Douglas Wilson’s defense of Sitler the pedophile and Wight the statutory rapist has for a few weeks been something of an internet sensation. I want to provide a summary of the state of affairs as it can be gleaned from public documentation and suggest judgments that can be made on that basis alone. The purpose is to help those who may have heard the buzz and want to get a précis on the situation without signing up for weeks of research, and to show how the real church is menaced by all this.
Wilson and his groupies are quick to hush the dissenters with the maxim, “there is lot you don’t know, so just shut up.” At one level, it is doubtless true that there is a lot that we don’t know. However, there is also a lot that can be inferred from what is publicly known independent of the additional facts that are unknown (which, after all, is a disability that applies to the insiders too, formally). To state the matter logically, if there is a set S of propositions known publicly, and if Q follows from S logically, and Q follows regardless of the truth-values of another set S’ not known publicly, then it seems legitimate to point out Q. It is this restricted set of inferences that I propose to outline in the remainder.
The mother lodestone for documentation and comment on the situation is, unfortunately, uneven in quality. Some of it is an attack from the Left with unclear goal or motivation — though we should always remember (to use Wilson’s own phrase), sometimes lynch mobs do hang a guilty man. (Actually, they usually do, but that’s a discussion for another day.) Nevertheless, there is a good bit of leftish poison that seeps in to the critique of many (not all), and this weakens rather than strengthens their case. When not leftish, it can resort to just typical modernist, non-critical pablum. Let me give a few examples.
1. The very term “abuse” is abused. This is what I call a pivot word. An argument does a pirouette around this pivot through equivocating on it. “He made me wear high heels one night,” the abuser did. Six days later, people catch themselves wondering if the “abuser” isn’t a wife-beater. We need to take a moratorium on this word, and other words that function like it.
2. More broadly, modern categories from the corrupt fields of psychic science. There is carping about how only a “certified professional” is capable of diagnosing these maladies aright, and there is all this baggage about predictables and correlations and recidivism rates. If any of that stuff has legitimacy, it is a criticism, not of Wilson, but of others, including judges, that listen to Wilson. It is not for pastors to sign on to that pseudo-scientific program, so far as their own work is concerned.
3. Of course, Wilson is not actually a pastor. But most of the critics from the Left implicitly agree with the groupies in conceding that he be a pastor, and even that he be a member of a presbytery. They worry that his “presbytery” investigation will be rigged. They wish he would “step down” as pastor. All of this is based on a tissue of false premises, as I have shown (and will continue to do once more).
4. Various leftish shibboleths are injected that only dilute the narrative under examination. A critic slips in at the end of an essay, “and oh yes, you know this Wilson bastard also defends slavery in case you didn’t know.” The fact is, slavery is countenanced by the Bible, as the real Leftists recognize right well. The problem with Wilson is not his view of slavery (which one?), but his self-serving history of playing both sides of the slavery question. Back in the 90s, when it was useful to pick up the burgeoning neo-confederate movement, he was pro-slavery. Then came the inevitable push-back from the social justice warriors in the 2000s, and Wilson decided it was more of a liability than an asset, and now he is just as firmly anti-slavery. So Wilson’s problem in respect to slavery is not exegesis of the text, but opportunistic posturing, reflected by his taking either side, just as it serves his own interests of the moment. The Republican-indoctrinated soft-Left (which includes as many PCA pastors and Fox News addicts as crec memers) cannot think deeply about this issue at all, and this makes them blind to the real problem Wilson exemplifies.
5. The motivation of the attackers is not always clear. Granted, there is a case against Wilson. But there are tons of perverted pseudo-pastors that one could attack. Why Wilson? It is not always clear why some of the bloggers have it in for Solo Wilson. (For the record, the reason I have it in for him is because McChurches like CREC are harming the holy catholic church, and because too many real Reformed men have been beguiled by his pretensions, contrary to the principles set forth in their own standards.)
6. Suppose he apologized (and why doesn’t he, if that’s all they want?). What then? We still would be left with a McPastor posturing in front of a McCongregation. Nothing real changes. Or what if he resigned, to enjoy his ill-gotten spoils in retirement? The underlying rot would still be there. So they need to think more deeply.
