“Mere Christendom”: White Nationalism in the Theology of Doug Wilson

On October 12, 2017, I published “A Theology of Hate.”  In this post, I argued in detail why it is my opinion that Doug Wilson is a racist and white supremacist.  In this post, I will be turning my attention to a related topic: arguing that Doug Wilson is also a white nationalist.

I will establish by considering three intersecting strands:

  1. Wilson’s pro-Confederate apologetic, Southern Slavery: As It Was.
  2. His defense of views held by the League of the South.  
  3. His vision of “Mere Christendom.”

It is my belief that, when the evidence has been weighed, the reader will feel confident in my assessment that Doug Wilson’s theology is rooted in white nationalism.  

What is White Nationalism?

In pursuit of this goal, it is first necessary to establish a working definition of “White Nationalism.”  According to Eric Kaufmann – a political scholar from Birkbeck University in London, specializing in the study of ethnic nationalism – white nationalism is defined as “the belief that national identity should be built around white ethnicity.”  He expands upon this definition by noting that white nationalists believe the government should function to ensure white persons maintain positions of cultural and political dominance within society.

Ryan Lenz of the Southern Poverty Law Center advances a similar definition, noting that a distinction between white supremacy and white nationalism is virtually non-existent.  White supremacy is the belief that white persons are genetically or culturally superior to persons of other “races.” White nationalism is a commitment to the political/cultural enforcement of white supremacy.

These definitions will form the lens around which Wilson’s words are critiqued below.

Southern Slavery: As It Was

In 1996, Doug Wilson and co-author Steve Wilkins published a monograph titled, Southern Slavery: As It Was. 1 Wilkins was, at the time, both a minister in the Presbyterian Church in America and a founding member of The League of the South – a group the Southern Poverty Law Center classifies a white nationalist hate group.

Throughout this text, Wilkins and Wilson claim to present an accurate and unbiased history of the Confederacy.   

Toward this pursuit, Wilson and Wilkins claim the abolition of slavery planted the seeds for everything that plagues our current society.  In their thinking, Southern culture was uniquely Christian and rejecting that culture led the nation to reject Christian moral principles and allowed the government to overstep its constitutional bounds.2

To support this claim, they argue the system of slavery practiced in the South was a largely benign institution, christianized by the godly slave-owners of the South and committed to a “biblical” vision of slavery. 3 While they recognize some abuses, the authors argue that these were isolated instances, an exception and not the rule of the system.  In their view, most slaves were not unhappy with slavery and many, after freedom, wished to go back. They believe the black community even today experiences significant benefits from the institution of slavery.

This culminates in the claim:

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. This happened to such an extent that moderns indoctrinated on “civil rights” propaganda would be thunderstruck to know the half of it.4 

This, they insist, is a thoroughly Christian view that simply speaks the truth while rejecting all forms of “race-based hatred.”5

It is interesting to note, then, just how many blatant lies these self-appointed defenders of truth rely on.  

Consider the following:

  1. Wilson and Wilkins are quite clear that it is the slave-holders and their descendants (read White Southern Neo/Paleo-Confederates) – not the slaves and their descendants – who get to control the narrative.  According to the two, this is necessary because the purported lies of abolitionism have led to far more deaths from abortion than slavery ever produced.6

In doing this, they assume a position of hierarchy, painting the black community as needing white persons (such as themselves) to promote their good.  In their rhetoric, the black community is simply too deceived by the false narratives of the Civil Rights movement to see the truth: slavery was good for them, it introduced them to the so-called civilizing influence of white Christianity.7

In every way, this is a paternalistic approach that infantilizes black persons.  It presents their voices and narratives as untrustworthy because they are either liars or deceived.  For Wilson and Wilkins, racial harmony and reconciliation are rooted in a return to the patriarchal Christian principles which supposedly permeated the Confederate South – principles which, of course, privilege and empower white men above all else.

