A Theology of Hate

Doug Wilson’s history of promoting hate is well documented.  Whether it be his disturbing views on gender, his vitriolic rhetoric toward feminists, or his blatant animosity toward the LGBTQ+ community, Wilson has never been one to play his cards close to the chest.  He courts controversy, and revels in the outrage his hate speech causes.

But among his many forms of hate, perhaps his favorite to peddle are his views on race.  Wilson claims he is simply promoting a “Christian” view that adheres closely to “the authority of Scripture.” As far as he is concerned, there has never been a coherent argument demonstrating anything he has said is racist or white supremacist in nature.

However, as I will argue below, he operates from a foundationally flawed definition of what constitutes racial hatred.  In demonstrating this, I will analyze Doug’s ideology through the critical lens of black scholarship.  I will be drawing heavily upon the seminal works of black scholars in theology, sociology, critical race theory, and law to demonstrate why, in my opinion (and despite all his self-proclaimed nuance), Doug Wilson is nothing more than a garden variety racist.

Further, I will explain in detail why his ideology is not only racist, but also white supremacist in nature.

He, of course, will take exception to this.  I am under no illusion that my work will convince or convict him of the hatred he peddles.  I leave it to the reader to discern if my argument holds water.

doug_wilson
https://world.wng.org/sites/default/files/migrated_images/doug_wilson.jpg

Is Doug Wilson a Racist?

They systems of Racism are complex and multifaceted. But perhaps the most prominent form of racism currently being debated in the public arena is the racial inequity endemic to the American criminal justice system.

In his book Chokehold: Policing Black Men, Paul Butler – former federal prosecutor and current professor of law at Georgetown University – describes the many systemic injustices committed under the auspices of “criminal justice” within the United States.  These injustices, Butler claims, are based upon a racial caste system in which black men are, by default, treated as suspicious, violent, and guilty.[1]

This, Butler argues, allows police to justify gross violations of civil rights – including beatings and summary execution without trial – while remaining entirely within the letter of the law.  This happens because the very premises of criminal justice are built upon white supremacy.[2]

Of the many examples Butler gives, he devotes specific attention to the vast inequities of “stop and frisk” policing.  The entire premise of “stop and frisk,” Butler points out, is creating the constant threat of police retaliation to prevent crime.  The goal is to intimidate black and Latino men into compliance through public humiliation and violation.[3]

This claim is shored up by a wealth of data.  For instance, studies have shown that even the most successful “stop and frisk” programs yield arrests in less than one percent of incidents.  Further, the stops being made are almost entirely of persons of color, predominantly black and Latino men.  Yet, while men of color occupy a disproportionate percentage in crime statistics, across the board white men commit significantly more crime than any other group.[4]

As a result, contact between police and men of color increases without producing measurable increase in arrests or decrease in crime.  These men are repeatedly stopped and humiliated – their bodies searched publicly – because an officer deemed their presence “suspicious.” Yet, when all is said and done, they are released without charge.[5]

In this way, men of color – especially black men – are publicly treated as criminals, even though they have not committed any offense.  The only justification the officer needs is the nebulous criteria of “reasonable suspicion.”  Thus, officers can fabricate criminality, claim probable cause, and initiate a stop with near absolute authority.[6] Quite often, the “suspected” offense is something as minor as jaywalking.[7]

Defenders of such tactics justify these public violations by perpetuating racist stereotypes of black male criminality. For instance, in defense of this practice, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg has stated:

[Critics of “stop and frisk”] keep saying, “Oh, it’s a disproportionate percentage of a particular ethnic group.” That may be, but it’s not a disproportionate percentage of those who witnesses and victims describe as committing the murder. In that case, incidentally, I think we disproportionately stop whites too much and minorities too little. [8]

It is ironic, then, that “stop and frisk” has no correlation, whatsoever, with a drop in violent crime.  In fact, as Butler notes, prior to the official systemic implementation of “stop and frisk” in NYC in 2003 the rate of violent crime was dropping significantly every year.  However, while it continued to drop during the height of “stop and frisk” (while still in practice in NYC, it has been severely scaled back under scathing criticism from activists) the rate of decrease slowed significantly.[9]

Further, in a peer-reviewed study of “stop and frisk” conducted in the neighborhood of Brownsville in NYC, data showed that police conducted over 13,000 stops in 2010, yet arrested barely one hundred persons – an arrest rate of .05 percent.  In all of New York City, the practice yielded a mere .15 percent arrest rate.  Conversely, the study of Brownsville found that, in a four-year period spanning 2006-2010, officers conducted over 50,000 stops, and recovered only twenty-five guns.  Meanwhile, the incidence of gun violence rose by thirty-nine percent.[10]

Other studies of “stop and frisk” policing in Boston, Chicago, and Philadelphia have shown that black men are invariably targeted at over three times the rate as their white counterparts.  In revealing data from Chicago, white and black persons each comprise 32 percent of the city’s population.  Yet, black persons make up 72 percent of stops, while white persons comprise a mere 9 percent.[11]

This sort of racial inequality permeates the criminal justice system, where black persons are convicted and incarcerated at an alarming rate.  Black persons are six times more likely to be incarcerated than white persons, accounting for 34% of incarcerations, despite comprising merely 12% of the national population.  In fact, at every stage of the criminal justice system – from how police choose targets for traffic stops to access to legal counsel – the criminal justice system functions to disenfranchise and disadvantage black defendants. (Source)

This same system allows police to kill black persons at an alarming rate. A black person convicted of murder is 40% more likely to receive the death penalty than a white offender convicted of similar, identical, and even more severe charges. Also, a black person is 2.5 times more likely to be summarily executed by police than a white person.

Often, unarmed black men face summary public executions by police officers, simply for being suspected of offense.

Freddy Gray was arrested without probable cause, violently assaulted, bound, and forced into the back of a police van.  By the end of a “rough ride,” his spinal cord was severed, an injury that would claim his life. (Source)

Tamir Rice was playing with a toy gun in a public park.  When police arrived, an officer – without even two seconds’ hesitation – exited his vehicle and gunned the 12-year-old boy down in the street.  According to the recorded 911 call, dispatchers knew the gun was likely a toy but did not inform the responding officers. (Source)

Philando Castile was pulled over by police for a broken taillight.  He dutifully informed the officer of a legally registered gun in his vehicle, and followed all the commands given him by officers.  Still, while reaching for his identification, officers summarily executed him in front of his girlfriend and her young daughter. (Source)

Tanisha Anderson had a history of mental illness.  When her family called police out of concern for her well-being, the cops who responded treated her as a criminal.  They proceeded to violently restrain her, pinning her on the ground.  Their violence caused her to go into pulmonary distress and she died before emergency medical responders could get her to a hospital. (Source)

Yvette Smith was at a residence when a fight broke out between several men.  She called 911, asking for assistance to break up the fight.  When officers arrived, they asked her to come outside. Following orders, Yvette opened the door.  An officer then immediately shot her twice as she exited, killing her in cold blood. (Source)

Eric Garner

Dontre Hamilton

Alton Sterling

Sylville Smith

Walter Scott

Michael Brown

Sandra Bland

Charlene Lyles

The list goes on ad nauseum.  Each time, a black man or woman was publicly executed by police without trial for alleged offenses which would never carry a penalty of death in a court of law.  And almost without exception, each police officer was acquitted of any wrong-doing.

In fact, even when video evidence depicts the officer declaring “we’re killing this motherfucker,” and there is significant evidence suggesting the officer planted a gun on the victim to justify his murderous actions, such an officer can reasonably expect to receive an acquittal. (Source)

An officer can also shoot an unarmed black man in the back, plant a gun on him after he was already dead, be video recorded in the act, and have their murder trial end in a hung jury. (Source).[12]

All of which is to say, the law is not neutral.  It is not equitable to black persons.  The law is a biased system that presumes the guilt of black persons based on racial stereotypes then detains, assaults, violates, incarcerates, and executes them at alarming rates without fear of retribution.[13]

This, Angela Davis argues, is the danger of implicit bias in racist systems.  Even if an individual prosecutor would never openly promote racist ideology, the very ideology which informs the performance of their duties is predicated on enforcing and perpetuating the racist systems outlined above.  Thus, even if one’s racism functions only on an unconscious, systemic level, it still results in devastating effects on the lives of persons of color.[14]

As such, racism is not merely hatred of physical appearance, but the participation in and/or perpetuation of systems which oppress specific racial groups as a basic premise of societal order.

It is in this context that I will consider whether Doug Wilson is a racist.

trayvonmartinhooded
https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/d/df/TrayvonMartinHooded.jpg
  1. Racial Profiling

Doug Wilson is strongly invested in painting black persons, and especially black men, as violent criminals.  For example, Wilson has repeatedly defended the practice of racial profiling on both an individual and an institutional level.

Wilson, in a post titled “On the Moral Necessity of Judging a Book by its Cover” (emphasis mine), argues that a person is perfectly justified in, and even morally obligated to, “judging a book by its cover.” A white person who is wary of a black man wearing a hoodie and baggy jeans is not being racist, but merely noting that a black man has dressed the “part” of a criminal.

Wilson elaborates on this point by likening it to a woman dressed in so-called “provocative” attire.  This woman, he states, does not deserve to be sexually assaulted.  But she ought to expect men to mistake her for a prostitute, or to be reprimanded by people with a better moral sensibility.  That is, she might not “deserve” something as extreme as rape based merely on her dress, but she does deserve some level of consequence for the “cover” she has placed on herself.

The implication is that a black man who “dresses like a criminal” ought to expect to be treated like a criminal.

Wilson furthers this logic elsewhere.  After claiming there is no evidence that Eric Garner’s execution was race-related, he launches into a “thought experiment.”

In this “experiment” Wilson argues that a person who sees a group of black men in hoodies is perfectly justified in “quickening” their pace.  This, he claims, is merely the practice of solid risk assessment, because “black males are disproportionately incarcerated for violent crime.”

Wilson uses this argument to claim that critiques about systemic oppression of black persons are largely the result of people trying to force incidents – such as Garner’s death – into “racialized” narratives.

He has also claimed that racism is not about prejudice or discrimination – actions he believes can be can often be morally justified – but about “vainglory” and “malice.” Wilson even goes so far as to say “someone who thinks that anyone named Muhammad should receive extra scrutiny at airports” is not a racist.  Focusing on critiques of prejudice and discrimination – in either individual or systemic contexts – distracts from the “true” sin of racism and is thus a rejection of biblical truth.

As such, Wilson defends racial profiling as a necessary – and even morally good – tactic both for everyday citizens and as a strategy of law enforcement.

This is demonstrably false.

Paul Butler calls such attempts to justify racial prejudice by painting black men as potentially dangerous criminals “constructing the thug.”  Such ventures are not based on any sound facts, but on a desire to perpetuate and maintain the systems of white supremacy and racism in our society.[15]

Despite Wilson’s claims that a person is justified in racially profiling black men as potential criminal threats, the reality is that a white person is far more likely to be violently assaulted, and even murdered, by another white person.  Further, such crimes are far more likely to be perpetrated by someone the person knows than by a random stranger.

