Imagine this scenario: a ministerial student obtains letterhead from the University of Idaho English department and manufactures fake fliers, faxing them out to hundreds of venues, announcing a ” ‘Topless and Proud” lecture series featuring feminist lecturers speaking on topics like “Breasts as Embodied Intuitions” (whatever that means). The fact that it actually did occur on an April Fool’s Day a few years back, didn’t keep floods of callers from inquiring about the series. What is really disturbing was the response of the church’s minister, Douglas Wilson. In part, it reads: “All in all, it was a bad day for the tight-lipped fundamentalists of the left.”
Wilson is a would-be mainline evangelicalÂ who has debated Christopher Hitchens, author of God Is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything and written Letter From A Christian Citizen, God Is.How Christianity Explains Everything and The Deluded Atheist. The schools he started, Logos School in 1981 and New St. Andrews College in 1994, are based on his philosophy about the importance of a classical Chrisian education.Â (He is also the author of Recovering the Lost Tools of Learning and the founder of The Association of Classical and Christian schools.)
Now that I’ve established his credentials, let me tell you what I don’t like about this guy. I don’t like that he sets himself up as The Defender of the Christian Faith, when some of his views are so extreme. He is quoted in an article on ChristianityToday.com, as saying that “you might exile some homosexuals, depending on the circumstances and the age of the victim. There are circumstances where I’d be in favor of execution for adultery. â€¦ I’m not proposing legislation. All I’m doing is refusing to apologize for certain parts of the Bible.”
Among the many short books and pamphlets that he has published through his church’s press was one titled Southern Slavery: As It Was, in which he defends God’s sanction of slavery and argues that you can’t “modernize” the Bible to fit today’s outlook. He calls that “a slippery slope toward relativism.” Is this guy serious?
Even though the prank cited at the beginning of this post was not organized by Wilson, it was very much in keeping with the defensive (and offensive) position that he takes toward those he calls “intoleristas.” “We were beleaguered, under siege, and in our responses we’ve tried to maintain a sense of humor,” says Wilson. That was humorous? And it’s no secret that he is a foe of feminism: the college’s student handbook warns against “doctrinal errors…such as Arianism, Socinianism, Pelagianism, Skepticism, Feminism.”
I’m a Christian and a feminist, and although I sometimes have trouble reconciling the teachings of the Church when it comes to women, I find much that is compatible. Wilson demonizes anything he doesn’t agree with, and I think it’s clear that feminism is one of those things. The fact that he ranks it with other forms of doctrinal “heresies,” just shows how beleagured he feels about the feminist “agenda.” He purports to stand for cultural leadership, but the leadership he calls for is about war, not cultural reconciliation. I’m not saying that the Christian message should be watered down so as to not offend anyone. But surely there is a lot more common ground than Wilson seems prepared to traverse.