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Slavery Apologist to Lecture Indiana University Students on Sex

By Mark Potok on April 11, 2012 - 11:26 am, Posted in Christian Reconstruction, Extremist Propaganda, Neo-Confederate

This Friday, a far-right religious activist who co-authored a repulsive apologia for Southern slavery and argues that women were created to be “dependent and responsive” to men, will speak on sexuality and the Bible at Indiana University, Bloomington. Invited by a campus Christian group, Douglas Wilson’s impending visit to this major university has set off something of a local firestorm.

Wilson, who runs a religious empire in Moscow, Idaho, that includes a church, a college, a lower school, and a right-wing religious press, is best known for his 1996 book, Southern Slavery, As It Was, written with another far-right pastor. “Slavery as it existed in the South … was a relationship based upon mutual affection and confidence,” it claims. “There has never been a multiracial society which has existed with such mutual intimacy and harmony in the history of the world. … Slave life was to them [slaves] a life of plenty, of food, clothes and good medical care.”

But his two-part lecture this week is specifically aimed at the school’s Kinsey Institute for Research in Sex, Gender, and Reproduction, founded in 1947 by the late IU researcher Alfred Kinsey. The ClearNote Campus Fellowship, which invited Wilson, said in its announcement that Kinsey sought to “normalize perversion,” adding that the Idaho pastor “intends to bring biblical wisdom and sexual sanity” to IU.

Several groups, including IU’s Progressive Faculty & Staff Caucus, a town organization called Bloomington United and a representative of the IU Student Association, have called for a rally to coincide with Wilson’s 7-9 p.m. presentation. None have suggested cancelling his talk, saying they treasure free speech on campus but believe that Wilson’s views should be made public and fully discussed.

Those views, as captured in more than 30 Wilson books published by his own Canon Press, go beyond adulation of the Old South as a truly “orthodox” Christian society to dwell heavily on family and sexual matters. Wilson argues that women should only be allowed to date with their father’s permission; that if a woman is raped, the rapist should pay the father a bride price and then, if the father approves, marry his victim; and that gay men and lesbians are “sodomites” and “people with foul sexual habits.” The biblical punishment for homosexuality, he adds, is not necessarily death, though it could be under biblical law — exile is another possibility. (Wilson has also been accused of hypocrisy with regard to his sexual puritanism.)

IU critics of Wilson say he has completely misinterpreted Kinsey and his mission. “This famous research institute does not promote ‘deviant’ sexual behavior or sex in general,” Patrick Brantlinger, the James Rudy Professor Emeritus of English and Cultural Studies and a member of the Progressive Caucus, told Hatewatch.

“Wilson, like past Know-Nothings who’ve wanted to close down the Kinsey, will undoubtedly claim just the opposite — that its goal isn’t to study real people and how they really behave… . Just how Kinsey or the institute he founded violate any tenet of Christianity is beyond me. But the Christian Right folks are ideologues who don’t know much of anything about sex or anything else.”

Although he has denied it, Wilson is essentially a Christian Reconstructionist — a man who believes that Old Testament law should be imposed on America, with all its draconian punishments for an array of behaviors. He has repeatedly and over many years worked with other major Reconstructionists and, like them, writes that cursing one’s parents is “deserving of punishment by death.” He also has pointed out that Scripture does not forbid interracial marriage, but said that “wise parents” will carefully weigh any potential union of people with “extremely diverse cultural backgrounds.”

The Rev. Jacob Mentzel, the ClearNote campus director who invited Wilson, defended Wilson and said he was coming to save people who were otherwise “sinking to Hell,” according to The (Bloomington, Ind.) Herald-Times. “This public university is supposed to promote free discourse,” he said. “And really, with all the talk of diversity and pluralism, there ought to be someone out there in the public square who is a true Christian with all the fire of orthodox Christian faith.”

But in an E-mail that was circulated widely and even posted briefly to an atheists’ Web forum, Mentzel reportedly went further, describing Wilson as a personal friend and saying a 2004 Southern Poverty Law Center article about him was “dishonest,” “sensational” and “reads like the ravings of a conspiracy theorist.” (Full disclosure: I wrote that piece, which I stand behind as 100% accurate.) He claimed that Wilson was only suggesting that slavery could have been ended without the carnage of the Civil War and said Wilson’s book was not “a denial of atrocities” under slavery.