All of which is to say, by Wilson’s logic, white people ought to be far more apprehensive about their coworkers, friends, and family – or even the white person they just passed on the street – than by some random black man in a public space.

But the reality is, Wilson isn’t concerned with facts.  His goal is to depict black persons, especially black men, as violent and dangerous thugs.  Wilson entirely denies that racial profiling is the product of systemic racism within the criminal justice, implying it is instead the fault of black persons (especially black men) who refuse to carry themselves in a manner respectable enough to appease white and/or police distrust of their blackness.

Wilson’s ideology goes beyond mere “thought experiments” however.  It also has dangerous real-world consequences.

When George Zimmerman was acquitted, Wilson celebrated the verdict.  While noting that Zimmerman may have acted overzealously, he maintained that Zimmerman had not broken the letter of the law.

George Zimmerman, according to Doug Wilson, is not a racist.

Zimmerman’s defense argued that he acted in self-defense against a violent aggressor, that his killing of Martin was justified as an act of self-preservation. (Source)  In praising the success of his defense, Wilson confidently proclaimed that the “rule of law” had been preserved and such a ruling was necessary to maintain an orderly society.

It is interesting, then, that Zimmerman’s defense seemed to defy the preponderance of the known facts.

First, according to audio of Zimmerman’s 911 call, he was racially profiling Martin.

Zimmerman claimed Martin was “suspicious,” “up to no good,” and “on drugs or something.”  Yet, Zimmerman offered no justification for this other than that Martin was a black male wearing a hoodie, had his hands near his waistband, and was “looking at houses.”

He described Martin as an “asshole” complaining “these assholes always get away” – language further indicating a presumed guilt on Martin’s part.  According to prosecutors, Zimmerman also referred to Martin as a “fucking punk” – in the 911 transcript, the word immediately after “fucking” is listed as “inaudible.”

When Trayvon Martin noticed Zimmerman was watching him, he fled.  Zimmerman informed police of this, and was explicitly told not to pursue Martin.

Further, George Zimmerman’s own narrative does not seem to match the facts.  He claimed to have been violently assaulted, receiving more than two dozen blows, which included having his head smashed into the sidewalk repeatedly.  He claimed he had never approached Martin, and that Martin had instead snuck up behind him. He also claimed that during the altercation, Martin tried to grab his gun, at which point he pulled the gun out and shot him point blank in the chest.

Yet, Martin’s friend – who lived in Miami – was on the phone with him mere minutes before his death.  According to her testimony, Martin told her he was being followed, that he had attempted to lose Zimmerman, and that Zimmerman had continued to follow him.  She also said she heard Zimmerman approach Martin, and the two had a brief exchange of words, before Martin’s phone dropped and she heard sounds of a scuffle and calls for help.

Zimmerman’s narrative was also contradicted by DNA evidence.  Prosecutors pointed out that there was no DNA fom George Zimmerman found anywhere on Martin’s hands, including under his fingernails, or on his hoodie.  Nor was there any of Martin’s DNA on Zimmerman’s gun. If the altercation had been nearly as violent as he claimed, there almost certainly would’ve been some of Zimmerman’s blood on Martin’s hands.

Further, there were no injuries on Martin’s hands consistent with such an attack.  Other than slight bruising on two fingers on his left hand – Martin was right-handed – his hands had no bruising or cuts indicating such a struggle with Martin as violent aggressor.

Also, a key expert witness for the prosecution noted that, while Zimmerman sustained injuries in whatever altercation had occurred before he shot Martin, these injuries were nowhere near severe enough to match the events Zimmerman described.

In the end, Zimmerman’s entire purpose for calling the police on and following Trayvon Martin that night was racial prejudice.  Even though the 17-year-old had was simply walking to his father’s house from the local 7-11, Zimmerman made a host of snap judgments based entirely on the fact that Martin was a black teen wearing a hoodie.  In Zimmerman’s mind, this meant he did not belong in the neighborhood and must have been “on drugs” and looking to cause trouble.

It is notable that Wilson doesn’t deny this.  He admits freely that Zimmerman profiled Martin.  He merely doesn’t think there is anything wrong with such prejudice.  Instead, he insists, if Martin had been wearing a shirt and tie, Zimmerman would never have pursued him.  His apparel was enough – in Wilson’s mind – to justify Zimmerman’s actions, which led to Martin’s death.

It doesn’t seem to factor into Wilson’s assessment that, had Zimmerman not racially profiled Trayvon Martin, he would never have died.  Or, had Zimmerman listened to police and not engaged Martin, he never would have died.

Trayvon Martin’s death was entirely avoidable, and only occurred because of George Zimmerman’s unfounded, racist assumptions about Martin’s criminality.

Wilson’s desire seems to be to justify Martin’s slaying.  Never mind that being a black teen in a hoodie carrying a can of iced tea and a pack of Skittles is not a crime. Wilson is convinced that Zimmerman broke no law by ignoring police orders, pursuing Martin, and executing him at point blank range.

If Martin had dressed respectably, instead of like a “thug” he would likely still be alive, by Wilson’s estimation.

Wilson is not concerned with the assassination of a black teen in cold blood.  His only concern is that Zimmerman received “due process” and thus, in his mind, the letter of the law was served.

Thus, According to Wilson, anyone looking to the facts of the case to argue the verdict was unjust is undermining the justice system to participate in a modern day “lynch mob.”

As such, Wilson is explicit that Martin was not a victim.  In Wilson’s mind, calling Trayvon Martin’s death a lynching is an affront to common sense, because Zimmerman was within his rights according to the “letter of the law.”

But, as Rima Vesely-Flad has noted:

Even when the actions of Black people appear nonthreatening, the bodies of Black people are deemed dangerous […] These Black men are killed because their dark skin symbolizes moral and physical danger. Several centuries of discourse on Black bodies as morally polluting entities has resulted in perpetual subjugation and harassment by government officials. The result is the erection of symbolic boundaries between white bodies and Black bodies, between white neighborhoods and Black neighborhoods, between those who are protected by law and those who are violently subjugated to the whims of police officials.[16]

As a neighborhood watchman, George Zimmerman took it upon himself to protect the “purity” of his neighborhood against a “fucking punk” and an ‘asshole” who looked like he was “up to no good” and “on drugs.”  Zimmerman saw a black teen in a hoodie transgressing the boundaries between his community and what he perceived as a threatening and polluting presence.  Thus, Zimmerman took it upon himself to act as an agent of “justice” to maintain said purity.

Thus, in celebrating the so-called “innocence” of George Zimmerman, Wilson demonstrates that in both word and deed he holds black bodies to be dangerous.  He seeks to justify the criminalization of blackness, even when it is attached to the innocence of youth. This is perhaps no clearer than his attempt to divorce Trayvon’s death from the state-sanctioned institution of lynching.

Yet, Wilson’s attempt to juxtapose lynching against the “letter of the law,” reveals only his desire to minimize the history of white terror enacted against the black community in the name of “law and order.”

During the Jim Crow era, lynching was considered a form of entertainment.  It was not a vigilante endeavor carried out by a few “lawless” whites. Instead, it was an intentional form of state-sanctioned racial terror designed to remind the black community who was in power.[17]

In fact, White families would take pictures and have “barbecues” while black men were beaten, castrated, and executed.  Often crowds (which included white childen) of people would gather, taking pictures. It was not uncommon for people to purchase severed portions of the lynched victim’s body as a grotesque memento of the occasion.  White families could even purchase custom postcards of their family posed beside the tortured body of the black victim.[18]

These assassinations were often premeditated, publicly announced in newspapers, and carried out in broad daylight by white terrorists who had no qualms about photographing themselves in the act. Many of these events were attended by thousands of whites. including politicians and prominent public figures. Many of the victims were handed over by law enforcement to their assassins. Due to the failure of hundreds of anti-lynching law to be voted into law, the perpetrators knew they faced virtually no threat of legal protection. (Source)

Instead, even president Theodore Roosevelt claimed that black persons who were lynched deserved the fate, citing dubious claims of criminality against black lynching victims.[19]

Thus, regardless of whether lynching was a de jure form of criminal justice, it was undeniably treated as a de facto institution for maintaining order in a white society.

On the rare occasion members of a lynch mob were brought up on murder charges, they would be found not guilty by a jury of their white peers after receiving “due process” according to the “letter of the law.”  In perhaps the most prominent example of this gross injustice, a fourteen-year-old boy, Emmett Till, was accused of making a sexual advance toward a white woman.[20]

In response, a group of white men dragged him into the street, beat him, shot him, then tied him up and threw him in the river.  When his body was recovered, his mother insisted on an open casket funeral to show the world how truly despicable nature of the institution of lynching.[21]

Eventually, Till’s assassins were arrested and tried.  They were subsequently acquitted of any and all wrongdoing.  They had kidnapped a child for an imaginary offense then murdered him in cold blood, yet, according to a jury of their peers, they had not violated the letter of the law.[22]

As Kelly Brown Douglas notes in her book Stand Your Ground: Black Bodies and the Justice of God, there are undeniable parallels between the murder of Trayvon Martin and the lynching of Emmitt Till.  In her own words:

There are similarities that warrant comparison of the two deadly crimes, including the fact that the perpetrators in both cases were acquitted.  However, the connection between what happened to Emmett and Trayvon goes beyond the surface comparisons.  To stop there, in fact, misses what these murders say about the American social-cultural context.  Both slayings point to the ingrained fear in American collective consciousness of the black male body […] In this regard, the slayings of Emmett and Trayvon are a message writ large for the black community.  It is the same message that spectacle lynching was sending: a free black body is not a safe black body the moment it has intruded into white space.[23]

In justifying the practice of racial profiling in general, and the death of Trayvon Martin specifically, Doug Wilson has consigned this message.

It is ironic, then, that – racial profiling has never been demonstrated to actual curb criminal behavior.  As previously noted, policing tactics predicated on racial profiling – such as stop and frisk – are woefully ineffective at both identifying and predicting criminal behavior.

Even if Wilson’s rhetoric about black “thugs” was even remotely accurate, the data presented above does not support the notion that profiling persons based on such prejudice would produce better policing outcomes or result in less danger to the average white person walking down the street.

Wilsoj preaches reform, but advances the cause of oppression.  In failing to see Martin as a victim, he reveals just how corrupt his theology is.  In refusing to see the connection between racism, lynching, and “the law” Wilson demonstrates just how little he grasps the Gospel of Christ.

