Douglas Wilson: Colonial Hero

Trigger warning for references to rape and abuse

Lately, it’s been easier for me to convince myself that I have found something resembling peace, or at least some sort of ambivalence, about my Evangelical background.This is because I’ve realized how utterly impossible it is to remove myself entirely from this past. It’s the ghost in my personal machine, the reason and rationale for decisions poor and positive alike. If it won’t be exorcised, then let me make my peace with it. And that works most of the time. Until I read something like this post from Jared Wilson of the Gospel Coalition, and I remember the rage and the pain and futility of wearing someone else’s identity; it’s exactly as pleasant as wearing someone’s skin. I remember what it is like to be undervalued and erased. But mainly, passages like this help me remember why I decided to get a master’s degree in postcolonial studies. 

In his post, Wilson quotes Douglas Wilson of Credenda Agenda Magazine (no relation). Wilson, who routinely expresses views on gender that are among the most extreme in American Christianity, wrote in his book Fidelity: What it Means to be a One-Woman Man that:

“When we quarrel with the way the world is, we find that the world has ways of getting back at us. In other words, however we try, the sexual act cannot be made into an egalitarian pleasuring party. A man penetrates, conquers, colonizes, plants. A woman receives, surrenders, accepts. This is of course offensive to all egalitarians, and so our culture has rebelled against the concept of authority and submission in marriage. This means that we have sought to suppress the concepts of authority and submission as they relate to the marriage bed….Men dream of being rapists, and women find themselves wistfully reading novels in which someone ravishes the “soon to be made willing” heroine.”

For the sake of brevity, I’m going to acknowledge and then move on from Wilson’s heteronormativity. The complementarian perspective on gender has to render queer sexuality invisible, or its entire premise collapses.  Similarly, female desire is also erased as it is intrinsically linked to female agency, and there is no room for female agency in the act described by Douglas Wilson and enthusiastically promoted by Jared Wilson. There is a clear hierarchy reflected in this version of human sexuality, and that’s exactly what makes Wilson the Elder’s reference to colonialism so interesting: he’s right. What he describes in this passage is a colonial encounter.

The colonial encounter cannot occur between equals.
It is brought to the subject by the coloniser; it does not arise from the subject herself, nor can she initiate it.
It follows natural law, and is therefore universal. 

The consequences of the colonial encounter form the basis on an entire academic subfield. It also happens to my subfield, and although I don’t feel like summarizing the content of everything I’ve read for my master’s degree, I would advise Douglas Wilson to take his own daughter’s advice and read some books. The same directive applies to Jared Wilson, who, judging by his comments on his own piece and his reactions to critical responses by Rachel Held Evans and Scot McKnight, legitimately fails to understand the implications of the rhetoric employed by his hero. So allow me to paraphrase Franz Fanon: exploitation is something that is done to other people. The act described by Douglas Wilson is most definitely a thing that is done to another person. It is not mutual; it is inherently exploitive. It assumes acceptance and presumes submission, it locates woman as the subaltern (see Gayatri Spivak). Soil does not rebel, after all. It is incapable of it. 

It is ironic to see such a perspective on sexuality hosted by a group that refers to itself as “The Gospel Coalition.” Permit this agnostic to recall the words of the Gospel’s original author: “Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.” There is no humility visible in Douglas Wilson’s work, nor in Jared Wilson’s response to criticisms of it. And that too is a trait of the colonizer. One does not apologize for assuming authority over an inferior subject. 

For this reason, I echo Scot McKnight’s request for the Gospel Coalition to remove Jared Wilson’s post. I urge followers of the Gospel Coalition to withdraw their support for Jared Wilson until he shows evidence of giving a serious and empathetic response to the criticism he has received. This means listening to survivors whose traumatic memories have been triggered by his language and yes, reading some books. 

On that note, I’m going back to work on my dissertation. 

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6 thoughts on “Douglas Wilson: Colonial Hero

  1. Great response. The longer I am out of the US, the weirder the arguments seem to be to me. And speaking of being out of the US – Mr. Wilson would be hard pressed to find anyone from the “former colonies” that looks back at colonialism with any sort of fondness.

    • Thank you! I may update this post tomorrow with something a bit more in depth, but Doug Wilson’s decision to refer to men as the “colonizer” really stood out to me, and I wanted to comment on it. It is absolutely the correct word for what he’s describing, he just seems to completely fail to understand its implications. Unsurprisingly.

  2. I would be heaving in the toilet by now at all this drivel but I have been distracted by this mess for the last 2 hours from eating dinner. I can see how maybe penetration is somewhat neutral (very iffy though) but conquering? colonizing? OF COURSE THIS IS OFFENSIVE.

    Also Reason #55 I am attending seminary and getting my masters. (See your more recent post for #56. Slaves and owners were BFFs? WTF no thank you sir!)

    The other Welsh Jones :)

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