The Casual Malice Of A Putative Pastor

I probably hit “post” a bit earlier than I intended yesterday, commenting on His Haughtiness’ Doug Wilson’s comment that there was NO shock at all to the fact that the Boston Bombers appear to be “devout” Muslims.  But timeliness mattered.

Yeah, I found it offensive.  There’s something wrong if you don’t.

Douglas Wilson is the most influential pastor in the Inland Northwest.  That his influence would extend beyond his dog is lamentable and a blot on both Moscow and the Christian Reformed circles that embrace him.  Nonetheless, he has an audience in the hundreds of thousands, a huge empire in Moscow, and a podium he neither deserves nor serves well.  He is a Christian pastor.  I served as a Christian pastor.  We both embrace the five or six classic, orthodox, foundational doctrines of our faith. We both claim Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior.  But I choose to vocally and actively distance myself from Wilson and his beliefs, and he certainly chooses to distance himself from the “feminist bed-wetting” and “ugly-women, sentimental liberalism” I hold to. 

Why the quotes?  Because he actually says and writes these things.  You have my assurance that no matter how hard you search your memory for those archetypical pastors of your youth, you won’t find one who reminds you of Doug Wilson.  He is to the pastorate what I am to the Metropolitan Opera, minus the shame of hopeless incompetence and grievous grandstanding in the name of Jesus Christ.

Anyway, we both identify ourselves as Christians.  So do a lot of truly evil people — including those who malign entire faiths because of the crimes of some of their adherents.  Wilson has proved that to be true in his commentaries on the bombings in Boston.

And so, besides reminding Wilson that the older brother, Tamerlan Tsarnaev, appears to be the “devout” Muslim and that, prior to this, Dzhokhar appears to have been devout only in his pursuit of the life of a young college student, I’d like to also point out that until we know the elder brother was motivated BY his faith, we, as people of faith, ought to be especially opposed to presuming that bad people are motivated by religion.  I long for the day when being a Muslim, or being a Christian, isn’t considered an indicator of criminality.  That’s so tepid, so faint in its revolutionary zeal, that it’s especially obscene these days even to have to write it.

Let me put it another way:  Christians should be the last people who stereotype others because of their faith.  While it’s true that I expect Wilson to do just that, because when the choice is between rank bigotry and reasonable restraint, the safe money is on him to embrace the former, I never give up hope that he’ll act, in even the vaguest way, like the Savior whose Gospel he says he proclaims.

But Wilson is a hateful man who, in dabbling in history and social commentary to buttress his positions — which are virtually always odious and without scholarly support — readily evinces ignorance of his own.

Does he remember the Atlanta Olympic bombings, courtesy of “devout” Christian Eric Rudolph, who also knocked down a gay bar or two because of his noxious take on our Scriptures?  White cultist David Koresh engineered the deaths of fourscore adults and children, including those he proudly molested — and engaged in a weeks-long standoff with the government Koresh hated and Wilson disdains.  White Protestant Timothy McVeigh commemorated that day, April 19, in 1993 by bombing the hell out of the Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City, killing more than 200 and maiming hundreds of others in what is still the second-worse terrorist attack on American soil in the past century.  He knows the former pastor of abortion provider assassin Paul Hill, who, like the killer of Dr. George Tennant, was yet another white man who claimed to be a Christian. The man who tried to kill Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, a dear friend of my late father’s, and killed six others, including her aid and a Federal judge, in my hometown in 2011 was a sick man influenced by anti-government crazies from the far Right.  He looked, prior to shaving his head, like my own cousin at that age.  My cousin, not surprisingly, is a white guy, a Catholic, from the “Anglo-Celtic homeland” of the American South so beloved by Wilson and his paleo- and neo-Confederate pals. 

And, expanding the definition of “terrorism” to something other than “dark-skinned men with foreign names using bombs,” our local Bishop of Bloviation  would do well to remember the phenomenon of mass shootings.  Every school shooting in the United States since “school shootings” became part of our national vernacular, save the Virginia Tech shooter, a South Korean man who, it’s worth noting, also wasn’t a Muslim, has been committed by a white man.  So was the Aurora, Colorado, shooting. 

It must annoy the hell out Wilson that Pearl Harbor wasn’t the product of “radical Islamists.”

His comment on the lack of surprise about the religious faith of the older brother was a throw-away remark imbedded in a long blog post about the abortion provider in Kansas whose office and practice was found to be a chamber of horrors medically and criminally.  His point seems to be that the Kansas doctor is a rapacious killer, a terrorist to the unborn, and a man whose crimes are worthy of greater coverage.  Those comments can be made without maligning Muslims.  Indeed, it’s hard to imagine how even the most determined bigot could link the two.  But the “throw-away” comments are no less offensive, no less dangerous, for being buried.

Indeed, burying prejudice among other rhetoric makes it stand out all the more, both to those who agree and those who vigorously disagree.  That can trigger strong reactions, especially in linking disparate events and perspectives and weaving them into a single unfortunate narrative.  There’s a flood of lamentable rhetoric washing over this country.  An extraordinarily high amount of it comes from “Christian” pulpits.

My prayer is that someday Wilson and his cohorts will someday find that as shocking as he ought to.  Until then, he could help stanch the flow by repenting of his reckless disdain for people not like him and, instead of joining in the conventional wisdom of the stupid, reject it for something different.

Something, perhaps, that vaguely calls to mind the nature, message, and methods of Jesus Christ.

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