For evangelicals, racism isn’t a dealbreaker, but feminism is

Remember our old friend Douglas Wilson? He writes and speaks for the patriarchal neo-Calvinist “Gospel Coalition,” and is the author of many books sold at Christian bookstores across the country — including the large LifeWay chain.

Wilson caused a stir earlier this year when his description of godly marital sex was, well, horrifically rapey. Wilson wrote:

However we try, the sexual act cannot be made into an egalitarian pleasuring party. A man penetrates, conquers, colonizes, plants. A woman receives, surrenders, accepts.

That prompted many of us to take a closer look at this guy and to wonder how it was that he had come to be a respected voice in American evangelicalism. We wondered this even more when we learned that Wilson isn’t only a proponent of rape culture, but also an apologist for slavery.

LifeWay, to their very slight credit, at least doesn’t carry the book the Douglas Wilson co-wrote with white supremacist and League of the South co-founder Steve Wilkins, Southern Slavery: As It Was. Yet the fact that Wilson co-wrote a book with a white supremacist, and that this book argues that slavery was not really all that bad, apparently does not affect LifeWay’s thoughts about carrying other books by the same guy.

Douglas Wilson remains an unchallenged member in good-standing of the evangelical tribe. Just like anti-anti-colonialist and Afro-phobic “scholar” Dinesh D’Souza was before allegations of adultery clouded his name in a way that confirmations of race-baiting never did.

Mainstream evangelicalism — including institutions like Christianity Today and LifeWay — pays lip-service to “racial reconciliation,” but it has never been mandatory. You cannot be pro-gay, pro-choice or feminist and remain an unchallenged or un-“controversial” member of the evangelical tribe. But as Wilson, D’Souza (and let’s not forget Richard Land) confirm, you can espouse racially biased views without that ever prompting anyone to ask if you are really an evangelical.

As long as you continue to repeat the right phrases about God, gays and gynecology, you can say whatever vile things you want to about slavery, or Africa, or “race hustlers,” without any worry that it might provoke questions about your godly evangelical bona fides. You can be a vicious racist, but as long as you’re an anti-abortion, anti-gay racist who talks about the “authority of scripture” like its the fourth member of the Trinity, then you’re golden.

Just think back to the long Republican primary contest with its endless series of debates. In January, Chauncey DeVega listed his picks for the “10 Most Racist Moments of the GOP Primary (So Far).”  It’s an appalling, but by no means comprehensive, list. And the primary campaign still had more than a month to go.

Most of what DeVega chronicles there were statements or actions taken in an effort to appeal to evangelical voters. The main strategy for winning such voters was to try to position yourself as more anti-abortion than the other candidates — contraception is murder! De-fund anything with the word “clinic” in its name! — but once all the candidates clustered together around the same extreme positions on that point, the next step was to try to appeal to white grievance and white resentment. Candidates sought to nurture such resentment wherever it existed, and to create it from scratch in the rare places where it couldn’t otherwise be found.

Remember all the principled evangelical push-back against those efforts? No? Me neither, because that never happened. Here are some things you never heard during the GOP primaries: “Newt Gingrich drew criticism from evangelical voters for his racially charged attacks on ‘welfare queens.'” Or “Michele Bachmann lost evangelical support due to her comments about immigrants.” Or “Ron Paul’s newsletters flirting with white supremacists alienated the GOP’s evangelical bloc.” Or “Mitt Romney’s use of ‘illegal’ as a noun angers evangelical voters.”

The closest to anything like that ever happening was a brief moment in one debate when Texas Gov. Rick Perry made a Bush-like appeal for something vaguely DREAM-ish — in-state tuition for undocumented students who have lived most of their lives in Texas. That got Perry smacked down by Romney and contributed to his loss of support among evangelical Republicans.

