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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  • Rest assured, I am indifferent to your sex life, as I would prefer you were to mine.

  • Headless Unicorn Guy

    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.

    When this quote surfaced at Wartburg Watch a couple months ago, one of the comments was “Does she receive/surrender/accept while holding her Handmaid in her lap?”

  • JustoneK

    This thread, man.  THIS THREAD.

  • NoDoubtAboutIt

    Get some therapy.  Stat.

  •  Um, no one has criticized anyone for not being into sex.  What we take issue with is someone who is not into sex (or particular sex acts) and trying to universalize their preferences and suggest the rest of us should share them.

  • If you don’t enjoy anal sex, then why did you feel it necessary to bring the topic up in this thread.  No one was discussing anal sex in the thread before you brought it up.

  • Lunch Meat

    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.

    Last time this came up, someone (I’m sorry I don’t remember who) made the important point that this could just as easily say, “A woman encompasses, surrounds, overcomes, takes. A man relinquishes and is absorbed and buried.” The physical mechanics of PIV sex work just as well when the woman is active and dominant. There is nothing inherent in sex that requires a man to be dominant, try as Doug Wilson might to describe it that way. In fact, there is nothing inherent in the physical mechanics of sex that requires either partner to be dominant. We don’t describe one puzzle piece as more active or dominant than the other.

  • Jim Roberts

    Can I just stick up for Dave here for a moment, get this comments moved to the top of the heap or something?

    The pancreatic bile ducts connects to the pancreas just before the __________.

    If you can fill in that blank, then, please, continue to mock and belittle Dave for his lack of knowledge of human anatomy. I’m not saying this is a recommended course of action, unless you’re a medical student or something, but it’s your show. If you cannot fill in that blank, then assume that he was sincere when he said that he didn’t know before and that he knows now and that he didn’t mean to cause offense.

    Moving on: I am an evangelical. Mr. Wilson’s comment definitely promotes rape culture. There can be no question or equivocation on this. Saying that this comment promotes rape culture is like saying, “Cheese is AWESOME,” promotes dairy culture. It just does, and if you can’t see that, then you are part of the problem.

  • The pancreatic bile ducts connects to the pancreas just before the __________.

    I can conceivably go my entire life without having a need to know this information.  However, if any man ever has a wife, girlfriend, or even a young (e.g. infant) girl he’s helping to care for, having a basic understanding of the anatomy of a vulva would probably be a good idea.

    Granted, my issue is not so much with Dave, but with a society that has left him and many men (myself included at one time) poorly informed about something that might actually be good to know.

  • Jim Roberts

    I definitely agree, Jarred, and it’s a deficiency that needed to be addressed. I jsut question whether it needed to be address (by my count) five times by different people. There comes a point where education becomes browbeating.


    whether it needed to be address (by my count) five times by different people

    That’s my count as well.

    There comes a point where education becomes browbeating.

    FWIW, I mostly didn’t consider the primary purpose of most of the replies to be education in the first place.

    Rather, I understood them to indicate that my ignorance of female anatomy was being treated as a sign of more general indifference to women, either by me as an individual or (as JarredH notes below) by society as a whole or both or indiscriminately.

    Since such indifference is seen as a moral fault, and lots of people here seem to believe that expressions of moral faults deserve public chastisement (for various reasons), it didn’t surprise me that it was chastised.

    I don’t like any part of it, but it’s all been a community norm to varying degrees for as long as I’ve been here, and I’ve come to expect it. This was an exceptionally mild case, and more generally the level of public shaming is much milder than it once was.

  • The_L1985

     I think he’s basing your female status on the fact that “Ellie” is a feminine name.  I’ve been reading this blog, and the comment threads, for ages, and I didn’t know you were genderqueer or that you’d had SRS until you just said so.

  • The_L1985

     I’m equally disconcerted when I find women who don’t know it, either.  Seriously, how do you have that little curiosity about the inner workings of your own body?

  • Rowen

    Question. . .

    Are we using genderqueer as a gender identity? I’m merely asking because how I first encountered it, and have seen used it for a LONG time has been more a cis-gendered person who makes a choice to blur the boundaries.

  • The_L1985

     Because I am not a plot of land to have a flag planted on me, nor do I think that the war-related term “surrender” has any place in a relationship based on love.

    European-Americans conquered the Native-Americans by forcing them onto reservations, making and constantly breaking treaties with them, burning entire villages alive (see also the Pequot War), and deliberately infecting them with the deadly smallpox by giving them infected blankets.

    I literally cannot see, hear, or read the word “conquer” without those connotations immediately leaping to mind.  Nor do I believe that any human being has the right to control any other human being above the age of about 5 or so.*

    I believe it is blasphemous and an insult to myself and my origins as a child of the Divine to accept any situation which is abusive, or which forces a mere human to have that degree of control over another human being whom he loves.

