Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Anonymity Excursus: The Kult Police State Part 1

This post is the first installment in a series of essays that consider Douglas Wilson’s claim that the Christ Church, Moscow, is not a well-organized syndicate of thugs that masquerades as a Christian church in order to advance its leader’s geopolitical-ecclesiastical agenda.

Douglas Wilson writes,

He wants to defend his anonymity by means of yet another slander — which is that we here in Moscow “haff our vays” of dealing with opponents, with a secret police and everything. Disagree with Wilson, and get a visit from jackbooted deacons in the middle of the night! (“Ninth Commandment Issues”; emphasis original)

First, I want to note that I never made this claim. Wilson is overstating my contention that he has a reputation for retaliating against those who publicly criticize him, and I would like to guess that he distorted my position because he’s interested in honest discourse, but I’m not that stupid.

Second, for this series’ sake I ask you to concede that Wilson has essentially accused me of accusing Christ Church, Moscow, of being a totalitarian state ruled by a ruthless autocrat who exacts vengeance against his critics.

Third, let’s run with it and see if his claim passes the smell test. Let’s take a basic definition of totalitarianism and compare it to the documented facts in Christ Church history. Accordingly,

Totalitarianism is a concept used in political science that describes a state that regulates nearly every aspect of public and private sectors. Totalitarian regimes or movements maintain themselves in political power by means of secret police, propaganda disseminated through the state-controlled mass media, personality cults, regulation and restriction of free discussion and criticism, single-party states, the use of mass surveillance, and widespread use of terror tactics. (Wikipedia)

I propose that we use this definition as a litmus test to determine if Christ Church, Moscow, is a normal church by biblical standards or if it fits the profile of a totalitarian state. Therefore, let’s see if Christ Church as a religious organization has the ecclesiastical equivalent of (1) Secret Police, (2) Propaganda Disseminated Through the State-Controlled Mass Media, (3) Personality Cult (this should be the most difficult to establish), (4) Regulation and Restriction of Free Discussion and Criticism, (5) Single-Party State, (6) Mass Surveillance, and (7) Widespread Use of Terror Tactics. Today we shall consider secret police. You be the judge:

While most members of most Christian churches live to glorify God, Christ Church, Moscow, is much different. To be sure, the one priority that all members of the Kult share in common is the duty to protect their Fearless Leader and his interests, and in this respect all loyal members of the Kult operate as secret police against one another, gathering information for the Fearless Leader.

And Wilson is not beyond gathering information himself. For example, he admitted in another forum that, yes, he had interrogated the five-year-old daughter of a long-time Kult member to see if her father had called Christ Church a cult. Wilson questioned the child alone, with no one else present in the room, against the father’s direct instruction. In fact, the father said, “Douglas Wilson, you are in darkness. The light of God is not in you. You are the leader of a cult and I resign my household’s membership from Christ Church. Now please leave my family alone; we want nothing to do with you.” Knowing Wilson’s thought process, he took this as an invitation to interrogate the little daughter and if she confirmed that daddy called Christ Church a cult, then Wilson could trump up ecclesiastical charges of child abuse against the father. And quite frankly, whatever else is true, any pastor that would question a five-year old to obtain this kind of information only proves by his behavior that he fronts a cult.

But we want to consider the police state of the Kult, so let me share a few eyewitness accounts with you that I’ve picked up over the years. For example, my former neighbor, who is now a former member of the Kult, told me that when he was in Christ Church he restricted certain people from calling him on the telephone at home for fear that one of his children might answer and take a message. He feared that if a person called whom the Kult had identified as an “enemy,” then the possibility existed that one of his children could unwittingly let the name slip while they were playing with other Kult children, which would spell the end of him and his family forever in the Kult. He knew that the other children would notify their parents who would immediately contact the Fearless Leader, who would begin preparations for their public execution.

