Tag Archives: religion


Zealous leader, the more you try to save us from ourselves, the more we need to be saved from you.

Read along as Doug Wilson strains out the gnat and swallows the camel

Have you heard of Doug Wilson? He was sparring partner of the late Christopher Hitchens in the documentary Collision, and he is author of Recovering The Lost Tools of Learning.

Homeschoolers Anonymous has published documents that reveal Wilson blamed a girl and her father* a girl’s father for the crime committed against her. Oh, he certainly blames the criminal, too. But apparently there’s something noble about salting wounds. Maybe he picked that up from Hitch.

When you read the post, I think you’ll agree with me that Wilson’s behavior could become a new analogy for straining out the gnat and swallowing the camel, but in Wilson’s community, all authority belongs to those with sweeping powers of blame.

One can only hope for a genuinely sola scriptura environment around that guy. And you know I’m someone who thinks of Tradition and traditions as ways to prevent people from turning the Bible into a hammer. As a friend of mine once said, “When your only tool is a hammer, everything is a nail.” Maybe Wilson has that figured out, just not in the ironic sense my friend intended.

Another thought (updated): Wilson in the hierarchy of authority:

What kind of Lord of the Flies scenario allows a special council to mull how to best punish the father of a victim? To best punish someone for not being a “helicopter parent“?

For that matter, why shouldn’t Wilson be punished for allowing someone under his spiritual authority to misbehave? Maybe Wilson should no longer be allowed to receive the Lord’s Supper—that’s the exact punishment he considered for the father of the victim, and yet Wilson apparently thinks he has spiritual authority in a community in which one of his own students sexually assaulted someone.

By Wilson’s own reasoning, Wilson should be punished for allowing one of his students to sexually assault the girl. The father has authority over the girl; Wilson has spiritual authority over the community. Spiritual authority is greater than earthly authority, right? (I mean, if you doubt that, read Wilson’s own letter!) By Wilson’s own reasoning, Wilson should be in more trouble with his Lord of the Flies council than the father.

*Another Update:

The girl, now an adult, reveals in a blog post that Wilson and his church are even colder than the Homeschoolers Anonymous post revealed, specializing in precise, technical legalism while tossing any pretense of the Bible’s “Fruits of the Spirit” in their dealings with the victim:

“While I’m pretty certain I know exactly what was in the heart of the criminal who took my innocence and broke my spirit, I can’t pretend to know what was in the heart of Doug and the elders when they stood behind him, and I certainly can’t pretend to know the reasoning behind leaving me out in the cold with no support, no love, compassion, or empathy, not even so much as a consoling pat on the back for all I’d been through. But I have my own theory. There’s a couple of ideas about this lack of support I received floating around and I’ve heard them over the years – one of them is that the church leaders didn’t feel they were in a position to reach out to me because my father had expressly told them to stay away from his family and reaching out to me would be disrespecting his position as head of our household, which may be true, except there’s a problem with that theory, one that thickens the plot. In the letter pictured below from Doug Wilson to my father, Doug, writing on behalf of the elders of Christ Church, clearly places a great deal of blame on my father for the abuse I suffered and treats him with a coldness and severity that I find heartbreaking. I truly cannot image being a father who’d just found out his daughter was horrifically abused for years under his roof and then being told his “sin and folly” of not protecting her is equally as distressing as the sins of the criminal who molested his little girl for years. My father was a destroyed man when I came out about my abuse, and what father wouldn’t be? His tears of sadness and broken-ness went on for years, and still to this day he breaks down on occasion and begs my forgiveness for the hurt I suffered, and I always tell him the same thing: It’s not your fault. Because it wasn’t.”

Plumbers are smarter than I am, and so are pastors

Plumbers make more money than university lecturers. So do pastors.

Americans have some tendencies to equate income with intelligence.

There are outliers who make money by going for the sensational and the glandular, like Miley Cyrus.

As a university lecturer, I might as well have the belief system of a pastor.

Worthwhile knowledge, its retention, and its real-world impacts are nebulous things, terribly hard to quantify. Outcomes are easily attributable to other factors.

Which is why people don’t ultimately accept “knowledge is power,” and why they remain skeptical of the value of education. The monkey with the shiniest toys didn’t necessarily excel in school, and that common observation places a little wrinkle somewhere in the brain.

In the U.S., the annual mean wage paid to clergy is $47,730.

At large churches, however, where they have “executive” positions, which help establish egos and golf club memberships, compensation is at least $110,000.

At other churches, senior pastors (first among equals, some being more equal than others) earn between $265,000 and $1.1 million.

The average U.S. income for individuals is $40,563, and the average family income is $82,843.

The annual mean wage for plumbers is $53,240.