To quote James Cone:

What is at stake is the credibility and promise of the Christian gospel and the hope that we may heal the wounds of racial violence that continue to divide our churches and our society […] Until we can see the cross and the lynching tree together, until we can identify Christ with a “recrucified” black body hanging from a lynching tree, there can be no genuine understanding of Christian identity in America, and no deliverance from the brutal legacy of slavery and white supremacy […][24]

The lynching tree—so strikingly similar to the cross on Golgotha— should have a prominent place in American images of Jesus’ death. But it does not. In fact, the lynching tree has no place in American theological reflections about Jesus’ cross or in the proclamation of Christian churches about his Passion. […] [25]

Whites today cannot separate [their theology] from the culture that lynched blacks, unless they confront their history and expose the sin of white supremacy.[26]

That is, by failing to address the correlation between lynching and systemic racism in the Jim Crow South, Wilson is rendered theologically impotent, unable to realize how his own ideology is the racist product of white supremacist ideology.

spenser-h-194650
Photo by Spenser H on Unsplash
  1. Black Violence

Wilson’s attempts to justify the lynching of black bodies by demonizing black persons (especially black men) as violent and debased animals is equally apparent in his rhetoric against the Black Lives Matter movement – whom he portrays as violent terrorists advocating the murder of police.

In similar rhetoric to his celebration of George Zimmerman’s acquittal, Wilson also jumps to the defense of cops who commit summary executions of black persons. He begins by declaring that “Black Lives Matter” is trying to address “past” hate by perpetrating “present” hate.

Rather than own the deeply racist ways in which the institutions of criminal justice in our nation are built on the intimidation, violation, and assault of black persons, Wilson seeks to shift all blame onto the victims.  By placing the “sin” they are looking to address in the “past” he equates their fight for justice and equality with the hatred of racism.

He calls for caution and due process for the killer.  He claims that we shouldn’t be focus on the race of victims, and that doing so is an anti-biblical position.  Jesus, he claims, is colorblind.

He also encourages people to see these as isolated incidents.  If the cop is at fault, the justice system will bear that out and convict them accordingly.  The implication being, since no officer has yet to be convicted, it is unlikely any injustice occurred. In his mind, if there is any racist violence committed by police officers, these are isolated incidents perpetrated by a few bad cops.  It isn’t an issue of systemic oppression.  Sometimes the death of a black person at the hands of an officer is merely the result of “inner-city black thuggery

Instead, Wilson claims, the focus of black protesters on the summary execution of black persons by police officers is motivated not by desires for justice and equal status but by “envy.”  Thus, they are “liars,” excusing the actions of the “most hateful” persons and rejecting the Gospel.

As evidence for this claim, Wilson posits that, if Black Lives Matter really cared about “black lives”, they would focus on curbing the violent black culture of “black criminality” or “black abortion” or “the welts of fatherlessness” in their community. Since – in his rather questionable estimation – they have not properly addressed these things, their only goal is “racial envy.”

According to Wilson, they despise white persons for their skin color and envy the privileges associated with whiteness – privileges which Wilson believes are a good and just gift from God.  Thus, according to Wilson, Black Lives Matter is a hate group every bit as vile as any white supremacist group.

Their so-called “hatred” is driven by “racial animosity.” Because he defines racism only in terms of appearance, Wilson can simultaneously claim to promote “racial unity” in the name of colorblindness, while implying that the true enemies of racial unity are black persons who “envy” white privilege.

Thus, in Wilson’s mind, Black Lives Matter are the true enemy.  They are the “lynch mob” coming to oppress white people and topple American civilization.

The victims are not the black persons executed without charge or trial.  The victims are not the family of the black persons slain.  The victims are not within the black community at all, even as they live in fear of police violence and intimidation.

For Wilson, the victims are the police just trying to preserve law and order.  The victims are those good Christians – such as himself – who value “law and order” and are just trying to correct the errors of black culture and promote “racial unity.”

Thus, in Wilson’s opinion, when riots happen, it is merely further proof of the violent and degenerate nature of black culture.

This culture, Wilson claims, is one which cultivates and celebrates violence.  Whether or not black persons are genetically predisposed to violence, they possess a cultural predisposition because they have abandoned the Gospel of Christ in favor of the lies of “egalitarian” ideology.  Thus, in engaging them, Christians are perfectly justified in considering their propensity for violent crime, among other “black sins,” and “rebuke them sharply.”

That is, rather than wear a shirt and tie and recognize that being black requires that they work twice as hard to receive the same benefits as whites, black men dress like thugs and black mothers allow their children to do “half the work” necessary to achieve respectability within a “civilized” society.  This, Wilson claims, is because the black community has sought to become “privileged” by promoting hatred and blanket condemnation of all white persons.  They have abandoned the “original” promise of “civil rights” that we ought to “judge on the basis of content of character only.”

In his estimation, they see the privileges of their white neighbors and think they are owed the same.  Their goal is not “racial justice and harmony” but the “cause of not having a big enough flat screen.”

As such, they reject the Gospel – which Wilson claims is colorblind – to advance a false narrative in which the cultural advantages afforded white persons are an evil which must be toppled.

In this way, a focus on ending the systems of law which perpetuate oppression is not guided by a desire for reform, but for lawlessness.  The black community has rejected God and devolved into violent criminality.  Wilson claims the “lawlessness” of Black Lives Matter perpetuates black-on-black violence.

The purpose of disruptive protests – some of which eventually become riots – is to cover up the “sins” of black culture.  That is, to hide the purportedly self-destructive culture of violence that has created the true plight of the black community, they carry out their agenda of hatred and resentment to deflect blame on white culture as a diversionary tactic.

This racist narrative, however, does not hold up to critical scrutiny.

First, in citing the “original promise” of civil rights, Wilson is attempting to weaponize a quote from Martin Luther King against the demonstrators of Black Lives Matter.

It is notable, then, to consider Martin Luther King’s warnings to white leaders decrying the riots and violent actions of some Civil Rights activists. In his “The Other America” address, King stated the problem thus:

It’s more difficult today because we are struggling now for genuine equality. It’s much easier to integrate a lunch counter than it is to guarantee a livable income and a good solid job. It’s much easier to guarantee the right to vote than it is to guarantee the right to live in sanitary, decent housing conditions. It is much easier to integrate a public park than it is to make genuine, quality, integrated education a reality. And so today we are struggling for something which says we demand genuine equality.

It’s not merely a struggle against extremist behavior toward Negroes. And I’m convinced that many of the very people who supported us in the struggle in the South are not willing to go all the way now. I came to see this in a very difficult and painful way […]

[I]t is as necessary for me to be as vigorous in condemning the conditions which cause persons to feel that they must engage in riotous activities as it is for me to condemn riots. I think America must see that riots do not develop out of thin air. Certain conditions continue to exist in our society which must be condemned as vigorously as we condemn riots. But in the final analysis, a riot is the language of the unheard. And what is it that America has failed to hear? It has failed to hear that the plight of the Negro poor has worsened over the last few years. It has failed to hear that the promises of freedom and justice have not been met. And it has failed to hear that large segments of white society are more concerned about tranquility and the status quo than about justice, equality, and humanity. And so, in a real sense our nation’s summers of riots are caused by our nation’s winters of delay. And as long as America postpones justice, we stand in the position of having these recurrences of violence and riots over and over again. Social justice and progress are the absolute guarantors of riot prevention.

King may not have approved of riots, but he refused to ignore the cause of the riots. He refused to ignore that the root of the problem was not the black community, but those who continued to enforce and defend the systems of white supremacy.

That is – despite Wilson’s gross misquotation – King’s words make clear that “judging a person by their character” in his estimation doesn’t mean ignoring the skin color of those perpetuating oppression.  In the case of white supremacy, the two remain inextricably linked for King.  His rhetoric was not to ignore the skin color of the oppressor, but to combat persons, ideologies, and systems which use color as pretense for oppression.

Further, we must note that – like Black Lives Matter – King was not opposed to confrontation.  As Simone Sebastian noted, in her 2015 Washington Post article, King’s movement held demonstrations intended to disrupt white institutions, to provoke confrontation with the white establishment and to bring attention to the violence of white oppression against black persons.  King may been non-violent, but his goal was to provoke white persons to violence, to make the white status quo inconvenient and impossible to ignore.

While history will remember King for his words of nonviolence, it is easy to forget that his actions were not seen as non-violent at the time.  In fact, the white establishment accused him of promoting “unrestrained violence on the streets.”

In this way, Wilson’s rhetoric has a strong parallel in the white Christians of King’s era.  That is, Wilson is “more concerned about tranquility and the status quo than about justice, equality, and humanity” for the black community.  Wilson’s fight is to preserve the strictures of white supremacy under guise of “unity” and “colorblindness.”

Drew Hart thoroughly exposes the racism of such rhetoric when he states:

Ironically, dominant society will proclaim colorblindness at one moment and then the next will have no problem calling out “black-on-black violence” instead of just seeing it as human-on-human violence.  When something is considered to be problematic in African American communities, colorblind rhetoric disappears, and blackness is quickly named without reserve. I have never heard anyone talk about the problem of “white-on-white” violence even though, according to statistics, this type of violence at very similar rates as that of [so-called] black-on-black violence.[27]

Hart’s words cut straight to the heart of Wilson’s ideology.  Wilson refers to Black Lives Matter activists as “envious” and “thugs” for using methods of protest which promote confrontation with police – methods designed to show just how violent police are willing to be in the disenfranchisement of black voices.

He demonizes black protesters when, in response to the state-sanctioned institutions of police brutality and lynching, they turn to riot tactics to express their grief and anger over these systemic injustices.

Yet, one would be hard pressed to find Wilson making a similar critique of predominantly white sports fans rioting in celebration of their favorite team’s performance.

Further, while Wilson cites so-called black violence as the result of a supposedly violent and godless culture, he refuses to make the same connections for white violence.  When white supremacist terrorist Dylann Roof walked into a black church and gunned down black churchgoers, including a prominent black politician, Wilson made sure to note that white culture wasn’t to blame.

He further painted the Confederate Flag as a neutral symbol which only carries the ideology attached to it.  The flag, according to Wilson, doesn’t represent a racist ideology, it only symbolizes racism because individual racists – such as Roof – use it to promote violent terror against persons of color.  In this way, Wilson once again intimates his belief that racism is merely an aberration, committing white terror against black persons under the banner of Confederacy is an exception to the rule.

Wilson treats white violence as the act of individuals, which shouldn’t be used to critique or denounce “lawful” institutions as white supremacist.  Even the repeated violence of police is not enough to draw conclusions about police violence against the black community.  Instead, Wilson says, we shouldn’t be quick to see race as a factor in these killings.

In fact, Wilson claims that considering whether race plays a factor in the actions of white terrorists or violent police tactics against specific communities is “root cause” of racism in our society.

Further, even though white persons kill other white persons at nearly the same rate that black persons kill other black persons, Wilson has never once used “white-on-white violence” to claim that white culture is incompatible with the Gospel.

Nor has he critiqued the role of white men in mass shootings.  That is, more than 98% of all mass shootings are committed by men.  And, despite making up only 31% of the US population, white males were the perpetrators in 44 of the 62 mass shootings which occurred between 1982 and 2012.  Further, despite the consistent decline in violent crime as a whole, the US has seen more mass shootings in the past 11 years than occurred in the 24 years between 1982-2006.  Yet Wilson has never once used these incidents to critique the inherent violence and godlessness of white culture.