    * After that point, you’d better be teaching your kids self- control, if not a bit sooner.

  • The_L1985

     It may be that Jiagap has been taught that women never want sex, and that she has so far internalized this myth that she literally cannot perceive her own sexual desire for her husband.

    I find that very sad, if true.  It would mean that her husband is allowed to enjoy it when they have sex, and she isn’t.

  • The_L1985

    “It’s really not something a non-vagina owner would know unless they had specific education in the matter.”

    This is why I am very strongly in favor of a nationwide standard that says that students must learn how ALL the systems of the human body work.

  • The_L1985

    “I knew we’re experiencing a massive failure of sex education, but this
    isn’t even that, this is the excretory-system section of the anatomy
    unit of fifth-grade science.”

    The only aspect of excretion that my 5th-grade science class discussed was “How the kidneys work.”  Also, what the colon is for.

    It is possible to teach about the urinary tract without mentioning the genitals in America’s schools.

    It is also possible for people like me to graduate high school without learning that in the classroom (I only know it from outside reading).

  • The_L1985

     A Beka?  I remember that chapter.  The background of the page was pink.  Also, that long hair is recommended for women with a certain neck length, but is totally unnatural for all men.

  • The_L1985

     Yes.  It had a little pink section on good grooming, that included tips on how to best flatter the shape of your face and the apparent length of your neck.

    Also, did you know that if your forehead protrudes, you shouldn’t tie your hair back?  You should have bangs to hide that protruding forehead.

    I had that exact same textbook.  The 7th grade health textbook had a section called “The Making of You” that was heavy on Jeremiah.  It got the stages of prenatal development surprisingly right (except for the mis-labeled photos), and even mentioned that we all came into being “when sperm from your mother united with an egg from your mother.”

    However, there was absolutely ZERO reference to sex or the genitals beyond that quoted phrase.

  • The_L1985

     I’m going with Nathan Poe on this one: if it is a parody, there’s someone out there who wishes it weren’t.

  • The_L1985

    Raptor?  Please, please make sure you turn off your MLP filter before posting comments.  We aren’t seeing the word P-E-O-P-L-E, but instead that “females are pony.” And about mares not saying no, etc.

  • Lori

    FWIW, I mostly didn’t consider the primary purpose of most of the replies to be education in the first place.

    Rather, I understood them to indicate that my ignorance of female
    anatomy was being treated as a sign of more general indifference to
    women, either by me as an individual or (as JarredH notes below) by
    society as a whole or both or indiscriminately.  

    FWIW, I would consider it a failure of education since I think everyone should be taught basic anatomy. Beyond that I wouldn’t generalize. I know there are some things about male bodies that I only know because I’ve been in intimate relationships with people who possess them and if I hadn’t I would likely not have had a huge interest.

  • The_L1985

    Not in the slightest! ^^  I’m just saying that anal isn’t necessarily dirty, is all.

  • The_L1985

     Well, technically, everything else is inside the vulva, unless you have big labia or an unusually long clitoris.

  • Lori


      I’m equally disconcerted when I find women who don’t know it, either.  Seriously, how do you have that little curiosity about the inner workings of your own body?   

    I find this way, way more disconcerting. For one thing, IME it takes a significant level of body shame to remain that ignorant about how your basic parts are aligned and I find that depressing.

  • The_L1985

     I’m guessing so as well.  I must admit I’ve never seen “just assume” used in place of “just as soon” before.  I’m used to seeing “one and the same” butchered, but not “just as soon.”

  • The_L1985

     Do go on. ;)

  • The_L1985

     er, what?

  • EllieMurasaki

    I didn’t know you were genderqueer or that you’d had SRS until you just said so.

    Uh, no, I have not had sex reassignment surgery, and if you mean something else by SRS I have no idea what you’re talking about. I’m pretty sure I’ve mentioned being genderqueer around here before, but I didn’t expect anyone to know it, which is why I mentioned it when the subject of my gender came up.

  • The_L1985

     I was person #3 to correct Dave, though I didn’t know it at the time.  Remember, Disqus’s default is to list comments in chronological order, unthreaded.  So to comment on Dave’s comment, I’d either have to read through all of the comments in the entire thread, just to make sure I wasn’t repeating someone else; OR I’d have to do what I actually did, i.e., read all the comments up to that point and write a reply while it was still fresh in my mind.

    If persons, #2, 4, and 5 (no, I’m not digging through the thread just for this) did the same, well, I can understand it.

  • The_L1985

     “Are we using genderqueer as a gender identity?”

    …It’s not?

  • EllieMurasaki

    …oh god that means my experience in fifth grade in one of the educationally worst states in the country was better than in lots of places in the country I am going to go be very sad now.

