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The Second Coming of Doug Wilson

Por Jack Jenkins
doug wilson
Pastor Doug Wilson of Christ Church in Moscow, Idaho (RNS illustration)

Last month, onetime Fox News host Tucker Carlson sat in his cabin-like studio and introduced a bearded, 70-year-old Idaho pastor named Doug Wilson as the person “most closely identified” with Christian nationalism, calling him one of the “rare” clergy “willing to engage on questions of culture and politics.” The vibe was similarly effusive weeks later, when Charlie Kirk, founder of the youth-focused conservative group Turning Point USA, had Wilson on his podcast to define Christian nationalism for listeners, calling the Reformed pastor a “thoughtful, brilliant thinker.”

Kirk was so excited by the interview that he encouraged listeners to “send it to your pastors.”

From talk shows to the conference circuit, Wilson, the influential head of Christ Church in Moscow, Idaho, for decades, has become a regular voice in conservative political circles, emerging as a figurehead for what is framed as a comparatively moderate version of Christian nationalism.

As far as Wilson is concerned, the media blitz is simply the political world paying attention to ideas he has preached for some time.

“The reason I think it happened,” said Wilson in an interview last week, is because “we’ve been pounding away at these issues for a number of decades.”

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doug wilson tucker carlson
Tucker Carlson hosts Doug Wilson in a recent interview. (Video screen grab)

But scholars and critics of Wilson argue his version of Christian nationalism remains radical, and as Wilson associates himself with a widening web of right-wing influencers and personalities — including some who argue the U.S. Constitution is “dead” — analysts say they are worried about precisely what kind of ideas the small-town pastor will promote on the national stage.

Wilson’s recent elevation has centered less on his past statements and controversies — of which there are many, from anti-LGBTQ+ slurs to comments decried by critics as pro-slavery to contentious stances on gender roles — and more on his vision for a Christian nation. For example, he has floated incorporating the Apostles Creed into the Constitution; believes building a Christian nation in the U.S. should be a “pan-Protestant project”; and has said that while he does not personally endorse the idea of establishing a religion at the state level, he believes it to be legal.

“As a Christian, I would like that national structure to conform to the thing that God wants, and not the thing that man wants,” Wilson told Carlson. “That’s Christian nationalism.”

Kristin Kobes du Mez, a Calvin University professor whose best-selling book “Jesus and John Wayne: How White Evangelicals Corrupted a Faith and Fractured a Nation” includes a section on Wilson, said the pastor is “well-positioned for this moment.”

du mez
Kristin Kobes Du Mez. (Photo © Deborah K. Hoag)

Among other reasons, she said, he is part of a “right-wing critique of moderate evangelicals — or essentially of any evangelicals, as some are quite conservative — who are pushing back against extremism, or who are not supporting Trump, or who are not all-in on the Christian nationalist project.”

In an interview last February, Wilson imagined a global order of Christian nations that would exclude any self-described Christian nation that allowed for same-sex marriage or abortion access, saying a “liberal Methodist” nation would be “out” and people who embraced “some total loopy-heresy” would be barred from holding public office.

“This is a Christian republic, and . . . you’re not singing off the same sheet of music that we are,” he said at the time. “So, no, you can’t be the mayor.”

Wilson, who engages with Christian nationalism in his new book “Mere Christendom,” has framed himself as a more moderate alternative to other self-described Christian nationalists such as Nick Fuentes, who is known for spouting extremist rhetoric, including antisemitism.

“If Nick Fuentes successfully got himself appointed the king of the Christian nationalists, then I’m not a Christian nationalist anymore,” said Wilson. He added that he wants to use his status as a kind of “spokesman for Christian nationalism” to “take the opportunity at the appropriate time to say, well, the one thing to understand about a bunch of us Christian nationalists is how much we love the Jews.”

Elizabeth Neumann, an expert on extremism who served in former President Donald Trump’s administration before resigning in protest in 2020, said she was encouraged by Wilson — or any pastor — pushing back against antisemitism.