Yet Wilson does not extend the same charity to the black community.  He instead looks for every reason to indict “black culture” as inferior, and apart from Christ.  He believes that Western (white) Christian ideology is the only way to restore the order of a superior culture.[28]

He thus justifies institutional violence against black persons, while condemning them for protesting these injustices.

That is, rather than recognizing the “rule of law” as upholding inherently unjust policies which oppress, denigrate, and perpetrate violence against the black community, Doug Wilson treats the “law” as a neutral institution necessary to curb and civilize the “chaos” he claims that Black Lives Matter seeks to promote.

This, of course, is a false narrative.  In my exploration of “stop and frisk” policing above, it was shown that police tactics are intentionally targeted at black persons and communities, even when tactics show no actual positive benefit from either a safety or crime prevention perspective.

Equally, his portrayal of Black Lives Matter is pure and malicious farce.

Their involvement in anti-violence initiatives, community building, and close ties to the black church are well documented. Their leadership has stated their purpose explicitly:

None of this is about hatred for white life. It is about acknowledging that the system already treats white lives as if they have more value, as if they are more worthy of protection, safety, education, and a good quality of life than black lives are. This must change.

And:

[W]hite people who continue to mischaracterize the affirmation of the value of black life as being anti-white are suggesting that in order for white lives to matter, black lives cannot.

Wilson’s claims are also undermined by the stark reality that violence in the black community is not about race at all.  The disproportionate violence of disadvantaged communities is related to poverty, a lack of opportunity and resources.  That is, studies have shown that white persons who live in the same impoverished conditions as the average black neighborhood are just as – and often even more – violent.

In the words of Michele Alexander:

I remain deeply disturbed by the national debates surrounding communities of color, as there is little honest discussion about why some communities in this country are thriving while others are considered to be war zones. We remain reluctant to acknowledge the racial dimensions of our policymaking and our politics. We want to imagine that the differences between “good” and “bad” neighborhoods can be explained simply by who lives there. But, of course, the glaring inequities have nothing to do with the DNA of the individuals who reside in ghettoized communities or any natural proclivity to violence. Instead the racial divides that persist — and in some cases are growing — are traceable to a choice we, as a nation, have made.

The choice Alexander speaks of is an unwavering commitment to the preservation of white supremacy, a system built upon backs of broken and slain black bodies.

Given Wilson’s choice to uphold the systems of white supremacy, it makes no difference whatsoever whether Wilson claims to decry all forms of racism.  The proof – as they say – is in the pudding.

The very definition of racism from which he operates is fatally flawed.  By denying systemic racism, he seeks to individualize the concept of racism, allowing him to reverse the role of victim and aggressor.

When examined closely, it becomes clear that, to propagate his vitriolic caricature Wilson must ignore the preponderance of the evidence.  He operates from a narrow definition of race which allows him to promote the disenfranchisement and disempowerment of his black neighbor, all under the guise of “unity” and “the authority of Scripture.” His choice to continue trading in racist myths ensures that the black community is demonized while also ensuring that structural and institutional racism remain standard operating procedure.

Wilson insistence on clinging to the myth of violent blackness function to alienate the black community from the Gospel of Christ, thus enforcing the cultural hegemony of White Christian ideology.

James Cone, in constructing his black theology of liberation, is nothing short of prophetic in his rebuttal of theologies such as Wilson’s:

                [Our] radical rejection of hatred and vengeance does not mean that we accept white people’s analysis of violence and non-violence.  We are well aware that they derive their analysis of these terms from a theological and political interest that supports the status quo, whereas we must analyze them in accordance with our struggle to be free.  We cannot let white rhetoric about nonviolence and Jesus distort our vision of violence committed against black people.  Therefore, one of the tasks of the black ethicist is to untangle the confused and much discussed problem of violence and nonviolence and Jesus’ relationship to both […]

White people have a distorted conception of the meaning of violence.  They like to think of violence as breaking the laws of their society, but that is a narrow and racist understanding of reality.  There is a more deadly form of violence […] white-collar, the violence of Christian murderers and patriot citizens who define right in the terms of whiteness and wrong as blackness.[29]

3. Black Abortion

Doug Wilson does not limit his racism to black men.  Instead, he seeks to weaponize the myth of “black abortion” to demonize black women as being violent, with no regard for innocent human life.  In his thinking, the “evil” of the movement for black lives is exposed by the “racial gap” of the abortion rate in the black community.

In targeting black women, Wilson claims that the abortion rate in the black community is a direct result of “abolitionism” and the “lies” of civil rights ideology.   Wilson thus claims that black lives can’t matter unless they first address a perceived issue regarding abortion.[30]

Wilson has even gone so far as to claim that “black abortion” is a far more grave evil than the institution of enslaving black persons and the Confederate nation built upon it, ever were.

Wilson screenshot_2015-12-28-16-20-43

However, as with his claims about “black-on-black violence” Wilson buries the lede in favor of sensationalist rhetoric.  That is, when one examines the evidence closely, they will realize that the discussion is far more nuanced than Wilson’s rather one-dimensional interpretation.

It is true that black women make up a disproportionate percentage of abortions relative to population numbers.  According to census data, black women made up 12.6% of all women in the US in 2010 (the most recent year for which such data is available), but they accounted for 28% of all abortions in 2014.

However, there are several factors which must be noted.

First, it is notable that the median household income of a black family is $28,000 below that of a white family, meanwhile median wealth of a black household is a mere .05% of the average white household .  A full quarter of all black families have less than five dollars total in savings.[31]

Those numbers are staggering, when one considers what happens when only single black women are accounted for.  That is, studies show that 60% of black children are raised by a single black mother.  These black women have an average net worth of one hundred dollars. [32]

Paul Butler offers this analysis:

[I]n some ways poor white people have better outcomes than wealthier African Americans. A family headed by a white high school dropout has more wealth than a family headed by a black college graduate […] Blacks who make more than $100,000 per year live in more disadvantaged neighborhoods than whites who make $30,000 per year […] [L]ow-income African Americans tend to live in much more economically segregated spaces than low-income whites. They don’t have the same proximity to middle-class people, and the goods and services that attach to them, including better schools. This entrenched poverty greatly constrains educational attainment, upward mobility, and even health.[33]

Thus, it is notable that, when adjusted for income, the “abortion gap” between black women and white women living in poverty narrows considerably.  According to 2008 numbers, among impoverished women, a black woman is only three times as likely as a white woman to have an abortion.  This raises an interesting point, as the number of white women living in poverty according to 2010 census data is 10.4% versus 25.5% of black women.

This is significant, as income – not race – is the single greatest indicator within abortion statistics.  75% of all women who have abortions are classified as either low-income or impoverished.

aps_finals_income

In fact, two of the three most common reasons why women have abortions are related to economic anxieties – the need to provide for other persons and the inability to provide for a new child – and are each cited by 75% of women who have had abortions.

It is further of interest that in 2006, it was estimated that, statistically, a black woman is five times more likely to have an abortion as white woman.  According to 2008 data, white women accounted for 36% of abortions and black women for 30%.  However, by 2014 this disparity seems to have decreased, with white women now comprising 39% of abortions and black women 28%. Meanwhile, the overall abortion rate decreased by nearly a quarter between 2008 and 2014.

All of this is to say, Doug Wilson is engaging in a clever bait and switch.  He knows the average white conservative is considerably more concerned with the issue of abortion than with criminal justice reform.  So, he chooses the issue of abortion to, ever so subtly, portray black persons as incompetent and debased.

That is, Wilson paints abortion as a liberal conspiracy to annihilate black people.  He then declares this racism, and claims that the black community is too deceived to recognize their real enemy.

Wilson even goes so far as to claim that Black Lives Matter is to blame for the rise of the “alt-right.”

His goal here is not to value black lives, but to denigrate them.  His logic is: “If black lives matter so much, then why don’t black people conform to conservative white evangelical norms.”

Vesely-Flad states the problem thus:

Such discursive practices are fully oriented towards preserving the “pure” social center in contrast to polluting forces that are identified as threateningly invasive, akin to weeds that take over a cultivated garden or a virus that threatens to corrupt and kill an individual’s healthy body.  In the context of a social body, polluted elements are constructed as “other” according to geography (such as local neighborhoods and national origin), skin color (identified from historical racial hierarchies), and cultural practices (including linguistic inflection and religious practices).  Thus pervasive stereotypes denigrate the physical bodies, practices, and cultural effects of the members of the “impure” social groups […]

This is inseparable from race, for in practice, the notion of “us” versus “them” depends upon racial hierarchy […] Members who seek to self-identify as “pure” or upright—that is, who seek to be “white”—often reject those who embrace cultural practices that are identified with Blackness, that is, impurity.[34]

This is the task which Wilson undertakes.  He constructs a protected culture of white ideology by denigrating black lives as a threat to the system.  The fight for black liberation is thus “lawless” and “a lie.”  Blackness is depicted as a rejection of basic cultural mores of the so-called “colorblind” Gospel.

In defining racism as racial “vainglory” and racial “animosity” and promotes the rhetoric of “colorblindness,” WIlson ironically makes “blackness” a transgressive category.  He claims that the focus on race within the movement for black lives is tantamount to engaging in racial “vainglory.” And by engaging in “lawless” protests, they likewise engage in so-called “animosity.”

In direct contradiction, Vesely-Flad (quoting Etienne Balibar) expands the definition of racism thus:

It is a racism whose dominant theme is not biological heredity but the insurmountable ability of cultural differences, a racism which, at first sight, does not postulate the superiority of certain groups or peoples in relation to others but “only” the harmfulness of abolishing frontiers, the incompatibility of life-styles and traditions. . . . It is granted from the outset that races do not constitute isolable biological units and that in reality there are no “human races”. It may also be admitted that the behaviour of individuals and their “aptitudes” cannot be explained in terms of their blood or even their genes, but are the result of their belonging to historical “cultures”.[35]

As such, Wilson’s assumption that the value of a black person is measured against their ability to perform to the cultural standards of whiteness – whether the litmus be abortion rate, crime statistics, or some other arbitrary criterion – is racist.  He operates on the assumption that the black community is culturally and morally inferior and promotes the systemic oppression of black persons by defending the status quo of police brutality and lynching.

Perpetuating myths about violent predispositions in black “culture” is every bit as racist as perpetuating myths about such predispositions in black genetics

Thus, I assert without reservation, Doug Wilson is a racist.

doug-in-studio
http://thecafe.canonpress.org/blog/wp-content/uploads/2014/11/Doug-in-studio.jpg

Is Doug Wilson a White Supremacist?

Despite Wilson’s racist bombast, whiteness is not a neutral standard against which blackness is valued. In fact, the assumption that black persons must perform a certain way – be less violent, have fewer abortions, wear different clothes – to prove their worth or worthiness in protesting systemic injustice is a foundational premise of white supremacy.