  • The_L1985

    …Sorry, apparently I was reading more into the phrase “factory-made vagina” than you intended.  I thought you meant that it was, er…made, not something you were born with.

    Very sorry about the confusion.

  • The_L1985

    Especially in private schools, which are the only schools in which A Beka can legally be used.  It’s a parochial text, after all.

    But yes, your experience is better than what a lot of other Americans have had.  It’s sickening, and as a teacher I hate that so many people have been so woefully underserved by our educational system.

    By the way, the textbook did have a diagram of kidney, ureters, bladder, and urethra–but in the diagram, none of it was connected to anything else. Just a disembodied urinary tract, with no troublesome sex organs for that urethra to have to go through.

  • Rowen

    I started hearing it used in the 90’s as not being about gender identity but about blurring the norms of gender expression. So, it wasn’t exactly “cross-dressing” or woman wearing pants, but more of an androgynous look/statement that was more about skirting the lines between men wear pants and have short hair and women wear skirts and have long hair.

    So, it wasn’t exactly apart of gender *identity* but more gender *expression* and what from what I’m reading, it looks like it’s being used more about identity, and I just wanted to be sure i had it right.

  • Leum

    I was never taught about the clitoris or the urethra in my sex ed class. We only learned about the uterus, the ovaries, and the fallopian tube. I think we might have mentioned the vagina once or twice? Condoms were never even mentioned. And I went to a school that was among the most progressive in the city.

     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?

    I think you could make a fairly convincing case that violence is inherent to Sikhism. Not because it advocates holy war, but because Sikhs believe that failing to defend the oppressed usually requires violence and that it would be wrong to do otherwise; one of the common motifs is the image of the kettle and sword, the kettle to feed the hungry and the sword to defend them.

  • Jim Roberts

    That was why I wished my post could be put up closer to the top. Or that we had something amazing like an edit feature. Like you have in Notepad. Notepad. Disqus, did you hear that? You’re less technically proficient than frickin’ Notepad.

  • Consumer Unit 5012

     General social injustice, people doing GOOD things, the news, Buffy the Vampire Slayer…

    It’s not like Fred is a one-note writer.

  • The_L1985

    You can edit comments if you’re logged in to Disqus.  I do it all the time here. :)

  • The_L1985

     You learned about the uterus and ovaries in school?  That’s better than the entire state of Alabama!

  • If you don’t enjoy anal sex, then why did you feel it necessary to bring the topic up in this thread.  No one was discussing anal sex in the thread before you brought it up.

    Just bringing it up tempts fate.

  • Consumer Unit 5012


    Wilson’s choice of words, the man conquering and the women surrendering,
    that is also frightening: ‘conquer’ implies resistance, ‘surrender’
    implies giving up resistance, and in this context that means the woman
    does not want sex and the man is sexing her anyway. There is a word for
    that. That word is ‘rape’.

    IIRC, the same Latin root-word originated both ”Rape’ and, appropriately for this blog’s usual topic, Rapture’.


  •  In their defence, it can be relatively hard to see that part of your anatomy without a good mirror. (I knew what the different bits of my vulva did, but I couldn’t have put names to any of them until I spent an hour with a mirror and Wikipedia.)

  • I am rather satisfied with the sex education that I got.  First were a few day classes in late elementary school, basic “birds and bees” type stuff pointing out the primary physical differences between the two common sexes, and some basic stuff about what would happen to our bodies during puberty.  Middle school had a few classes, which elaborated on the puberty thing, covered things like sexual orientation and STDs.  High school had a more advanced class split between both sexual education and general bodily health education, which in addition to covering some of those prior biological elements to sexuality in more detail, also covered a variety of purely social studies, such as peer pressure, desire, gender, dating, various methods of birth control, even more uncomfortable (but essential to know about) subjects such as rape and incest.  

    Overall, I felt it was pretty comprehensive, released essential information at a good times and at a rate it would not overwhelm the students.  

    There are times I loved growing up in Seattle.  :)

  • LE

    You can learn quite a lot with just fingers.

  • Dr. Rocketscience

    Threading is an available option in Disqus, but Fred has it turned off. If memory serves this was because 1) each reply gets less column width, resulting in some unreadably narrow comments, and b) the migrants from Typepad, where all comments are unthreaded, didn’t like the threading.

  • Consumer Unit 5012

     Eh, we’ve had a few trolls over in the Dinesh D’Ishonest thread, too.  One of whom looks like she’ll be sticking around for a while.

  • …we all came into being “when sperm from your mother united with an egg from your mother.”

    Since it’s such an egregious example, I must double-check, was that a typo (braino?) on your part, or did the book actually get it that wrong?

  • OK, I’d seen this A Beka mentioned occasionally in previous posts, and the best I could figure from context was that maybe it was an old commenter who wasn’t coming around any more.  Now, that’s pretty clearly not the case, so, who/what exactly is it?