Tuesday, July 1, 2008

The End of the Trinity Fest Part 2: “We are formidable”

In Part 1 of this miniseries we contemplated the role of fanciful — indeed, truly bizarre — story telling in the first annual Credenda Agenda History Conference, which was the forerunner to the now-defunct annual Trinity Fest. More specifically, we considered the Fearless Leader’s arbitrary and non-objective methodology that licenses him to fabricate stories while ignoring factual history in order to spin a mile-long yarn under the guise of “faithful story telling.” Today we shall consider some of the stories he spun prior to the first annual Trinity Fest and how they reflect the inner workings of his mind.

So when Christ Church, Moscow, announced its agenda for the first annual Trinity Fest (2005), two local activists performed a public-records search and discovered that the Kult had rented the UI’s indoor arena, the Kibbie Dome (seating capacity of 16,000), to host their Sunday worship service and that they intended to serve alcohol for communion to children, including infants. Of course, a venue that seats 16,000 was incredibly ambitious since they only needed to seat 1200 at the most (probably less, but Beelzeblog has never disclosed hard numbers). I’m sure that in Wilson’s mind this was the ecclesiastical equivalent of “build and they will come,” though it was more like “rent and watch yourself get tossed.” Regardless, the Kult’s plan of serving alcohol to minors raised a conflict with state law. Subsections 603 & 604 of Idaho Code Title 23 prohibit anyone from dispensing wine to any person under the age of 21, which includes children and infants. So while state law prohibits minors from drinking alcohol, the Kult planned to violate state law on state-owned property during their Trinity Fest worship service. One of the activists, Rosemary Huskey, notes this fact in one of her Vision 20/20 posts here, and here is one of several posts written by Beelzeblog that responded to these two women’s concern:

Jesus Gives Alcohol to Minors
Topic:
The Lord’s Table
As many of You [sic] are aware, some of our local adversaries have officially complained about the worship service we will be having at the Kibbie Dome just before the Trinity Festival. Their complaint centers on the fact that we will be serving alcohol to minors.

For some years, we have been teaching you that our observance of this Supper is potent. We have been saying that the gospel is like wine, and not like grape juice. Grape juice is a fitting element for the modern and moribund church to use — an inert element for an inert sacrament in an insert church. But when God moves to stir His people up, what happens? We return to a biblical observance of this Supper which can be nothing other than a potent declaration.

But there is another issue as well. We have seen that if we were serving grape juice in our communion service, our adversaries would not care — a tame sacrament for a domesticated church.

The second issue is this: if we excluded you, our children, from the service, they would not care either. But because we eat and drink a potent gospel, and because we insist on including our children and grandchildren in this, their glorious inheritance, the whole thing becomes quite formidable.

When was the last time you heard about outsiders caring what was done inside a worship service like this? The whole affair should be greatly encouraging. God has prepared a table for us in the presence of our enemies, and as we sit down to eat and drink, we may know by faith that God is moving in our community in wonderful ways.

We have assumed the center, and we now see our adversaries beginning to recognize that it is what is being done in faithful Christian worship that will determine the future of our town, our state, our nation, and our world. It is here we are formidable — and nowhere else.

Posted by Douglas Wilson — 7/24/2005 10:00:48 AM |

Putting it gently, this is a psychotic interpretation of events. Here is the distilled argument:
  1. The Kult’s observance of the Lord’s Supper is potent because it is biblical.

  2. The Kult’s adversaries care a great deal about the Kult’s observance of the Supper.

  3. Therefore, the Kult’s observance of the Supper “will determine the future of our town, our state, our nation, and our world.”
Obviously it loses its punch when stripped of its rhetorical flair. Nevertheless, let me note a few of Beelzeblog’s misrepresentations and then proceed to my main point.

