Whenever I hear anyone arguing for slavery, I feel a strong impulse to see it tried on him personally. Abraham Lincoln
Here is a joke.
Question: Who wears a forest ranger's hat and carries a can of kerosene?
Answer: Stanislaus the Fire Prevention Bear of the Polish National Forest Service link
Have I made you feel uncomfortable? If you are not from an Eastern European immigrant family, and you felt uncomfortable, not sure if you should laugh or not, good for you. My best friend in high school, I will call her Lila, and I, both descended from Eastern European families, would tell these jokes as we walked to school. There, we would join in with other students from all sorts of backgrounds, mostly 1st and 2nd generation Americans: Italian, Greek, French, Irish, Chinese, etc. Most of them had their own jokes featuring people from their particular ethnic background. We would laugh hysterically at each others' jokes. However, if the rich, white boy whose daddy's family came on the Mayflower, would attempt to join in and tell Polish jokes, fights would ensue. You need to pay your dues to have the privilege of telling ethnic jokes which means that one should be very careful of joking about someone from a different ethnicity.
Many of these jokes were born out of the pain that our families experienced as they tried to fit into a new culture. It was difficult. My father spoke only Russian until he started school. Russians were looked at suspiciously as the rise of Communism threatened the world. He would be called "Red," "Commie," "Bolshevik," etc. However, he, as well as many other immigrants had an advantage. They were white. They could change their names, start dressing well, get good educations and fade into the melting pot. My dad spent a few years in the Army which also added to his acceptance.
About 15 years ago, I invited Jim Jeffcoat, a now former Dallas Cowboy football player, and his wife, to a dinner to benefit a Christian school that my kids were attending. They lived nearby and were interested in having their children attend this school. I did not know that Tony Evans, the famous preacher, would be speaking about a challenging topic. He said that we had to do more to integrate our school and asked everyone to look around the room to see how many people of different skin colors were there. Well, the only African Americans in the room were the Jeffcoats and Jim is a really tall, big guy, to boot.
I turned to him and apologized for putting them on the spot. He was most gracious to me and said that no one had ever missed him walking into a room since he was in junior high school and that he was used to it. Thankfully, he knew Evans and they had a great talk and the Jeffcoat family did end up at the school.
I learned a very important lesson that evening. My father was able to fade into the culture because of his skin color. African Americans cannot do the same. They have walked a very different road. Therefore, when an African American shares with us his/her struggles with racism, we all need to listen up because we have not shared in an identical experience.
I watched a great movie the other night called Gifted Hands, The Ben Carson Story. This amazing pediatric neurosurgeon, considered the finest in the world, knew the pain of both poverty and racism when he grew up. He endured racist teachers and racial remarks during his residency. He handled it with dignity. Besides, he got the last laugh. He developed procedures in pediatric neurosurgery that many felt were impossible and attracted the attention of the world. I highly recommend it.
A couple of weeks ago, Thabiti Anyabwile, an African American preacher, a member of The Gospel Coalition and a graduate of NC State U (Go Wolfpack) link began a dialog with Doug Wilson on Wilson's controversial book Black and Tan. We wrote about Doug Wilson's disturbing views on slavery here and here. Both of these posts should give the reader an idea of the difficulties of Wilson's position.
Here are the links to the articles that comprised this back and forth,online discussion between Thabiti and Doug. Frankly, it was one of the most interesting debates on racism and the faith that I have ever read. Here is a link to all of the posts, in chronological fashion, of this exchange.
