The Hatewatch blog is managed by the staff of the Intelligence Project of the Southern Poverty Law Center, an Alabama-based civil rights organization.

Old South Slavery Defender to Speak at Conference Hosted by Major Christian Right Leader

By Heidi Beirich on July 22, 2009 - 12:01 pm, Posted in Christian Right

The senior pastor of Bethlehem Baptist Church, a major Minneapolis-based congregation with more than 6,000 worshipers, has invited extremist preacher Doug Wilson to speak at an upcoming national conference commemorating the 500th anniversary of John Calvin’s birth. John Piper, who preaches at Bethlehem and runs Desiring God, an outfit that promotes his religious beliefs, is regarded as a mainstream evangelical, and Bethlehem is a member of the Baptist General Conference.

Wilson, based in Idaho, is anything but mainstream. He has written that Old South slavery was “a life of plenty” and has said he believes adultery should, in certain circumstances, be punished by execution.

This is the second time this year that Wilson has found favor in mainstream Christian circles. In June, on the bill of a conference Wilson hosted was Charles 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 in connection with the Watergate scandal.

Wilson runs an extreme right religious empire in Moscow, Idaho, that includes a church, Canon Press, and New Saint Andrews College. Popular in neo-Confederate circles as well, he co-wrote a partly plagiarized booklet, Southern Slavery, As It Was, defending Old South slavery; his co-author was Steve Wilkins, a founding member of the neo-secessionist and racist League of the South.

Southern Slavery, As It Was is a repulsive apologia for the enslavement of black Americans. Among other things, the booklet contends that, “Slavery as it existed in the South … was a relationship based upon mutual affection and confidence. … There has never been a multiracial society which has existed with such mutual intimacy and harmony in the history of the world.”

When a University of Idaho professor revealed in 2004 that Wilson’s booklet contained 22 passages plagiarized from a discredited 1974 academic treatise, Wilson scoffed, deriding the “local Banshees” who criticized him over what he portrayed as a mere citation problem. Canon Press then issued a “corrected” version of the booklet — correct in its citations, but unchanged in its portrayal of happy and well-fed slaves whose relationship with their masters was one of mutual affection.

Wilson’s views on other issues are just as extreme. Woman “was created to be dependent and responsive to a man,” he has written. If a woman is raped, the rapist should pay the father a bride price and then, if the father approves, marry his victim. Homosexuals, Wilson says, are “sodomites” and “people with foul sexual habits.” Wilson recently told Christianity Today that he’s in favor of the “exile [of] some homosexuals, depending on the circumstances and the age of the victim.” He added, “There are circumstances where I’d be in favor of execution for adultery.” Cursing one’s parents is likewise “deserving of punishment by death.” Though he admits the scripture does not forbid interracial marriage, Wilson warns that, “wise parents” will carefully weigh any union involving “extremely diverse cultural backgrounds.”

Wilson’s standards don’t always apply to those close to him. In 2006, the Moscow-Pullman Daily News published a story about complaints that Wilson had tried to “cover up” serial sexual molestations by a college student — molestations of very young boys and girls carried out over several years. Although the newspaper quoted none of them, many people were angry that Wilson had failed to notify families in his Christ Church for eight months after Steven Sitler confessed to him in March 2005. One church family with young children had boarded Sitler, and others welcomed him as a visitor in their homes (Sitler molested one 2-year-old girl in a similar visiting situation in Colville, Wash.).

In his 1999 book Fidelity, Wilson wrote, “When we are dealing with young children who are abused by adults (pederasty, child porn, etc.), the penalty for those guilty of the crime should be death.” But rather than condemn Sitler, Wilson wrote to the sentencing judge in Sitler’s case, describing him as “most responsive” and “completely honest” and asking that criminal penalties be “measured and limited.”

Piper refused repeated requests for comment about inviting Wilson to speak at his conference. In a video on the Desiring God website, Piper says that “Doug gets the gospel right” and that he is “unusually compelling.”

  • Bilbas

    This can’t help John Piper’s reputation.

    I don’t know what’s worse. Doug Wilson glamorizing slavery or Doug Wilson covering up for a child rapist.


  • Brendan M.

    Contact Info:

    John Piper:
    Phone: 1.888.346.4700 (regular business hours)

    Marvin Olasky:
    Phone: (512) 451-6278
    Fax: (512) 451-6580
    World Magazine (of which he is Editor in Chief)
    Phone: 800-951-4974,(regular business hours)
    Fax: 828-253-1556

    Sam Storms:

    Dr. Mark Talbot:
    Phone: 630-752-5892
    Fax: 630-752-7777

  • Ryan the non-Aryan

    Slavery is still evident primarily within the workforce. With many of them involving illegal alienz and immigrants who normally suppress wages by working for extremely low pay. Blacks may no longer do the jobs that their grandfathers once did during the Industrial ages. But at least immigrants will take up jobs that Blacks will no longer do. Often times ending up beiing exploited by their white employers, who break the laws by knowingly hire illegal alienz.

  • beholder

    The verse most commonly cited in favor of slavery in the Old South was the “Noah’s curse” passages of Genesis 9. There is a very good book by a scholar named Stephen R. Haynes, called Noah’s Curse that looks into this issue in detail, by the way.