First, no one “officially complained about the worship service” as Wilson claimed; you may confirm this fact by the Daily News article appended below. In fact, no one “officially complained” about anything. Two women sent an email to the president of the University of Idaho informing him that the Kult planned to violate state law in the Kibbie Dome. In order for them to have filed an “official complaint,” they would have had to notify the State of Idaho Office of Attorney General, the Latah County Prosecutor, or the Moscow Police Department, just as Wilson did when he filed an official complaint because he “wanted to have it documented” with the MPD. In this case, however, two women (one of them a grandmother, I believe) alerted the UI president to Wilson’s illegal plans and the UI president upheld state law by prohibiting Wilson from serving alcohol to minors. But by predicating his argument on a fabricated premise, Wilson gave himself the requisite wiggle-room he needed to arrive at his fantastic conclusion. And it is fantastic.

Second, notice that Beelzeblog accentuated his false premise by asking, “When was the last time you heard about outsiders caring what was done inside a worship service like this?” (emphasis original). Of course, this question makes the Kult’s worship service appear great and mighty, as though “outsiders” actually cared about something other than the issue they raised — i.e., serving alcohol to children on state-owned property — which happened to be the same issue that Wilson completely ignored in his post. Neither woman gave a rip about what the Kult did inside its worship service. They communicated one concern to President White: Douglas Wilson and his band of loyal followers must obey state law on state-owned property because, as usual, Wilson defied the law and acted as though he was above it (“Think Al Capone”).

Third, notice how the Fearless Leader’s imaginary interpretation of events grew with each succeeding paragraph so that he concluded: “we now see our adversaries beginning to recognize that it is what is being done in faithful Christian worship that will determine the future of our town, our state, our nation, and our world.” This is quite a leap. To be sure, it’s not a leap of epic proportions; it’s a leap of Fearless Leader proportions. If you follow the argument, he jumps from two citizens elevating their concern about the Kult’s illegal plans to the Kult determining the future of our world.

But the most important misrepresentation in this post is in these sentences:

The second issue is this: if we excluded you, our children, from the service, they would not care either. But because we eat and drink a potent gospel, and because we insist on including our children and grandchildren in this, their glorious inheritance, the whole thing becomes quite formidable.

Notice the tremendous significance Wilson places on the role of children in the worship service, to the point that they could not be excluded from any ritual. Also notice how he postulates an “us vs. them” mentality, casting himself as the Great Protector of children: “if we excluded you, our children, from the service, they would not care either.” This statement is false and beside the point, but the implication is that he — the Fearless Leader — really cared about the children, as proven by his insistence that they partake of wine during the service. Indeed, the principle that children must participate in the alcoholic rite was as important to him as the fermented juice itself. To be sure, his inordinate emphasis on these points appears almost idolatrous. The Lord Jesus asked, “Ye fools and blind: for whether is greater, the gold, or the temple that sanctifieth the gold?” In this case you could ask, “Which is greater, fermented wine in the cup or the God who sanctifies the element in the cup?” Wilson’s answer to this question is “fermented wine.”

But this question raises an even more important question: “Which is greater, serving wine to children in violation of state law, or insuring the health and safety of every child in the church?” I frame it this way because at the time Wilson proudly paraded Kult children before the community as prized objects who would receive the “glorious inheritance,” he had known about Steven Sitler’s horrifying predations for four months yet he still had not informed the parents in his congregation — i.e. the current possessors of the “glorious inheritance” — that a serial pedophile may have defiled the very children he pretended to defend. Put another way: He deliberately withheld from Kult and community the one vital piece of information that everyone desperately needed to know if they had any chance of discovering if Sitler had preyed upon their child, while he simultaneously insisted that children must drink alcohol during the worship service. Serving alcoholic wine to Kult children was a non-negotiable priority; protecting them from the long-term damage caused by childhood rape was not. It wasn’t even on the radar. (Please remember that apart from divine omniscience or perfect and complete honesty from a psychopath, he had no way of knowing who Sitler raped.)