- Why Respond Publicly to Douglas Wilson’s “Black and Tan”? (TA)
- Douglas Wilson’s Views on Race, Racism, Slavery and the Bible (TA)
- Does the Driving Logic of “Black and Tan” Hold Up? (TA)
- Patrick “Nostradamus” Henry (DW)
- Slavery and the Bible: The Perspective of This Abolitionist (TA)
- Love Is Never Later (DW)
- How Koinonia Conquers (DW)
- The Designated Ambition Pole (DW)
- Sometimes the Exceptions Reveal How Far We’ve Gone with the Rule (TA)
- Adoni-bezek’s Thumbs and Toes (DW)
- The Cost of Our Chosen Entanglements (TA)
- Water Is Thicker Than Blood (DW)
- Resisting the Slavers (DW)
- The Histories of the American South: A Caution Against Hegemonies (TA)
- With Jello in My Hair (DW)
- Another Point Where Wilson and I Almost Entirely Agree: On Doing History and Multiculturalism (TA)
- A Good Luck Wave Won’t Cut It (DW)
- Illustrating Racial Insensitivity in Black and Tan (TA)
- Harder Than It Looks (DW)
- A Theology of Apology (DW)
- I Can Be Insensitive, Too (TA)
- Once More Into the Breach (TA)
- A Trigger Alert Study Bible (DW)
- Oh, So Close… And Yet So Far Away (TA)
- Another Rose Hedge Awaits (DW)
- Hecklers Gonna Heck (DW)
I was excited about this discussion because I have thought Doug Wilson to be somewhat self absorbed, making his points in a shock jock manner, rarely thinking (or is it rarely caring) about those he seeks to influence. He's always right, he's smarter than you and everybody who is opposed to him is a leftist loon. Anyabwile is a thoughtful man who does not toe the company line and is known for stepping out on issues like the overuse of the word "gospel" and his take on the "Precious Puritans" rap.
Why was this a public discussion?
Anyabwile decided to take on the discussion of Wilson's infamous publications because Wilson has never retracted his assertions. It is important to realize that Wilson has received widespread criticism for his views from the Christian community and academia.
As far as I know, Wilson has not retracted his book or anything in his book Black and Tan. The book itself is a clarification and further defense of an earlier publication, Southern Slavery: As It Was, which due to some oversights in proper citation and some problematic data was pulled from circulation. So, what we have is a publicly-stated position defended and maintained, making it an ongoing issue.
Wilson's views on slavery and racism
Anyabwile presents Wilson's views on slavery. This is one of his goals. He wants to carefully outline Wilson's basic beliefs in order to help us all to better understand the controversy. He explains that Wilson believes that slavery was not inherently evil and could be differentiated from human trafficking link.
He insists that Christian participation at any point in man stealing was inconsistent with biblical teaching (p. 54). But he distinguishes man stealing from the system of slavery itself. Later, Wilson maintains that slavery itself was not an inherent evil and that godly Christians could be members in good standing in Christian churches while owning slaves
Wilson claims he is opposed to racism which he does not equate with slavery. He also believes that the Civil War was unnecessary and that the gospel would eventually result in a peaceful demolishment on slavery in the US link.
The radical abolitionists’ insistence on immediate action, force and coercion short-circuited the gospel’s slow, leavening work and resulted in the horrendous loss of life during the Civil War, or War Between the States, as Wilson prefers.
I disagree with Wilson in the matter. Slavery almost always involves racism since it is the forced servitude of people groups. The South's slaves were black. Slavery results in the perception that said group is inferior and deserves to be enslaved. This attitude, after the Civil War, resulted in the separation of whites from blacks. "Separate but equal" was anything but equal and it took the Civil Rights movement to expose the ugliness of this entrenched view of the superiority of the white race.
Secondly, when the South attempted to leave the Union, claiming federal coercion, they did not free their slaves. If this was truly about states rights, they could have made the statement loud and clear by freeing their slaves. Then, they could have hired these freed slaves as free workers. The "gospel leavening" that Wilson proposes did not seem to be taking hold.
Wilson ties in the Civil War ( I don't care if he prefers "The War Between the States") to abortion and gay marriage.
Wilson believes that the federal government overstepped its authority link and he ties in the current abortion and gay marriage debate.
If most Christians today would be happy with an exercise of federal power to prohibit homosexual marriage, or to extend federal protection to the unborn, then how can we be unhappy with federal power doing a good thing like freeing the slaves? Where I would see an ominous federal aggrandizement of centralized power, starting in 1861
There is a difference between our arguments on abortion and gay marriage and the Civil War. The South was threatening to break our nation into two separate countries. There was a Union at stake. That is not the case with abortion or gay marriage. We will have our fights but we will still be the United States.