But Neumann, who was raised evangelical and said she was once a “big subscriber” to the classical Christian education movement Wilson helped popularize, argued the pastor’s efforts to distance himself from Fuentes strikes her as either “naive” or evidence that Wilson is “playing a game.”

Elizabeth Neumann, Department of Homeland Security Assistant Secretary of Threat Prevention and Security Policy, testifies during a House Oversight and Reform Civil Rights and Civil Liberties subcommittee hearing on white supremacy, Tuesday June 4, 2019, on Capitol Hill in Washington. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)

She pointed to Wilson’s appearances with Andrew Isker, a Minnesota pastor who graduated from the ministry program associated with Wilson’s church. In 2022, Wilson blurbed a book on Christian nationalism that Isker co-authored with Andrew Torba, the founder of the far-right alternative social media website Gab, who spoke at a conference organized by Fuentes in 2021.

Neumann said “characters” Wilson is associating with “might not have the name Nick Fuentes, but many of them fully subscribe to Nick’s views, or are very happy to be adjacent to Nick Fuentes.”

What’s more, Matthew Taylor, senior scholar at the Institute for Islamic, Christian and Jewish Studies, argued Wilson’s views remain far outside the mainstream, irrespective of his stance on Fuentes. Wilson, he said, “represents a form of Christian supremacy, a very aggressive vision of kind of a Christian retrenchment within American culture.”

“To have him getting play on these major media platforms signals a lot about where things are headed within kind of conservative and Republican politics today,” Taylor said.

Nevertheless, Wilson’s popularity is rising. He is slated to address Turning Point USA’s Believers Summit in July and the National Conservatism conference that same month, where he is a featured speaker alongside political figures such as Republican Sens. Josh Hawley of Missouri and J.D. Vance of Ohio, as well as onetime Trump aides Steve Bannon and Stephen Miller. 

Du Mez said much of Wilson’s recent modern-day rhetoric echoes his long-standing status as an evangelical outsider. But Du Mez noted a difference this go-round: She was unaware of Wilson previously partnering with so many national political figures, and while Wilson has attracted attention for promoting a local “spiritual takeover” of Moscow, “that’s different than taking over the country and turning it all into your enclave.”

“What we’re seeing among the right wing — in religious spaces, and generally — is, in the wake of 2016, an emboldening posture of, ‘Oh, wait, we can take over. Let’s get serious here,” Du Mez said.

doug wilson moscow
Pastor Doug Wilson speaks before Communion as Christ Church meets in the Logos School gymnasium on Oct. 13, 2019, in Moscow, Idaho. (RNS photo/Tracy Simmons)

Asked how he plans to interact with politicos, Wilson said he would not appear at a campaign rally, but “wouldn’t mind” sharing the stage with someone “who happened to be running for office.” And while he insists he does not spend “a ton” of time in dialogue with political figures, he does discuss “policy options” with “people who are politically engaged,” which he said includes political lobbyists.

“I get a lot of feedback from political operatives who are reading what I write,” Wilson said.

How exactly Wilson will fuse his theology with the current political zeitgeist remains to be seen. In the past, he has criticized the 1964 Civil Rights Act, arguing in a 2010 interview that while racism is a “sin,” there “ought not to be a law” forcing a hypothetical renter to “rent to whoever.”

“Not everything that God disapproves of, and we disapprove of legitimately, ought to be against the law,” he dijo.

His old ideas are already being cited in new ways. Wilson’s 2010 interview was referenced directly in a video published last week by Wade Stotts, who used it to bolster an argument that the U.S. Constitution is “dead” while praising efforts to radically re-order American society. Wilson tweeted out the video by Stotts, who works at Wilson’s own Canon Press, on Saturday.

idaho douglas wilson
El pastor Douglas Wilson de Christ Church en su oficina en Moscú, Idaho, el 5 de febrero de 2023. (Foto RNS de Jack Jenkins)

Neumann, who recently published the book “Kingdom of Rage: The Rise of Christian Extremism and the Path Back to Peace,” said the Constitutional rhetoric was of particular concern, especially given the respect Wilson commands in some circles.

