knew what was good for them. He told many stories of slaves who refused their freedom when it was offered. He told humorous stories of slaves who refused to take the oath of allegiance to the United States government during the war, even after their former masters had done so while stating, “Massah’s got no principles.” He related a detailed dialogue of verbal exchanges between a slave who was surrounded by U.S. troops. The slave had been sniping at the troops. Wilkins expertly mimicked stereotypical black dialect and eye-rolling Jolsonesque expressions as he gave these presentations, accompanied by laughter. When the Union leader told the slave that he was surrounded and captured he replied, “Not as this child knows!” That line garnered many laughs. The end result of this particular story was that the slave was shot and killed after he refused to come down and stop firing on the U.S. troops.

Wilkins would have us believe that the slaves saw the inherent righteousness of their slavery. He uses their actions on behalf of their masters and the Confederacy to justify the slavery they endured. No one wants to give up his freedom, no matter how “nice” the cage. The slaves were not taught to read, but they were taught Christianity. They were taught that their condition of slavery was God-ordained. Christianity was misused to help keep them enslaved. Christianity is still misused by theological hucksters to perpetuate their frauds. Mentally, many of the slaves were like children, because of their limited knowledge. To get an idea of the enormity of the fraud Wilkins has attempted to perpetrate, you have only to consider the results of an instance of modern kidnapping and confinement. Patricia Hearst was the well-educated heir to a large newspaper fortune. She was kidnapped and held against her will. She eventually aided those who kidnapped her and even committed illegal acts on their behalf. She did not try to gain her freedom when she could have. For all her education and wealth, she was still mentally programmed by her confinement into favoring her captors over those whom she loved and had known all her life. She was about to be married when she was kidnapped. Her loved ones hardly recognized her after she was captured, served her time, and was returned to them. We should not use Patricia Hearst’s actions on behalf of her captors to justify kidnapping and holding people against their will. That would be ludicrous. We should not use the actions of slaves on their master’s behalf to mitigate the slavery they endured. As bad as what happened to Patricia Hearst was, the case of the slaves was far worse. Unlike Patricia Hearst, they were uneducated. Slavery was all they had ever known; they were born into slavery. Their masters were, in many ways, like parents to them. Recent DNA tests have proven that there was more sexual intermingling of the races during this time than was previously known. Wilkins does not talk much about this. Since the slaves were taught Christianity, they knew that adultery was wrong. When you consider the fact that the slaves could not withhold sexual consent, rape might be a better term to describe what actually happened. Imagine their theological dilemma when their master or one of his emissaries, who had taught them that their slavery was God-ordained and that they must obey, came by for a visit. No, fine, upstanding Christian Southerners do not mention this when they get together for their conferences, conventions, and balls to revel in the past and swashbuckle around with their swords and Confederate uniforms. They prefer the much more humorous and jovial accounts of the actions of slaves on their master’s behalf. They’d much rather “Look Away” down South here in Dixie, when they are confronted with this. Those “other” old times are best forgotten, here in the land of whitewashed cotton.

Another thing that Wilkins post does not “say” or convey is his volatility. His letter makes it appear that he is a benign, peace-loving pastor. He is not. He is feigning a “soft answer” to turn away wrath. He knows what he has done to create this firestorm and he knows what he must do to lessen the effects of what he has done. This letter is simply propaganda. For instance, if you were to meet with Steve one on one to discuss something and point out a contradictory statement he has made he might jump up, scream, beat the table with his fist, and shout, “I don’t like it when people call me a Liar!!!” All you might have done is quietly ask a question about statements that seem contradictory. If you made a statement that he did not like, he is prone to get in your face very close. You might take a step back, since his face is a blur and you can not focus. If you did, he would walk forward, maintaining the close distance. This would continue until you reached the nearest obstacle, where he would keep you pinned uncomfortably while he finished his tirade. He and some of his Elders practice this. Most people will not fight a preacher or a religious leader in a house of worship. He knows this and takes full advantage of it. Wilkins values physical confrontation and teaches by example and praise. There are many examples of this; one Sunday a teenager showed up and sat on the back row with cuts on his face and a swollen black eye. While all were quietly waiting in the Sanctuary, preparing our hearts and minds for worship, Steve came in and sat down behind the pulpit slightly to one side, as was his custom. This was a very holy time. We were to sit in quiet contemplation, preparing to receive the Word of God through Steve. Steve’s voice became a representation of the Word of God, we had been taught, during this time. Steve’s sitting behind the pulpit was normally a signal to get in your seat and get quiet: worship and God’s holy message were about to begin. Wilkins sat there a few minutes as people took their seats, then he did something I had never seen him do. He came out from behind the pulpit, down the aisle of the church towards the teenager smiling and saying in his booming voice, “I want to shake the hand of someone who is not afraid to physically defend himself.” The teenager, who was always very quiet and reserved, acted very ashamed from all the attention as the entire congregation turned to look; he stammered and apologized, “I know it,” he said. “I shouldn’t have come to church like this.” “Not at all,” Steve said. “You should be proud. I want you to know that I’m proud of you. I just wanted to shake your hand and let you know that I’m proud to know someone who’s not afraid to stand up and fight for what he believes in.” Then Steve went back to his place behind the pulpit. Worship was about to begin.

Steve’s endorsement, delivered by delaying the sermon and coming out from behind the pulpit shortly before the Word of God was given to us, was unprecedented. It was a blanket endorsement of the boy’s fistfight: there was never any word given about what the fight was over. There was never an indication about the cause of the conflict; only that the boy had fought and bore the marks of his fight to church. For this, alone, he was praised.

Several years later as a young man in his twenties the quiet young Auburner, who had as a teenager been praised in front of the whole congregation by Wilkins for showing up in church on Sunday bearing the marks of violence, would suffer a violent death; he was the victim of a gunshot wound. The young man fired the shot that ended his life. His obituary stated that he was a life-long member of Auburn Avenue Presbyterian Church. He was the second Auburn member to die in this manner.

What does Wilkins not say? What do they all…Not Say? The pages would fill many rooms.

Auburn Church had 300 members or roughly about 60 families. Some have passed away or moved on, but they have about the same membership or a little more now. They established a Presbyterian church in Calhoun, Louisiana. For a while, a sign on the front stated that it was a satellite church of Auburn. This church has since joined the ARP.

The site of the satellite church was originally a small Catholic Church. The original owners of the property where the satellite church was formed and located had donated the property to the Catholic Church in perpetuity with one stipulation: it must remain a Catholic Church forever. If that condition was not maintained, the property was to revert to its original owners. A representative of the descendants of the original owners contacted me to inquire about the church’s theology. They lived out of town and had just learned of the new church located at the site their family had donated to the Catholics. The church was still a satellite of Auburn at the time. The representative, who knew that I had attended Auburn, stated that he had been asked to find out about their theology; he asked if their theology was anything like the Catholic faith. I told him that I did not know much about the Catholic faith, but I believed that their theology was very different. He said they were considering reclaiming the property because of the Presbyterian Church that the Catholics had allowed to be opened there. They researched it some more and, apparently, they are satisfied. That was about three or four years ago. The Calhoun Presbyterian Church (ARP), originally founded as an Auburn satellite by former Auburn church members, is still there in the building and on the land that was donated in perpetuity as long as it remained a Catholic institution.

Mark T. said...

I believe every word of it.