The Jamin Wight case
At the time (ten’ish years ago), while a 23-year-old seminary student boarding at a house in Moscow, Jamin engaged in obscene conduct with a maiden some ten years younger than himself —- barely even a teenager—-, over a very long period. Wilson acknowledges the crime, but thinks it is mitigated by various behaviors of the girl herself, and especially, of her father. The antis have rightly observed that the legal (and moral) case is not altered regardless of any alleged consent of the minor or her father.
The letter from Wilson to the father is the main piece of evidence I will focus on. It can be seen here — scroll down and click on the images of the letter. A careful reading leads to raising the following questions.
1. Note the letter was sent right in the very thick of the first public disclosures. There would have been plenty of time, after the dust settled, to deal pastorally with any parental failures that might have taken place, or that might continue in the future. There was no need for urgent action in this regard at all.
2. What gives Wilson (or his McSession) the right to threaten the father with suspension, without having followed Matt. 18, without having brought an indictment, and without having conducted a trial? This is further proof that CREC is not only not presbyterian, it is not any form of church government, as I showed earlier.
3. He says “we have already heard conflicting accounts about the matter of sentencing — some saying the Greenfields only want Jamin to go to prison for a few months, while others think you want the book thrown at him.” Why are busybodies telling Wilson and/or the McSession this story and that story about what the father might tell the court? What possible business is it of either the busybodies to tell, or the McSession to receive such reports?
4. Wilson “urges” Mr. Greenfield to keep a written record of whatever he says to anyone “and in particular, if you have communicated anything to the DA about what you believe the sentence should be.” Wilson is not the right one to be giving legal advice. However, clearly this is McChurchly, not legal advice. Wilson is insinuating that Greenfield could be disciplined if he says the wrong thing to the DA, and he therefore better say the right thing (minimum sentence) and have written proof of it. “It is in the highest degree likely that at some point you will need to show what your position has been.” The DA does not need to be shown; no it is Wilson’s McSession that will need to be shown. This is a “warning,” the letter explains two paragraphs later. This is chutzpah, it should have said.
5. What is the motive for Wilson to throw his weight, to the fullest extent possible consistent with keeping a straight face, behind this seducer, even to the point of bullying and brow-beating the grieving father? I have seen no allegation of a money connection in this case. Was it revenge against his former friend Mr. Greenfield, against whom he had already perhaps been building an animus, perhaps in retaliation for cooling loyalty? Investigate, McPresbytery, investigate.
6. What is the pretense for intervening legally? It is as if Wilson has now hung out a second shingle (under the “Pastor Wilson” shingle), this time identifying himself as Assistant Chief Magistrate of Moscow. Apparently he now occupies two offices — both only in his own mind. (I suppose he will file a blog post, like an earlier one, admitting that his induction papers as Mayor of Moscow are “filed in the same cabinet” with those of the Captain of Köpetnick.)
7.Beyond the deformities revealed by the letter, we need to point out the worst feature of the story. Jamin’s acts were unnatural and should be tagged as sodomy even if it had been done within the confines of a lawful marriage (which given the age of the maiden would not have been possible in any case). So Wilson’s attempts to mitigate based on the girl’s alleged behavior are immoral even on the best construction of his motive. There are three levels by which Wilson is removed from morality. (1) The sodomic acts would have been wrong within marriage; (2) how much more, when not married; (3) how astronomically more, when the object of his lust was five years short of legal majority.
The Sitler case
Before getting into the Wilson angle, there are two troubling features of the narrative that can be mentioned. (i) It is unclear how much evidence of Sitler’s crimes exists, apart from his own confessions. But it is well known that all kinds of people show up to confess to the most horrendous crimes, which they could not possibly have committed. (ii) While people from lying, middle-eastern cultures find it easy to fool lie-detector tests, Christians with tender consciences sometimes have difficulty with them. If Sitler is having trouble with these tests, it does not prove guilt, just as if he breezed through it, that would not prove innocence. I only wanted to make note of these troubling features for the record, especially since some of the bloggers embrace the self-confession and lie-detector angles with too much zeal. Presumably the courts are well aware of the phenomena I described and have gotten to a veridical foundation. I will assume from this point on that Sitler is guilty as confessed.