Another friend of mine, who is also a former member of the Kult, told me that after he had accepted a lateral promotion within the ACCS network of schools, Douglas Wilson sat down with him and his wife to tell him that, since he had accepted a position of leadership, he should not be seen speaking with enemies of the Kult in any context. The Fearless Leader then rattled off a list of persons that he expected this man to shun in public — starting with the Kult’s version of Emmanuel Goldstein — as an expression of his loyalty and he closed his exhortation by saying, “People are watching you.”

I realize that I am not providing documentation for these stories, but that’s okay. We have plenty of documentation below and lots more in the next few installments. The important point that you need to grasp is the climate of fear that pervades the Kult. For example, another friend of mine, who like the others is a former member of the Kult, has said that life in the Kult felt like living in Nazi Germany where you could not confide in anyone for fear that they would act as Thought Police and betray you to the Fearless Leader. This man lost his job at Canon Press during one of the Great Protector’s purges: Douglas Wilson saw him show kindness to an enemy of the Kult in public.[1] One week later he was gone.

Perhaps the best example that proves the Fearless Leader encourages members of the Kult to secretly police one another is the documented instance where Wilson approved of one member of the Kult tape recording a telephone conversation with another member of the Kult. Wilson admitted this in an email to the Kult member whom he had surveilled:

Fourth, Ethan told me after the fact that he had recorded his phone conversation with you, which I had not asked him to do, and did not know that he was going to do. Because he told you that someone was potentially listening at the start of the conversation, I felt free to listen to it. If he had not done so, I would not have listened to it — a standard which you apparently do not share. The line you took in our phone conversation was mystifying to me at the time, but the fact that your companion [Dr. Atwood’s son, Ethan] was listening in unbeknownst to me makes more sense of the situation. The deceptiveness involved is revealing to me. (dougsplotch)

Wilson’s admissions here are disturbing enough, but first you have to notice how he distances himself from the espionage, writing, “I had not asked him to do, and did not know that he was going to do.”[2] He’s implying that he had nothing to do with instigating the surreptitious act, but then he threw his disclaimer out the window the moment he admitted he listened to the tape: “I felt free to listen.” And why did he feel free? Well, he heard it on the tape: “Because he told you that someone was potentially listening at the start of the conversation.” It makes perfect sense. He listened to the tape and heard his spy state that someone was potentially listening, which gave the Fearless Leader license to actually listen. But you can’t miss this point: After Wilson had one Kult member secretly tape record another Kult member on the telephone, he immediately turned around and accused the person whom he had just spied on of “deceptiveness.”

This just kills me. Wilson relied on all manner of deception to accomplish the deed when he encouraged one member to entrap another and then he put his hand with the treachery by listening to the tape. Despite these facts he accused the member of his congregation that he betrayed of “deceptiveness.” Amazing. But the point stands: members of the Kult tape record one another to gather intelligence for the Fearless Leader and he documented this totalitarian fact in an email.

I have one last example for your consideration but first let me remind you that in Orwell’s 1984 the story reached its climax when the Party successfully reeducated lead character Winston Smith to betray his lover, Julia, insuring that Winston would give all of his love and loyalty to Big Brother while he accepted the Party’s version of reality. [3]

Nancy Wilson writes:

But what about when the husband is in sin? This is a very important issue. What if the husband has adopted a wrong attitude and is heading in the wrong direction? Is a wife obligated to go along? It all depends. I have often been saddened that we don’t see more Abigails in the church today. She was not afraid to call her husband a fool and to make arrangements behind his back without his permission. . . . If a man is acting foolishly, a woman is foolish to go along quietly. . . But there are times when a godly wife should beseech her husband not to act in a foolish manner. It may involve doctrine. Perhaps she is alarmed that he is being attracted to heretical ideas, whether it is “openness theology” or Roman Catholicism. She should speak to him respectfully about this, but letting him know she cannot follow him there. If she belongs to a godly church, her elders would support her in this. Perhaps he is plotting to create some kind of stink in the church. Abigail would not stand for it. A good Christian wife should go to the elders and ask them how she can be a good church member and a good wife at the same time. She should not simply stand by, hoping that her husband will do the right thing. Nor should she just accept anything her husband does as though he is infallible. If a husband is bad-mouthing his elders, his pastor, or his friends, a godly woman should refuse to go along. She should speak to him privately first, but if he is not receptive, she should go to her pastor or elders and seek their advice. . . . A wife is to be a helper to her husband not a blind follower, and this sometimes includes going past him to get help. God blessed Abigail when she did this. In her case it was abundantly clear what was necessary. In other cases it might require pastoral oversight. But obedience and submission to a mere man is never absolute. . . . (Nancy Wilson, “Submission,” Credenda Agenda, Volume 15 Number 3)[4]