“When you have a serious Bible teacher … increasingly aligning with people who are clearly focused on a political agenda and co-opting Christianity for their political agenda,” Neumann said, it can — intentionally or otherwise — provide “Christian cover” to “extremist narratives.”

Speaking to media recently, Wilson only listed one policy proposal: mandating the inclusion of a “none of the above” option on election ballots, although he wouldn’t check that box himself when voting in this year’s presidential election.

“I’m not a ‘rah rah’ Trumper,” he said, before adding, “but I am going to vote for him.”

In his interview with Carlson, Wilson insisted there was “no political solution” to what he described was a dire moral crisis facing the U.S., calling instead for religious revival — something he has long insisted is the ultimate cure for America’s ills. But in speaking to media last week, Wilson clarified that a revival also means reshaping politics itself.

“There is no political solution, because politics is not a savior. But I do want to hasten to add that politics will be saved,” he said. 

“There’s no way a reformation and revival could occur without having a political impact, or a political transformation.”

jack jenkinsJack Jenkins es un periodista galardonado y reportero nacional de Religion News Service.

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31 Respuestas

  1. “Comments decried by his critics as pro-slavery” may be an understatement, as demonstrated by this quote:

    “Slavery as it existed in the South was not an adversarial relationship with pervasive racial animosity. Because of its predominantly patriarchal character, it was a relationship based upon mutual affection and confidence. There has never been a multi-racial society which has existed with such mutual intimacy and harmony in the history of the world. The credit for this must go to the predominance of Christianity. The gospel enabled men who were distinct in nearly every way, to live and work together, to be friends and often intimates. This happened to such an extent that moderns indoctrinated on ‘civil rights’ propaganda would be thunderstruck to know the half of it. Slave life was to [the slaves] a life of plenty, of simple pleasures, of food, clothes and good medical care. In spite of the evils contained in the system, we cannot overlook the benefits of slavery for both blacks and whites . . . Slavery produced in the South a genuine affection between the races that we believe we can say has never existed in any nation before the War or since.”

    1. Quite similar to the Calvinist doctrine of sphere sovereignty as taught by Dutch theologians Abraham Kuyper and Herman Dooyeweerd that formed the philosophical basis of apartheid in South Africa.

    2. Thank you, Rebecca! Doug Wilson, is an admirer of RL Dabney, a Civil War era theologian. It is distressing to hear the echoes and logical fallacies that Dabney used to justify the institution of slavery as righteous (it just needs to be practiced ‘right’) gain traction today. Doug Wilson is just one of some prominent contemporary Christian leaders influenced by Dabney.

      God told Adam (male and female) to rule over the animal kingdom (Gen 1:26-28, 2:19-20). This means that it isn’t a sin to own livestock, name animals, and use them for your livelihood. When I own, name and use another human, co-created in the image of God like an animal, it matters not how “kindly” I treat them, I have violated the most fundamental of God’s purpose for humanity. These are not my thoughts. As early as the 4th century, some church fathers argued that the act of buying or selling a slave (like livestock) was the indicator to slavery being a violation of God’s mandate. It mattered not how the slave was treated.

      Even going with what Doug said about the “simple pleasures” of slavery – food, clothes and ‘good’ medical care… oh my, he makes slave life sound so attractive . The truth of the matter is this, all the labor and ‘product’ of the slave belonged to the master, not the slave. Isn’t this stealing the slave’s property, the right to the fruits of his labor. Or, coveting what belongs to your neighbor (Exodus 20:15, 17)? Of course, that depends on who your ‘neighbor’ is.

      Why bother with such views of slavery? It’s not about slavery, it’s about how they think and rationalize the Bible. Given the scepter of political power, this ungodly thinking will express itself in many different, unsavory ways.