It is enlightening, then, to consider the definition of “White American Theology” put forward by James Cone in his seminal text, God of the Oppressed:

Because white theologians live in a society that is racist, the oppression of black people does not occupy an important item on their theological agenda […] It is theologically much more comfortable to write essays and books about the authenticity or non-authenticity of this or that word of Jesus than it is to hear his Word of liberation, calling the humiliated into existence for freedom.  To hear Jesus’ Word of liberation requires radical decision […] a decision that defines theology as a weapon in the struggle of the little ones for liberation[…] [I]t is obvious that because white theologians were not enslaved and lynched and are not ghettoized because of color, they do not think that color is an important point of departure for theological discourse. 8

He continues this line of argument, stating:

While divine reconciliation, for oppressed black, is connected with the joy of liberation from the controlling power of white people, for whites divine reconciliation is connected with God’s wrathful destruction of white values.  Everything that white oppressors hold dear is now placed under the judgment of Jesus’ cross. This is a difficult pill for the white theologians and church people to swallow, because they have so much invested in the status quo […] But God’s will to liberate the little ones and bring them “home to glory” will not be defeated by white piety of rhetoric.  9

In advancing the lies of Confederate ideology as a true expression of Christianity to be imitated, and the inherently white patriarchal culture of the Confederate South as a uniquely Christian society toward which to strive, Wilson and Wilkins knowingly and intentionally promote a hierarchical society in which white persons occupy a place a privilege. Such theology perpetuates the oppression of black persons and establishes white supremacy as the status quo of the Christian society.  

  1. Wilkins and Wilson’s claim that the driving catalyst behind the Civil War wasn’t slavery.  

While the broad scholarly consensus on this ought to be enough to draw a conclusion,10  the reality is that Wilson and Wilkins prefer to float conspiracy theories in which the “abolitionist” establishment promotes a false narrative to silence and oppress the immense good of the Confederate cause.  In their view, the Confederate cause was rooted in the preservation of biblical truth and true democracy. Accordingly, if the biblical roots of the Confederacy had been permitted to blossom, slavery would have phased out naturally.

Further, according to the authors, the Confederates states were against slavery and simply committed to an incrementalist approach to ending it.  To support this, they point out that Virginia outlawed the importation of foreign slaves into Virginia in 1778. They also note that Georgia was the first state to forbid the importation of slaves within its constitution.  They then round this out by claiming that Article 1, Section 9 of the Confederate Constitution “outlawed the [international] slave trade.”11 

All of this is demonstrably false.  

First, it takes no serious effort to debunk the notion that states such as Virginia and Georgia were taking an incrementalist approach to ending the slave trade.  As the Library of Virginia has noted, “Although the legal importing of slaves ‘by land or sea’ may have stopped in 1778, the institution of slavery thrived in Virginia.”  Further, census data shows that between 1790 and 1860, Virginia remained the largest slaveholding state.  In those seventy years, the number of slaves in Virginia increased from 292,627 to 490,865.  

Similarly, though Georgia outlawed participation in the international trade of African slaves in 1789, it’s slave population grew from 29,264 in 1790 to 462,198 in 1860 (second only to Virginia).  Further, by 1800, Georgia had reinstituted the international slave trade and, along with South Carolina, had introduced nearly 100,000 more Africans into slavery by 1808.

Further, it must be noted that these moves reflected broader moves within the United States as a whole.  As a nation, persons in both Northern and Southern states’ views of the transatlantic slave trade shifted dramatically.  In fact, the institution was so unpopular that, in 1794, Congress passed a statute that prohibited any U.S. port or any U.S. built ship from participating in the trade of African slaves.  Further, this law required foreign ships wishing access to U.S. ports to provide assurances that they had not participated in the transportation of slaves over the past nine months, nor would they for the next nine months.

By 1820, the act of transporting slaves from Africa to the United States was equated with piracy and punishable by death.  Sources suggest that fewer than 10,000 slaves were introduced by the transatlantic slave trade into the United States after 1820.

That is, by 1820, the international trade of slaves into the United States was reduced and nearly eliminated.  It would, however, be pure farce to suggest outlawing the international slave trade meant that the United States had condemned the institution of slavery.  In fact, the only reason they could make such moves is that, by 1810, there were already over 1,000,000 Africans enslaved in the U.S.  This allowed the transatlantic trade to be supplanted by a burgeoning domestic trade, especially in the South.

This trade was so successful that, by the dawn of the Civil War, there were nearly 4,000,000 slaves in the United States. 

It seems Wilson and Wilkins are attempting a clever bait and switch.  They are praising the South for opposing the transatlantic slave trade during an era in which it was statistically irrelevant to the larger system of slavery in the United States.  