I’m not sure that you have to read between the lines on this one; the implication is there for everyone to see: “obedience and submission to a mere man is never absolute” because obedience and submission to the Kult is absolute. The Kult’s authority supersedes a husband’s authority, especially in matters of conscience. Like Julia in 1984, you must betray him. As far as the Kult is concerned, Wilson’s intelligence-gathering network creeps all the way into the bedroom. They expect you to report everything.[5]

Now, even if you set aside my handful of stories that I did not document and only considered the ramifications of the two documented accounts I presented, do you believe that they are representative of everyday life in a biblical church, or do they resemble life in a police state? Is it normal for pastors to eavesdrop on their congregation and is it normal for members of churches to tape record their conversations so they can hand the tape to the pastor, or does this look more like the work of secret police operating in a totalitarian state? Or how about the husbands and wives — do pastors normally instruct the wives of their congregation to report on their husbands? What kind of person thinks in these categories? What kind of man obligates the women of his church to submit to him as opposed to their husbands? Can you imagine being afraid to speak your conscience to your spouse about the church government for fear that she might roll on you? Is this normal behavior in Christian churches or is this Orwellian? Do you think Wilson’s conduct and his expectations cater to an environment of love for God and love for the brethren, or do you think it fosters fear and suspicion?

Personally, I think it’s sick across the board; there is no moral justification for this kind of sweeping invasion of privacy. But for other folks it’s just another day in Christ Church, Moscow.

Whatever you may think, however, do not forget this: You must tell the Fearless Leader all your secrets because


Thank you.

[1] It’s critical to note that these so-called “enemies” are persons identified by the Fearless Leader as enemies because they publicly criticized him. It’s even more critical to note that most of these enemies are devout evangelical Christians.

[2] It really does not matter if Wilson asked him to do it. The fact remains that he did not dissuade the young man from taping the conversation and by participating in the act he approved it. This is more evidence that Douglas Wilson corrupts those under his influence. Moreover, the message Wilson sent to his loyalists by approving of this behavior was loud and clear: Tape recording one another is acceptable conduct in the Kult.

[3] As I reflected on this post, it occurred to me that the similarities between Christ Church’s culture of oppression and Orwell’s 1984 are staggering. But the one similarity that someone needs to develop is the comparison between Orwell’s Two Minutes Hate and the Kult’s imprecatory prayer ritual. It appears that the Fearless Leader’s ultimate goal with his daily imprecations is to sear the names of Kult enemies on Kult members’ brains so that they understand the importance of hating these human beings in public. Along these lines, I had an extended comment exchange with a member of the Kult last week where I noted a chapter called “The Winds of Hate,” in a book titled On Killing, where the author documents the psychological devastation caused by cultures driven by hate. Hate damages the hateful and the hated — but especially the hateful. Can you imagine the injury one suffers when they close their eyes in prayer to beseech the God of all mercy to inflict physical pain on another human being simply because they criticized Wilson in public? These people are really twisted.

[4] Rosemary Huskey’s exchange with Wilson on Vision 20/20 says it all; she is brilliant. But the important point you need to note is that Wilson initially denied that the Kult teaches this standard, writing:

First, Rose simply made up the stuff about making a stink “about the church,” and questioning “decisions of church leadership.” That was not in the column at all. Perhaps Rose has taken a course in research study methods from Quinlan and Ramsey. Oops. I really am trying to live up to certain exacting scholarship standards I just found out about recently — make that Rinlan and Quamsey.