  2. That is repulsive! What person wants to be owned by another?! And it’s literally BS. No way. Not the way the white man treated his slaves in the south. Maybe a small minority of slaves owners treated their slaves kindly and with plenty but so many raped their slaves, beat their slaves, sold off their babies, and treated their slaves as non-human. I am so ashamed of the history of the US and the white man’s treatment of the Native American and the black and brown people. It’s a travesty and we think we’re a Christian nation? We have so much blood on our hands!! On antisemitism, he says in his utopia, where “,we love Jews”. Well good for you, but many, many, many Jews are are NOT against abortion and are very accepting of the LGBT lifestyle so how will they fit into your perfect Christian utopia sir? I can’t believe this Christian Nationalism stuff. It’s so scary to me. Live your life loving your God and your neighbor. Do we read these articles of all these pastors/churches that abuse people, women, children, engage in porn & gambling addiction and sex trafficking, etc. Their is so much corruption and shameful behavior in the church!! There’s no way it’s a good thing for it to be in charge of the country. It would literally be like Handmaid’s Tale. The Christian church needs to focus on itself. It needs to clean up it’s messes and quit trying to fix everyone else. It’s not considered as the holy, helpful, healing place that it should be.

    1. Thank you, Wilma! I hope people really listen to the points you touched on.

      “A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a bad tree bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Therefore by their fruits you will know them.” ~Jesus

    2. “ That is repulsive! What person wants to be owned by another?! And it’s literally BS. No way. Not the way the white man treated his slaves in the south. ”

      History as we have been taught is full of lies, and one of the differences between education and intelligence is that intelligence is the ability to discern where our educators deceived us with a narrative designed to enslave the mind.

      Have you ever read HK Edgerton’s (a black man) speech given January 8, 2000 in Columbia ,South Carolina? He has ample evidence to the contrary (btw- I am not an advocate for slavery in any form).

      https://www.courageouslion.us/p/is-this-flag-racist-why-the-divide?utm_source=post-email-title&publication_id=861454&post_id=144571234&utm_campaign=email-post-title&isFreemail=true&r=1oj4ou&triedRedirect=true&utm_medium=email

      The cognitive dissonance with the current outrage with 19th century slavery in the US verses 20th/21st century slavery is uncannily thick, especially since we all live on the Jones’ Plantation from birth to death. Thankfully, that is changing since too many people have understood how they did it…lots of lies and propaganda.

      https://youtu.be/vb8Rj5xkDPk?si=gWbwE0Vkp42wcUmp

  3. Wilson – “This is a Christian republic, and . . . you’re not singing off the same sheet of music that we are,” he said at the time. “So, no, you can’t be the mayor.”

    This is the stuff of European religious wars pre-American Founding… this is France, England, Saxony, Lowlands, Spain… circa 1600…

    Why do these people and so many (including a few regular commenters here) want to go back to that? Why God why? Why do they want to turn the clock back, kill off the ideals of a founder like Roger Williams or William Penn (my state’s proven successful institutor of real religious freedom) and try to institute a medieval framework?

    1. They want to go back to it because they envision themselves as the ones who would be making the rules. They don’t think of how it would be to under the rule of people who thought that THEY were the rebellious heretics.

      Just like Doug Wilson is positive about slavery because he seems to envision himself as one of the slave-holders. Were he to be told that he would have an opportunity to time-travel back to the antebellum South as one of these “happy and well-treated” slaves, I imagine his enthusiasm might wane somewhat.

      1. I was thinking the exact same thing on both counts Katharine.

        As an additional answer to “Why do these people and so many (including a few regular commenters here) want to go back to that?” – because they mistakenly believe that was the founding ethos in the first place. They don’t understand the Enlightment, they don’t understand liberal democracy, and they don’t know history.

        They have bought into the 1950’s on through to David Barton christian homeschool narrative of the founding being based on the Pilgrims and religious freedom (and ask yourself how well THOSE theocracy’s generally went) and not on liberal democratic, humanist enlightenment philosophy.
        In much the same way that the people that say the South wasn’t fighting for slavery have never read the actual sessection declarations of Georgia, Texas, Mississippi, etc…where with the first paragraph, sometimes the first three sentences they write the war is about slavery.

