Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Make Them Say They’re Sorry — Part 1

Yes, Doug
Last week we examined an email written by Pastor Douglas Wilson of Christ Church, Moscow, to the president of the University of Idaho, which essentially threatened the UI with a defamation suit if they did not remove two UI historians’ book review of his book Southern Slavery As It Was from their website and replace it with an apology. We have no way of knowing whether or not the Fearless Leader ran his email past the Christ Church elders for approval before he sent it or whether they heard about, just as the rest of us, when it hit Vision 20/20 (more legible version here). I suppose that’s a moot question, however, because all evidence indicates that if he had sought the Kult elders’ permission to send the email, they would have bobbed their heads up and down like Bobble Head dolls, saying, “Yes, Doug, whatever you say,” which talent was the only prerequisite for their appointment to office. The same applies to his attorney, who should have dissolved their professional relationship the moment he read the email, though we can rest certain that Wilson didn’t give him permission.

The reason for the Fearless Leader’s distress with the UI is somewhat troublesome and raises serious questions about his competence, or honesty. The Southern Slavery scandal erupted because he originally owned the thesis of his booklet SSAIW as a subject that gave him no shame. Indeed, he invited the Daily News into his home to discuss the slaves’ life of plenty. He even smiled for the camera knowing he just made the front page. It simply never occurred to him that his breezy take on the subject would horrify normal human beings who don’t live in his alternate universe of reality. Consequently, when horror swept the Palouse, the Fearless Leader adopted the high road and transformed himself into peace-loving abolitionist who wrote SSAIW to repudiate warfare (i.e. the Civil War) as a means of abolition. Indeed, his transformation was so radical and so complete that he began taking offense at anyone who suggested that SSAIW was a biblical defense of slavery in the antebellum South, contra his original position of shamelessness. And just like that, in the twinkling of an eye — or more likely the wink of the eye — Pastor Douglas Wilson of Christ Church, Moscow, reversed roles and cast himself as the victim of a well-organized slander campaign.

And in this respect, Wilson’s response to the Southern Slavery scandal of 2003–2004 is identical to his response to the Federal Vision controversy. In 2003, after he transformed himself, he claimed that everyone misquoted him, took his words out of context, and slandered him. Never mind that these persons were award-winning authorities on the subject of Southern slavery from the University of Maryland, Duke University, the University of California Berkeley, and Stanford University. Jump ahead three years: After seven Reformed denominations, multiple micro-presbyteries, several Reformed seminaries, and every heavyweight theologian in the Reformed church repudiated the Federal Vision as non-confessional, Wilson and his well-trained clones claimed that all of these institutions and persons misrepresented them. It’s the same MO, different controversy — play stupid and act as though no one understands you.

But don’t take my word for it; read this fully documented front-page story from the Moscow–Pullman Daily News for some of the most scintillating blurbs you’ll never see on the back of any Canon Press title. Or if you prefer, you can take a short cut by reading Dr. Cal Beisner’s assessment of SSAIW, which he posted to the WORLD Mag Blog in 2005 during the plagiarism scandal:

Let me make my position clear: SSAIW is historical trash, as demonstrated by a number of written critiques (including McKenzie’s — which, along with Wilson’s response and McKenzie’s rejoinder, I have read). It also makes the stupid error of equating Southern black chattel slavery, which, founded on manstealing, was sinful, with the types of slavery (bonded servanthood, slavery to pay debts, slavery as punishment for crime, or slavery as alternative to death in warfare) countenanced (under carefully regulated conditions) in the Bible. (Comment #139, April 25, 2005)

“Historical trash” — I don’t think you need a Ph.D. to understand that sound bite, though Dr. Beisner earned his Ph.D. from the real Saint Andrews University, not the new one. And since he invoked Dr. McKenzie, here’s his letter to WORLD Magazine:

Far more serious
In fairness to Doug Wilson and Steve Wilkins (“Doug Wilson and slavery,” April 30), the two dozen occurrences of plagiarism in their controversial booklet on Southern slavery were obviously unintentional — evidence of sloppiness rather than deceit. Far more serious are the booklet’s other errors. Its numerous logical errors, factual mistakes, misreading of evidence, and ad hominem attacks falsely model what it means to love God with our minds and its unsubstantiated defense of Southern slavery as a “pleasant . . . experience for the majority” will constitute a stumbling block of monumental proportions for many sincere seekers.
Robert Tracy McKenzie; Seattle, Wash.