It’s hard to see how describing chattel slavery as “a relationship based upon mutual affection and confidence” and marked by unprecedented “mutual intimacy and harmony” is really a condemnation of the horrors of slavery; to most, it sounds a lot like an endorsement. Be that as it may, elsewhere in his book, Wilson suggests that slaves, by working an extra shift or two, were frequently given days off and allowed to travel to other plantations to meet with girlfriends and lovers. Needless to say, no serious historian believes any of the tripe included in Wilson’s book. In 2004, when the book stirred a major controversy in Idaho, two real historians wrote a pamphlet called Southern Slavery, As It Wasn’t, that roundly debunked Wilson’s claims.

Not only that, it turned out later that much of the book was plagiarized from a scholarly book that was itself had been debunked years earlier. Wilson and his press claimed that he had simply failed to properly cite the source of some 22 near-identical passages in his own book.

Does Doug Wilson have something to teach the students and others at IU about human sexuality? That depends, presumably, on one’s view of sex.

But here’s a clue: In a March 6 blog, Wilson took up the case of Sandra Fluke, the Georgetown law school student who was maligned recently as a “slut,” among other things, by radio talk show host Rush Limbaugh. “I confess I haven’t mastered all the details of this important situation as I ought to have done,” Wilson opined, “but if Ms. Fluke indicated multiple guys, then the comment should stand. That’s what a slut is. But if she has a steady boyfriend, and she if faithful to him, then it really was uncalled for him to call her that. She would be something more like a concubine.”

  • Voltaire

    I disagree with what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.

  • Jeff

    I watched the videos linked to by Robert and Frodo, and I must say that as a gay man, I am mortified. I wholeheartedly disagree with many of the things Wilson believes and speaks about, especially regarding homosexuality. However, I also recognize his freedom to believe and say anything he wants.

    When somebody is invited somewhere to speak, if you want to present opposition to the person or his beliefs, then you do so quietly and respectfully. When that person is behind the podium speaking, you shut your darn mouth and you let him speak. During a lecture is not the appropriate time to VOICE opposition. Hold up signs with clever slogans written on them, but certainly don’t shout.

    I’m a high school teacher, and I must say that the behavior of the people shown in this video reminds me of what I might expect from a very large group of 9th graders. Somebody in opposition to equality for the LGBT community, but who has actually had little to no interaction with members of that community, could reasonably watch these two videos and conclude that homosexuals are uneducated and immature. That of course is not the case, but people need to realize that when they represent a group or organization, their behavior in public has an effect on public perception of that group, and thus affects all the members of that group. I guess basically what I’m saying is that certain gay people need to shut their mouths and keep their counter-hate to themselves, because they’re making the rest of us look bad. This kind of nonsense sets us back in our fight for equality.

    And also, as somebody above mentioned, all one need do to highlight Wilson’s antiquated (and often bizarre) beliefs is simply to let him speak.

  • Bob

    Fascism is alive and well in Bloomington Indiana (in the student body). I watched the Q&A of this session and it was the most disruptive, disrespectful, intolerant and rude Q&A I have ever heard. As a citizen of Indiana, helping pay for these people’s education, I want my money back. Take them back to their parents to learn some respect. Whatever happened to listening to opposing views and then respectfully addressing differences.

  • Reynardine

    Ah, a cheep from the oligophrenisphere. Hello, Screwy Louie.

  • Louis Stouch

    argues that women were created to be “dependent and responsive” to men………….

    Ah, geez guys, that straight out of the koran.

    You sure you got this story right?

  • Erika

    Frodo, that is too bad since Wilson’s most extreme intolerance and positions are directed towards heterosexual women – the gay rights groups would have been better served by letting him air his ignorance on full display rather than trying to shout him down.

    All they needed to do to make that guy look foolish is let him talk about male-female relationships – even most of the Christian Right do not support Old Testament marriage law (and many of the Christians likely would be stoned to death along with the rest of us especially depending upon how broad of a definition of sex the local Taliban leaders choose to adopt). Ask him questions if need be to make sure he places his ignorance on full display – my question above is simple – how old does a girl have to be before she can be effectively forced into marriage?

  • Frodo

    @Reynardine

    My reference to “the church” meant the **members of the church** who organized the event with Doug Wilson and who videotaped the bigotry (i.e., extreme intolerance toward opposing views) on display, as gay and lesbian audience members tried to shout down the speaker:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7lq5AX4lPHQ

  • paulina malalng

    Will he opine on 2nd Amendments issues as well, and perhaps he can enlighten us on who we should vote for. Indiana has lost its mind.

  • Gregory

    Gay mafia? I guess that gives new meaning to the term “made men”. Atheist or not, this is concern trolling.

  • Robert

    @Frodo, you nailed it and you are not alone.

    6min of embarrassing video from the event I found:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7lq5AX4lPHQ

  • Reynardine

    Exactly what gay mafia did what at what church? Between the article and your letter, that is by no means clear.