        1. From “Upon the Alter of the Nation” by Harry S Stout, page 47:

          “Unlike its Federal counterpart, [the new Confederate constitution] explicitly declared its Christian identity…The [Confederate] motto, Doe Vindice (With God as our defender”), added weight to the South’s claim to be a uniquely Christian nation.

          “The Confederacy was going on record as a Christian nation in a unique covenant with God…The North’s Constitution, drafted as it was by “deists and atheists,” failed to invoke God’s name. Any Northern claims to a special relationship were therefore spurious.”

          1. Growing up in the south (SC) in the 1950’s and 60’s, this is the sort of thing that was in the water…so to speak. Why didn’t they tell us about the “cornerstone speech” by Alexander Stephens (vice president of the Confederate States)? He said his about the northern constitution’s commitment to the equality of all:

            “Those ideas, however, were fundamentally wrong. They rested upon the assumption of the equality of races. This was an error….Our new government is founded upon exactly the opposite idea; its foundations are laid, its corner-stone rests, upon the great truth that the negro is not equal to the white man; that slavery subordination to the superior race is his natural and normal condition. This, our new government, is the first, in the history of the world, based upon this great physical, philosophical, and moral truth.”

            If there could be a “Christian nation”–it is heretical to think so, but if–this would not be it.

        2. That’s what States’ Rights meant in those days.

          Northern and Southern cultures had drifted apart to the point they were becoming mutually incompatible. Since 1776 there had been a continuous balancing act between the two to prevent the country from breaking apart, 3/5 compromises, territories reaching Statehood in pairs (one Free State to one Slave State), and mini-Civil Wars in newly-settling colonies (like “Bleeding Kansas”) to keep one culture from dominating the other. And when Lincoln won the Presidency in 1860 carrying only Free States, the Slave States saw the tipping point. With themselves being the Losing Side about to get rolled over.

          The Slave States had gotten so wedded to their society of cash-crop plantation economy (not the most table long-term economy) and so normalized to the required slavery needed for brute labor on those plantations that they had a big blind spot. The System was Normal, The Way We’ve Always Done Things, and a Fish Doesn’t Know It’s Wet — “Why can’t YOU learn to breathe water like Us?”

          Anything that could disrupt The Way We’ve Always Done Things was Tyranny from the North that required a Second Amendment Solution. Like a society of Alkies whose Constitutional Right to My Next Drink could not be infringed in any way.

          During the Constitutional Convention circa 1790, John Adams gave odds on how long the balance of compromises would last. He gave it 60-80 years.

      2. Like Andrew Zook, you are quick to judge and condemn. It’s easy to make shallow dismissals, but a loving and thoughtful engagement might lead to a more helpful outcome.

  4. “As a Christian, I would like that national structure to conform to the thing that God wants, and not the thing that man wants,” Wilson told Carlson. “That’s Christian nationalism.”

    I’m eminently certain that Wilson et. al DO NOT actually understand or grasp the weight of ‘what God wants’ . Does he mean conforming to the Torah- the law of Moses; because this would be what YHVH desires. But, even ancient Israel could not abide by its theocratic government. Hence, the reason for the 1st coming of Yeshua- the Messiah who in HIS sacrificial death and resurrection fulfilled the law of sin and death against us because NONE could perfectly keep what YHVH wanted.

    True, there’s ‘no political solution or political saviour’ and Reformation and revival cannot occur without political transformation. But don’t you mean, personal transformation rather?!?! Political transformation sounds a bit like when Roman empire’s Constantinople became a Christian and went on a erroneous quest to ‘transform Roman politics for Christ’?. And, Look how that turned out.