Here is the case in a nutshell. Sitler confessed to numerous acts of pederasty and was then turned in to the authorities. Wilson used all of his influence as “pastor” and community figure to persuade the judge to be “measured and limited” in rendering a penalty. That being done successfully, he conspired with other men to match-make Sitler with a young lady in the church, justifying this on the grounds that I Cor. 7 teaches that matrimony is a remedy for “immorality.” (How marriage to a pederast is a remedy for a nice girl desiring marriage was not on their radar.) The marriage took place; a child was born; now Sitler’s little “problem” has again indeed resurfaced, this time in respect to his own child.
1. It is only possible to think that such a man needs to get married, if one holds the orgasmistic view of life. Rod Dreher, with unsophisticated theology but good intuition summarized the proper reaction to Wilson’s view here with one word: Ay yi yi. No. Someone that gets boners at babies is not burning, he is burned up. The only thing for him to do is be executed, or spend the rest of his days in prison, repenting and praying daily in hope beyond hope cast upon the Savior, that his relief will finally be granted on the Last Day.
2. The young lady in question was treated as chattel through all this. In Wilson circles, a young woman of 23 that is unmarried is practically an old maid, much like in the old South described by Peggy Mitchell. But Mitchell’s society was stamped with gallantry and a social safety net. In our society, there are, for various reasons, many girls who are highly desirable and eligible, but who slip through the crack — whom my father’s generation referred to as “sleepers.” There was no reason for panic, and Wilson and his cohorts acted like cads toward her. (Yes, I’m sorry, but even her own father.) This is a serious indictment of the flavor of patriarchy fostered by that community. Patriarchy properly understood is not only true, it is obviously true, and has been obvious to all successful societies in all of human history. But Wilson turns this on its head in the very act of affirming it. If patriarchy does not entail creating a protective environment for the most vulnerable members, especially female, of that society, then it is in reality the most loathsome caricature that any feminist could paint of it. For Wilson, the females are indeed naught but checker board pieces, possessions for the ends of others. His protest, she “had all the facts when she agreed to marry Steven,” proves the point. Here we see that for Wilson, when push comes to shove, not patriarchy but libertarianism trumps all moral considerations — and does so even when the “free choice” was completely manipulated by powerful figures. There is a shameful asymmetry here, and an asymmetry turned on its proper head. A great deal of solicitous concern is expended for the perv, while the girl is treated as a means to an end, justified with the bare “she knew what she was getting into.” Shame, shame, and shame again.
3. Again, we need to ask what Wilson’s motive for such partisanship was. The orgasmistic worldview accounts for the possibility: but why the actuality in this case? Admittedly, we are missing a puzzle piece to complete the picture. Hints of serious financial donations have been made with some credibility. Is there a hidden connection between Wilson’s steadfast defense of orgasmistic perverts coupled with his inane attacks on good men like Ron Paul and the Donald and Putin? Or is it just the publicity simpliciter that Wilson revels in? Someone needs to investigate. McPresbytery? will you step up to the plate here? or continue the obfuscation?
4. Look at Wilson’s letter to the court, advocating leniency for Sitler. Wilson tells the judge, “Steven has been most responsive [to Wilson’s counseling], and has been completely honest with me.” But Wilson does not know that Sitler (or anyone else, for that matter) has been completely honest with him.
5. Wilson says he is “grateful that he will be sentenced for his behavior, and that there will be hard consequences for him in real time.” What does the phrase, “in real time” add? Is this a geschichte/historie distinction? All consequences for creatures are in real time, at least on this side of the Judgment Day. It might seem like I am nit-picking here. I don’t think so. When meaningless but portentous sounding phrases are dropped so effortlessly, it is a sign of dishonesty, of making it sound like something important is being said even though mere banality is actually asserted.
6. This is seen again in his infamous advice to the judge, that those consequences should be “measured and limited.” Taken literally, this is actually an insult to the judge. What other criterion is he suggesting the judge might invoke? Or have things gotten so bad that sentencing is often unmeasured or unlimited? Obviously, it is code-language asking for particular leniency to be exercised. Note well: Wilson does not write as a citizen, but on church letterhead, invoking the office of pastor (and the judge could hardly be expected to know that Wilson’s claim to that office is fraudulent). But what possible scripture could Wilson bring forward to justify this kind of plea?