Frances Lee Ansely defines white supremacy as:

A political, economic and cultural system in which whites overwhelmingly control power and material resources, conscious and unconscious ideas of white superiority and entitlement are widespread, and relations of white dominance and nonwhite subordination are daily reenacted across a broad array of institutions and social settings.[36]

In this way, then, the systems of Racism and White Supremacy go hand in hand in American culture. They are nevertheless distinctive.  To explain the difference, it is helpful to consider the current violence against the Rohingya people.  In virtually every country where they live, the Rohingya are considered an undesirable class.  Because of their ethno-racial and religious identities, they face severe persecution and are currently the target of an ethnic cleansing campaign in Myanmar.

Despite the genocidal violence they have faced in Myanmar, most surrounding countries have refused them aid and asylum.  The reasons for this are legion, but one glaring factor is that many of these countries are invested in the same hateful prejudice which has violently driven so many Rohingya from Myanmar.  This results in further deaths, as the Rohingya are denied basic humanitarian aid.

In every way, the systems which operate to oppress and kill the Rohingya people are racist.  However, they are not white supremacist – these systems do not create and enforce the powers and privileges of a white ruling class.

However, while racism and white supremacy need not be synonymous, it is important to note that, in the ideology of Doug Wilson, they are linked inextricably.

spenser-h-194645
Photo by Spenser H on Unsplash
  1. White privilege

As I stated above, Doug Wilson holds that white privilege is the natural and good gift of God, and the product of Christian influence on Western society.  That is, modern Christianity is – in his opinion – the direct ideological descendant of white European culture.  As such, the favoring of white persons exists not as an injustice, but because white persons have centuries more practice in conforming to ethical moors of Christian culture.

Transversely, Wilson holds that the obstacles faced by the black community are not the result of systemic white supremacy, but of a cultural deficiency which breeds violence and envy in the hearts of black people.

This is perhaps most glaring in the intro to Wilson’s 2005 book Black and Tan.  In Black and Tan, Wilson sought to defend his racist views, specifically in relation to the institution of slavery and what he calls “paleo-confederate” ideology.

In the forward, Wilson’s son – author ND Wilson – sets the agenda for the book by stating:

[T]he curse connected to slavery, the sin of our white fathers against our black fathers, has come back to bless us. It has shaped every aspect of what it means to be American, and is part of why being an American is still worthwhile. The blessings have always been there, for the culture, for the Church, and some of the greatest of white sins have come in the arrogance of trying to reject those blessings […]

Hatred and bitterness has played a major role for many on both sides. But beyond that, in humility and faithfulness, comes the blessing of the God of paradox, the God who raises the dead. A once white country is no longer white, having been broadened and strengthened by the victims of its white fathers. And as for those first slaves: their descendants, while still sometimes held down by their own sins and residual paganism, not to mention the sins of others against them, have been blessed by being part of this culture. This is why a secular approach to racial reconciliation will always be doomed. Throughout our history, God has brought many blessings to the blacks as well, at the center of which was access to the gospel. The tragedy of pagan Africa was more significant than the tragedy of southern slavery.[37]

Here, the Wilsons advance a narrative in which white persons who wish to denounce or reject the privileges that a “Christian” society affords them – blessings that are the direct result of slavery – are sinners.  ND Wilson thus juxtaposes – with his father’s obvious endorsement – the “blessings” (read privileges) afforded whites and those passed down by whites onto black culture.

Namely, in introducing black slaves to the “Gospel,” the black community is actually better off for having been enslaved.  Wilson drives this point home by declaring: “The tragedy of pagan Africa was more significant than the tragedy of southern slavery.”  He sees their descendants as “being held down by residual paganism” but benefiting from the continued advancement of white Christian culture.

In his closing words, ND Wilson pines for an era where the world has benefited as much from “Christian Africa” as it has, to date, from the advancement of Eurocentric (white) Christianity.

This, however, is a racist lie.

  • Despite Wilson’s claims, white theology has never operated for the benefit of the black community. Instead, it has been consistently formulated to justify the enslavement, extermination, and exploitation of black persons.  As such, the notion of conforming to the “Christian culture” of slaveholders as a benefit toward black persons ignores that the Black Church in the United States formed not as a “civilizing” impact of Southern Christianity but as ironic resistance to the brutality of white Christian terror perpetrated against their very being.

As Kelly Brown Douglas notes in her book, The Black Christ, though slaves were often forced to attend religious services, many who converted to Christianity saw the slaveholder’s religion as an illegitimate expression of the Gospel of Christ.

Instead, Christian slaves would hold their own services in secret.  Where the religion of the slaveholder preached their natural inferiority, and required enslavement, the Christianity of the slaves focused on narratives of liberation and solidarity.[38]

To quote Brown Douglas:

If the slaveholder was concerned with whether he or she could own slaves and yet be saved, then the slave was concerned with whether he or she could fight for freedom and yet remain Christian.[39]

According to Brown Douglas, these slaves detested the religion of slaveholders and rejected their vision of a “White Christ.”  They developed their own Christological formulations, their vision of a “Black Christ.”  The “Black Christ” of slaves “(1) reflected an intimate relationship between Jesus and slaves, (2) radicalized the slaves to fight for their freedom, and (3) illuminated the contradiction between Christianity and the cruelty of slavery.”[40]

And, to quote ex-slave Charlie Van Dyke:

Church was what they called it but all that preacher talked about was for us slaves to obey our masters and not lie and steal.  Nothing about Jesus was ever said.[41]

In opposition to the silence of a White Christ for the slave experience, the Black Christ of their theology stood in solidarity with the daily cruelties they experienced at the hands of their masters.  No where did they find this solidarity more than in the story and image of the tortured and crucified Christ.[42]

As James Cone puts it:

Through the blood of slavery, they transcended the limitations of time and space.  Jesus’ time became their time, and they encountered a new historical existence.  Through the experience of being slaves, they encountered the theological significance of Jesus’ death: through the crucifixion, Jesus makes an unqualified identification with the poor and the helpless and takes their pain upon himself.[43]

This focus on the cross also allowed many slaves to preserve certain aspects of their cultural heritage.  In many African religions, a cross was a symbol of connection between life and death.  In these religions, crosses were used to remind adherents of connections between their present life and the history and experiences of their ancestors.[44]

In this way, then, the unique heritage of various African religions gave form to a connection between the plight of slaves and the crucifixion of Christ. The theology formed by Christian slaves was, at its core, uniquely African.

The Christian theology of African slaves formed an ironic subversion of slaveholder morality.  This faith was practiced in secret meetings where “real preaching” occurred.  But it was also practiced in the Spirituals the slaves sung as they worked.  While masters allowed these songs, assuming they marked acceptance of slaveholder religion, the lyrics instead formed a unifying and subversive narrative of hope for deliverance – whether in death or future emancipation.[45]

Immediately after the end of the Civil War and the emancipation of slaves, the short-lived era of Reconstruction began.  Amendments were passed which made slavery illegal and guaranteed former slaves the rights of citizens.  Further, in 1875 a Civil Rights act was passed which made segregation illegal in most instances

However, shortly thereafter, the Supreme Court had upheld several rulings which promoted discrimination against black citizens.  In 1883, SCOTUS ruled the Civil Rights Act unconstitutional.  This opened the way for both de facto and de jure segregation.

Jim Crow became the law of the land, and lynching grew in popularity.  It became a spectator event, with some lynchings drawing crowds in the thousands.  These events were often announced in advance, and attended by politicians and public figures.  The victims were often handed over to the mob by law enforcement.  Many lynchings were carried out in broad daylight on the courthouse steps.

The perpetrators were primarily white Christian southerners, though such lynchings were by no means limited only to the South.

According to the Equal Justice Initiative, between 1877 and 1950, at least 4384 black persons were victim of this form of racially motivated terrorism.  That is, during a period of 73 years, the United States averaged more than one lynching a week.

It is also notable this study is focused only up until 1950. Lynching was still a common practice well into the 1960’s and the last “official” lynching in the U.S. occurred in Mobile, Alabama, in 1981.

These victims were violently tortured, often for hours, before being burned alive and/or hanged for public spectacle.  Lynching became a de facto method for enforcing the de jure racial hierarchy of the American political system (segregation, voter suppression, red lining, etc.).

In the words of James Cone:

The claim that whites had the right to control the black population through lynching […] was grounded in the religious belief that America is a white nation called by God to bear witness to the superiority of “white over black.”[46]

Prominent church historian Philip Schaff, who taught at Union Theological Seminary from 1870-1893 in New York, once claimed: “The Anglo-Saxon and Anglo-American, of all modern races, possess the strongest national character and the one best fitted for world dominion.”[47]

And Cole Blease, who served as governor of South Carolina and later a US Senator during the Jim Crow era, asserted that lynching was “divine right of the Caucasian race to dispose of the offending blackamoor without the benefit of jury.”[48]

That is, white Southern Christianity at every level sought to justify the enslavement of black life.  When slavery ceased to be an option, they continued to enforce the violent systems of Christian white supremacy through the institution of lynching.  Even among Northern whites, such as Schaff, white supremacy was endemic to their expression of Christianity.

Much as their ancestors, the black church during Jim Crow formed their theology as a subversion and critique of theological whiteness.  The black church developed themes of liberation and protest.

Commenting on the role of Martin Luther King, Jr’s theology in the protests of the Civil Rights era, Kelly Brown Douglas claims:

Black identity is inextricably linked to protest resulting from being non-White in a society defined by White racism.  To suggest that protest activity is irrelevant to Christ is to suggest that Blackness is irrelevant to Christ.[49]

She continues this thought by quoting King thus:

I want it to be known that we are a Christian people.  We believe in the Christian religion.  We believe in the teaching of Jesus.  The only weapon we have in our hand this evening is the weapon of protest […] If we are wrong God Almighty is wrong.  If we are wrong Jesus of Nazareth was merely a utopian dreamer and never came down to earth.  If we are wrong justice is a lie.[50]

As Brown Douglas notes, King’s very first public address invoked Christ’s words in Luke 4.  King connected the Gospel of Christ with the liberation of and justice for all black persons.[51]   In contrast to this, she notes that White theology creates “passivity in relation to social injustice […] allows White racism to go unchallenged.”[52]

All of this is to say, the theology of Black Liberation which was birthed among enslaved Africans, carried forward into the ministry of Civil Rights protest, and continues in the theology of the Black Lives Matter movement is entirely incompatible with the theological commitments of their white oppressors.

Southern Whites sought to use Christ to subjugate and enslave black persons; Black theology proclaimed Christ as friend and liberator of the black person from the oppression of White Christianity.

Southern Whites sought to dehumanize, demonize, and extinguish black life; Black theology declared that to lynch a black man was to lynch Christ himself.

  • It is equally absurd to claim white privilege operates to the benefit of black persons. White privilege only ever functions to oppress, disenfranchise, and disempower the black community.

For instance, studies have shown that employers are significantly more likely to call back on an application where the name “sounds white.”  Further, when compared to peers with equal education and qualification, black persons make consistently less money and receive much fewer promotions.  Even more damning, studies show that a white felon has the same economic opportunities – and sometimes better – available to them as a black person with no criminal record.