As a university lecturer, I often deal with material similar to what plumbers have to deal with: clogs, stagnation, rust, and excrement.

Only the material I’m exposed to is metaphorically clogged up, stagnated, rusted, or just plain shit.

One thing is for certain. Pastors have a unique position. If your job involves prodding and provoking vulnerable hearts, your income has a shot at being slightly above average.

Move hearts and you’ll change wallets, whether you’re Miley Cyrus or an Executive Pastor.

By the way, everyone should be disgusted by the title Executive Pastor, except no one is, because churches are marketed and operated precisely like organizations designed to make money: corporations.

Some ancient fool said you cannot serve both God and money. Good thing we have plenty of Executive Pastors to straighten Him out.

‘The Spirit of Abstraction’

“As soon as we accord to any category, isolated from all other categories, an arbitrary primacy, we are victims of the spirit of abstraction.” — Gabriel Marcel, in Man Against Mass Society

Gabriel Marcel was a French philosopher and playwright.

I have Marcel’s book Creative Fidelity, an essay collection that I’ve wanted to read for years, but when I dip into it, I rarely get very far due to fatigue or interruptions. I found the above quotations here, in a clear, interesting, and I might even say theological, article on Marcel’s life and work.

Marcel’s work is rich, but here I decided to focus on “abstraction” because it is precisely what I was worried about when I was thinking through the rhetoric and points of reference used by some evangelical leaders to address or comment on ministerial scandals during the past two years.

(I attempted a concrete example of such abstraction from Christianity Today editor Andy Crouch in this post written in the early days of the Mark Driscoll scandal. The above quotation from Marcel would have fit nicely in the post.)

If you’re as curious about Gabriel Marcel as I am, you might like these web portals:

Rockhurst University in Kansas, Mo., has a Gabriel Marcel Society.

Neumman University in Aston, Pa., is home to Marcel Studies, an online, peer-reviewed journal.

The University of Texas at Austin’s Henry Ransom Humanities Research Center has an online Gabriel Marcel inventory of materials available at the center.

I might as well end with another good Marcel quotation, this one challenging my affinity for Stoicism — and, more importantly, reminding us that hope is communal, that hope takes place in community. From his book Tragic Wisdom and Beyond:

“No doubt the solitary consciousness can achieve resignation [Stoicism], but it may well be here that this word actually means nothing but spiritual fatigue. For hope, which is just the opposite of resignation, something more is required. There can be no hope that does not constitute itself through a we and for a we. I would be tempted to say that all hope is at the bottom choral.”

What a great way to think about a genuine community: hope embodied, a choral hope.

Persistent mom scores one against the FLDS polygamist sect — scores four, actually

Imagine: a court awards you custody of your four children.

You go to get them, only to be met by the security force of a closed religious community.

That’s exactly what Sabrina Broadbent experienced.

Broadbent is a former Fundamentalist Latter Day Saint — yep, the cultic community of “Prophet” Warren Jeffs fame — and her kids were still living in the FLDS community she had left 8 years ago.

Her story was told on this evening’s World News Tonight on ABC, and she was featured on Friday’s 20/20.

Tonight’s news anchor called Broadbent’s story a “struggle by one mother waging her own battle against a powerful polygamist religious sect.”

Broadbent was “speaking out for the first time about the fight to  be reunited with her children and to teach them about life on the outside,” the anchor said.

After she was met by the security force, Broadbent returned the next day.

A crowd of FLDS members, appearing on television to be mostly women and children, surround Broadbent’s vehicle and began to weep, sing, and pray in what become “a 22-hour standoff, a mom surrounded by a sea of polygamists,” the reporter said.

Eventually, a sheriff’s deputy intervened, and Broadbent was allowed to leave with her kids.

The kids didn’t want to go, but “within weeks” they have adjusted to living outside the polygamist community “with the help of TV, video games, a new puppy and a huge amount of maternal love and patience,” the reporter said.

Television and video games are the new deprogramming tools? Considering where those kids came from, sounds good to me.

I was struck by the religious and social power of surrounding a single person with crying, praying, and singing. I imagine many people would have caved.

Broadbent must have grown and strengthened during those 8 years, to be able to withstand that level of emotional and spiritual persuasion, especially considering she used to be part of the community and probably still recognized some of the members.

But that’s the power of “maternal love and patience” — not a bad thing to remember on Mothers Day Weekend.

Submit to this question!

How can you submit to an authority before you evaluate that authority?

If a religious authority claims to be flawed and broken and sinful, evaluate the extent and nature of his influence and control.

If an academic authority claims to have the best answer on an issue, ask him about the best points his opponents make.

South Park Eric Cartman

Christ busted