7. He says he has “good hope that Steven… will become a productive and contributing member of society.” What kind of modernist gobbledygook is this? In making this plea, Wilson is tacitly endorsing the remedial model of punishment — which is hardly biblical, especially when it is used to thwart the retributive. In other words, Wilson is advocating that the sentence be some level, say P0, instead of P1, which it could be. If pure justice would be satisfied with P0, he should say so. But he doesn’t. He appeals to a consequentialist ethic all of a sudden to justify P0 < P1. Hence, consequentialism trumps retributive justice when one of Wilson’s boys is in the dock.
8. Likewise, Wilson points out that “Steven has genuinely repented.” But Wilson does not know that Sitler has genuinely repented.
9. But even if he has, what does this have to do with biblical penology? Never mind the details of theonomy versus other social justice theories. Any biblical theory must deal with the Bible, and I know of no biblical law that specifies, “if the perpetrator has repented, do this, otherwise, do that.”
The CREC Comes to the Rescue! (not)
The CREC has appointed a committee to investigate.
But remember, the CREC has only advisory capability (see earlier documentation of this — but their clarification admits as much again). This is naught but an advisory board, with no teeth.
However, I want to focus on just one statement in their clarification.
The Committee recognizes that in the end it is likely that there will be individuals and factions who will not be satisfied with any report it will produce.
By putting it this way, they tip their hand that the outcome will be, at most, some tut-tutting. For, if a possible outcome were advising that Wilson be removed as pastor, they would not see the need to sandbag with that statement, which is obviously aimed at the critics. The target of that admonition would not be in view in that case. If it were a real possibility that the committee might advise that Wilson be removed, then they would have said instead,
The Committee recognizes that in the end someone is likely to be unsatisfied — either Doug Wilson, if we find against him, or various individuals and factions arrayed against him, if we should find in Wilson’s favor.
The fix is in folks. They have already admitted as much, in black and white. Before the investigation even began.
Wilson’s Public Protestations
In connection with both these cases, Wilson has not been shy about publishing his own views. These reveal further moral problems, however.
1. There is a serious failing of truth-telling. The most telling example is his quoting Judge Stegner to the effect that the marriage of Sitler seemed like a good thing for him and for society. Wilson thus appealed to authority to justify his marrying Sitler to the poor girl. Unfortunately, the full statement of Judge Stegner is now available to the public. In the same speech, the judge indicates his belief that should children be born, Sitler will have to be separated from them. In other words, a Christian marriage is not envisaged as possible by the judge. But Wilson leaves that part out — intentionally. Doubtless, he hoped that his lawyers could work on the troublesome post-script in the intervening time.
2. With an amazing chutzpah that Wilson could only have learned from his sponsors, he posted a screed in which he implied that his critics have a problem with truth-telling, not him. In the very first comment, I posted this:
As you can see, a groupie answered my query with some disgusting special pleading. The answer to Bethy is this: suppose you told your friends as you left for the mall, “Pastor Wilson said it is okay for me to wear a tutu,” when in fact the full quote was, “it is okay for you to wear a tutu, but only in the privacy of your own bedroom.” I guess this would be an example of how “I agree with Doug some times and quote him, but don’t quote him when I disagree with him.”
3. Wilson did not answer my query, except in this amazing fashion: he turned off further comments and deleted all the ones that were already posted! Observe the link— all comments have vanished.
Does anything more really need to be said?
4. There is much else that Wilson has posted in a similar vein. Simply surf around on the Mablog to see for yourself. Just a couple will suffice here. In one of the latest, he writes,
Churches without discipline cannot fight off the leprosy of heresy or the cancer of immorality. So when a church disciplines, it is responding to immorality or false teaching within the ranks. But there are also times when the opposition tries to seize the high ground, and when this happens the elders and pastors find themselves accused. The trick is to defend the ministry without becoming personally defensive. Have you ever wondered why the apostle Paul had to defend himself so much?