Further, while the Constitution of the Confederate States of America outlawed the transatlantic slave trade in their constitution, the reality is Article 1, Section 9 of the Constitution of the Confederate States of America expressly supported the domestic slave trade.  Their entire government and economy were based on the preservation and perpetuation of the domestic slave trade within their nation.

Nowhere is this clearer than in the “Cornerstone Speech”, delivered in March 1861, by Confederate Vice President Alexander   Stephens. In this speech, Stephens lays out – in no uncertain terms – the ideology upon which the Confederacy was to be founded.  A few excerpts are particularly enlightening.

The new constitution has put at rest, forever, all the agitating questions relating to our peculiar institution African slavery as it exists amongst us the proper status of the negro in our form of civilization. This was the immediate cause of the late rupture and present revolution. Jefferson in his forecast, had anticipated this, as the “rock upon which the old Union would split.” He was right […] The prevailing ideas entertained by him and most of the leading statesmen at the time of the formation of the old constitution, were that the enslavement of the African was in violation of the laws of nature; that it was wrong in principle, socially, morally, and politically. It was an evil they knew not well how to deal with, but the general opinion of the men of that day was that, somehow or other in the order of Providence, the institution would be evanescent and pass away […] Those ideas, however, were fundamentally wrong. They rested upon the assumption of the equality of races. This was an error. It was a sandy foundation, and the government built upon it fell when the “storm came and the wind blew.”

Our new government is founded upon exactly the opposite idea; its foundations are laid, its cornerstone rests, upon the great truth that the negro is not equal to the white man; that slavery subordination to the superior race is his natural and normal condition. This, our new government, is the first, in the history of the world, based upon this great physical, philosophical, and moral truth…12 

Stephens is very specific that the principle catalyst of the Civil War was conflict over whether slavery was a moral institution.  In fact, the South was so committed to the cause of slavery that they believed that both science and Scripture were on their side in declaring the racial superiority of whiteness.

Further, Stephens declared that there was no debate to be had.  White racial supremacy was to be advanced as a universal truth, a central tenet of all “civilized” nations.  The Confederate constitution was designed specifically to establish and promote the permanent and unrelenting enslavement of black persons.

In ironic contradiction of Wilkins and Wilson’s claim that Confederate Christianity, seen out to its logical end, would have resulted in the end of slavery, Stephens is quite explicit in his belief that treating slavery as a temporary institution is opposed to the truth of Scripture.  

Stephens further argued that the “benefit” of life as chattel comes through masters using Scripture “[…] teaching [slaves] the lesson taught to Adam, that ‘in the sweat of his brow he should eat his bread,’ and teaching them to work, and feed, and clothe themselves.”

Stephens even claimed slavery is the “stone which was rejected by the first builders [which] ‘is become the chief of the corner’ the real ‘corner-stone’ in our new edifice,” a direct quotation of Matthew 21:24, where Jesus describes himself in the exact same phrasing, borrowing from Psalms 118. 

The very foundations of Confederate ideology viewed Africans as born for subjugation.  They based their entire national government around maintaining, defending, and perpetuating the institution of slavery as a permanent and inviolable institution.

With these established facts in mind, the question must be asked:

Why would Wilson and Wilkins attempt to advance demonstrably false narratives? 

It seems they are either entirely inept or deeply invested in protecting a Christian ethic based in white hegemony.

  1. Wilson and Wilkins claim that the institution of slavery greatly benefited the slaves, and has had a continuing positive role in the lives of their descendants within the black community.

First, they pose the preposterous question, had slavery really been as bad as the “abolitionists” claim, “why were there not hundreds of slave rebellions?”13 

This challenge is met easily because there were literally hundreds of slave rebellions

In fact, in 1943 – nearly fifty years before Southern Slavery: As It Was was published – historian Herbert Aptheker published his groundbreaking work American Negro Slave Revolts.  In this work, Aptheker stated that he had found conclusive evidence of nearly 250 slave revolts.

Given Wilson and Wilkins self-proclaimed role as purveyors of indisputable truths, I find it hard to believe they are so utterly incompetent as to be unaware of this work. Instead, I argue, given the fact that this was a highly plagiarized work (see below), they intentionally trade in blatant falsehood. They obfuscate the facts in hopes no one will actually check their claims against the wealth of available data.  

Further, they attempt to support their work by appeal to the narratives collected within the Federal Writers’ Project’s expansive work Slave Narratives.  Comprised of multiple volumes, this project contains over 2300 first-person narratives from former slaves collected between 1936 and 1938.