Wilson defends the exception and begins to whine about "poor abused me"
Thabiti reviewed Bible passages referring to slavery here and finds that Wilson generally agrees with his exegesis. However, Wilson, in my opinion, then emphasize the exception to the rule. He believes that slavery in the South, at times, was merely a benign form of indentured servitude and that many slaves and masters had affection for one another link.
But there were more than a few slave-holders in the South who, like the centurion, had members of their household who were dear to them. Their affections were not turned into something else by the corrupt nature of the institution itself.
For my abusive critics, these are the only people I am interested in defending. Part of my defense has been to point out that some of them actually existed. But if you then throw back in my teeth a long history of white degradation, abuse, sexual exploitation, lynchings, etc., as though I had any sympathy whatever with those sorts of monstrosities,
They could have still had "affection" for their slaves by freeing them and then offering to pay them to stay on. Then, the former slave holders could really see the strength of their mutual affection. Wilson does not appear to perceive how his "in your face" statements cause people, both within and without the faith, to misunderstand his expression of Christian love. In the meantime, Anyabwile continues his assessment in a kind, yet deliberate, manner.
Wilson believes in progressive revelation. In other words, we get better over time. Link
Writing Black & Tan was racially insensitive? But so is orthodox Trinitarian theology anywhere in the neighborhood of T.D. Jakes.
In other words, I believe our Christian brothers 500 years from now we look at our behavior now, in the present crisis, with as much consternation as they look at our brothers at the time of the Civil War. History really is a mess.
To compare the horrors of racism to TD Jakes Trinitarian theology (or lack thereof) is insensitive to Anyabwile's discussion. To make matters worse, TD Jakes is also an African American which could lead some to think that Wilson just might have a problem with racial animosity. There are a thousand white preachers he could have quoted to make his point but, no, he had to quote a black guy.
Anyabwile continues to assess Black and Tan which he believes is both revisionistic and biased link.
I argue Black and Tan fails to provide us any history while attempting a major revision of our understanding of the American South and slavery. I also contend that the book’s failure to interact with differing perspectives amounts to a biased view and an overly optimistic view due to Wilson’s postmill perspective.
Wilson is a postmillenialist. What does that mean? Here is one definition. Link
Postmillennialism is the belief that Christ will return after the millennium. All postmillennialists believe that the current age is the kingdom, while some believe that the millennial phase of the kingdom is present and others hold that it is yet future when the world has been Christianized. Postmillennialists also believe the Church is the agent through which this return to Eden will be mediated by Christ the King from heaven.
I believe that Anyabwile is trying to understand how anyone could have such an optimistic view of slavery in the South. He surmises that Wilson postmillenial belief leads him to think the South must have been a good place because things in this postmillenial kingdom should mean that the world, especially the "Christian" United States, is getting better. This sort of belief is tied to Christian Reconstructionism which we must get to one of these days.
Wilson goes off with a tirade on ghouls.
Now here is the problem. All of this is going on today, now. Is America today a hellhole? It still depends on who you are and where you are. 50 million dead and counting.
My problem as a pastor involved in the culture wars has to do with the fact that just about every abortion mill in the country is within quick driving distance of an evangelical church, praise choruses and all. Do we have any responsibility to do something? I believe we do. What then? How shall we then live? If there were an underground railroad for the unborn black children, would we be heroes for running it? What principles are involved? Was John Brown a murderous thug? Should pro-lifers be praying for our own equivalent thug? Why or why not? Is there any way to appeal to the relevant principles (legal, constitutional, moral, historical, and biblical) without getting called a racist? Let me add to the mix the fact that our half-black, half-white president represents our two races very well. He is a ghoulish president, and we are a ghoulish people. Blacks are ghouls and whites are ghouls. Neil Young heard bullwhips cracking from over a century ago, but he can't hear the silent screams from just down the street. North Dakota has just given the raspberry to Roe v. Wade. Are they heroes or chumps?
Wilson lost it here. This statement is an embarrassment, which is something he seems to enjoy. This is not how to win the argument or to attract people to the faith.