And do we even need to mention Bryan Fischer? Mainstream evangelicals will hurry to argue that people like Fischer are really fundamentalists, not evangelicals. But Fischer uses the E-word himself, and he’s convinced the general public that this is who he is and who he represents. As Warren Throckmorton wrote yesterday:

Conservatives might lament the title “conservative” applied to AFA and Fischer. However, I think it is up to conservatives to police ourselves.

But mainstream evangelicalism is never interested in policing its huge right fringe. It’s too busy picking nits and vigilantly patrolling its “liberal” border for potential heretics. That gives people like Fischer, Charlie Fuqua, John Hubbard and Loy Mauch a free pass. They all exhibit the proper “stance” against abortion and homosexuality, so they’re nowhere near the danger zone on the liberal frontier.

Get those two “stances” correct, and race-baiting, stoking white resentment, and immigrant-bashing won’t ever cause evangelicals to question your legitimacy as part of the tribe. For that to happen, you’d have to say something nice about women or LGBT people.

Take, for example, the case of Brian McLaren. We recently looked at Terry Mattingly’s odious questioning of McLaren’s faith following his celebration of his son’s same-sex wedding. Here is McLaren’s gracious, generous response to a correspondent breaking ties with him over that “stance.”

Or consider again the case of Rachel Held Evans, whose legitimacy is now being questioned by the very same Gospel Coalition to which penetrating colonizer Doug Wilson belongs. The Gospel Coalition imagines itself to be the gatekeeper and the authoritative arbiter of tribal legitimacy, so that means their boy Wilson must be above all question, but this uppity woman must be treated as a threat.

Then there’s the matter of Christopher Rollston. I confess I had never heard of him before, and that I’d missed his recent Huffington Post article, “The Marginalization of Women: A Biblical Value We Don’t Like to Talk About.” That article doesn’t make any novel or unorthodox claims. Rollston simply points out that “women in the Bible were normally viewed as second class, if even that.” Yes. And, also too, no duh. It doesn’t matter if one reads the Bible as a “radical feminist” or as an infallible fundamentalist — Rollston’s point there is objectively, uncontroversially true.

And yet, for reasons not entirely clear, that article has Rollston “facing disciplinary action and perhaps even termination at Emmanuel Christian Seminary” where he is a tenured, and by all accounts well-respected, biblical scholar. He did not violate his professional ethics. He did not run afoul of the seminary’s statement of faith. He didn’t even say anything that any serious biblical scholar — conservative or liberal — would disagree with.

But apparently Rollston’s article angered one wealthy conservative donor at the school. Tenure schmenure, this donor told Emmanuel, get rid of this guy and I’ll make it worth your while. And Emmanuel, apparently, thought that was a good idea. It really, really wasn’t — and the only surprising thing about the ensuing firestorm is that Emmanuel’s administrators seem surprised by it. (James McGrath has good collections of links on this affair here and here.)

Again, all Rollston did was point out that men sure had a lot of rules for women 3,000 years ago — which is much the same point that Rachel Held Evans is making in her new book on “biblical womanhood.” Patriarchal Christians apparently don’t like it when anyone notices that. They’re hoping not to draw too much attention to the marginalization of biblical womanhood until after they have it fully reinstated.

So to recap: If you think women today should have more freedom than they had 3,000 years ago, or if you fail to condemn LGBT people with sufficient relish, then your standing as a legitimate evangelical will be formally challenged and your books will be prohibited from sitting on the shelves at LifeWay alongside those of Dinesh D’Souza and Douglas Wilson. Lovely.


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  • Lunch Meat

    Thanks, Amaryllis–we got a lot of “how to be married” books as presents and that makes me feel better about ignoring them. I have a feeling “Fireproof” might make me break the TV, anyway, and we can’t afford a new one. Marriage is hard (for me) in the way that living with anyone is hard, but I resent the implication that I need all these resources in order to figure it out–especially when we aren’t really having any problems.

    I have the same problem when people telling me I really need to follow Dave Ramsey. I’m actually really good with money, thanks–my system works for me and I’m not interested in being told to change it.