In defense of their bigotry, Wilson and Wilkins note that the collected narratives of these former slaves seem to be overwhelmingly positive about the experiences of slaves. Some even expressed a desire to return to slavery, stating it was a far better condition than what black persons faced during the Depression Era in which the narratives were compiled.14 

They claim that historians and sociologists, attempting to mask the truly benign nature of most forms of Southern slavery, have ignored these narratives to promote vicious lies about the South.15 

As with their claim about slave revolts, the logic becomes glaringly self-defeating under careful examination.

Slavery was abolished in the United States in 1865, nearly 70 years before anyone began collecting the narratives of former slaves.  As such, a clear majority of the persons interviewed were but children when they were enslaved. Even a person who was 20 years old in 1865 would have been at least 90, depending on when they were interviewed.

These were often deeply impoverished persons who were raised within the South in an era where speaking ill of a white person or even looking “suspiciously” in their direction, was considered grounds for a lynching.  The entire system of government in the US, and especially in the South, was predicated on a social order which subjugated and persecuted the black community through fear and intimidation.

In this era, black persons were quite accustomed to telling white people what they wanted to hear to prevent any potential backlash or to gain favors.

It is notable, then, that the vast majority of the interviewers for this project were white. The Library of Congress has noted that “it is apparent that some informants, mistaking the interviewer for a government representative who might somehow assist them in their economic plight, replied to questions with flattery and calculated exaggeration in an effort to curry the interviewer’s favor.” 

They also noteMost of the interviewers were amateurs, inexperienced and unsophisticated in the use of interview techniques. Most expressed little concern about the problems of distortion inherent in the interview process and were insensitive to the nuances of interview procedure.”  As a whole, the level of positivity shown toward the institution of slavery was directly affected by the race of the interviewer.  

This is further significant, as it has been shown that many of the interviewers were the descendants of slave owners.  Some were even chosen to interview persons their own family had formerly held as a slave. Also significant, is that several of the chosen interviewers were members of the United Daughters of the Confederacy – a group invested in presenting a whitewashed view of the Confederacy and preserving Confederate ideology.

Not to mention, even with a large number of ex-slaves interviewed, they totaled less than 2% of all ex-slaves living in the US when the interviews were conducted.

As the Library of Congress has noted, these narratives have been the source of a great deal of scholarly analysis since the 1970s, when they were first mass-produced.  There has been no dearth of work devoted to them, and the consensus among scholars has been that they are valuable in many respects, but they are not an accurate representation of the experience of slaves.

Many scholars have noted that the white editors of the project often distrusted the work of the few black interviewers.  When one black interviewer described a horrific incidence of violence against a young slave child, the white editor chose to go to the house and re-conduct the interview.  And, even after the story was confirmed, she continued to malign both the person who gave the report and the black interviewer to her superiors. Because of her work, it was eventually required that the work of black interviewers be subject to confirmation by white peers.

Lastly, there is significant criticism from scholars on how the interviewees were chosen. As the Library of Congress has noted: 

There appears to have been little concern in the Writers’ Project for systematic sampling procedures or for obtaining a representative sample of the former slaves, since the problem is nowhere mentioned in the project’s extensive correspondence. The skew of the sample can be seen simply in the following figures: while blacks over eighty-five years of age lived primarily in rural areas in the 1930s, those whose accounts are found in the collection were overwhelmingly urban residents. Apparently, the primary basis for selection was availability; those in closest proximity to the cities in which the Federal Writers were based were most likely to be interviewed. 

All of which is to say, Wilson and Wilkins presentation of these narratives is grossly exaggerated.  Their claim that scholars willfully omit them out of malice is pure farce. The reality is that these documents are considered valuable, but flawed.  

They represent a poor methodology, and those wishing to use them must consider how they are a direct product of their own historical era.  They are but one set of data among a myriad of other data points. To treat them as THE definitive source for understanding the experience of the average slaves demonstrates just how unqualified Wilson and Wilkins are on the subject matter.

Even in the best possible light, their commitment to the lies of white supremacy has blinded them to their blatant use of confirmation bias. 