  • beholder

    Let us not forget that in the Old South scripture from the Holy Bible was also used to justify misogyny.

  • mountaingirl08

    Growing up I heard b.s. like the slaves were helpless when they were freed and so on, as if the slaves would never survive w/o the whites telling them what to do. Upon reflection, I thought; does that make any sense at all? Oh hell no, thought I.

  • Brendan M.

    Why don’t we contact the other scheduled speakers at the conference and demand that they withdraw unless this bigot is disinvited?

    That’s what I plan on doing, assuming I can find the contact information. Here are the other speakers ( SPLC should really provide emails and phone numbers with these blog posts so that readers can take action themselves. If I get that information, I’ll relay it.

  • mountaingirl08

    Is Wilson insane?!! He has got to be kidding us.

  • GENO

    Its quite tenuous to believe that whites are the primary slave owners. When in fact, that whites are sometimes slaves themselves. Not only among themselves as seen with the Irish/Scottish under English rule among others. But non-Whites once owned White slaves.
    Take the American History for instance, Natives actually did own white slaves captured on the battle fields or from the raiding parties on settlers in the frontier. Which is then used as a trading bargain to the white’s enemies(i.e. A British woman can be traded to the French for goods, weapons and ammo). It was a common practice during the pre-French and Indian War and after. I don’t recall Blacks ever owning White slaves. But then again Natives did own Black slaves, hence the ancestors of the Freemen(former Black slaves) which the Cherokees once owned. Now the Freemen are currently enrolled members of the Cherokee Nation.
    Now that the Founding Fathers created a Nation of Democracy and Freedom, I don’t see how some ancient Biblical quotes regarding slavery can be applied in today’s world, when in actually refers to its historical events.

  • Carter

    Many major theological works mention slavery.

    (Slavery mentioned in English Language Translation of Christian Bible)
    Slaves are permanent possession to be inherited by future children

    The Holy Bible not only justifies but also establishes slavery. The Biblical God admonishes and authorizes his followers to buy both bondmen and bondmaids from among the heathens who stay around them. Biblical God goes one step further and incites his followers to treat the bondmen and bondmaids as a permanent possession and property to be inherited by future children ! Read the following three passages :

    214. ?44. Both thy bondmen, and thy bondmaids, which thou shalt have, shall be of the heathen that are round about you; of them shall ye buy bondmen and bondmaids.1
    – Leviticus, 25/44

    215. ?45. Moreover of the children of the strangers that do sojourn among you, of them shall ye buy, and of their families that are with you, which they begat in your land; and they shall be your possession.2
    – Leviticus, 25/45

    216. ?46. And ye shall take them as an inheritance for your children after you, to inherit them for a possession; they shall be your bondmen for ever. 3

    Research this material & you will find it in MOST major works….

  • beholder

    Karenie I bet you verse for verse I could quote you out of the sandbox in Holy Scripture. Please step back in line, your bigotry is showing. I merely speak an objective fact. Research it, then come tell us what you find. By the way, it’s a sin to bear false witness against me. When did I ever mention the UN? Shame on you.

  • Karenie


    Gee, why don’t you read the UN charter that you believe in and preach. Why twist a book you know nothing about? Give us a history lesson on all the wars we have gotten into since the UN started. Let us dig into all the things you believe in. I bet you have more in common with Hitler and Stalin than you realize.

  • beholder

    Let us not forget that the proponents of slavery in the Old South frequently cited scripture from the Holy Bible as justification for this abominable institution.

  • 14GENO92

    Regarding John Piper–
    “believes that adultery should, in certain circumstances, be punished by excution.”

    Say, if that rule were to reign supreme in *their* communities. Half of its members would be dead. Given the high rates of promiscuity and infidelity among “fellow Christians” of the far Right.
    “Major Christian Rights Leader” is a bogus term.


    Actually, John Piper says, “Doug has a way with language and what he says is unusually compelling.” I wonder if he had this quote in mind from Wilson’s manifesto in hate and abuse, when he made his stupid observation:

    “Jesus was not above using ethnic humor to make His point either. . . . (Mt. 15:22–28) . . . . My understanding of this encounter is that Jesus was pulling his disciples’ chain. This woman was not a Jew, and the Jews had problems dealing with such people, considering them beneath contempt — in a word, dogs. Put in terms that we might be more familiar with, Jesus was white, and the disciples were white, and this black woman comes up seeking healing, for her daughter. She gets ignored. The disciples ask Jesus to send her off. She comes up and beseeches Christ for healing. It’s not right, He says, to give perfectly good white folk food to ‘niggers.’ Disciples mentally cheer. But she sees the look in His eye, and the inverted commas around the epithet, and answers in kind. He relents, which was His intent all along, and heals the woman’s daughter. If this understanding is right, then Jesus was using a racial insult to make a point. If it is not correct, then He was simply using a racial insult.” (Douglas Wilson, A Serrated Edge [Moscow: Canon Press, 2003], 43–44)

    Jesus used ethnic humor to make His points??? This man is really sick.