Obviously Dr. McKenzie erred on the side of charity regarding the question of plagiarism. I am certain that if he had the benefit of our fully documented anonymous attack sister blog, Fœdero Plagiary, he would have been less understanding. But this is beside the point. The point is that, to a man, every single historian who reviewed SSAIW dismissed it as the invention of a couple of hacks who had no interest in illuminating history and, despite this overwhelming testimony from this wide array of academics, Doug Wilson maintained that all of these scholars misunderstood and misrepresented him. In fact, at one point he called them “liars”:

Rather, when 1,200 signed a petition against what was represented to them by liars as my views on slavery, homosexuality and women . . . (“More Red Statey Extremism”; October 21, 2005, emphasis original)

This remarkable claim gives us a glimpse into Wilson’s brain. In one sweeping statement he confidently asserted that unnamed “liars” deceived 1,200 persons into signing the “Not In Our Town” petition. In other words, he maintained that none of the signatories actually read SSAIW to know firsthand his position on “slavery, homosexuality and women.” Rather, invisible “liars” deceived them into signing the petition. Please notice, however, that in addition to not identifying the so-called “liars,” he neglected to identify any lies. As always, he merely asserted it.

This brings us back to the Fearless Leader’s email to the president of the University of Idaho. You really need to put yourself in President Michael’s shoes to comprehend fully Wilson’s demand. Two history professors from the UI wrote a book review of SSAIW that echoed the sentiments of every scholastic authority on antebellum slavery who read SSAIW and the UI’s Office of Diversity and Human Rights posted the book review to its UI website as a public service. In the words of Chick Hern, “No harm, no foul.” But suddenly, out of nowhere, you receive a blistering email from one of the book’s authors threatening you with a defamation suit as well as demanding that you remove the book review from your website and replace it with an apology. In fact, his email states that this was his second request for an apology. Mind you, the substance of the book review bore witness with the unanimous testimony of every other historian who reviewed SSAIW. What would you do?

If you think about it, this is an excellent example of Wilson imposing his worldview on others: “Agree with me, or else. And say you’re sorry too.” I’m not sure what he wanted the apology to say, but I surmise he expected something such as this:

We have removed Drs. Quinlan’s and Ramsey’s book review of SSAIW from our website because we have discovered that Douglas Wilson’s and Steven “Machen” Wilkins’ research of antebellum slave life has uncovered previously unknown facts about slavery and the hitherto unanimous voice of history on this subject has been terribly mistaken. The slaves led lives of plenty and their masters were benevolent men who wanted the very best for their human property. We are genuinely thankful for these men’s marvelous ground-breaking effort and look forward to introducing their text into our curriculum. Therefore, we sincerely apologize to Messieurs Douglas Wilson and Steven “Machen” Wilkins for whatever harm we may have caused by posting the erroneous book review on our site and we wish them the very best as they pursue their studies of American history.

And if you think this is an exaggeration, then think again because Wilson and Wilkins frontloaded their booklet with the claim that it is a sin to believe the truth about American history as opposed to their revision of it:

An accurate representation of the nature of Southern slavery has yet to be widely disseminated. And as a consequence, there has been a great deal of falsehood paraded about in the pretense of truth. The South has been stigmatized and slandered, and generations have been misled over the true nature of the “peculiar institution” and, as a consequence, they have not understood the true nature of the South in general. We must know the truth about slavery. . . Where there is sin, let us freely confess and forsake it. But because we have resolved to abandon sin, this must include the sin of believing a lie. (Douglas Wilson and Steven Wilkins, SSAIW [Moscow, ID: Canon Press, 1996] 8, emphasis original)

This one paragraph painted the Fearless Leader and his cohort into a corner because according to them, you commit the “sin of believing a lie” if you disagree with their fairytale version of Southern history. Of course, this is typical manipulation from the Fearless Leader — seize the moral high ground and hold others to account to your position, but in this case he had no high ground and everyone could see that he was the only person lying. Consequently, I don’t doubt that when the UI legal office saw Wilson’s email they instructed the UI president to ignore him, because that’s exactly what he did. Generally speaking, adults disregard children when they throw tantrums, which brings us to the Fearless Leader’s letter to Governor Kempthorne. Here is a transcribed version of the letter; our next post shall examine its contents:

Governor Dirk Kempthorne
Office of the Governor
700 West Jefferson, 2nd Floor
PO Box 83720
Boise, Idaho 83720-0034

December 30, 2003

Dear Governor Kempthorne,

Greetings from the north, and I hope that this letter finds you well. I wish my tone could be as light as the one of a few years ago in which I returned your necktie from the Logos auction, but the seriousness of recent events has precluded that.