This fact becomes more poignant when you note the timeline: Just two weeks before Wilson “insist[ed] on including our children and grandchildren in this,” Steven Sitler pled guilty to one count of Lewd Conduct With a Minor Under Sixteen Years of Age (don’t let the one count mislead you; Sitler leveraged the state by agreeing to privately identify his victims in exchange for owning only one count in public). And less than one month after Wilson “insist[ed] on including our children and grandchildren in this,” he wrote a letter to Judge John Stegner, pleading,

I would urge that the civil penalties applied would be measured and limited. I have a good hope that Steven has genuinely repented, and that he will continue to deal with this to become a productive and contributing member of society.

Wilson implored Judge Stegner to allow the serial pedophile to return to the Christ Church covenant community. Wilson wrote this letter exactly one week after the first annual Trinity Fest ended its festivities and both of these events — Sitler pleading guilty and Wilson pleading with Stegner — took place unbeknownst to his congregation and the community.

Let’s be clear: The man who championed the role of children in his worship assembly concealed the awful fact of a serial pedophile’s predations from the parents of the very children he championed. He even went so far as to ask the judge to show leniency on the pedophile so that he could return to the assembly where he committed his abominations. Wilson did these things in capacity of his office as pastor of Christ Church, Moscow, and HE DID THEM IN SECRET, just as Steven Sitler committed his crimes in secret, which brings us to the heart of Wilson’s psychosis.

Pastor Douglas Wilson completely ignored (denied) the horrifying reality that a ferocious predator (a “wolf in sheep’s clothing” according to his home church in Colville, WA) had laid waste to the lambs in his charge so that he could advance publicly an imaginary fiction that his church was not only not ravaged but “quite formidable.” In other words, he failed to distinguish between his inner fantasy of him leading an almighty kirk and the outside reality that the assembly of souls in his care was a smitten house of lost sheep without a shepherd. It was more important to his ego that the general public saw him flexing his biceps than that he actually use his biceps to protect the little ones in his care, which is one more reason he’s not a pastor. As always, the Fearless Leader was more concerned about his appearance than his substance. And in this respect Wilson treated the victims (and their parents) of serial pedophile Steven Sitler no differently than Sitler himself. Both men used those harmless children as mere objects to gratify their sick perversions. Sitler took pleasure in physically abusing the children and Wilson took pleasure in assembling the children so that he could declare his “potent” formidability to the world: “Look at the size of MY kingdom.” But neither man cared one whit for those poor souls, which brings us to Wilson’s breathtaking conclusion:

We have assumed the center, and we now see our adversaries beginning to recognize that it is what is being done in faithful Christian worship that will determine the future of our town, our state, our nation, and our world. It is here we are formidable — and nowhere else. (emphasis original)

Pay close attention to the last sentence: “It is here we are formidable — and nowhere else.” Despite the missing punctuation between the first two clauses, I’m not sure there’s any way to misinterpret the sentence. When he writes, “It is here,” the antecedent to the word “It” is “faithful Christian worship that will determine the future of our town, our state, our nation, and our world.” In the least these words affirm his conviction that the worship at Christ Church, Moscow, would determine the future of the world.

The next clause, “we are formidable,” alludes to his previous statement that their formidability was due to his insistence “on including our children and grandchildren in this,” and since he repeated his use of the word “formidable” we should assume he meant it literally:
  1. causing fear, dread, or apprehension formidable prospect
  2. having qualities that discourage approach or attack
  3. tending to inspire awe or wonder (Merriam Webster Online)
“We are formidable.” Even if it was true (and it’s not), I cannot explain why a professing minister of the gospel would make such a ridiculous boast unless he perceived his congregation as an army of soldiers beneath his command, prepared to conquer all “adversaries” in its path. “We are formidable.” Whatever else is true, these are not the words of a peacemaker (i.e. a “son of God,” Matt. 5:9); they are the blustering taunt of an angry, insecure bully: “WE ARE FORMIDABLE.”