  • Frodo

    It’s ironic that this blog would be called “HateWatch” — because the only hate on display last night came from the gay mafia that showed up to shout down anyone who dared to disagree with them.

    And I make that observation as an atheist.

    The protesters were their own worst enemy, and their juvenile antics gave the church hours of film to use.

  • Jesse Broussard

    That’s kind of odd–I’d never heard that he believed the whole OT rapist thing, and I’ve known him for seven years. There was a law in the Old Testament that allowed a father to force a “rapist” to either marry his daughter or give her a dowry since that society put a high price on virginity. It would be an easy mistake to make, as Wilson does hold to the whole Bible being the Word of God, but he responded to a critic by saying “do you mean that we should apply the laws of an ancient agrarian society across the board woodenly and literally as if we had no brains? No, I don’t believe that.”

    But if someone has any kind of citation, I’d love to see it.

    Blessings,
    Jesse Broussard

  • Reynardine

    I suspect there’s no NAMGLA exactly because that’s still too normative.

  • Erika

    Kathleen, with opinions this extreme it is probably safe to say that even almost of the right wing Christians in the audience will be offended.

    I’d almost want to go hear him speak to ask him how old I would have been able to be basically sold into slavery as a “wife” for some perv who may have already raped me. If there was a NAMGLA his views of sex would make him a hero.

  • kathleen lundy

    as awful as this is, we do have a 1st Amendment , and it
    needs to be honored….I would much rather hear more than
    less; much rather have these folks speak in the sunshine
    rather than remain in what to me are the shadows….k

  • Tao

    Just what the Bloomington area needs!

  • Reynardine

    On information and belief, Mr. Hitchens was rather a mean man, and moreso as he aged, which causes one to wonder if the meanest people are those who are born with brains already aging.

  • http://twitter.com/AronL Aron

    Erika,

    Clearly everyone has misunderstood Doug Wilson what he meant to say was that fathers should sell their daughters to THERAPISTS. Presumably for research or some other legiitimate purpose. Hee!

  • Ruslan Amirkhanov

    I wonder if the late Mr. Hitchens would have said the same about fundamentalist Muslims. The same man praised the murder of secular Muslims.

  • Erika

    I can’t imagine how anyone who things that fathers should be able to sell their daughters to rapists can possibly accuse others of sexual devience. It sounds suspiciously like he’s an icky perv trying to legalize pedophilia between men and little girls. Exactly how young does a have to be before they are old enough to be sold into sexual slavery as a “wife”?

  • Reynardine

    Aron, I am glad to help expand the descriptive powers of language any time.

  • Robert

    Not quite an accurate depiction of Doug Wilson. Consider this quote: “I have discovered that the so-called Christian right is much less monolithic, and very much more polite and hospitable, than I would once have thought, or than most liberals believe.”

    -Christopher Hitchens, Slate, reflecting on his time with Doug Wilson. (They wrote a book together and did a movie.)

  • http://twitter.com/AronL Aron

    Rey,

    I am definitely going to have to start using the term ‘oligophrenisphere.’ That is arguable the greatest portmanteau I’ve hear in a long, long time.

  • Reynardine

    Trouble is, Aron, pretty soon you’ll see the oligophrenisphere batting that around as “proof” she’s one (“They confirmed it at SPLC!”)

  • JA

    When did educated people forget what a fool is?

  • http://twitter.com/AronL Aron

    Rey,

    It has been widely reported however, that as she was entering the hearing chamber, Sandra Fluke’s boyfriend was overheard calling out to her as he left, shouting ‘Goodbye, my concubine!’

    (Sorry, I know that was painfully stupid. But at least it was mildly entertaining — to me, at any rate — and I think that’s what matters, no?

  • Gregory

    The Patriarchy is not dead. He’s just been taking a long nap.

  • Reynardine

    I would add that Sandra Fluke, as representative of a student organization, was discussing the very real health ramifications of denying her constituents hormonal medications because they could also be used for contraception. At no point did she discuss her personal life. She would not, in the event, be any man’s “concubine” unless he owned her.

  • Reynardine

    I can imagine this man’s lecture: “Rape only women you are prepared to marry and slaves you’re paid up on!” I’d point out that mulatto (as they were then called) young women were good investments; if they bore their white masters and overseers pretty quadroon daughters, those could be sold at a profit to truly wealthy landowners and the better class of New Orleans brothels.

  • Shadow Wolf

    Not surprised. Since the right-wing nut-cakes and the Republicans in general have already been “waging a war on women”. They don’t view women, even if they are white like a sister, as a part of their supremacy. As Obama would say, they view them as nothing short of an “interest group”.