  1. Wilson and Wilkins plagiarized the work of other scholars.

Gross factual error was not the only issue with Wilkins and Wilson’s work.  In 2004, it was also revealed that the monograph contained a significant amount of plagiarized content.16   In the wake of these revelations, the book was pulled from shelves and Steve Wilkins assumed full blame.17  Wilkins claimed that he had forgotten to properly cite his study notes – which apparently featured at least twenty-two nearly verbatim quotations (some of them lengthy) from a single book.

These revelations did not prevent Wilson from offering Wilkins a glowing endorsement as “one of the most honorable and conscientious Christian gentlemen I have ever met, and it is a great privilege to be his friend […]”

One wonders:

How do you conscientiously plagiarize twenty-two separate quotes from the same book within a monograph that only comprises 22 pages (with endnotes!) In PDF format?18

5. Wilson and Wilkins paint abolitionism as equal to racism,19 calling it “bigotry against the South”20 because “the Bible prohibits us from saying that slave-owning in such contexts is sin.”21

Wilson and Wilkins insist a person can condemn specific abuses of the transatlantic slave trade but must admit that owning slaves was both biblically permissible and ethical.22  They even claim that slavery worked to the great benefit of those enslaved.23

According to their interpretation, one cannot claim to practice a biblical ethic and condemn slavery as inherently evil.  In their own words: “Our humanistic and democratic culture regards slavery in itself as a monstrous evil, and it acts as though this were self-evidently true. The Bible permits Christians to own slaves, provided they are treated well. You are a Christian. Whom do you believe?”24 

In their minds, those who oppose them are “indoctrinated on ‘civil rights’ propaganda.”25 If it is biblically justifiable, then by their hermeneutic it is entirely consistent with the Christian ethic.

Quite glaringly, Wilson and Wilkins argument fails to make the distinction between “biblical” and “moral.” There are a great many things depicted within the Bible which neither Wilson nor Wilkins would condone. The most notable of which is the permissibility of polygynous marriage within the biblical narrative. 

In fact, in 2 Samuel 12, we encounter a biblical passage that explicitly states that God at least sometimes gives a man multiple wives as a sign of blessing. In this passage, the prophet Nathan is confronting David following his rape of Bathsheba.26

Having condemned David’s violence via an elaborate parable, Nathan takes a more direct tact. In verse 7, Nathan begins, “You are the man! Thus says the Lord, the God of Israel: I anointed you king over Israel, and I rescued you from the hand of Saul; I gave you your master’s house, and your master’s wives into your bosom, and gave you the house of Israel and of Judah; and if that had been too little, I would have added as much more. Why have you despised the word of the Lord, to do what is evil in his sight?” (vv. 7-9, NRSV)

This text ought to give a literalist like Wilson, pause, then, in declaring that “God’s pattern is clearly monogamy, and so polygamous unions are substandard unions.” and that “Polygamy violates the creation order.” 

The glaring problem being, if God’s design for all people is purely monogamous, why did God intentionally “bless” David with multiple wives. It is impossible to draw from this text that God merely allowed David polygyny as a cultural concession. This text presents the direct word of God referring to polygyny – at least in some instances – as divinely ordained. And further, states that God would willingly and without reservation would have granted even more wives to David if he had only asked for such.

Which is to say, that not even Doug Wilson in all his literalist swagger actually thinks that being able to twist scripture to endorse one’s position is the same thing as presenting an actual moral argument for that thing. Yet, the literalist hermeneutic set out in Southern Slavery: As it Was requires that anything explicitly endorsed by Scripture is completely consistent with the Christian ethic.

To describe polygyny as “substandard” and say it “violates the creation order” is to deny the so-called plain reading of the text.

Having established the absurdity of the literalist position, it is thus important to ask whether it is possible – contra Wilson – to form a biblically-based argument against slavery in all its forms.

In this vein, it is important to consider the ways in which slavery has had a lasting, measurable traumatic impact on the Black community.  

Scientists have noted that the intergenerational trauma of slavery has been passed down through the black community both psychologically and physically.  In the latter example, scientists have shown that the intergenerational effects of trauma literally alter the DNA of traumatized groups for several generations.

As such, scientists argue that the trauma of slavery combined with the continued racial violence of Jim Crow has produced a traceable negative impact evident in both black individuals and the black community today.

While Wilson and Wilkins might be willing to accept these traumas, claiming the supposed salvation of black souls through the “civilizing” effects of slavery as a greater good, they would be hard-pressed to find support for this in the sacred texts of Christianity.27  Instead, the text consistently argues that causing physical harm to one’s neighbor is a sin against God.