  • Baby_Raptor

    No, it’s not a lie. Not to ponies who have a healthy view of sex, and who believe females are pony as well. When one believes that a mare should not be able to say “no,” and that they are property to be “conquered” whenever a penis owner wants, they most certainly are propagating rape culture. 

    Fred is one of the few decent christians I’ve ever met, and the only reason I haven’t given up on the religion all together. People like you are the reason I left in the first place.

  • EllieMurasaki

    It’s not dissonant at all. Fred is accusing these people of treating different demographics differently. This implies that treating different demographics differently is a bad thing; no one accuses anyone of donating to an animal shelter. So Fred is saying that these are bad people because they do a bad thing, which is obvious lies since he’s talking about good people, and he is also saying that treating different demographics differently is a bad thing when it is self-evidently morally neutral if not morally exemplary. It can’t possibly matter how many people are hurt by different treatment of different demographics, especially if the reason they’re hurt is they won’t accept their proper place in life; therefore the only person doing anything wrong here is Fred.

  • Baby_Raptor

    Um, maybe because I don’t think I’m property to be used on some guy’s whim? Maybe I feel like I’m an actual human being, and should have rights as well? 

    Why does this confuse?

  • EllieMurasaki

    Weren’t you listening? If you’re Christian, you’re a part of the bride of Christ. There’s too many such parts for you to be an organ, so you must be a single cell. Single-celled organisms have no rights. And if you’re not Christian, of course you don’t count for even that much.

  • hidden_urchin

    Thanks for this. I passed it along to my little sib who just got engaged. They’ve been feeling kind of low since the conservative side of the family has made their relationship out to be some herculean task that they are not mature enough to handle despite being employed, educated adults who have dated for years and own a home. Don’t ask me to explain it.*

    * My favorite WTF comment to date is, ” why don’t you take a break for a year and see if that changes how you feel? If you love each other then you’ll wait.”

  • Victor

    With all due respect Ellie, not all Christian believe literally that they are a part of the bride of Christ who is suppose to be “The Church”and right or wrong is that  not so especially nowdays?

     I may not read “The Good Book” but old age experiences tells me that if “Jesus The Christ” is for real then me, myself and i wouldn’t mind being an for HIM if need be cause in the long run “I” know that we would come out on top if ya know what “I” mean?

     Contrary to what sinner vic says on occasions, I did not take my life in 1991 and the problem back then was that sinner vic was convince that I had already premeditated to take my life after a week but long story short, “Jesus” brought me back to life on the third day and these so called imaginary friend of mine who believes that sinner vic is my god and own 92% of my flesh won’t believe me that the real God in me is my 7% Jesus Cells. Go Figure!

    Let’sjust  say before I close  that if I find out after death that “IT” has all been for nothing and GOD (Good Old Dad) does not even exist and worths of all me, myself and i find out that we only and should have enjoyed sex more. Anyway! All I can say to so called Christian Men is that they better better keep a close eye on all of sinner vic’s  1992 female cells who are saying nowadays stuff like . cause they’ll get “IT” all in the long run after “BB” Day comes. :(

    I hear ya folks! Just don’t let sinner vic go  bipolar on U>S (usual sinners) please Victor? :)


  • Joshua

    OK, that was weird.

    Just because you want Christ to do that to you (which OK, I can try not to judge, we’re all adults here) doesn’t mean all mean should do that to all women. I mean, what? WTF?

  • Patrick Spens

    Come one, we are talking about the U.S Civil War in this very post. You know, that incredibly violent event that clearly changed the United States for the better? 

  • Joshua

    “men are like waffles and women are like spaghetti.”

    Those are two things that just do not belong together. The author was presumably advocating same-sex marriage.

    In fact, two waffles are never enough.

    Putting bacon on them is just wrong, too.

    I’ll stop now.

  • Joshua

    all men. Maybe I should get an account after all.