These last two sentences are stabs at the two University of Idaho historians who put the lie to Southern Slavery As It Was. They’re the same men who refused to debate the subject with Wilson. I’m sure it was because of his kindness.

[5] Nancy Wilson’s Credenda column is especially ironic in light of the two emails written by A Christ Church Wife. This godly woman — this Abigail — understood that her husband was fallible and that her pastor was evil. She recognized that a cult leader had blinded her husband’s eyes and was holding her family hostage. She, however, had no recourse. She could not go to her elders and she could not go to her husband.


sean said...

Interesting, first I need to say that I agree that Wilson is on the cusp, beginning to list toward "cult" status. His own doctrinal views and maybe more so the views of those he is in alliance with, are more and more being found to be not in accord with orthodoxy.

However, your grievances and documentation seem to be more and more centered around two primary events; the slavery booklet,conference, and fallout and the casino fiasco and fallout. Both eggregious errors, both worthy of reprimand and disciplinary action and probably suspension from office if not removal.

The drug issue at the school was unacceptable, however I don't know that it's a particularly unique or unusual occurence for a school private, religious or otherwise. You may beg to differ, and I may be jaded by what I've seen.

Still, I'm not convinced you've successfully painted a picture of "Kult life" with striking parallels to Jim Jones or the "Moonies" or FLDS or Koresh or even Armstrong.

You don't like Wilson or his "henchman", I can't say I care for them either, and yes, there is at least two scenarios where events should've been adjudicated against his remaining in office. But I don't see the monster in the closet that you so badly want to portray. Maybe this series of posts will finally bring that into bold relief. Your personal political bias or even your own embarrasment, particularly over the slavery controversy seems to be coloring EVERY aspect of your portrayal of Wilson and Christ Church. You're beginning to come across as scorned and bitter. Much like the ex-girlfriend who is always more than eager to "poison the well". I'm not saying you are, but it's beginning to read that way.

Mark T. said...

Sean (MB),

I encourage you to rewrite you comment in a way that actually engages the post and then I will respond to you. For example, I presume you think it morally acceptable for pastors to authorize members of their congregation to tape record one another in an attempt to entrap them. Is this true?

sean said...

I'm sorry, I thought I clarified that some of his behavior was actionable and could very well lead to dismissal. I didn't see where you proved his authorization of the tape recording but rather showed his unseemliness(sp?) in listening to and acting upon the recording after the fact. Either way, in answer to your question, I don't think it's morally acceptable for pastors to authorize such activity.

Mark T. said...

Yes, I see. You either do not understand dougspeak or you’re being obtuse.

When the young man approached Wilson with the tape recording, what should have been the appropriate pastoral response?

sean said...

Well, in all truthfulness it could be both. You're asking a number of us to trade upon your intimate understanding of the "atmosphere" in the kult, using what could either be isolated incidents over a period of time or representative examples of a pattern of abusive and unseemly behavior. I don't have any way to know which it is. Douglas Wilson is wrong on a number of doctrinal issues and has seemed to act inappropriately and wrong-headedly on at least three well-documented issues. However, you are no un-biased observer to events. You have an agenda, that you are pursuing in highlighting and belaboring these particular events, in what I can only presume is an effort to illumine the rest of us to the "reality" of who Douglas Wilson REALLY is. You compare him to a religious Al Capone, Adolf Hitler, Stalinesque character which, if true, your doing a service to the rest of the reformed community. However, the constant rehashing of these particular events does not,imo, raise Wilson to the aforementioned level. It does mean he's become or always has been a megalomaniac who needs to be disciplined and probably removed from office. This isn't Jim Jones or Koresh kinda stuff. Maybe it's on it's way there, or maybe there's bodies yet to be discovered.

I think you've made your points, and I'm no friend of patriarchalism or FV or protestant popes, but I fear, if you're overselling your perspective, even your documented legitimate "grievances" may lose their force. Just an opinion.