For example, in James’ epistle the author argues:

What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if you say you have faith but do not have works? Can faith save you? If a brother or sister is naked and lacks daily food, and one of you says to them, “Go in peace; keep warm and eat your fill,” and yet you do not supply their bodily needs, what is the good of that? So faith by itself, if it has no works, is dead.

But someone will say, “You have faith and I have works.” Show me your faith apart from your works, and I by my works will show you my faith. You believe that God is one; you do well. Even the demons believe—and shudder […] For just as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is also dead. (2:14-19, 26)

That is, James argues that claiming to offer a person spiritual benefit while participating in or perpetuating their physical suffering is a failure to practice a coherently Christian ethic.

The apostle Paul appears to share this belief in his excursus on neighborly love in Romans 13:8-10.  Here Paul states that no person can claim to fulfill the law of God unless they have first practiced love for their neighbor.  In fact, the entirety of the law is fulfilled in this love, a love which “does no wrong to a neighbor.” (v. 10)

Paul further expands upon this notion in 1 Corinthians 13, when he notes: 

If I speak in the tongues of mortals and of angels, but do not have love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give away all my possessions, and if I hand over my body so that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing. (vv. 1-3)

In seeking to idealize the white nationalist theology of the Confederate South, Wilson and Wilkins must first dismiss both the historical trauma of black slaves and the intergenerational trauma carried forth into the black community through Southern slavery, Jim Crow, and still seen in state-sanctioned police violence today.

Their entire premise is predicated on erasure, which Danielle Moodie-Mills describes as the tendency of white patriarchal ideologues to assume black bodies are of no worth, no value except for how they can be used for the perpetuation of white dominance.”

Wilson and Wilkin’s argument serves no other function than to uphold both a cultural and political environment of white theological supremacy within the church.  They present White Christians as the patron, Black Christians as clients dependant upon white Christianity to discover their true worth in Christ.28

They present an intrinsically White form of Christianity as the solution to the evils they perceive within American society.

As such, I argue their promotion of a theological system that establishes and perpetuates white theological, political, and cultural hegemony is nothing more than a thinly veiled expression of white nationalism.

Screenshot 2019-12-09 at 2.33.13 PM
Hergesheimer, E. Map showing the distribution of the slave population of the southern states of the United StatesCompiled from the census of. Washington Henry S. Graham, 1861. Map. https://www.loc.gov/item/99447026/

League of the South

This claim comes into sharp focus when one digs deeper into Wilson’s ties to and views on The League of the South.

The League of the South is identified by the Southern Poverty Law Center as a Neo-Confederate, white nationalist hate group.  This has not stopped Doug Wilson, however, from declaring them a Christian organization.  In fact, in an official email sent out by Wilson to the members of his church, Wilson addressed specific accusations regarding their racist views.

In this email, dated January 16, 2004, Wilson states two things unequivocally:

  1. He views League of the South as an explicitly Christian organization.
  2. He does not believe them to be racist.

Wilson then goes on to offer his “mild” support for LOS by stating that he agrees with them on the problem, but not the solution.  According to Wilson, LOS is focused on political and cultural solutions, while he is focused on advancing his cause through the “reformation of liturgy and doctrine in the evangelical church nationwide.”  Further, Wilson states that he considers the League’s political action to be no more nefarious than Focus on the Family’s work to get prayer into public schools.

As Wilson sees it, LOS fights for “traditional culture” which includes, of course, opposition to LGBTQ+ rights and “abortion culture.”  In his estimation, the cause of the League of the South is noble and praiseworthy, but because of flawed (though not sinful) methods, it ultimately will not succeed.

It is pertinent, then, to establish what, precisely, the League of the South believes.  

The explicit goal of the League is the renewal of, in their own words, “general European [read: white] cultural hegemony.”  This goal is centered in a firm commitment to ethnocentrism. In the words of League president Michael Hill (who has been president since its inception in 1994):

If the scenario of the South (and the rest of America) being overrun by hordes of non-white immigrants does not appeal to you, then how is this disaster to be averted? By the people who oppose it rising up against their traitorous elite masters and their misanthropic rule. But to do this we must first rid ourselves of the fear of being called ‘racists’ and the other meaningless epithets they use against us. What is really meant by the [anti-racist] advocates when they peg us as ‘racists’ is that we adhere to ethnocentrism, which is a natural affection for one’s own kind. This is both healthy and Biblical. I am not ashamed to say that I prefer my own kind and my own culture. Others can have theirs; I have mine. No group can survive for long if its members do not prefer their own over others.