This is really text-book liar rhetoric. Let’s analyze it phrase by phrase. It starts off talking about “immorality or false teaching.” But here, his key note is not the hope for reform, but the dehumanizing designations of leprosy and cancer. Traditionally, you quarantine the former and take a surgical knife to the latter. So the stage is set for the groupies either to shun or pounce viciously on the people about to be identified, as the case may be. Then, he says a church only disciplines in response to immorality or heresy, leaving out the possibility that it disciplines for turf-protection or retaliation. This is a serious (and convenient) substitution of is for ought. Next, note that while traditionally, church members and pastors are subject to discipline for bad behavior, but ordinarily only officers for false teaching, here, the scope for both is quickly delimited to “within the ranks,” a military metaphor indicating that only the non-leaders are potential recipients of discipline of either kind! Then appears this amorphous “opposition,” no longer identified in terms of heresy or immorality, but with the clear insinuation thereof. These have not seized the high ground, but have “tried to.” But whenever they do, then “the elders and pastors find themselves accused.” One starts to wonder if Wilson even thinks pastors or elders even could, theoretically, “find themselves accused” of something they are actually guilty of. Notice also the safety in numbers. Rarely have I seen anyone but Wilson himself accused. But here, it is “the elders and pastors.” “Let’s hang together on this one, fellows.” He then points out that he is not defending himself personally, but an abstraction, “the ministry.” What could that be? The very concept of ministry? Finally, he links himself to the Apostle Paul!
Most recently, with a brazenness that leaves one breathless, he identifies his critics with Judas, Demas, false prophets, discontents, hypocrites, and out-of-place bad fruit. These people are “out of step with the life of the community” — which combined with the preceding can only mean that non-conformity is demonic. Even the logical possibility that the critics are right and an officer wrong is not entertained for a split second. “In a healthy church, there will be formal discipline (suspension or excommunication)” and apparently no judicial process or rules of evidence are required to bring this about. That this is the case was already seen in the letter to Mr. Greenfield. It is autocracy — defended in churchy jargon.
Is this the end of McPastor Douglas Wilson? Not necessarily here and now. Even if McPresbytery took action, at most they could simply cut the whole Christ McKirk free from the McCREC, as I proved earlier. A later essay will prove, from the McKirk’s own local constitution, that he is bulletproof there too. It is actually hard to say which would strengthen his hand more, the “best” or “worst-case” scenario! Cunning was he, in spinning this nest of documents. So he will go on, as long as he wants to, if even a handful of groupies remain — especially if they have deep pockets.
In the long run, of course, it is different. He is an example, from beginning to end, of Bunyan’s men that came in by a different way; whose end is sure. Having “climbed up some other way,” (John 10:1), he now must improvise, market, and improvise again. It never ends, and never can end, because he went astray in the very first motions of his McMinistry. After calling himself, then ordaining himself, he then tried to cover it up by inventing the McCREC and trying to franchise the concept. To unspin this whole web would require a miracle of deeply nested repentance. This is the feature that the critics from the left don’t grasp. They themselves also model the church as something individuals define for themselves, and they seem only to want the “definition” updated to include modern science and psychology. Thrown off by Wilson’s ostensible rehabilitation of the Medieval, they fail to detect just how Freudian, utilitarian, and libertarian-modernistic so much of Wilson’s actual behavior is, doubtless sharing much of that inheritance themselves. That Wilson’s modernism went one way, while theirs went another, is attributable to funding and the needs of each moment.
On the other hand, I have seen even ordained men in the PCA send people under the hot showers just for pointing out a few facts about Wilson. It is doubtless because they like his “stand” on some of the hot-button political topics of the day, and have a weak (or non-existent) ecclesiology themselves. They divide the world up between the good guys and bad guys based on a short political litmus test plus “belief in Jesus” I suppose. Perhaps it is an endearing naïveté. It never occurs to them that even “taking a conservative stand” here or there can be naught but one aspect of a megalomaniac seizing control of a niche, seeing therein the chance for profit and control. You could say they have taken the same sucker-punch as the critics on the left, just from the opposite side. This is why Wilson is emblematic, not just for what can happen in a pseudo-church in America, but for what a mess even much of the true Church finds herself in. Pray for the sheep above all!