If he's a pedophile sheltering enabler with ambitions for secular world domination by any and all means possible, with a particular mysoginist bent and sociopathic paranoia,....... give it to him with both barrels but you're probably gonna need more "proof" than what you're offering.

Mark T. said...

I’ve never hidden my agenda and you have not answered my question: When the young man approached Wilson with the tape recording, what should have been the appropriate pastoral response?

sean said...

Oh, I imagine he should've reprimanded the individual, made the offended party aware of the behavior, demanded repentance of the perpetrator and sought to reconcile the two parties, while doing away with the tape.

Mark T. said...

Thank you very much.

You say that I have not proved that he authorized the act, which is true. We do not have a smoking gun. Nevertheless, not only did he not do what you describe, he did the complete opposite, and despite his transparent attempt to distance himself from the act of sin, he ran with it all the way.

So, what do you believe the young man concluded from Wilson’s behavior? — do you think he felt justified, i.e. approved, vindicated, tacitly approved?

And how do you think the young man whom Wilson spied on felt? Do you think he felt his pastor approved of the act? Do you think he believed his pastor when he claimed to not authorize it?

I’m curious what you think here; please develop your thoughts and tell me how you would have reacted if you learned that your pastor participated in a covert operation to spy on you, even though he denied authorizing the covert activity.

sean said...

Well, the short of it is that my pastor and I would have had a very unpleasant meeting. Wilson, is at the very least being hypocritical in his assessment of the individual as deceptive. But, people are sinners and pastors are not beyond sinning.

I'm trying to figure out if these three instances, episodes, occurrences, amount to a fascist religious sect headed by a cat who smells of sulfur. I simply don't know. I don't like what I've heard and I don't agree at all with his ideas of culture transformation, but I've known/know others within the pastorate with similar viewpoints that while wrong, weren't the second coming of Jim Jones. And quite frankly, the reformed academia indoctrinated most of these cats with the seeds of monocovenantalism that gave birth to these yahoos.

Mark T. said...

You’re making some basic mistakes here. But before I address those, I would like you to answer my questions: What impression do you believe Wilson left on the young man who did the tape recording? Do you think he came away with the sense that Wilson approved of his conduct? And what impression do you believe Wilson left on the young man against whom Wilson participated in an act of espionage? Do you think he believed his pastor when Wilson denied authorizing the sin? And do you think it matters that Wilson claims he did not authorize the sin while he participated in it all the way?

Let’s take it a step further: I am close friends with the parents of the latter; how do you believe they felt when they learned that Wilson eavesdropped on their son and then turned around and called him “deceptive”?

And please do not insult me with “people are sinners” nonsense. Yes, we’re all sinners but if you don’t understand the difference between natural sin common to all men and a so-called minister of the gospel actively corrupting the youth in his charge, then there’s something else going on here.

So, let’s take it one point at a time.

sean said...

I have to say that the whole pedantic nature that you require of this exchange is very restrictive of my irish soul but I'll try.

"What impression do you believe Wilson left on the young man who did the tape recording?"

I have no real idea, it requires speculation on my part. There may be whole conversations that Wilson had with this young man about the inappropriateness of his actions, I have no clue. If not, then maybe tacit approval.

"Do you think he came away with the sense that Wilson approved of his conduct?"

Maybe he came away with the idea that if Wilson was so against it, then why did he use it, and isn't that terribly hypocritical. At the least he's confused.

"And what impression do you believe Wilson left on the young man against whom Wilson participated in an act of espionage?"

"Don't mess with me, I'll get ya." Thus my comment about the unpleasant sit to.

"Do you think he believed his pastor when Wilson denied authorizing the sin?"

Totally speculative, I have no clue. However, it wouldn't really matter to me at that point, I'd be pissed.

"And do you think it matters that Wilson claims he did not authorize the sin while he participated in it all the way?"

Sure it matters, but what does that then entail?