In advancing this cause, they show a clear animosity toward other “cultures.”  In this way, they seek to avoid the charge of racism, asserting their position to be color blind.  In their rhetoric, racism is specifically about skin color – about genetic makeup manifested in physical features.  So, in their minds, they are not racist because their preference is not for persons with white skin, but the preservation of persons of a specific shared culture – which just so happens to be all white people.

As they see it, their cause is benevolent.  They see European Culture as distinctly Christian, advancing the ideology that Christianity has always been a largely European (thus white) movement and the “general European cultural hegemony” has led to the supposed oppression of white persons.

As such, they believe white persons are superior because white culture is the great, Christianizing force that seeks to protect the sanctity of the family and the proper order of human life.

It is my hope that any person reading this can see how deeply racist such ideology is, but in case it is not apparent, I offer the following analysis.

In the introduction to her book of essays on Critical Race theory, Kimberlé Crenshaw – a renowned law professor and black feminist, noted for her coining of the concept of intersectionality – notes how neoliberalism promotes racist ideology by reducing racism to an individualist ideology.  In her own words: 

Racial justice was embraced […] in terms that excluded radical or fundamental challenges to status quo institutional practices in American society by treating the exercise of racial power as rare and aberrational rather than as systemic and ingrained […] [Racism is] restrictively conceived as an intentional, albeit irrational, deviation by a conscious wrongdoer from otherwise neutral, rational, and just ways of distributing jobs, power, prestige, and wealth.29

Crenshaw states explicitly that distribution of power which leaves black persons in a subservient or inferior state is systemically racist.  Even if one advances such a narrative in the name of neutrality and rationality, it still leads to oppression.30  

Crenshaw goes on to note that it is common racist rhetoric to reduce racism to “race-consciousness,” by which she means a narrow focus on the so-called biological traits of race.  In such an ideology, the antithesis of racism is not equality but “colorblindness.” This allows one to make racism a two-way street (e.g. claiming that black scholars who associate “whiteness” with oppression are racist).31  

But the reality is that racism can never function from the bottom up.  As Michelle Alexander notes in her seminal text, The New Jim Crow, racism is always a system that favors power.  It is a system designed to maintain a status quo by using a multi-faceted approach to enforce inequality and prevent marginalized racial minorities from overcoming the disadvantages placed upon them.32  

According to the definitions put forward by Crenshaw and Alexander, it matters not one iota whether League of the South claims to hate black persons because of their skin color.  The presumed cultural superiority and neutrality of whiteness, coupled with the stated intent to keep persons of color in a permanent state of hierarchical subordination is racist.

Using such a system to elevate white persons to a privileged place of hierarchical superiority is white supremacy.

Arguing that the only way society can be truly Christian is if white Christian culture rises to the level of national governance is white Christian nationalism.

As such, it must be noted that, if Doug Wilson agrees with the content of League of the South’s beliefs – regardless of whether he agrees with their methods – then Doug Wilson is a racist, white supremacist, and white nationalist.  

 

austin-edwards-xm5Hy4hvwMI-unsplash.jpg
Photo by Austin Edwards on Unsplash

 

Mere Christendom

All of this, Wilson advances under the auspices of “Paleo-Confederate” ideology.  That is, Wilson believes that his own faith must be informed by the good Christian principles of the Confederate way of life.

This, for Wilson, does not mean a secessionist approach – such as that taken by League of the South.  Instead, he wishes to see the current “coercive” state replaced by a form of government which centers Christ (according to his own theological understanding).

He is explicit, he does not seek to do this by assuming coercive control over the current governmental system.  But he does wish to supplant the public school system with privatized schools, and believes his Classical Christian Education system – which advances his own views of race – would be ideal for properly educating all children. He wishes to engage the culture wars by indoctrinating children into his ideology, with the intended purpose of equipping them to reshape culture according to his vision.

In Wilson’s ideal society, all persons would have personal liberty to think and worship as they please, but the official order of society would favor and privilege Christianity.  For instance, Muslims would be free to do anything they please as free citizens, as long as they accepted that “What they could not do is argue that minarets have the same rights of public expression that church bells do. The public space would belong to Jesus.”33

This, according to Wilson, is the “mere Christendom” he imagines.  That is, Wilson desires to see a society in which Christians who believe and practice as he does operate with hegemonic power to legislate their own beliefs as the official social order.

