Revisiting "Southern Slavery As It Was" — With Twinkies

While I’ve taken a much-needed break from Moscow’s online discussion forum, Vision 2020, I waded in once more to comment on free speech, historically valid work, and Doug Wilson and Steven Wilkins’ odious “Southern Slavery As It Was” booklet’s relevance to either. Most of my readers live far away from Moscow, and yet I imagine they’re familiar with Wilson and Wilkins’ mind-boggling analysis that slavery in the antebellum South was a “paradise” full of “simple pleasures” for the women, men, and children kidnapped and sold to white, purportedly Christian masters. Vision 2020 has been abuzz for the last couple of weeks as some readers have defended “Southern Slavery” not only under legitimate free-speech grounds, but also, perhaps, as a valid, legitimate contribution to American history.

The one making that point acknowledges that he hasn’t read the book, which explains why he’s confused on the historical accuracy and significance therein. What’s astonishing, though, is that so many people who HAVE read it find it at all worthwhile. That may become my primary example of why I believe we’re living in a fallen, sin-choked world.

The obscenity of having to argue this point in 2010 was made especially clear to me earlier this morning as I was talking to a dear friend of mine, a professor of English and Afro-Caribbean literature and Women’s Studies at the University of Arizona. Geta, a friend of mine since I was in her high school English class 36 years ago, has been teaching a class on African Slave Narratives. I reminded her that Moscow is home to a movement that, in its absurdly and ultimately unfaithfully wooden approach to the Bible, argues that race-based slavery was sanctioned, even blessed, by the Scriptures.

She remembered; it’s hard for a scholar to forget any contention that her African forefathers and foremothers enjoyed their kidnapping, transport, ownership, and brutality at the hands of patriarchal “Christian” masters.

And so I added on Vision, and include here, my analysis of this purportedly “Biblical” approach to history. “Southern Slavery As It Was” is to valid historical research as a Hostess Twinkie laced with rat poison is to classic French cuisine. Like a toxic Twinkie, it’s a dense brick of artificial content, sugar-coated to appeal to the basest of audiences and full of preservatives — appeals to “Southern culture,” Christian patriarchy, and wooden Biblical literalism — that guarantee a long shelf life. Like a Twinkie, “Southern Slavery As It Was” is offered as a valid, important contribution to the field it purports to be an example of — cuisine, American history — and it deserves nothing but contempt from any literate reader, much less established, trained historians. Wilson’s “research” and conclusions are as embarrassingly idiotic as West of Paris’ chef Francis Foucachon’s offering a Twinkie during his dessert course would be. Unfortunately, the chef would have to add poison to the plastic-wrapped Twinkie to complete the analogy, because the conclusions of Wilson’s booklet are utterly toxic in their effect on race relations, historical understanding, Biblical hermeneutics, and Christian social and cultural engagement.

A diet of nutritionally empty starch, sugar, and artificial fluff guarantees poor physical health — but its effect, at least, is contained within the junk food junkie. Unfortunately, followers of Wilson’s theology, history, and manner of cultural engagement willingly gorge themselves on the fluff and filth he offers and then begin other churches and other “ministries” devoted to Wilsonian ideas and ideals. That’s bad for those followers, a disgrace for the Church and its witness in the world, a horrific way of living in the culture around us, and a toxic blow to the “truth, goodness, and beauty” Wilson insists is the fruit of the Gospel.

He has every right to say what he says; I have every right to judge what he says to be insipid and vile. And if there’s a Truth who is our ultimate judge, as both Wilson and I believe, I would quake before Him if I persisted in using His Word to defend the utterly, despicably indefensible.

One Response to “Revisiting "Southern Slavery As It Was" — With Twinkies”

  1. Ashwin says:

    Now that you have got it all out of your system, do you feel better?

    I haven’t read that book but I have read other things that Mr. Wilson wrote. And I have read what you had to say about them.

    Extrapolating for that previous experience I can confidently say that perhaps even this book will be much less offensive and much more insightful that what you have made it out to be.

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