Why, And How, And What . . .

Whenever I write a post directly criticizing Douglas Wilson for something he’s said, written, promoted or participated in, I expect to be taken to the woodshed by other Christians for what they see as an unloving tone, an unedifying exchange, and an unwavering disdain for him that they believe is unwarranted. And that’s fair — I write what I write, and I take full responsibility for it all. It is, after all, my blog; no one sneaks in, no one forces me to write anything, and nothing emerges from my keyboard with me unawares.

I despise anonymity, pseudonyms, and other forms of cowardice that pervade the blogosphere, and I don’t tolerate in myself what I refuse to applaud in others. It’s easy to be brave behind a keyboard if the writer hides behind a cloak of anonymity; in fact, a computer keyboard seems to be a testosterone delivery system for some Christian men, failing them only when it comes time to put their names on their taunts, threats, and terror. It’s the barroom belligerence that’s offered up without attribution, which is not altogether different from the guy who recruits an unknowing simpleton to kick over the Harley of the meannest biker at the bar, and then brags to those who weren’t there about what a badass he is. Anselm House, the nerve center of Wilson’s empire, has housed a few such scoundrels over the years, and this gal wonders how it is that the distribution of guts and backbone is so lacking in Moscow’s Temple of the Masculine.

So I’ve established that I take full responsibility for my words, and, as is clear to those of you who regularly check in, I only, with very few exceptions, criticize Christians who behave badly. And I do it with full understanding that many of you think I’m one myself — a Christian acting in a manner unbecoming, because I write strong words in my assessment of those strong words spoken and written by Wilson and others. Fair enough, and I’d like to tell you why.

I don’t use Prevailing Winds as a gallery to exhibit the quality of my writing, and I don’t blog because I have nothing else to do. I write what I write because the Lord Jesus has lead me to live in a part of the Northwest that’s saturated with a history of ugly behavior and grotesque theology that’s accommodated, affirmed, and added to by a man and a movement that I think grievously misstates the Gospel at a fundamental level. I am gifted with an ability to write, a passion for apologetics and evangelism, and a profound hatred of sins committed in the name of Christ. The nature and origin of my gifts and calling is such that I must bear witness, in the strength of the Holy Spirit, to the Way that sets itself against any path leading to oppression, ignorance, hate, arrogance, injustice, and avarice. I see many such paths coming into Moscow, and many more leading from it. And, as is virtually always the case elsewhere, silence here in the chorus of deceit is assent.

Better: Darkness is all around, and I dare not hide my light under a bushel.

Still, some of you, I know, don’t see light in those of my posts that are critical of Wilson, but simply heat — with varying degrees of blistering that depends, I suppose, on how you view conflict. Or women, or ecclesiology, or the merits of whatever issue brings about my criticism of Wilson. If you value harmony, even harmony over truth, my words — not simply their content, but the very fact that I write them — will undoubtedly upset you. And if the seasoning of my words — the quality of my writing and the tone and tenor with which I offer it — were the point, I would be upset, too.

I comment publicly, and often sharply, about things Wilson says because I believe that the Scriptures demonstrate that publicly-disseminated error deserves — requires — public rebuke. And the point of that rebuke must be clear; it must be offered as an opportunity for the one criticized to stop, take stock, and take back what was said in error, in carelessness, or in contempt. The rebuke cannot be about scoring points, but about winning back a heart. I write about Wilson, FOR Wilson, in the hope that he’ll be lead by the Holy Spirit to reconsider what I believe to be things wrongly said or taught, and in order for my words to be taken with any grain of seriousness at all, they have to match the tone and quality of his.

Wilson, who I think writes better than I do, clearly knows how to use words, and he just as clearly values wit and wordplay and the parry-and-thrust of robust dialogue. One of his most famous books, The Serrated Edge, applauds the sarcastic, the snide, the strong, and the scissor-kick of sharp rhetoric, and his writing demonstrates not only an affinity but a true knack for strong words and a rapier wit. Here’s the difference between us, though: Whereas he wields his Serrated Edge at unbelievers, I simply will not. I will, though, in attempting to be used of the Spirit to bring about his reflection and repentance, match him and others in wit and wordplay and strong opinions strongly stated — but only to gain an audience. That audience is not primarily with you, Dear Reader, but with him. Wilson likes his critics rugged, sharp, intrepid, wry and witty; paraphrasing the Apostle Paul, then, I will be all things to all men who speak in error, so that I might win over some.

