Douglas Wilson runs an extreme-right religious empire based out of St. Andrews College in Moscow, Idaho. Popular in neo-Confederate circles as well, Wilson has co-authored a partly plagiarized booklet defending Old South slavery as a “life of plenty” with Steve Wilkins, a founding member of the neo-secessionist and racist League of the South. A serious hardliner, Wilson recently told reporters at Christianity Today that he’s in favor of the “exile [of] some homosexuals, depending on the circumstances and the age of the victim. There are circumstances where I’d be in favor of execution for adultery.”
Wilson’s now found a new friend in Chuck Colson, recipient of the 2008 Presidential Citizens Medal and a revered Christian Right leader for decades, dating back to 1975 when he founded the Prison Fellowship ministry after serving time for obstruction of justice after being caught up in the Watergate scandal. Later this month in Atlanta, Colson will be the featured speaker at Wilson’s annual conference of classical Christian educators and homeschoolers, known as the Association of Classical and Christian Schools. It’s a leap off the deep end for Colson, or as the Americans United for Separation of Church and State put it, “So let’s get this straight: Colson is happily speaking at a conference whose founder and guiding light celebrates theocracy, defends slavery as biblical and expresses regret that the Confederacy lost the Civil War.”
Over the past three years however, Colson has given speeches that suggest a move from conservative evangelical Christianity into the far ends of Christian dominionism, a belief that America, along with the rest of the world, should be governed by conservative Christians using a conservative Christian interpretation of biblical law. In a 2007 column for Christianity Today, Colson ripped into Christian parents who are unable to “defend Christian truth … because we worship at the altar of the bitch goddess of tolerance.”
Still, Colson’s flirtation with dominionism is one thing. The antebellum slavery-defending “paleo-confederacy” advocated by Wilson, his conference host, is quite another. Wilson’s booklet Southern Slavery, As It Was, is an outrageous apologia for the enslavement of black Americans in the Old South. “Slavery as it existed in the South … was a relationship based upon mutual affection and confidence,” wrote Wilson and his co-author Wilkins. “There has never been a multiracial society which has existed with such mutual intimacy and harmony in the history of the world.” Wilson is also a promoter of some of the more draconian tenets of Christian Reconstructionism, a theocratic movement that seeks to demolish American democracy and replace it with the legal code of the Old Testament, which calls for stoning to death adulterers, homosexuals and in some cases, wayward children. In an April 2009 interview with Christianity Today, Wilson distanced himself only ever so slightly from the most hardline reconstructionists. “You can’t apply Scripture woodenly,” said Wilson. “I’m not proposing legislation. All I’m doing is refusing to apologize for certain parts of the Bible.”
Despite these extremist views, Wilson hopes to fashion himself as a mainstream Christian evangelical. Last year, he sparred with outspoken atheist writer Christopher Hitchens in a filmed six-part debate entitled “Is Christianity Good for the World?” The text of the debate arguments were widely reprinted in the evangelical Christian press. When Hitchens was asked about his debate opponent Wilson, he replied “He has a ministry on the Washington-Idaho border, I believe,” Hitchens said. “I don’t know of what Christian denomination he precisely describes himself … I try not to do too much homework on people.” It’s unlikely that Colson, who is now featured in the same publications as Wilson, has the same excuse.