Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Violence to History

Our next post addresses the letter that Pastor Douglas Wilson of Christ Church, Moscow, wrote to the Governor of the State of Idaho during the Southern Slavery scandal of 2003–2004. In the letter Wilson references a Daily News op-ed by Dr. Dale Graden, Professor of History at the University of Idaho, which is worth republishing here for three reasons:

  1. First, between this column and the book review by Drs. Quinlan and Ramsey, you can see that the community was still piecing together the big picture surrounding Wilson and this op-ed specifically identified the community’s primary concerns relative to Wilson and the Kult at that time.

  2. Second, the existence of the op-ed helps demonstrate the inflamed state of the community at that time. I have noted repeatedly that the Daily News kept the story front and center via headlines, editorials, and letters to the editor for about five straight months, and this op-ed is one more fully documented example of this historical fact.

  3. Third, make careful note of this statement from Dr. Graden: “Efforts to have Mr. Wilson clear the record on his views about slavery, misogyny, and homosexuality have met with statements or denials that contradict the opinions clearly expressed in his extensive writings. In Wilson’s spin, the real issues have become obscured.” Does that sound familiar?

The Daily News ran this column on Saturday, December 27, 2003, which means that the News gave it a primo spot since they have no Sunday paper. A second thing you should notice about this column is that (according to my records) this was the first time that the News did not give the Kult (Wilson) a response column, which forced them to respond on their website (I shall not republish it because it has too many fabrications for me to correct).

Finally, a word about Dabney. Some of his writings make me cringe and I understand completely how he would send an academic community over the edge. There’s no escaping his racism and there’s no justification for it either. However high one may hold his Presbyterianism, he’s the farthest thing from an authority on race relations. To be sure, he’s living proof of the old Puritan’s maxim: “The best of men are still men at best.” When this controversy erupted a dear friend of mine, who is a trained historian as well, put it best, saying (I paraphrase from memory), “I understand that Dabney was a product of his culture; his environment engrained his racism into him, making it part and parcel of his theology. But this is 2003 — enough time has passed that everyone should know better.” Indeed. And the very education that Dabney withheld from an entire race of mankind should have enlightened some Southern boys to a biblical understanding of race relations. But this assumes certain people are educated. Moreover, since Wilson and Wilkins have jettisoned completely Dabney’s theology proper, they compel us to inquire exactly what it is that draws them to him.

Here is Dr. Graden’s column:

Coalition says conference undermines diversity
Members of the Moscow-Pullman community have recently raised important questions about pastor Douglas Wilson’s views on racial slavery, women, and violence against gays. In response, Mr. Wilson and some of his supporters have conducted an extensive media campaign to denounce these people as “secular humanists,” “Darwinists,” or “radical progressives” who are driven by “hatred for the historic Christian gospel.” Efforts to have Mr. Wilson clear the record on his views about slavery, misogyny, and homosexuality have met with statements or denials that contradict the opinions clearly expressed in his extensive writings. In Wilson’s spin, the real issues have become obscured. It is necessary that we place the facts before our community and explain our deep concern.

On Feb. 5–7, 2004, Credenda/Agenda’s “Ninth Annual History Conference” will be at the University of Idaho. The event is sponsored by Wilson’s congregation. Some of the featured speakers are:

  • Steven Wilkins, co-founder of the League of the South, a group identified by the Southern Poverty Law Center as a neo-Confederate hate group. In our opinion, this group is dedicated to southern secession and racial separatism. It’s our understanding that, over the past decade, the neo-Confederate movement has recast the anti-civil rights agenda of hate groups like the KKK into religious terms.

  • George Grant, of King’s Meadow Study Center in Tennessee. Grant is a major figure in the national Christian Reconstructionist movement, which seeks to subvert the U.S. constitution and replace it with a Christian theocracy. In his 1993 book Legislating Immorality (co-authored by Mark Horne), Grant advocates the death penalty for gays, saying “[t]here is no such option for homosexual offenses” except capital punishment (pp. 186–87).

  • Douglas Wilson, pastor of Christ Church in Moscow, Idaho. Like Grant, Wilson is a national figure in the Reconstruction movement. He has been active in neo-Confederate networks since 1995. In 1996, he co-wrote (with Wilkins) a short booklet called Southern Slavery, As It Was. The book claims “[o]wning slaves is not an abomination” and alleges that African-American slave emancipation has led to “abortion, feminism, and sodomy” in today’s society (pp. 21, 11).

  • Peter Leithart, a fellow at the New St. Andrews facility. In the conservative Weekly Standard (March 26, 2001), Leithart praised Holocaust denier and Reconstructionist J. Rousas Rushdoony as an “American original.” Rushdoony’s writings on the Holocaust and German casualties draw upon views expressed by Nazi collaborator Léon de Poncis and Holocaust denier David Irving. In the New York Review of Books, Joseph Lelyveld identifies Rushdoony as a “religious zealot and Holocaust denier” (June 12, 2003).
The centerpiece of the conference is Mr. Wilson’s talk on R.L. Dabney. Dabney was a marginal religious figure in the antebellum South who has been appropriated by the neo-Confederate and Reconstructionist movements. Dabney was a secessionist, proslavery apologist, and opponent of African-American education and interracial marriages.

We are concerned that this conference could negatively affect the general climate in our community. Several of the conference speakers, moreover, do not simply express intolerant views but actively issue “a call to arms” (in the words of George Grant) for their followers to put them into action. We are concerned because this type of hate speech has led to horror in our local past — most notably with Benjamin Matthew Williams, a Moscow resident and former UI student, who murdered a gay couple and burned three synagogues in northern California in 1999.

While the conference participants have the constitutional right to express their opinions, we feel we have an equal right to voice our disagreement. In so doing, we hope to raise community consciousness and promote a greater spirit of tolerance, diversity, and mutual respect within our community. In our view, the ideas expressed by Wilkins, Wilson, and Grant advocate intolerance, undermine diversity efforts, promote aggression based upon race, gender, and sexual orientation, and do violence to historical accuracy.

We invite you to join our efforts in promoting human rights, diversity, and true toleration in the Palouse.

Dale Graden is writing for the Equality Coalition. Those wishing additional information on these topics or interested in helping may visit the “Not on the Palouse” Web site at or the UI’s office of Diversity and Human Rights at

I should note as a follow-up that the 2004 history conference was George Grant’s last appearance in Moscow. To my knowledge he has not stated publicly his reasons for this and I have no knowledge that it’s connected to this scandal, but I certainly couldn’t blame the man for wanting distance from both his past written record and this set of loons.

Thank you.