Finally, the clause “and nowhere else” modifies the first clause, “It is here” (emphasis original), to exclude everywhere else in the world. In other words, the Fearless Leader singled out Christ Church, Moscow, as the ONLY place where the “It” was taking place, and he defined the “It” as “faithful Christian worship that will determine the future of our town, our state, our nation, and our world.”

Behold the madness. “And the light shineth in the darkness; and the darkness comprehended it not.” His inner fantasy could not recognize the external reality. The Fearless Leader sold (and his blog post was a sales pitch) his liturgy as a world-changing event while he concealed from the world the truth about his church. He refused to acknowledge the true state of his congregation, which was directly connected to his sacerdotalism, at least according to his theology, so that he could insist that the Kult’s form of worship — led by him — would “determine the future of our town, our state, our nation, and our world.” To say that he had high expectations for the Trinity Fest is an understatement. But the only noteworthy event in Moscow during the summer of 2005 was the Fearless Leader’s desperate attempts to keep his two child molesters hidden from the public eye.

The Trinity Fest did not die because of economic pressures. It died the slow, reluctant death of a man suffocated underneath a mountain of lies packaged as history and an unspeakable millstone named Steven Sitler. It died because one man confused the bishopric with the battlefield and could not discern the difference between children and soldiers. The Trinity Fest died because God is not mocked and men reap what they sow. If you’re going to sell your carnival as THE event for the kingdom of heaven, you better be sure you understand the basics, such as not offending the little ones, because it doesn’t matter if you serve them the most potent wine ever fermented when their physical bodies are in harm’s way. And this doesn’t make you “formidable”; it makes you sick.




Thank you.

A P P E N D I X
The following article is republished from the July 28, 2005, edition of the Moscow–Pullman Daily News:

Church will serve communal wine at UI
By Megan Doyle, Daily News staff writer

Christ Church in Moscow has been given approval to serve communal wine at a Sunday worship at the University of Idaho Kibbie Dome. The service will be in conjunction with the church’s history conference and Trinity Festival that begins Aug. 7. UI President Tim White signed the permit Wednesday. It includes an addendum that grape juice instead of wine will be available for minors.

Sodexho, the food service provider at the Kibbie Dome, will monitor the service of alcohol “in a manner that assures minors do not have access to alcohol,” it states in the permit. Christ Church is responsible for meeting insurance requirements.

Two Moscow women have raised concerns with the university that Christ Church should not be allowed to give alcohol to minors on state property. Though Moscow residents Saundra Lund and Rosemary Huskey did not file an official complaint regarding the serving of alcohol for the event, they have sent correspondence to the university expressing their views on allowing the permit. “Quantity doesn’t matter,” Lund said. On private property during the regular Sunday worship, alcohol requirements are different, they said. “The prohibition of alcohol consumption by minors is a method that least burdens religious practices while protecting the state’s compelling interest,” the women wrote in a June 10 e-mail to the university.

Mike Lawyer, administrative assistant to Christ Church Pastor Douglas Wilson, said he was unaware of the requirement that Sodexho monitor the event and did not want to comment on it. “It’s purely worship, it has nothing to do with recreation or selling,” Lawyer said. “The whole thing is about whether we can worship or not,” he said. UI just happened to get stuck in the middle of the debate. The wine used has an alcohol content of 13.5 percent. “We put the wine in little tiny cups. They hold 1.5 teaspoons,” Lawyer said. “We always have grape juice available. Every Sunday we have a ring of cups on the trays with grape juice,” he said, adding that children are not limited to grape juice.

Huskey said she and Lund are not trying to deny children the opportunity to participate in communion, but grape juice would serve the same purpose. “For me it’s a significant issue because — what does the research show?” Lund said, citing negative impacts of alcohol.

