For reasons that escape me Doug Wilson is (now) beloved in the new-Calvinist (and YRR) world and is being conveniently divorced from his support of racists like Robert E. Lee, Robert L. Dabney, and so on. [UPDATE: so as not confuse, by "support" I mean "holds in high esteem"]. I have recently discovered that Wilson's hagiographic understanding of the American South before the Civil-War is completely ignored in some circles. Why is Doug Wilson getting a pass on his views on Southern slavery? I don't understand it.
Let me say for the record: I fully believe Doug Wilson to be a Godly man who gets the gospel right and loves Jesus is all his heart, mind, soul and strength. In fact, from what I've read recently, I may even agree with him on many issues regarding politics and economics. However, the point of the departure for me will be our views on the intersections of the Christ and Southern society before the before and during the Civil War.
And Mr. Wilson is free to believe whatever he wants to believe. This is what makes America great!
I realize that by raising questions about Wilson I am going to be vehemently attacked by his devotees, will probably lose friends, and it may even close off a few opportunities for speaking, writing, etc. These attacks will expose the Wilsonian tribalism that reigns today (more on that in Part 2). The attacks I am expecting will not be the first time from the Wilson-lovers crowd, however. I have spent the last 8 years racially attacked by those who share Wilson's views about the South before the Civil-War.
On the Gospel Coalition website, Jared Wilson aroused much controversy when he posted an excerpt from one of Wilson's books about sexuality. To his credit, Jared later apologized. The debates about women's roles I find provincial and boring so I'm not engaged in the complimentarian/egalitarian debate. These are important discussions for good reasons. God bless'em.
I became aware that Wilson was on the TGC website after reading this post on the website Political Jesus. I was shocked that Doug Wilson was even being talked about on The Gospel Coalition website. Why was he even there?
Since I'm not a pastor I don't really follow The Gospel Coalition content too closely so I had NO IDEA that Doug Wilson had risen to mainstream status as representative voice of the new-Calvinist tribe until last week (otherwise I woud have said something sooner). After tweeting some information about Wilson I was shocked by the number of those from his tribe pushing back. I actually had to block a few from communicating via Twitter.
Why was I shocked? Because my first introduction to Doug Wilson in the 1990s was in connection to his views on slavery in the South expressed in this pamphlet: Southern Slavery As It Was--A Monograph by Steve Wilkins & Douglas Wilson. This is also when I realized that anyone this utterly incorrect about the history and culture of the South isn't to be taken too seriously so I stopped paying much attention. Somehow, Wilson has transitioned from hosting Confederate Heritage events to serving as a brand spokesman for Reformed apologetics, Christian education, marriage and family, and the like, by many in the Young, Restless, and Reformed circles and young Calvinists.
How did that makeover happen? I have no idea. I wasn't paying attention. I am curious.
Perhaps there is simply an irresponsible and profound ignorance of Wilson's views about the Confederate South--this is my most charitable conjecture. The more worrisome conjecture, however, is that Reformed evangelicals are so enamored by his conservatism that they dismiss the importance of his views on Southern society. A blind-eye toward the South could send a clear message to African Americans: "we don't care that Wilson's writings are troubling and offensive to blacks."
How could Jared Wilson, and others, read "Doug Wilson's Religious Empire Expanding in the Northwest: A religious empire based in Idaho is part of the far-right theological movement fueling neo-Confederate groups" and find him so credible for branding on other issues (or at least start asking some questions)? When I've raised this issue before I am often greeted with this response, "well, does this mean we shouldn't read Martin Luther? He was anti-Semitic." No worries, I did a #facepalm too.
For those of who only know of Rev. Wilson from marriage, family, politics, Federal Vision discussions, and so on, here's a good article explaining what is so wrong with Wilson's understanding of Southern history from that first pamphlet. And, yes, I know that he calls himself a "Paleo-Confederate," so you need not put that in the comment thread:
Ramsey, William L. and Quinlan, Sean M., Southern Slavery As It Wasn't: Coming to Grips with Neo-Confederate Historical Misinformation. Oklahoma City University Law Review, Vol. 30, No. 1, 2005. Available at SSRN: http://ssrn.com/abstract=633361
Abstract: "Southern Slavery as it Wasn't: Coming to Grips with Neo-Confederate Historical Misinformation" assesses the historical revisionism of neo-Confederate amateur historians who maintain that slavery was a positive and happy experience for African Americans. Such views are becoming increasingly influential among white supremacist and conservative groups in the South and Midwest, and they pose a growing threat to the civil rights of minorities nationwide on several levels.
The essay demonstrates that neo-Confederate histories of southern slavery are not concerned with historical accuracy. They seek instead to advance an ideological repudiation of multiculturalism and civil rights. As such, they are being used by opponents of civil rights to challenge voting rights, desegregation, and affirmative action in a variety of court challenges and grassroots campaigns and to champion the imposition of "biblical law."
For a more accurate view of the South than you may hear from the Wilson tribe order the following books:
- Soul by Soul: Life Inside the Antebellum Slave Market, by Walter Johnson
- How Race Is Made: Slavery, Segregation, and the Senses, by Mark Smith
- Freedom's Coming: Religious Culture and the Shaping of the South from the Civil War through the Civil Rights Era, by Paul Harvey
- A Nation under Our Feet: Black Political Struggles in the Rural South from Slavery to the Great Migration, by Stephen Hahn
- Baptized in Blood: The Religion of the Lost Cause, 1865-1920, by Charles Reagan Wilson
Finally, in Part 2, I'll discuss how Wilson's rise in the new-Calvinist world (esp. among the YRR crowd) exposes the growing celebrity tribalism in Reformed circles; the unchecked, uncritical following of men instead of Christ; and consequences of divorcing world-and-life-view from skill at articulating "the gospel."
NOTE: I've made a few edits to this post since I originally posted it.