Also, the average black family has less than five dollars in savings, and has less than 8% of the net worth of an average white family.[53]  Even black families who manage to make a middle-class income end up living in worse neighborhoods than the average impoverished white family. Homeownership is often not an option for black families.

Historically, redlining practices ensure that black families remain in impoverished neighborhoods, then use their location in such neighborhoods to justify denying them mortgage loans.  Whites are given privileged access to homeownership not available to the average black family.

Further, as discussed above, police practices such as “stop and frisk” are aimed specifically at black and minority communities.  Police use aggressive tactics – with no demonstrable impact on crime – to establish a hierarchy based in intimidation of black persons into compliance.  Studies even suggest such practices can increase violent crime, and promote hostility between police and the black community.[54]

Meanwhile, the war on drugs ensures that white persons are prosecuted at much lower rates than persons of color.  In fact, despite being just as likely to engage in drug use, and more likely to engage in drug sales, white persons – who comprise 77% of the US population – make up only 22.8% of all federal drug convictions.

The war on drugs is further one of many factors contributing to the mass incarceration of black persons. Despite comprising only 13% of the US population, black persons make up 34 % of all incarcerated persons.  Black men are five times as likely to be sent to prison as white men, and black women twice as likely as white women.

In all these ways, and so many more, the institutions of our society serve to privilege white persons by disenfranchising and disempowering the black community.  Yet Wilson insists advocates for black equality are merely being envious and malicious by protesting such injustices.

In telling black people they ought to be thankful for the so-called “benefits of white privilege,” Wilson is telling the black community that they ought to “know their place” in our society.

Wilson claims to be so concerned about issues such as “law and order” and abortion; yet, in both cases, studies show that the prevalence of these is directly tied to economic opportunity.  As discussed above, communities lacking in economic opportunity produce the highest crime rates, regardless of the race of those who live there.  In similar fashion, abortion rates rise as economic status declines.

This is the self-perpetuating cycle of white supremacy.  Wilson creates a “biblical” theology which upholds white privilege while promoting systems of racial oppression (e.g. racial profiling, which Wilson has called a “moral necessity”) against his black neighbor.  Then, when these systems produce negative results in black communities, he blames not his own ideology, but the black community for being supposedly unable to meet the standard.

He even goes so far as to tell the black community they can’t claim “Black Lives Matter” until they first perform up to his theological expectations.

In this way, Wilson’s theology ensures that black persons remain in a perpetual “second-class” status of trying to conform to systems of performative whiteness specifically formulated to ensure they never realize the goal.  He wants a paternalist relationship between White Christianity and the black community, a false indebtedness that preserves racial hierarchy.

2. Superior culture

Another white supremacist aspect of Wilson’s claim that the black community is better for having been enslaved, is the false narrative of White Christian exceptionalism it advances.

According to Doug Wilson, the belief that a “superior” culture must collide with a “lesser” culture, and that the “superior” culture must assimilate and subsume the “lesser,” is merely a commitment to the Gospel.  As Wilson puts it, had Christianity moved “south into Africa” rather than “north into Europe” then it would be proper to say that African Christian culture was superior to so-called White culture.  Because his argument is cultural – not based on skin color – Wilson argues he is justified.  There is no racial injustice, merely the path the Gospel has taken through the world.

To support this, Wilson quotes the oft misused Galatians 3:28, “There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.”[55]

Further, he defends his view that White Christian culture is superior by quoting an obscure passage from Titus.[56]  In this passage, the Pauline author states:

They must be silenced, because they are disrupting whole households by teaching things they ought not to teach—and that for the sake of dishonest gain. One of Crete’s own prophets has said it: “Cretans are always liars, evil brutes, lazy gluttons.” This saying is true. Therefore rebuke them sharply, so that they will be sound in the faith…”

Wilson uses this latter quote to justify his demonizing rhetoric against the black community, and especially Black Lives Matter.  He believes that Paul made racially charged comments against the Cretans, so he is justified in making racially offensive comments against black persons.

As he sees it, he is rebuking a culture of “liars” who behave like “brutes” out of the desire for “selfish gain” (read “racial animosity” and “envy”).  He sees his role as a white pastor representing the true Gospel culture as rebuking black persons and calling them to conform to Christian culture – which by the way, he happens to insist is predominantly and ontologically white.

According to Wilson, this isn’t a racist or white supremacist view because black people can join the superior culture, as long as they are willing to abandon their inferior culture and assimilate into “Christian culture.”  Eurocentric Christianity is thus depicted as having a civilizing effect on the black community.

Nothing Wilson has said here holds an ounce of water.

  • It makes absolutely no difference whether Wilson says his supremacist views are about skin color. Using a hypothetical “If the Gospel had gone south…” is nothing more than a red herring.  Doug Wilson is still equating culture with skin color.  The inferior culture is still black, the superior culture is still associated with whiteness.

As noted several times above, shifting focus from skin color to perceived “cultural” inferiority does nothing to mediate the oppression that results from such ideology.

The entire narrative Wilson is trying to sell about Christianity first moving “North into Europe” is utter falsehood.  A bit of historical exploration is in order.

First, it is notable that Jesus himself wasn’t white.  While this is obvious, it must be pointed out that the setting in which Christianity was born was the Ancient Near East, specifically the portion of the Middle East currently known as Israel and Palestine.  Virtually all the earliest Christians were neither white nor European.

The message of Christianity then spread throughout the Roman Empire.  Some of these persons might have had what, today, would be called “white” skin, but most them would not have been white at all.  While there were certainly missionary efforts to the northern portions of Europe, most of the earliest efforts staged out of the ancient city of Jerusalem – where the early church was centered – were in the Southern portions of the modern continent of Europe, Northern Africa, Asia, and the current Middle East.

A look at the missionary journeys of Paul reveal that he never made it farther north than Rome, and most of his efforts were concentrated in cities around the Mediterranean Sea.

pauls_journeys_map1
https://www.conformingtojesus.com/images/webpages/pauls_journeys_map1.jpg

 

Further, we have evidence that the Evangelist Mark – who divided Paul and Barnabas and composed the second Gospel, likely as scribe for Peter -brought the Gospel to Egypt in 61 CE.  By the dawn of the 2nd century CE, Alexandria in Egypt was a prominent center of the Christian faith.

This is important as the Coptic church traces its origins directly back to the patriarchs of Alexandria and the rise of North African Christianity through the ministry of Mark.  Their church, after its split from Rome, developed independently of the Roman church and its later imperial conquests into Africa.

This is also notable because African church leaders were some of the most ardent defenders of Trinitarian thought.  The work of Athanasius, bishop of Alexandria, was crucial in contesting Arian theology and asserting the full divinity of Christ.  Meanwhile, Cyril of Alexandria worked to refute the teachings of Nestorius, thus bringing about a more solidified commitment to Christ’s full humanity in Christian theology.

Augustine of Hippo was also of Africa.  It is impossible to deny that the entire course or Western Christian thought has been guided by an attempt to grapple with and expound upon Augustinian theology.

One could note that some of the oldest churches ever discovered were located not in Europe, but in Syria.  Or that there is ample historical evidence for a thriving ancient church in India, planted by the Apostle Thomas (according to Church tradition). Or that there was a thriving Christian church in Ethiopia by the 4th century CE.

All of which is to say, the notion that Christianity merely moved “north,” thus becoming a superior culture of whiteness is demonstrably false.  The historical evidence against this is myriad.  It is hardly contestable that Christianity has a rich and storied history in Africa and the Middle East long before the rise of Western Christian Imperialism, and its colonization of Africa in the 15th century CE.

Just as importantly, it is a self-serving anachronism to equate the Germanic tribes of Scotland (Wilson’s descendants) with modern concepts of Christian whiteness is inaccurate.

Whiteness is a very recent construct.  It is also an ever evolving one.

For instance, the myth of Anglo-Saxon exceptionalism which drove the white supremacy of early British colonialism, and subsequently birthed American Exceptionalism and Manifest Destiny in the United States, was born in the 16th century, C.E. when English reformers sought to purge their society of “Norman” influence and return to their so-called “Germanic” roots.[57]

Drawing upon the popular caricature of “Germanic” tribes in Tacitus 1st century C.E. work Germania, the British insisted they were the heralds of true liberty and freedom in the world.  As such, they needed to carry forth these beliefs to the rest of the world to bring about society as God intended it.[58]

Within this push for reform, there were those who felt the establishment of the Church of England did not take this cause far enough.  Among these were the Puritans and the Pilgrims, the earliest European settlers of the United States.  These groups viewed their selves as “the Israelites in God’s master plan.” Their goal was to expand the influence of the Church of England, and in doing so, to advance the cause of Anglo-Saxon society.[59]

To be clear, at this point, having so-called “white” skin was not enough to represent superiority.  Both the Anglo-Saxon and the Norman people could rightly be considered white by modern standards. The issue was in the claim to be an “unmixed” race.  The Normans were Vikings who had been Christianized through intermarriage with the French.

The Anglo-Saxons saw themselves as a “pure” and “unmixed” race carrying forth God’s mission to the world.  Thus, the English defended settling, and even “Christianizing” areas of the world with a long and storied history of Christianity long predating the English Empire.  This ideology also drove the expansion of the American Empire across North America.[60]

Thus “Norman” influence in both the church in general, and the young Anglican church specifically, was seen as an offense to the alleged “purity” of the Anglo-Saxon exceptionalist myth because they represented a race of people with “mixed” blood.

Thus, there was a chosen elite even among white people; many groups now considered “white” were treated as second class citizens in the colonial era.

As the Anglo-Saxon identity took root in the broader American psyche, the cause of “personal liberty” which drove such ideology became a rallying cry of revolution.  The British Empire became the enemy of such liberty, and the infant nation of the United States became the torchbearer of the Anglo-Saxon race.[61]

Men such as John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, and Benjamin Franklin all viewed the United States as the “New Israel” and sought to embed such imagery in the very fabric of American society.  As a nation was formed which empowered white male landowners above all, the myth morphed into the nationalist rallying cry of American Exceptionalism.[62]

It must also be noted that this ideology was deeply embedded in the earliest threads of American Puritanism and in the birth of evangelicalism during the Great Awakening.  In fact, popular Puritan evangelist and revivalist Jonathan Edwards believed that the United States was the place where God would establish the “New Heavens and New Earth.”  He instilled in his American audience the notion that they were uniquely chosen and commissioned by God to bring about a new and glorious age of the church.[63]

As this narrative arose, the ideology of Manifest Destiny led white Americans to carry forth their divine mission into the farthest reaches of the North American continent.  They believed the land to be their birthright, that just as the Bible depicted Israel driving out and slaughtering the Canaanites, so the “New Israel” must drive out the “savages” and lay claim to their promised land.  American Exceptionalism became the civil religion of the United States, the grand unifying narrative of whiteness which created a nation.[64]

An excerpt from an essay by Benjamin Franklin is quite enlightening:

Why should Pennsylvania, founded by the English, become a colony of Aliens, who will shortly be so numerous as to Germanize us instead of our Anglifying them, and will never adopt our language or customs, any more than they can acquire our complexion?