  • EllieMurasaki

    There’s room for argument about whether a violent solution to slavery in the US would have been necessary had a nonviolent solution been tried earlier. Mind, for the nonviolent solution to work, it would probably have had to be decades earlier than the war, and it would probably have to have been the US government buying and then freeing all the slaves and simultaneously banning slavery, which would have produced understandable (if unjustified) protest from lots and lots of people whose tax dollars went into the mass purchase. So it probably wasn’t ever going to happen, but there is room for argument that it could have.

  • PandaRosa

    Anal sex is like habenero peppers, it does have its charms, but I fear they are lost on me. Will you be offended if I would just assume not enjoy its pleasures?

  • And to add to what EllieMurasaki said, women do not in fact keep everything inside. Have you ever even seen a picture of a vulva? Criminy.

  • Slavery was already war. It just took a hundred years for white people in the North to wake up and realize it. Antebellum North American slavery was war by one segment of the population (“white” people) upon another (“black” people).

    Violence is sometimes necessary, legitimate, and good. Slaves killing the people who enslave them is self-defense. And absolutely, entirely, 100% justified.

  • I don’t give the slightest damn whether you want hot peppers. But I will yell at you for saying that those peppers cause cancer and there’s something twisted about anyone who likes them and people should never talk about enjoying them ever and they should keep their recipes to themselves.

    I do not understand what is so difficult about this. I want to have sex with my fiancé. I want to eat chocolate creme cake. I want to swim a mile. I want to read Jane Austen novels. I do not care if you do not want to do those things. I do care if you start spreading lies about sex with my fiancé, chocolate creme cake, swimming, and Jane Austen novels. 

    The people talking about enjoying anal sex, and telling the truth about it, don’t want to have anal sex with you (as far as I know — I sure don’t), and it is absolutely nothing to us if you want to have anal sex with no one or an entire football team.

  • EllieMurasaki

    For the most part it wasn’t slaves or ex-slaves killing slaveowners, though. It was people who’d never been anywhere near slavery killing other people who had mostly lived in proximity to slavery but not been personally involved, and vice versa. I am not arguing that the war was unjustified, because the slaves did not have guns and the Union soldiers did, and there’s nothing wrong with defending others, any more than with defending oneself. It’s just that we could hypothetically have ended slavery with considerably less bloodshed. Everywhere else did, after all. Except Haiti, but nobody likes to remember about Haiti.

  • Joshua

    I personally would be very happy if you stopped going on about it. Also, the answer to your question is stated perfectly clearly in the comment you are replying to, at the end. So why ask it?

  • PandaRosa

    Actually I meant that there’s something wrong with me that I don’t enjoy it.

  • EllieMurasaki

    Not enjoying a particular sex act != having something wrong with you. Making sure your sex partner knows you don’t enjoy that sex act = necessary thing to do.

    Making sure that everyone knows you don’t enjoy that sex act regardless of whether any of them is proposing enjoying that sex act with you = being a pain in the ass, please stop.

  • Tricksterson

    From the way the post is phrased I suspect Panda is either quite young, as in teeange, or very sheltered.

  • Jane

    However, I will go on the record as saying that people who do not enjoy habanero peppers are potentially dangerous deviants who should be strictly monitored.

  • Tricksterson

    This is going to sound like I’m poking a stick at you but I’m not.  Have you been taking medication Victor?  because that post was actually completely understandable.  If you are, or receiving some other kind of treatment or therapy, please continue because as disoriented as you usually are I worry that you might do yourself harm.

  • EllieMurasaki

    Internet diagnoses bad, Tricksterson, remember?

  • Tricksterson

    Joe Carter is an example of why some stallions need neutering.

  • Tricksterson

    Bacon works with waffles if you use maple syrup.  And I probably just said something terribly obscene without realizing it didn’t I?

  • Tricksterson

    As lonmg as you don’t have a problem with those who do.

  • Tricksterson

    So that’s why I have a chip in my head!