Christianity would be the state religion.

As stated above (and explained in-depth here) Wilson considers Christianity an explicitly white religion, and to the extent that he wishes to extend “benefits” to non-white, non-Christian persons it is in exchange for their willingness to assimilate into a white Christian social order.

Conclusion

Wilson’s views on race and the supremacy of White Christian theology are rooted entirely in white supremacist ideology.

His commitment is in no way to truth, but to a strand of Christian faith rooted in exploitation and subjugation. He openly clings to bigotry, rejecting even well-established historical truths in pursuit of absolute cultural hegemony.

To state it succinctly, it is my considered opinion that Doug Wilson is in every way, shape, and form a white nationalist.

1 Steve Wilkins and Douglas Wilson, Southern Slavery: As It Was (Moscow, ID: Canon Press, 1996).

While the book is no longer in print, the full text is available here: http://www.tomandrodna.com/notonthepalouse/Documents/060175768QRAsouthern_slavery_as_it_was.pdf

Page numbers will reflect the PDF format

Further, it is noteworthy that Canon Press is a publishing house that, at the time this monograph was published, was owned by Doug Wilson’s church and run by Wilson himself. The publishing house, founded in 1993, functioned as a 501(c)(3) tax-exempt entity until 2005, when the Idaho State Tax Commission discovered that Wilson was running a supposed charity, yet taking a ten percent commission for royalties on his books. As this is a blatant violation of the tax laws governing charities, the tax-exempt status of Canon Press was revoked. (source; source)

2 ibid, 3-6

3 Ibid, 6-7, 11

4 ibid, 11

5 Ibid, 3-6

6 Ibid, 3-6

7 I have addressed the racist lies of the “race gap” in abortion and that slavery was a civilizing, Christianizing benefit to slaves here.

8 James H. Cone, God of the Oppressed. Rev. ed. (Mary Knoll, NY: Orbis, 1997), pp. 47-49.

9 ibid 217

10 See here and here for two examples.

11 Wilson and Wilkins, Southern Slavery 8-9

12 The full text of Stephens’ Cornerstone Speech is available here: http://www.ucs.louisiana.edu/~ras2777/amgov/stephens.html

13 Wilson and Wilkins, Southern Slavery, p. 9

14 ibid 10-11, 13-14, 17-18

15 ibid 12-13

16 In total, Wilson has been the author of three works containing plagiarized content. All the texts were published by Wilson’s family-owned publishing houses.

17 One scholar has claimed he made Wilson and Canon Publishing aware of the plagiarism several years before it became public, and was dismissed. The book was not pulled from shelves until the plagiarism was publicly exposed by one of Wilson’s former professors from the University of Idaho. (source)

18 Page count is taken from this link: http://www.tomandrodna.com/notonthepalouse/Documents/060175768QRAsouthern_slavery_as_it_was.pdf

19 ibid 5

20 ibid 5

21 ibid 7

22 ibid 9

23 ibid 8, 18

24 ibid 4

25 ibid 10

26 For an in-depth argument for why this incident qualifies as rape, see: Wilda C Gafney, Womanist Midrash: A Reintroduction to the Women of the Torah and the Throne (Louisville: Westminster John Knox, 2017) locations 4648-4843 in Kindle version.

27 In the introduction to Wilson’s book Black and Tan, his son Nate Wilson makes the claim, “The tragedy of pagan Africa was more significant than the tragedy of southern slavery.”

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

28 For examples of just how prominent this theme is in Wilson’s views of race, see my outline of his views here: https://natesparks130.com/2017/10/12/a-theology-of-hate/amp/

29 Kimberlé Crenshaw, Critical Race Theory: The Key Writings That Formed the Movement (New York: The New Press, 1995) p. xiv.

30 ibid xiii – xxxii

31 ibid xiv-xv

32 Michelle Alexander, The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness (New York: The New Press, 2010) pp. 184-185.

33 Douglas Wilson, Empires of Dirt: Secularism, Radical Islam, and the Mere Christendom Alternative (Moscow, Idaho: Canon Press, 2016) p. 176

Cover Photo by Henry Be on Unsplash

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