About 1,500 people are expected to attend the worship service at the Kibbie Dome. The regular Sunday service for Christ Church’s 700 members is at Logos School.

“(Doug Wilson’s) hoping that some publicity of him being persecuted will be a rallying point,” Lund said.

The featured speakers at the event are J. Steven Wilkins, Doug Wilson and Peter Lillback. Wilson is the pastor of Christ Church in Moscow and co-author of a controversial pamphlet with Wilkins titled Southern Slavery, As It Was, which discusses pre-Civil War slave life. Wilkins has attended previous Christ Church conferences. Lillback is an author of theology and history books and is the executive director of the Providence Forum, an organization dedicated to educating Americans on faith and values of the nation’s founding fathers.

The deadline to register for the conference is Monday. For more information on the Trinity Festival, visit the Christ Church Web site at www.christkirk.com.

14 comments:

Anonymous said...

For some reason I thought of this quote from Joseph Smith when I read your post.

"Come on! ye prosecutors! ye false swearers! All hell, boil over! Ye burning mountains, roll down your lava! for I will come out on the top at last. I have more to boast of than ever any man had. I am the only man that has ever been able to keep a whole church together since the days of Adam. A large majority of the whole have stood by me. Neither Paul, John, Peter, nor Jesus ever did it. I boast that no man ever did such a work as I. The followers of Jesus ran away from Him; but the Latter-day Saints never ran away from me yet. You know my daily walk and conversation. I am in the bosom of a virtuous and good people. How I do love to hear the wolves howl! When they can get rid of me, the devil will also go..."

Mark T. said...

Excellent quote and right on the money for its double application. A friend of mine, who is an elder at E Free, Pullman, regularly compares Wilson to Joseph Smith, as he opines that we are eyewitnesses to the birth of the another LDS-type cult.

Anonymous said...

I think your friend is right. Just like Mormon parents try to secure their childrens' eternal security through a ritual sealing and other external works, it seems to me the FV do the same thing when they emphasize baptism, communion, moral living, covenant renewal, etc. I'm not saying they are exactly alike, but there's a very strong sense they are falling into the same trap the Mormons have.

Frankly, isn't this type of behavior just magical thinking or, more to the point, faithlessness? It sure seems that way to me.

Mark T. said...

I agree that the FV and Mormonism share many similar qualities, especially their common emphasis on the external. I suppose that’s the whole “objectivity” thing for the FVists.

There’s a connection between Wilson and J Smith that I didn’t make clear. Members of the Kult breed like rodents, much the same way that Mormons have large families. It’s very common to see families with 7-plus children in the Kult, and it’s not uncommon to see families tipping the scales with double-digit children.

Smith landed in SLC and planted a community. Wilson landed in Moscow intending to colonize the community with his disciples, and it’s pretty clear that he intends to achieve his goal, at least in part, by encouraging members of the Kult to have children. He once quipped to the News: “There’s more than one way to take over a town.”

Re the sacraments, I don’t know how anyone could deny that the FVists treat them as magical entities, like fairy dust, and that they are a substitute for the new birth and faith.

Anonymous said...

Hi Mark,

That's a devastating post. I see why you find it difficult to regard DW as having been regenerated. So much bad fruit.

One caveat: I wonder if it may be that in saying "it is here that we are formidable" DW was intending to affirm something not so much geographical as theological, that the Church united in right worship with the sacraments and all", etc etc, "is formidable."

It remains a breathtakingly arrogant thing, in DW's mouth, in view of the context that you give. And you have previously noted that by DW's own public criteria, God's judgment had fallen on CC in the form of intracommunal rape.

It is hard to escape the conclusion you have been advocating that DW is more interested in appearance than in substance, and in building up his own kingdom than in building up Christ's people.

Thanks for your 'blog,

Sam

Mark T. said...

Hi Sam,

I do believe that it’s possible he may have meant to convey your point: “I wonder if it may be that in saying ‘it is here that we are formidable’ DW was intending to affirm something not so much geographical as theological, that the Church united in right worship with the sacraments and all, etc. etc., ‘is formidable.’”

