We Need More Free
By Bill London
Wilson has retreated.
the pastor of Moscow’s Christ Church, has backed away from the inflammatory
conclusions in the now infamous book, “Southern Slavery: As It Was,” that he
co-authored with Steve Wilkins.
with the community response to their untenable position that slavery is both
Biblically justified and ethically acceptable, Wilson and other Christ Church
elders have hastily explained that their pronouncements had been misunderstood.
They did not acknowledge the error or the insult felt by African
Americans and others. However,
Wilson did change his message. He
agreed that slavery was, in fact, evil.
that we have witnessed here on the Palouse in the last few months is an
impressive lesson in the power of community and the effect of free speech.
But the work is not over yet.
element in Wilson’s defense of slavery is the partnership between Wilson and
Wilkins. Steve Wilkins, pastor of
Auburn Avenue Presbyterian Church in Monroe, Louisiana, and a founding director
of the League of the South, is a leader in the Neo-Confederate movement.
follow the radical right, like Mark Potok of the Southern Poverty Law Center,
describe the Neo-Confederates as an “active hate group” of Christian
Nationalists. Like the Taliban, the
goal of the Neo-Confederates is the creation of a theocratic state, a government
controlled by religious leaders that imposes its version of strict Biblical laws
Wilson have been working together for a decade.
They have sponsored conferences, spoken at each other’s
churches, and made numerous presentations nationwide on this and related topics.
Their growing drift toward Neo-Confederate politics and unorthodox
religious views has worried church leaders as well.
Presbyterian Church in the United States, for example, accuses Wilkins and
Wilson of heresy.
A resolution posted at that website, dated June 22, 2002, calls upon
their churches to “institute judicial processes” against them, “removing
them from the communion of the church should they not repent.”
from the Presbyterian Church is no big deal for Wilson, who has created his own
denomination. But for Wilkins, a Presbyterian minister, this heresy charge is
lies the danger for the Palouse. If
Wilkins is driven, or jumps, into Wilson’s denomination, or builds stronger
institutional ties between their churches, Moscow will be another haven for the
Wilson, the benefits of that alliance are obvious: more money and more power. He
has already built a religious and educational network that now includes the
church, the K-12 school, the college, and the publishing company, as well as the
accrediting organizations to justify it all.
Closer ties to
the Neo-Confederates will mean access to more donors, more prospective students,
and more potential church members wanting to move here.
And striking a
deal with the Neo-Confederates is not much of a problem, philosophically, for
Wilson. Both movements share very
similar views. For example, in their book “Angels in the Architecture,”
Wilson and co-author Doug Jones proclaim that their ideal society was medieval
Europe. They also describe the
Confederacy as the last true Christian nation.
Neo-Confederates and Wilson are committed to creating a new religious and social
order that institutionalizes their moral code as law and eliminates rights for
gays, women, and those who disagree with the established hierarchy.
In sum, they both want to establish a new medieval empire.
How can the
Palouse say no to the Neo-Confederates? With
education and with more free speech.
You can learn
more about the Neo-Confederate movement at a local website (http://www.tomandrodna.com/notonthepalouse/)
that also links to an essay by two UI historians responding to the inaccuracies
of the Wilson/Wilkins slavery book (Adobe
Acrobat Reader required). In
addition, at the same website, you can sign the on-line version of the “Not in
Our Town” petition (or you can sign the paper version at BookPeople in
Christ Church is sponsoring a conference at the University of Idaho.
The featured speakers include both Wilson and Wilkins.
A variety of protests and educational forums are planned with the goal of
convincing the Neo-Confederates that the Palouse will not be their next
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