I am writing you with an important request. A controversy has been boiling here in Moscow for the last several months, a good deal of it resting on the back of inaccurate and defamatory material that is being circulated against us and our ministries here in Moscow. Some of this is the result of the incompetence of the Daily News, but the driving force behind the controversy is coming from certain offices at the University of Idaho.

What it boils down to is that the diversity police are after us. We have sponsored an annual history conference here in Moscow for a number of years, a conference that has brought in hundreds of people from all over the country. The average attendance at this conference is about 800 people. The Daily News reported (erroneously) that the conference this year was going to be on slavery, which started the public outcry. But since that time, much of the defamatory gasoline that has been keeping the slanderous fire alive has come from the UI.

In particular, Raul Sanchez of the Office of Diversity and Human Rights has used his office’s web site to help circulate defamatory material against us. I have included with this letter a copy of a letter I sent to President Michael and Provost Pitcher a week or so ago on that issue. The incendiary essay referred to in my letter is by Drs. Quinlan and Ramsey, both of them on the faculty of the history department at the UI. This last weekend, Dr. Graden, another history professor, wrote an op-ed piece for the Daily News in which he accused us of creating a climate which would lead to the murder of gays and the burning of synagogues.(!)

The actual circumstances are the reverse of this. The businesses of some of our people have been vandalized, and the attacks on us are growing increasingly brazen. UI professors are using time in class to incite students against us, and consequently, since the response of the UI administration has been positively anemic (e.g. allowing Raul Sanchez to use his UI web site to circulate defamatory material), I am very concerned about what may happen this February at our conference. If there is violence or harassment of any kind (and there has already been quite a bit), it would not be difficult at all to show how the UI nurtured the climate in which this developed.

In the best of times, I would find it problematic for individuals at a publicly funded university to use their position to attack Christian ministries for their failure to be secularists. But in the current climate, for anyone up there at the University of Enron to set themselves up as moral arbiters is a bit thick.

As you no doubt know, liberals and progressives love diversity until they actually start getting some. In writing this letter, I am not asking that anyone’s legitimate freedom of opinion or expression be restricted in any way. But I am asking that the UI be removed as the base from which they launch their mortar rounds. I am also asking that the Office of Diversity apologize to us and to the public for this gross misuse of the resources of a public university.

This should go without saying, but I want to assure you that we have nothing whatever to do with racism, white supremacy, white separatism, or any other disease coming out of the fever swamps of the right wing. I do not want to weary you with any details here, but we would be happy to answer any questions you might have in this regard.

As I said at the beginning, I wish the occasion for this letter was something else. But there it is. I appreciate any attention you can give to this matter.


Douglas Wilson

cc: Gary Michael, Brian Pitcher, Blake Hall, Raul Sanchez

Thank you.


David Gadbois said...


I just received an e-mail from Christ Church indicating that Trinity Fest has been cancelled, since the low registrations indicated that it would not be "financially viable."

The e-mail speculates that this is because of the economic downturn. While this is no doubt a factor, they seem blind to the fact that they have marginalized themselves because of their promotion of Federal Vision theology.

I had attended Trinity Fest a few years back. It was a genuinely fun thing to do. I can't say anything bad about it.

But I, and I suspect many others, would not attend it now because they show no sign of backing off of the FV kookiness. I'm sure it wasn't part of the plan, but Wilson has gone from having broad appeal in the Reformed world (articles in Tabletalk) and even the broader evangelical world (the Family Series books). But by now he has wittled down his audience to theonomic, post-mill Federal Visionists. A very small market indeed.

Anonymous said...


I'm a former member of an FV church. After a horrible experience trying to leave, I know without a doubt that this movement is demonic in origin. That's why I support your efforts to expose Wilson. Personally, I would like to see you discuss the 'public execution' of the family you mentioned earlier. I think it would probably free a lot of peoples' minds from this terrible new cult.

All the best to you and yours.

Mark T. said...


Currently I’m laying foundation for an upcoming post on the cult of personality in the Kult, which is part of a larger series on the Police State of the Kult. One of the marks of a police state is the widespread use of terror to control citizens, and so before I write that post I intend to document the public execution of a Kult family, which is obviously a form of terror (though it’s a way of life for them).

Thanks for the comment.