Make no mistake: Douglas Wilson is tough enough to handle what I dish out, and what I dish out is commensurate in tone to whatever it is that provokes my response and rebuke. I’ve spoken privately with him — in fact, I did so before ever confronting him publicly — and I would again anytime he should want to. I dislike Wilson and I love him; that ought to cause no particular dismay to any of my Christian readers. I will not sin against him, and I will not sin against the Gospel of Christ Jesus by doing what, tragically, his elders and associates do at seemingly every turn, and that is let the man splatter the Gospel and himself with the mud of bigotry and invective with nary a word raised in protest. Every strong, credentialed, male minister inside the Kirk and out can watch, in silent dismay or sycophantic delight, as Doug Wilson spins a Gospel and a witness that looks nothing at all that of Christ; they have to answer for their silence, and not to me. But I’ll go toe-to-toe with the man for one reason, and one reason only: I care enough about him, and care enough about the testimony of Christ on the Palouse, to try to bring him to a better way.

That doesn’t make me a hero, but neither does it make me a strident bitch unworthy of regard by her brethren.

2 Responses to “Why, And How, And What . . .”

  1. Ashwin says:

    No one says you are unworthy of regard. And being strident is not at all a bad thing.

    The complaint however is a consistent lack of balance in your writing. You are free to hold whatever opinion you do hold, but you must justify it persuasively. You skip this step. Always. All you put out is propaganda that we can get from several other sources. That is my complaint. If you are preaching to the choir, fine. We will go elsewhere. But if you wish to talk to someone outside your circle of thought, you MUST address OUR worldview while doing it.

    It is your blog. But we are YOUR readers. You OWE us a well reasoned argument. You have never once tried to see things from the point of view of the right. WHY are we this way? What do WE value? Are we to be dismissed as ignorant bigots every time we beg to differ?

    You can do so if you choose. It is your blog. But we would rather you gave us your REAL point of view. We have heard the propaganda and we are not impressed. We need an opinion.

  2. I appreciate your comments here, Ashwin. I do try to write persuasively, and you seem to identify what I intend as a persuasive argument as “propaganda.” Further, you and I share the same worldview, if that worldview is not “Left” or “Right” — and let’s remember that you consistently come down on the “right” side of the continuum — but solely Christian. I would hope you wouldn’t identify that Christian worldview with the Right, just as I don’t with the Left; we may have found a sociopolitical home, you and I, on opposite ends of the spectrum, but I think we share the same worldview. That is the worldview of the Gospel — that Christ died and rose again to secure eternal life for sinners, of whom I am often chief. Any good thing I have, from eternal life to a tasty cup of coffee, is because of the grace of our God and Savior.

    I don’t take you or any of my readers for granted, and I do believe that I owe those who take the time to check in solidly-reasoned, kindly-put, well-written posts stating my point of view. The point I was making is that my primary function in writing of Wilson as I do is to spur him to repentance, not to impress you with the quality of my writing.

    I don’t think for a minute that you’re a bigot, Ashwin, and I didn’t think Wilson was until I read or heard bigoted things he’s said — a man has to EARN the label before I’ll use it, and he has. You, on the other hand, have always been free to disagree with me; the mere fact that you do so doesn’t make you a bigot, less intelligent, or less in love with Christ. It makes you a man, a brother, with a different opinion. Now, if the opinion one of us held was so odious that it defied reason — like saying, for example, that the life of a slave was one of happy, simple abundance with great health care — I might think that the content of that opinion makes you less aware of historical realities than I’d previously thought. I might even wonder if you’re very bright. If you chose to go a step further and say that Blacks were created to be slaves for white people, I’d have to come to the conclusion that you’re a hateful, ignorant man — a bigot — because the content of that view is so hideous and so out of the realm of reason that it doesn’t deserve to be considered judiciously. This is the kind of absurd “tolerance” I see on the Left, which doesn’t condemn even the most horrible acts if they’re clothed in “diversity.” But you and I don’t disagree on things whose content makes one of us horrible — racist, vicious, violent — for holding to it. At least, I don’t think that’s the case, and I’m sorry if you do.

    I’ll continue to write, and I’ll try to always bring a well-reasoned point to my readers. I trust that our disagreements fall within the realm of the rational and humane. You can disagree with someone about healthcare. You can’t, however, be considered a decent fellow if you call for the killing of the poor and sick. You see the difference, I trust.

    And I’d like to hear what you thought of the book I sent you!

    Keely

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