One thing, however, is that he didn’t say, “It is here that we are formidable” (though I suppose he may have whiffed on the word “that” just as easily as he may have whiffed on the punctuation. He said “It is here [missing punctuation, either a comma, semicolon, or em dash] we are formidable — and nowhere else.”

I read it as three separate propositions, each one building on the previous. It never occurred to me that he meant it literally and that there’s no typo (missing word or punctuation), because given that scenario the first clause of the sentence would negate his point of formidability. According to his argument, formidability is not predicated on location; it’s predicated on children partaking spiked juice.

Regardless, it is as you say, incredibly arrogant and completely out of touch with reality.

Mark said...

Mark T,
No big deal, but Joseph Smith didn't land in SLC. He died before the move west, as I'm sure you know.
Another Mark

oic said...

Mark,

Quick correction to one of your comments above. Joseph Smith never got to Salt Lake. It was Brigham Young who brought the Mormons out to Salt Lake. Smith was murdered while incarcerated in Carthage, Ill. Up till that time the Mormons were based primarily in Nauvoo, Ill., which Smith had founded.

Relevantly, some Mormons not pleased with Smith's polygamy revelation began to publish a paper which the Nauvoo city council, headed up by Mayor Smith, declared a public nuisance & proceeded to destroy the paper's press. When threats started coming in from the outside, Smith declared a state of martial law in Nauvoo. It is this incident that got Smith jailed in Carthage.

cib said...

Wow, getting my acronyms mixed up today. The comment from "oic" is mine.

Not that is matters, since it's just as anonymous and, no doubt, I'm ashamed of my baptized name. ;)

Mark T. said...

Tough crowd. I didn’t know that Joseph Smith didn’t make it to SLC. I know he got tarred and feathered, which I suppose is good enough.

Anonymous said...

Hi Mark,

My bad --- I didn't check the quote before typing it from memory. I reflexively filled in DW's text with better grammar and better theology (and that's how I understood it when I read it in the first place, perhaps evidence of deep gullibility on my part).

Another fundamental problem with DW's assertion of ecclesial formidability is that it is false on a priori grounds. God is formidable, and His power is perfected in our weakness. It is disconcerting to read DW boasting about his church's strength rather than about God's strength. But perhaps DW reckons that in boasting about his church, He is boasting about God (or about God's blessing, the inconvenient rape/judgment thing notwithstanding).

Thanks for your 'blog.

Sam

cib said...

Mark T.,

No toughness from me. Your point parallelling Wilson to Smith takes on more strength, IMO, when one considers what Smith did in Nauvoo.

Mark T. said...

Hi Sam,

The more I reflect on it, the more I think he loaded the last sentence with dougspeak to leave himself wiggle-room so that he could escape conclusions such as mine. This is consistent with his history as well as his character, because he is a master deceiver.

You inserted the “that” and I inserted a semicolon. Yours finished the sentence, mine created three separate propositions. In the end it doesn’t matter because he can’t wiggle away from the monstrous arrogance of it all; nevertheless I believe he framed an awkward incomplete sentence on purpose.

For what it’s worth, the reason I saw three independent propositions is based more on the entirety of posts he wrote on this subject. I read all the posts he wrote on the Trinity Fest and thought this one summarized his position quite well. A couple of the preceding posts were dripping with anger and resentment that he might have to obey the law, and this one went over the top with grandiosity.

In hindsight, he’s just clever enough to know that he shouldn’t state what he clearly implies, so he adopted dougspeak so he could have it both ways. Again, it doesn’t matter because the rest of the posts is sufficient to damn him without the ambiguous conclusion, but I think your initial observation holds water.

Mark T. said...

CIB,

I know. I was just surprised at how fast everyone caught my error. But I welcome correction and am thankful.