  • P J Evans

     Some of us just aren’t into sex. Sorry for existing.

  • VMink

    Yes.  The nonviolent option is ALWAYS going to be the longer and more painful route but it will ultimately result in less desire for, say, a ‘re-match.’

    Since we’re talking about the Civil War, I’d point out that it was started by the ones who wanted to keep the slaves, and that didn’t exactly work out for them.  However, Reconstruction is where the North dropped the ball.  it could be argued that, had Reconstruction been carried out fully, then there would be less ground for racism to cling to tenaciously for all this time.  Besides that, emancipation would have had to have taken place long before the Civil War — at the very least before the Mason-Dixon Line.

    And I could be wrong!  I could be very wrong, and violent revolt/conflict is the only way that we’ll ever get any meaningful change in society.  Or I could be partly wrong, and sometimes it’s needed.  I don’t lay claim to perfect truth. =) I’m just expressing… well, what I’m starting to see.

    Believe me, a part of me is seeing all these yahoos say “Ah’ve got mah guns an’ my God, filthly Libruls!” and wants to come back with, “Come at me, bro,” or stupid rejoinders like that.  Part of me wants very much to see if might makes right, or right makes might.  (From my perspective, at any rate.) And that’s not good, not healthy, and I’m starting to come to the belief that it’s not helpful.  It leaves violence open as an option, and I’m starting to believe — and again, I may be wrong — that a violent reckoning will only result in blood and ash, and another generation which will plot revenge against the victors of the last round, simply because their elders taught them that way.

    My opinion only, of course, I don’t expect to hold anyone else to it, and again… I may be wrong.

  • VMink

    This has been an interesting topic of debate on Ta-Nehisi Coates’ site, and… I’ve been wavering a bit. I can’t bring myself to disagree with you since slavery was bloody *wrong*.

    My question is: Nat Turner?

    ETA: I should clarify: The Southern governments’ response to Nat Turner’s rebellion was utterly wrong and I will *never* say it was called for. I’m asking more about Nat Turner’s rebellion killing the children of slaveowners. (The slaveowners themselves, I’ve really very little ability to be sympathetic towards.) There weren’t many, but they were there. I’m just wondering if… well, if that was part of what needed to be done? I’m not saying you or I (or even Nat Turner himself) condoned it, but if it was an inevitable and necessary part of the rebellion, if the rebellion was… … You know, I don’t even know what I’m asking. :(

    Argh. I’m sorry, it’s late and it’s been a rough day, and I hope I’m not coming off as punchier than normal because i’m finding this a very helpful discussion about the necessity of violence. :(

  • Bacon on the side is one thing. Bacon IN the waffle? No thanks.

  • Madhabmatics

     I’ve seen more instances of the phrase “Are you sure this is the hill you want to die on?” in the past week than I’ve seen in my entire life.

  • Madhabmatics

     I have a copy of one of these books written by Tim LaHey (The Act of Marriage). It is a trip.

    Also it has a huge illustration showing the vagina and urethra with arrows pointing to it so you can tell some of the people in this comment line have never read it. :P

  • Mary Kaye

    The Scarleteen web site is AWESOME on anatomy.  I’ve owned these parts for 49 years and I learned some new stuff about them.  Not just for teenagers!

    In particular, it doesn’t just address “average” sex organs, it talks a good deal about the range of normal variation–which is really wide, especially in females.  Two vulvas can look extremely dissimilar–and both be perfectly normal.  This was nice to find out.

    (There is some interesting evolutionary biology being done on the question of why, given that reproduction is such a key function, it’s so evolutionarily volatile.  Why aren’t vulvas as standardized as, say, hearts?  The fact that the same genome has to work for males and females seems to be part of the answer.)

  • reynard61

    “If Slactivist writers couldn’t bash other Christians, what would they have to write about?”

    First, not all of us are Christians.