"Let’s take it a step further: I am close friends with the parents of the latter; how do you believe they felt when they learned that Wilson eavesdropped on their son and then turned around and called him “deceptive”?"

Pissed. Again, there would be an unpleasant exchange. I'm very school yard when it comes to these things, pastor or no.

"Yes, we’re all sinners but if you don’t understand the difference between natural sin common to all men and a so-called minister of the gospel actively corrupting the youth in his charge, then there’s something else going on here."

Such as? I'm no monkey boy.

Mark T. said...

Please speculate. That’s the point of this exercise. And as long as we’re on it, please tell me what you mean by “unpleasant” and “schoolyard.” Does this mean you would cuss out the pastor but stay in the church? or does it mean you would say, “That was unkind of you, dear pastor,” and leave the church? or does it mean you would physically assault him? I have no idea what it means because your answers are much more ambiguous than your assertions and I would appreciate some clarity here.

sean said...

Unpleasant could be anything from; "I've got a problem with you, and you better have a good answer" to a punch in the mouth depending on the kind of answer he decides to give. I may very well stay depending on if he is repentant or not. I've got zero issue with conflict, violent (within reason-fist fight may be in reason it all depends) or otherwise, it happens.

Mark T. said...

I can’t say that Wilson doesn’t deserve a punch in the mouth. One former member of the Kult whose grandchildren Wilson holds hostage put it this way: “Every time I see the man I want to kick him in the nuts!” (You have to know this man to grasp fully the import of his statement.) But I’m curious why you would resort to physical violence and what you think it would accomplish. I realize this is way off point, but your answer leads me to believe that we’re working from two entirely different sets of values.

sean said...

"But I’m curious why you would resort to physical violence and what you think it would accomplish."

Oh, It's been my experience that we sometimes confuse niceness with faithfulness or propriety. People, particularly people in leadership, can get full of themselves and veer toward out of control and while violence, or better, the threat of violence is rarely necessary, sometimes it can be a good "shock" to the system of someone who is heading toward danger. At the point you start "mishandling" my kids you can bet at the very least you will deal with the threat of violence from me.

Mark T. said...

Is this a tacit admission that Wilson “mishandled” the young men? I ask because you’re sending all sorts of mixed signals.

sean said...

I'm confused by your confusion. It sounds to me like he handled the situation in a less than stellar manner. What I can't determine is where along the scale of malevolence these interactions rank. Is Douglas Wilson of the devil, and forever scheming for advantage and leverage or is he a dullard when it comes to certain things? Did he engage in activities that he later regretted, or is he obtuse in regards to his position and how others view him? Some people really are just asses and don't even know it. Is this syptomatic of business as usual at Christ Church, or was this an isolated poorly handled situation. Or are we going to forever "loop" casino, slavery, bully, ad naseum.
Do his offenses in this regard rise to the level of reprimand, or censure, or suspension or dismissal? Where are we at?

Denominational councils have basically ruled him doctrinally out of bounds. He appears to act essentially like a protestant pope. He appears to be heavy-handed and ascerbic in his treatment of others at least on occassion. He seems unfit to me. The collection of evidence is rapidly pointing toward renegade.

However, this doesn't make him Jim Jones. He's not Mooney. He's not Koresh and as I said before he's not even Armstrong at least based on the evidence presented so far, and I don't think the constant covering of the same incidents over and over again from every conceivable angle is furthering that impression except possibly illegitimately. I've dealt with sociopaths and incestual pedophile s before, I know the difference between a bully and a threat. And Wilson seems to fall well short of the stalinesque picture being drawn.
Is he unfit for the ministry ? Probably

Is he a christian? probably

Is he Jim Jones? Not yet, maybe someday, or maybe he is, and we just haven't unearthed it yet. What do you know? What do you have?

Bullying teenagers, while deplorable, does not constitute a cult, and in isolation probably doesn't get you dismissed from office but it may might buy you a butt-whipping.

Mark T. said...

Thanks, Sean, I appreciate your feedback.