Which leads me to add one remark: That the number of purely white people in the world is proportionately small.  All Africa is black or tawny. Asia chiefly tawny. America (exclusive of the new corners) wholly so.  And in Europe, the Spaniards, Italians, French, Russians, and Swedes are generally of what we call a swarthy complexion; as are the Germans also, the Saxons only excepted, who with the English make the principal body of white people on the face of the earth.  I could wish their numbers were increased.  And while we are…scouring our planet, by clearing America of woods, and so making this side of our globe a brighter light to the eyes of inhabitants in Mars or Venus, why should we in the sight of superior beings darken its people?  Why increase the sons of Africa, by planting them in America, where we have so far an opportunity, by excluding all black and tawny, of increasing the lovely white and red?[65]

Franklin makes is clear that his goal is to preserve whiteness as an ethnic identity, to create a “pure” nation explicitly and intentionally built on the superiority of white people.

He also makes clear that “white” at that time was a very narrow category which would have excluded a good number of persons considered “white” today.  That is, Wilson’s narrative of a white, Northern European Christian monolith which has served to civilize and colonize the world for Christ is a myth.

Even 250 years ago, most Europeans were not considered to be “white” enough to qualify under the guise of Anglo-Saxon or American exceptionalism.

In fact, even in the early 1900’s there was concern over the effect a rising immigrant population within the United States would have.  Theodore Roosevelt, for instance, was concerned that allowing non-Anglo European immigrants to intermix with so-called “white” persons would be tantamount to “race suicide.”  Roosevelt believed true white persons had a responsibility to “outbreed” nonwhites.  He referred to the failure to procreate among whites as “willful sterility” and insisted this would be the death of both the Anglo-Saxon race and the nation as a whole. [66]

Eventually, the so-called “immigrant” crisis of the early 1900’s, combined with the emancipation of the slaves after the Civil War and the rise of Jim Crow systems in the South, eventually led to a broadening of the terms for “whiteness.”  This was driven by American Evangelicals.

For these evangelicals, Anglo-Saxon identity and Protestant Christianity were one and the same thing.  The advancement of the Gospel was the advancement of the Anglo-Saxon race.  These Christians thus brought “Anglicizing” to their mission work.[67]

If these immigrants, who were viewed as inferior both in blood and language, could be converted to Anglo-Saxon Christian faith, then they could be made “white as snow.” Thus, as the rise of anti-black governmental systems designed to intimidate, control, and oppress the black community rose to their heights in the early 20th century, the narrative of whiteness expanded to those once denied such status.[68]

As many of the “mixed race” immigrants had light skin, and as national anxiety grew over controlling the recently freed black slaves, the narrative switched from being about Anglo-Saxon blood to having white skin and accepting so-called “Anglo-Saxon” Christian sensibilities.[69]

Thus, the ability to perform whiteness in both appearance and action became the markers of white identity.  White ceased to mean “pure Anglo-Saxon” and was extended to persons of Northern and Western European descent as a juxtaposition to those of African, Asian, and other non-white “races.”

In considering this, it becomes clear that the notion of a unified “Northern European” (white) Christianity advancing as a civilizing force into the pagan reaches of the world is a myth. Christianity has always been a diverse faith with forms as varied as their countries and regions of origin.

That is, from top to bottom, Doug Wilson’s historical construction of the Christian faith is a lie.  His attempt to make Christianity a white European movement, thus erasing the rich plurality of the historical Christian faith is deplorable.

It seems obvious that advancing the lie of a historically monolithic white Christianity to establish a superior culture to which non-white cultures – such as black culture in America – must assimilate is a disgustingly white supremacist ideology.

  • The Gospel as presented in Scripture is not described as erasing and subsuming other cultures into a superior, monolithic “Gospel” culture. An analysis of a handful of Pauline texts will help highlight Wilson’s fundamental misreading of Galatians.

First, it will prove enlightening to consider Paul’s relationship to his opponents in Galatia.  These were Jewish Christians who believed that Christian faith still required strict adherence to the Mosaic law.  As such, these believers asserted – against Paul – that Gentiles (non-Jews) converting to the Christian faith had to go through the same rituals as proselytes to Judaism.

Namely, they sought to force adult Gentile males to undergo circumcision.  In their belief, Christianity was an extension of the Jewish faith, thus Gentiles wishing to become Christian ought to adhere to the strictures of Judaism.

Repeatedly, throughout the Pauline corpus, Paul ardently fights against such notions.  For instance, in Galatians 5, Paul states “For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision counts for anything; the only thing that counts is faith working through love.”  Paul has no issues with Jews circumcised from birth, but he takes affront at attempts to force non-Jewish converts to Christianity to undergo the same.

Paul is explicit, the Jewish law has no salvific power.  In Galatians, he depicts the law as a temporary babysitter (παιδαγωγὸς 3:24) whose mission was completed when Christ proclaimed freedom through the cross.  Those who want to go back to the law, thus attempting to marginalize Gentile believers in the process, are “cutting themselves off” from Christ.

Paul introduces this first in Galatians 2, when he discusses his confrontation with Peter.  Peter had been eating with Gentiles in Antioch, thus setting aside Jewish dietary law.  But, when a delegation from Jerusalem came to visit, Peter went back to eating with Jews exclusively and excluded his Gentile brothers and sisters from the table.

In doing such, Paul states, Peter “stood self-condemned.”  As Paul puts it, Peter embraced hypocrisy and exclusion “for fear of the circumcision faction.”  Paul thus publicly rebuked Peter.

Commenting on this, Paul states: “[I]f I build up again the very things that I once tore down, then I demonstrate that I am a transgressor.”  and continues “if justification comes through the law, then Christ died for nothing.”  (Gal 2: 18,21)

Paul then reminds the Galatian believers that Paul had not brought them a Gospel reliant on circumcision.  He condemns the work of these Jewish Christians, seeking to place undue burden on the Galatian believers.  Again, Paul is explicit, the faith of the Gentile believers is not contingent on conforming to the strictures of Jewish law.

This point is again emphasized when, in Galatians 4, Paul notes that the Gentiles had previously not known the Christian God.  During this time, he states that they had been “enslaved” to false gods.  Paul equates abandoning the Gospel or freedom in Christ to adhere to the customs of “the law” to selling their selves into slavery to “weak and beggarly spirits.”

It is in this framework that Galatians 3 occurs.  Paul argues that all believers are saved through Christ not by the law, but in fulfillment of the covenant God made with Abraham.  In Christ, all believers are coheirs with Christ, according to the covenant God made with Abraham.

So, when Paul says, “There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus.”  he is emphasizing a unity that respects the particularity of individuals.  He notes, Thus, that those who wish to subject them law, “make much of you, but for no good purpose; they want to exclude you, so that you may make much of them.” (4:17)

Paul is directly contradicting those who wish to oppress and assimilate their neighbor into a single, monolithic faith under guise of unity and usefulness.  Unity, Paul notes, must be achieved through the freedom of Gospel.  If in Christ all are coheirs of Abraham, then it is an affront to attempt to treat any brother or sister as a lesser person, to use particularity as an excuse for exclusion.

Paul rebukes those who seek to exclude by noting: “For the whole law is summed up in a single commandment, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ If, however, you bite and devour one another, take care that you are not consumed by one another.”  (5:14-16)

That is, Paul is arguing against the notion that there is a single “Christian culture” to which others ought to assimilate.  Instead, he argues against using differences as excuse to “bite and devour” others.  Instead, Paul calls upon the Galatians to be guided by the Spirit.  He extols them: “Let us not become conceited, competing against one another, envying one another.” (5:26)

It is strange, then, to consider the rhetoric we have seen Wilson use above.  He has encouraged his reader to see black culture as competing with Christian culture.  He has even intimated that, to be Christian, black culture must be assimilated into and subsumed by Christian culture – a culture he considers to be White.

Much like the opponents of Paul, who used a message of “law” to treat Gentiles as inferior, Wilson seeks to portray Black Christians who engage in Black Lives Matter and other forms of activism for racial equality as lawless. In using Galatians 3:28 to uphold this narrative, Wilson has inverted the text in a fashion which promotes “biting and devouring” of black persons.

Wilson is using Galatians to establish a hierarchy of superiority which privileges White Christian Culture.  In defending systems of racial profiling as normal, and even good, Wilson has encouraged white Christians to be conceited and self-absorbed. He encourages them to see their black neighbor not as a coheir, but a competitor.  He promotes strife, then calls it the cause of Gospel unity.

But Wilson has failed to uphold the law Paul preaches, that is, he has failed to love his black neighbor.  As Paul states in Romans 13, love does not seek harm for one’s neighbor, yet time and again Wilson’s racist rhetoric has defended systems and ideologies which do demonstrable harm to the black community.

Further, Wilson has failed the conditions of Christlikeness Paul set forth in Philippians 2.  Here, Paul calls on all believers to: “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.”

Doug Wilson does not act in the interest of his black neighbor.  He does not act in humility, considering them before himself.  Instead, he promotes their oppression while defending a system which will privilege and empower him as a white male.

Since Doug Wilson has time and again failed to promote even a base level of love for his black neighbor, since he has sought to preserve systems of white supremacy, his rhetoric is a failure to embody the Gospel of Christ.

  • Wilson’s misuse of Titus 1:10-12 is even more disturbing. As with Galatians 3, Wilson has taken the contextual meaning and flipped it entirely backwards to justify the denigration of the black community.

Specifically, Wilson uses the Pauline author’s words regarding the Cretan people to justify his own racist and white supremacist rhetoric against groups that fight for racial equality and the intrinsic value of black lives.  His rhetoric is essentially, “Paul used racial epithets, so why can’t I?”

It is important, then, to consider the context in which the seeming invective against the Cretan people occurs in Titus 1.

Leaving aside debates about authorship and date, Titus is fashioned as a letter between the apostle Paul and Titus, one of his companions.  According to Titus 1:5, Paul had – during his missionary journeys – established a church at Crete and left Titus there to oversee the church.

Titus’ mission was to help the local church there establish itself and form local leadership that would continue the work Paul had begun.  Thus, Paul lays out for Titus the qualifications that ought to be found in those who wish to be appointed leaders of the Cretan church.

Paul then addresses a particular unrest within the church.  Specifically, he addresses familiar foes – “those of the circumcision.”  The text seems to indicate that there were Jewish Christians native to Crete (Cretan Jews are mentioned at Pentecost in Acts 2:11) attempting to force the strictures of Jewish law – including circumcision – on their non-Jewish neighbors.

In doing so, these opponents are labeled “rebellious people, idle talkers and deceivers […] teaching for sordid gain what it is not right to teach.” (vv. 10-11) These descriptors are intended as a clear opposite to the requirements for local leaders, which included being truthful and trustworthy, not rebellious, and not “greedy for gain.” (vv. 5-9).  In this way, Paul is saying that these Cretan Jews are unqualified for leadership, they are false teachers and must be silenced.  That is, if a good leader can “preach sound doctrine and refute those who contradict it” (v. 9) then these persons need refutation, that the Christians of Crete might establish a church built on sound doctrine and commitment to community.