    Second; if Christians simply *stopped doing* bashable things (Yeah, right…), then maybe we would, y’know, *stop writing about them.*

  • Lori

    Not to put too fine a point on it, if it hurts you’re doing it wrong.

  • Lori

    Way to totally miss the point Joe. The obligatory self-righteous tone is, as always, a nice touch.

  • Lori


    To say that Doug Wilson is a “proponent of rape culture” is an outright and vicious lie. And Fred knows it. But he doesn’t care.   

    Things we have all learned today: Joe Carter does not know what “rape culture” means.

  • Matri

    Do you even know what “alliteration” means, or are you just spouting off ignorance?

  • Given the way he assumes everybody here is Christian, gee, you’d almost think they weren’t an oppressed minority in the US!

  • Will you be offended if I would just assume not enjoy its pleasures?

    No, I’m offended when people mess up a simple phrase like “just as soon not.” :p  (Granted, in these days of spell check, that might not be entirely your fault.)

  • SketchesbyBoze

    “Just saying, since I’m not a reader of any contemporary Christian authors and leaders.”

    You’ve never read “Harry Potter”? Friend, it’s not too late.

  • Victor

    I didn’t know that you were a psychologist Tricksterson butt for the record, no you’re not poking a stick at me at all. I will tell you that “I am” taking medication which my doctor suplies for my physical condition and “I” really don’t need to explain to you but trust me they are not for mental retardation but if they were, why would that concern you? Face “IT” deep down in side you don’t really give a darn about me so stop worrying  you silly man and/or woman or whate ever else Tricksterson might stand for. 

    If you’ve been reading my comment in other blogs, and you probably have and/or should have before passing judgement.  You should and probably do know that  I truly believe that “The Blessed Sacrament of Marriage” is between a Man and a Woman only.

    Having said that, believe “IT” or not, I don’t hate anyone for their sex orientation so please don’t try to score points by throwing your insult cause I’m not an idiot and “I” could go on and one butt face “IT” some people won’t ever learn to agree to disagree without indirectly throwing your  silly insult.

    Forgive Victor folks, “IT” is a little late and he’s only human and sometime does get tired of “IT” all but the only danger that he has is that someone might just be tempted to put him out of circulation if he continues expressing himself cause Victor really is his own worst enemies cause he just won’t quit needlying Jeff for his behavior which is really none of Victor’s business. For his own mental state, I’ll try to convince him to stay away for good butt you try talking to stub born human.

    Sometimes I almost wish that  GOD (Good Old Dad) and His Angels really did exist so that they could take care of Victor cause believe “IT” or not, “I AM WHO I AM” and I’M also getting pretty tired of “IT” all myself  if you get my drift? :)

    STOP “IT” sinner vic cause I don’t need you to fight any of my battles and besides most human have a good heart if you can get past their tuff skin that is. Go Figure!  :(


  • guest

    It is embarrassing and appalling that not only were you ignorant of that fact but that you were willing to show that ignorance in public.

  •  Reminds me of this article, somehow. Curtis J. Evans, ‘White Evangelical Protestant Response to the Civil
    Rights Movement’, Harvard Theological Review 102, April 2009, pages 245–273

  • The Guest That Posts

     Fred’s an Evangelical.

  • The Guest That Posts

     Violence is not inherent in Islam or any other religion that I know of. How in the world can that even be worthy of debate?

  • Ima Pseudonym

    When they try to marginalize the assholes, the Jeffs and Joe Carters of the world swarm out of the woodwork to accuse them of being evil horribbad people for slandering their brothers and sisters in Christ and sneer that they’re just sucking up to the secular liberals for head-pats. 

  •  Disqus isn’t showing what comment you’re responding to, guest, only that you’re responding to me; I assume you’re referring to my demonstrated ignorance of female anatomy.

    I also assume that by “embarrassing” you mean, not that you’re embarrassed, but that I ought to be embarrassed to have demonstrated my ignorance in public.

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts on the matter.