Shades of Sexual Deviance: Doug Wilson and the Tale of Two Boxes

At a recent meeting of the Association of Classical Christian Schools, controversial pastor, blogger, and religious leader Doug Wilson said the following:

When it comes to the LGBT/QRS foolishness, you must have titanium spines. The world will come to you and demand that you muddle up your binary bathroom situation. In vain you will explain to them that you can only have two bathroom signs—XX and XY—because your bathrooms are at the far end of the science wing.

The reporter will come right back at you—but what about that transgender student enrolled there at Classical Christian High? To which you will request the name of said student, so that you can promptly expel his ass.

Wilson was approached after the talk by an individual who viewed his words as a “calloused dismissal of a student struggling with his sexuality.” In other words, “expel his ass” seemed a bit harsh, and not at all the Christian response. What’s interesting is what Wilson’s response reveals about how he approaches gay and transgender students—and his view of sexual deviance:

I was not talking about a quiet and diligent student who confessed to the Bible teacher in the course of a counseling session that he struggles with same sex attraction. What do you do there? The answer is as obvious as the love of Christ is. You pray with and for him, you meet with him, you work with him, you help him establish his walk with God, and so on. Not only am I acknowledging that this is the right thing to do in the abstract, this is in fact something I have done on numerous occasions. If you are ever foolish enough to google my name, you will find a pile of sludge. And one of the principal charges against me is that I minister to sexually disreputable people. I know, it is a strange, strange world.

To understand what Wilson did here, you have to understand the nature of the “pile of sludge” Wilson refers to. In providing evidence that he believes in counseling gay and transgender individuals, Wilson writes that “one of the principal charges against me is that I minister to sexually disreputable people.”

What is this charge against Wilson? I can tell you. The charge is that he urged a judge to go easy on a confessed serial child molester who happened to be a student at the seminary Wilson runs. Wilson later married this convicted pedophile to a woman in his church, and asked God to bless the couple with children. You can read a summary of this situation here.

There’s another charge, too. Namely, that when it came out that a seminary student boarding with a family in Wilson’s congregation had sexually abused their young daughter beginning when she was only thirteen years old, Wilson painted years of grooming and horrific abuse as consensual (calling it a “relationship”), placed equal blame on the girl’s father for not protecting her, and wrote to the judge in the case to beg leniency for the accused. You can read a summary of this situation here.

This is the “pile of sludge” Wilson says you will find if you google his name, and this is what Wilson refers to when he writes that “one of the principal charges against me is that I minister to sexually disreputable people.”

Wilson responds to concern (based on his own words) that he would expel LGBTQ students rather than counseling and guiding them by stating that this sort of counseling is something he already has done “on numerous occasions,” and as evidence of this noting that “one of the principal charges” against him by his detractors is that he ministers “to sexually disreputable people.”

Let that sink in for a moment. In linking how he would respond to gay or transgender students with how he has already responded to child molesters and sexual predators, Wilson puts these very different groups under the same umbrella—sexually disreputable people. The sad thing is that I am not surprised. This linking of both consensual and nonconsensual sexual “deviance” or “immorality” is far too common in conservative evangelical and fundamentalist churches.

At this point some of my readers may be thinking about my “Tale of Two Boxes” construction, which I introduced in a blog post five years ago. This construction is just as relevant today as it was then.

For individuals like Wilson, any sexual activity other than marital sex is immoral and deviant. This places same sex attractions in the same category as pedophelia and sexual predation—both involve sexual disorder, and individuals who struggle with each are in need of counseling and guidance. Progressives, in contrast, tend to use consent their guiding principal.

In his response, Wilson seems almost confused as to why his critics object to his ministering to sex offenders when they excuse same sex attractions and other categories of sexual deviance. “I know, it is a strange, strange world,” he writes, as though he has laid bare some sort of hypocrisy.

The scary thing is that I’m not sure whether Wilson is being slightly trollish here—this is Wilson, after all—or whether he genuinely does not understand why his critics object to his actions. Let that one sit with you for a while.


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About Libby Anne

Libby Anne grew up in a large evangelical homeschool family highly involved in the Christian Right. College turned her world upside down, and she is today an atheist, a feminist, and a progressive. She blogs about leaving religion, her experience with the Christian Patriarchy and Quiverfull movements, the detrimental effects of the "purity culture," the contradictions of conservative politics, and the importance of feminism.