It is these specific rebellious believers that Paul chooses to describe in verse 12.  Here, Paul makes an ironic statement.

To understand precisely what Paul is referring to, it is helpful to understand the parallel Paul is drawing with this so-called prophesy.  Most scholars trace the phrase, ““Cretans are always liars, vicious brutes, lazy gluttons.” to Epimenides a well-known Cretan philosopher of the 5th or 6th century BCE.[70]

In its original context, this phrasing was used to refute one of Crete’s most famous claims.  Namely, that Zeus had once been a mere mortal, had died and was buried in Crete, and was only granted divinity after his death.  Crete thus claimed to house the grave of Zeus.[71]

This, according to the religion of Rome, was blasphemy.  And thus, Epimenides labeled his own people with the harshest of terms to refute their perceived lies.

It is notable, then, that in verses 13-16 Paul’s opponents are described as:

  • Not sound in faith
  • Steeped in “Jewish myths”
  • Rejecting the truth
  • Corrupt to their very consciences
  • Denying God by their actions
  • “Detestable, disobedient, unfit for any good work.”

That is, Paul is not saying “all Cretans are actually…” he is saying, “The ideology of my opponents has as much veracity as claiming to house the grave of Zeus.”  Paul is noting that, ironically, those attempting to convert the Cretans to a theology of Jewish stricture have instead themselves been converted to stereotypical Cretans.

Thus, when Paul refers to the “pure” and the “corrupt” in verse 15, he is not juxtaposing Christians with Cretans – as if Christian culture is superior and must overcome, convert, and assimilate Cretan culture.  Instead, he is juxtaposing his message and the freedom of the Gospel with those Christians who seek only to advance their own agenda by exploiting and harming their neighbor.  And Paul’s agenda is clear, he is seeking to bring Christian siblings back into the fold (v. 13).

The conversation is not about superior and inferior cultures, but about what qualifies one for leadership in the church.

It is disturbing, then, that Doug Wilson uses such a passage to uphold his own white supremacist views.  He seeks to preserve his own place of privilege, while twisting Scripture to demonize the black community and promote his own gain.  Rather than listen to and learn from his black Christian siblings – such as those I’ve quoted above – Wilson portrays his vision of Christianity as the true form to which any black person wishing to be deemed “Christian” must conform.

As with Paul’s opponents in Crete, Wilson does this by advancing an ideology which does active harm to his neighbor under guise of “law”.  Just as the opponents of Paul sought to treat their Christian siblings as inferior, and thus build their own platform of privilege Wilson has built his own platform on the denigration of others.

In this way, it seems to me, Wilson has sought to pursue a speck but entirely neglected his own plank (Matt 7:3-5).  That is, rather than allow the text to convict him of his racism, he twists the text to justify his hate and exploit others.

3. Fatherlessness

Earlier, I noted that Doug Wilson uses several false premises to try to discredit the Black Lives Matter movement.  Among these was his claim that the supposed inherent violence of black culture is due to rampant fatherlessness.[72]

Because Wilson is a patriarchalist, he believes that all societies ought to naturally favor rule by men.  Whether that be on governmental, ecclesial, or familial level men are – in Wilson’s mind – more suited to be leaders.

In his book Southern Slavery: As It Was, Wilson argues:

Slavery as it existed in the South was not an adversarial relationship with pervasive racial animosity. Because of its dominantly patriarchal character, it was a relationship based upon mutual affection and confidence. There has never been a multi-racial society which has existed with such mutual intimacy and harmony in the history of the world. The credit for this must go to the predominance of Christianity. The gospel enabled men who were distinct in nearly every way, to live and work together, to be friends and often intimates.[73]

When one combines his critique of “fatherlessness” with this statement, a subtle yet insidious line of logic emerges.

Wilson’s commitment to “Paleo-Confederate” ideology is rooted in a belief that the patriarchal order of the Confederate South represents the most biblical society which ever lived.  In portraying the black community as lacking patriarchs, Wilson establishes a social order in which black men – who are portrayed as violent criminals who abandon their children – as morally and culturally inferior to white men.

The solution to this is for these men to be “rebuked sharply” by the superior culture of white Christianity.

But the reality is, Doug Wilson promotes systems of racial oppression which leave black men unable to be the “patriarchs” he desires them to be.  The most glaring example is Wilson’s insistence on the “moral necessity” of racial profiling.  In doing so, he promotes systems of policing which leave 1 out of every 12 black men between the ages of 25 and 54 incarcerated.

Further, by endorsing white privilege as a moral good, Wilson contributes to the economic depression of black neighborhoods, one of the driving factors of violent crime.

In fact, due to mass incarceration, police shootings, and murder, there are only 83 black men for every one hundred black women.  Comparatively, there are 99 white men for every 100 white women.

It is interesting, then, to discover that (despite these disparities) studies consistently show that black fathers are, across the board, just as involved in their children’s lives as white fathers.  In many categories – such as eating meals with their kids and helping with homework – black fathers actually outperform their white counterparts.  And this holds true whether or not the father lives with their children.

black-fatherhood
https://thoughtcatalog.files.wordpress.com/2014/01/black-fatherhood.png?resize=490,602&quality=95&strip=all&crop=1

 

Wilson’s rhetoric on the supposed failures of black fathers is nothing more than a racist myth intended to perpetuate a racial hierarchy fueled by white Christian patriarchy.

Or, to put that succinctly, Doug Wilson is a white supremacist.

Conclusion

There is no place for racial hatred and supremacist ideology within the Gospel of Christ.

If we truly believe that our treatment of the “least of these” is tantamount to our treatment of Christ, then we must recognize that the crucified God stands in opposition to the sort of white Christianity Doug Wilson espouses.

After all, Paul tells us in 1 Corinthians 13, all the ability to wax theological in the world means absolutely nothing if the ideology promoted does not produce love for one’s neighbor.  Further, in Romans 13 Paul is explicit that love for neighbor – a love which does no harm – is the only true fulfillment of the law.

As such, Doug Wilson’s insistence on promoting ideology which does demonstrable harm to his black neighbor is – by biblical standards – an ironic embrace of “lawlessness.”

Wilson’s hermeneutical commitment to preserving a hierarchical order which leaves black persons in an inferior or subordinate role can hardly be considered consistent with the Gospel of Christ.  It can, however, can be accurately labeled as racist and white supremacist.

 

[1] Paul Butler, Chokehold: Policing Black Men (New York: New Press, 2017) Kindle Edition, locations 111-149, 180-293.

[2] ibid 227-246

[3] ibid 1415-1484

[4] ibid 1526-1585

[5] ibid

[6] ibid 1473-1484

[7] ibid 1556

[8] Ibid 2756

[9] ibid 1566-1575

[10] Ibid 1556-1566

[11] Ibid 1539

[12] Officer Michael Slaeger eventually pled guilty during his federal trial (Source)

[13] For a seminal article outlining all the ways in which this is true, see Brian Stevenson, “A Presumption of Guilt: The Legacy of America’s History or Racial Injustice” Locations 336-871 in Policing the Black Man: Arrest, Prosecution, and Imprisonment, ed. Angela Davis (New York: Pantheon, 2017) Kindle Edition.

[14] Angela Davis, “The Prosecution or Black Men”, Locations 3949-4383 in Policing the Black Man: Arrest, Prosecution, and Imprisonment, ed. Angela Davis (New York: Pantheon, 2017) Kindle Edition, esp. locations 4077-4168.

[15] Butler, Chokehold, loc. 298-794.

[16] Rima Vesely-Flad, Racial Purity and Dangerous Bodie: Moral Pollution, Black Lives, and the Struggle for Justice (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2017) Kindle Edition, locations 117-126.

[17] James Cone, The Cross and the Lynching Tree (Mary Knoll, NY: Orbis, 2011) pp. 7-8

[18] Ibid 9-10

[19] Ibid 8

[20] It was recently revealed that the white woman who accused him was lying.

[21] Cone, Lynching Tree 65-68

[22] Ibid 67-68

[23] Kelly Brown Douglas, Stand Your Ground: Black Bodies and the Justice of God (Maryknoll, NY: Orbis, 2015) pp.121-122.

[24] Cone Lynching Tree xiii-xv

[25] Ibid 30

[26] Ibid 165

[27] Drew Hart, Trouble I’ve Seen: Changing the Way the Church Views Racism (Harrisburg, VA: Herald Press, 2016) p. 100

[28] See the time stamp of 29:43 here for Wilson’s assessment of Christian culture as both white and superior.

[29]James Cone, God of the Oppressed (Maryknoll, NY: Orbis 19997) pp 199-200

[30] Doug Wilson and Steve Wilkins, Southern Slavery: As It Was (Moscow, ID: Canon Press, 1994)

I will be addressing this book in depth in a separate post.

[31] Butler Chokehold 2344

[32] ibid

[33] Ibid 2358

[34] Vesely-Flad Racial Purity 504-514

[35] Ibid 514-524

[36] As quoted in Butler Chokehold 2379-2388

[37] Douglas Wilson, Black and Tan: a Collection of Essays and Excursions on Slavery, Culture War, and Scripture in America (Moscow, ID: Canon Press, 2005) pp viii-ix

[38] Kelly Brown Douglas, The Black Christ (Maryknoll, NY: Orbis, 1994) pp. 18-19 (c.f. Alexander Stephen’s Cornerstone Speech)

[3] Ibid 20

[40] Ibid 20

[41] Ibid 20

[42] Ibid 18-24, 28-30

[43] As quoted in Brown Douglas, Black Christ, p. 22

[44] Ibid 22-23

[45] Ibid 20-28

[46] Cone Cross 7

[47] ibid

[48] ibid

[49] Brown Douglas Black Christ 38

[50] Ibid 43-44

[51] Ibid 44-45

[52] Ibid 38

[53] Butler Chokehold 2344

[54] Ibid 1350-1946

[55] See Here, here, and here.

[56]See Here, here, and here

[57] Kelly Brown Douglas, Stand Your Ground: Black Bodies and the Justice of God (Maryknoll, NY: Or is, 2015) p. 7

[58] Ibid 4-8

[59] Ibid 8-12

[60] Ibid 4-12

[61] ibid

[62] Ibid 13-22

[63] Ibid 13-24

[64] Ibid 92-112

[65] Ibid 17

[66] Ibid 27-30

[67] Ibid 33-34

[68] ibid

[69] ibid

[70] Philip H. Towner, The Letters to Timothy and Titus, NICNT (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2006) Kindle Edition 14017-14029

[71] Ibid 14017-14039

[72] See Here and here

[73] Wilson, Southern Slavery

 

Cover Photo

Photo Credit: Hajran Pambud

Source: https://unsplash.com/photos/U65XCj4JNos

Advertisements

Thanks for taking the time to read and engage. I look forward to your feedback, I welcome any criticism. However, as my goal here is mutualy respectful, beneficial conversation, I only ask that we keep civility in mind with our words. Grace and Peace.

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s