Vision Forum, The Dougs, And What I Know

By now, most of conservative evangelicalism knows about the resignation of Vision Forum founder Doug Phillips after his confession to a lengthy and inappropriate relationship with a woman, albeit one that he insists didn’t constitute “knowing” her in “the Biblical sense.”

Ahhh, the finesse of the “julienned confession,” shaped and carved like so many strips of carrots or lengths of potatoes . . .

I’ve said on other forums that this whole thing is a tragedy, period.  No one should get any joy from Phillips’ sin, his confession, or his resignation.  Real people were hurt here, his wife and children especially, and thousands and thousands of people in this country have had their theological foundations shattered because of Phillips’ fall.  They are not likely to be healed by Phillips’ repentance and restoration, if that occurs.  That’s one of the terrible fruits of public sin.

Repeating:  I am an enemy of sin.  I am not an enemy of those struggling with it.  I applaud repentance.  I don’t call it “repentance” until time allows for the demonstration of its fruit, and I hope that happens here.

Further, there’s a great deal I don’t know about this, and you don’t know it, either.  Like most people I know more about what’s happening locally than I do about what’s happening in San Antonio; like most wise people, I try to focus on what I do know.  And in this case, what I know is that two ugly things have come from Moscow’s Doug Wilson, another famous defender of “Biblical patriarchy,” in his Blog and Mablog analysis of the whole sad, sordid situation.

The first is that he continues to defend not just male headship and masculinist ecclesiology, but insists that however corrupted the term “patriarchy,” even in the eyes of those who embrace it, it must still be used to describe what he says is the Biblical pattern for families.  I, of course, believe he’s wrong.  That’s pretty much been the point of this blog — proclaiming a better, more Biblical view of the Kingdom birthed in the Gospel, a Kingdom that rejects divisions based on sex, race, and class.  Patriarchy is a result of the Fall.  A true understanding of the Gospel requires that we work to reject the rotten fruit of the Fall.  Patriarchy asks that we embrace, enshrine, and enliven it.  Any defense of the indefensible is wrong, particularly given that those who profit from and benefit from the indefensible exercise such energy in proclaiming it true, beautiful, and good.

The second and perhaps more tellingly odious on Wilson’s part is his presumption that the woman involved is just another “Foxy Bubbles”-type harlot hell-bent on bringing good men down.  You can see it on yesterday’s Blog and Mablog, as well as the circle jerk of laudatory, “wow, great message, Pastor!” comments that follow.  If we knew nothing, nothing at all, about the woman Phillips sinned with, we would, if we were wise, reasonable people, refrain from even discussing her.  And, regardless of what we may find out about her,  I would suggest that he not just “sinned with” her but victimized her, given his insistence on complete female submission to the brothers, fathers, husbands, and other men in their lives, an insistence that, coupled with his power in the movement that prescribes their unequivocal submission, makes it extraordinarily unlikely that she had much if any volition in the matter.

Phillips operated in a world where the only women in it were born to be unquestioning followers of the men “in authority” over them.  It’s not like he regularly engaged with women “out in the real world” that views him as a power-hungry, manipulative entrepreneur who built an empire on the most shifting of sands, which he attempted to prop up with his Bible.

But Wilson is neither wise nor reasonable, and so, in discussing the minefields that litter the ways of powerful men, he feels free to toss off an assertion that there will always be “Foxy Bubbles” types to jump out and trip them up.  A little blame heaped on top of his blather is trademark Wilson; in this case, though, it’s blaming and slandering the victim and her character.  That’s a true mark of Wilsonian thought, but evidence coming to light suggests that the “Foxy Bubbles” archetype doesn’t work here, that “that kind of woman” was, in reality, not Phillips’ problem or provocateur.  If I were the kind to suggest a name, based on information coming out regarding his relationship with the woman, I’d maybe go with something like “HannahSarahVirginalContentment Helpmeet-in-Waiting” — in other words, a young woman nurtured, or, rather, poisoned, on Phillips’ own wretched patriarchy and the harsh, unbending, legalistic culture it spawned.

Apron strings make remarkably effective chains, you know, and those long skirts, literally and figuratively, make it hard to run away.  And to whom — other powerful men who believe apron- and skirt-wearers are born to obey?

It costs Wilson nothing to condemn Phillips’ sin, but he went further — he presumed, if only by implication, that a Bad Woman, a product of anti-patriarchal theology, was involved.  See, then, how bad anti-patriarchal theology is?  See how awful Phillips’ way of practicing the same thing Wilson defends is worse than Wilson’s way?  Patriarchy, Wilson says, is not the problem — abuse of patriarchy is.

To those abused by patriarchy, however, it’s like suggesting that cyanide-laced drinking water isn’t the problem –abusing cyanide-laced drinking water is.  The problem is, cyanide-laced drinking water is what “leaders” insist their followers drink; patriarchy is as toxic, so inherently toxic that to exercise it is to abuse it.

After more than 11 years of debating Wilson, I expect him to be offensive.  I expect him to be obnoxious, vicious, and far, far, less brilliant than his Beholden Toadies believe him to be.  But not even I expected that in analyzing Phillips’ fall, he would find a way to demean the woman involved.  But he’s Doug Wilson, and casual belligerence and breezy insult are the toxic sludge he spews forth.

And what nurtures it?  Patriarchal privilege — and a paucity of people able or willing to challenge him on it.

I continue to pray for the Phillipses, and for the woman involved.  Let’s trust that the Lord will silence the voices of those who assume that, somewhere and everywhere, when a patriarch sins, a bad woman MUST be involved — while worse theology is and will forever be utterly absolved.


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