Anyabwile calls Wilson on his racial insensitivity. link
He lists the problems in Black and Tan
- A benign view of slavery which was ended wrongly
- Wilson's self-description as a paleo-Confederate
- Infers that black culture was inferior
- His seemingly positive comments about Little Black Sambo
- Accusations that the black culture is indifferent to abortion
Does Wilson apologize?
For those just joining us, this claque of accusers, that's not-good-enoughers, and the deeply grieved has been following me around for well over a decade. Sometimes it involves race, and a lot of times it doesn't. It always involves throwing jagged objects at my head, which helps us maintain at least some kind of continuity. When it involves race, I make a point of factoring in the very real problem of racial sensitivity scam artists. They are out there, and there are a lot of them. One of the central reasons there are a lot of them is because the sins of white people against blacks were the kinds of inexcusable sins that spanned centuries, and hence created a vast quarry in which the scam artists may labor happily for many years to come.
Anyabwile calls him on his "soft" apology and is not satisfied link
So, it seems to me that the threshold question is whether or not you recognize anything offense in your words. Whether or not you can see a causal connection between the ways you’ve sometimes described or referenced African Americans or slavery and the hurt, anger, or offense some have taken. You’ve already admitted to a kind of “collateral damage.” What’s left to be determined is whether you think that damage is in the heads of the wounded or should be located in the words you’ve written.
Wilson then says he did apologize link
Thabiti, the answer to that question is yes, and was the reason why I sought your forgiveness in the earlier post. And I am sure this response will generate further reasonable questions from reasonable men, and further howls from the unreasonable ones. But that is why I did it.
If one has to justify how one has apologized, it is not much of an apology.
Wilson's final diatribe link.
Wheaton College, which now has a student group for those students who "self-identify" as one of those alphabet GLBTQ thingies. Now the problem is not having a student group that would help students repent of their effeminacy and softness, or of their desire for carnal knowledge with those of the same sex (1 Cor. 6:9-10). Some Christians have those temptations, and we all need help with our temptations. I don't begrudge that at all.
But who cannot see, provided you look directly at it, that this group will not be a group characterized by a spirit of repentance. Rather, students who join this group will find a haven for talking about their desires, just so long as they don't act upon them before graduation, they will spend years marinating in therapeutic goo and — here is the point relevant to our discussion — they will be able to do all this on the basis of the straight evangelical world having hurt their feelings. The group will not (bet you a hundred dollars) focus on how they are offenders against biblical norms, but will rather focus on how the larger Wheaton community, still conforming kinda to those norms, is thoughtless, callused, hurtful, and, you guessed it, insensitive.
This brings us to those instances where I deliberately set up the accusers, making a point of doing what I know they are demanding we all stop doing. For example, in the comments of Thabiti's last post, one person pointed out that I use the word sodomite from time to time. "I can imagine a glee, sitting at desk, typing, and thinking, 'Watch this! Watch how the ‘libs’ blow up over this one . . .'" Now I do admit that there are times when I crack myself up — as for example if I were to write about Anglican sodomites processing up the central aisle in their sodomitres. At the same time, I take no glee in being a "bad boy." I am in deadly earnest.
I can see why this dialog ended here. In the end, it appears to me that Wilson made this all about him and missed out on an opportunity to learn from a man who personally understands racism. Wilson can claim that he is not a racist all he wants. It doesn't matter when those who read his words think differently. Maybe he needs to change his style?
I learned much from reading Anyabwile's analysis and admired his restraint in this exchange. He apologized thoughtfully when some people objected to his view on Trayvon Martin. Wilson could learn a thing or two from him. Wilson needs to stop with the cutting jokes on sensitive issues and humbly listen to those who have something to teach him. I highly recommend that our readers carefully read Anyabwile's perspectives. They are excellent.
This week: We will be looking at Homeschoolers Anonymous and a new site for those who survived Bill Gothard.
Lydia's Corner:1 Samuel 2:22-4:22 John 5:24-47 Psalm 106:1-12 Proverbs 14:30-31