    Political transformation that was born out of misguided ‘revival and reformation’ is how humanity ended up with amalgamation of religious hodgepodge practiced today called ‘Christianity’. A syncretistic religion that bears little resemblance to its ancient roots. A religion corrupted by man that neither Yeshua nor HIS apostles nor early believers can recognize today. Yeah, no thanks.

    Tsk. When I read certain things written by supposed Christian leaders who ought to know better, I marvel in that “multitude of years and experience truly does NOT impart wisdom and correct knowledge. But then I realize, it is as written in the Holy Writ: it is the spirit & the breath of the Almighty that enlightens with wisdom and illuminates with understanding.

  5. Extremely disappointing that anybody would give Wilson a platform. While he is probably correct about some things, his past actions and words regarding women, marriage, slavery, etc are disqualifying.

  6. Doug Wilson is quite controversial for many of his views, not just Christian Nationalism. He is a conservative Presbyterian pastor, but his theology is regarded as suspect by other conservative Presbyterians, such as this one:

    https://heidelblog.net/2019/07/has-doug-wilson-really-changed-his-mind-about-the-federal-vision/

    Here is a critique of Wilson from an Independent Baptist perspective:

    https://kentbrandenburg.com/2024/04/10/the-mood-is-not-the-problem-in-moscow-idaho/

    Rod Dreher (Eastern Orthodox) discusses the sex scandals at Wilson’s church at this link:

    https://www.theamericanconservative.com/scandal-in-moscow/

    The reason I am posting these articles is because, if Christian Nationalism results in Doug Wilson’s version of the faith becoming our national religion, we may as well do some research and find out just what we are getting into.

  7. ask doug wilson what he thinks the bible says about the role of women and it will be answered that women are to be under authority of men-obey- submit- stay home raise a lot of children -and never one up a man or preach in church. —you will get an answer that is equal to modern day slavery–she will not be allowed to have a mind of her own or make her own decisions apart from a man.

    these are false teachings and only in the church because it is erroneously taught and wolves and narcissists have gotten into power–see happy shiny people doc for more info.

    1. “ask doug wilson what he thinks the bible says about the role of women and it will be answered that…”

      “The Man Penetrates, Colonizes, Conquers, Plants. The Woman lies back and Accepts.”
      — direct quote from one of REVEREND Doug’s books

  8. Doug Wilson is clueless to what it means to walk as Jesus walked. Dominionist theology (Christian Nationalism) is anti-christian at its core. Doug Wilson is all about . . . .well, Doug Wilson. Take off your blinders if you think his rise to prominence in any sphere is even remotely Christian or in any way connected with what the Lord Jesus Christ is doing. God desires to rule and reign in the hearts of individual men and women to produce an inner trasformation of character. He is not looking for or wanting a nation that identifies as “Christian.” Read your Bibles.

  9. This isn’t new. When America was first being settled and through the era of “manifest destiny” many saw themselves as an extension of or the new Israel and saw Native Americans as the Canaanites that needed to be destroyed. And later religion served as justification for slavery. History shows how every “great” empire has used religion as a way to justify its desires, some of which were just plain evil. Christianity is the opposite of any political state–it serves a King having a different agenda. Certainly in a democracy Christian morals and ethics should influence for whom to vote, but never should our faith be married to secular powers. There’s a difference. We should be in this world but not of it.

  10. Is Doug Wilson just another extremist anomaly on the Evangelical landscape with a limited following or is he a voice that will gather thousands if not over a million to his cause and influence politicians to embrace his ideology? I am hoping for the former and not the later.

  11. So many well thought out and well said comments – hurray! Perhaps Donald Trump had been influenced by Doug Wilson and his like when he, Trump, said, making himself akin to the Holy Spirit, that HE would make the church in America great again. We certainly live in interesting times – an understatement if ever there was one!

  12. I’m glad America was not founded as a Christian nation but as a free nation. I’m also glad that Christians influenced the founding and can still have an influence, but the world does not need any more “Christian” nations because there is really no such thing. The kingdom of God is a non-national, transnational, international phenomenon.

    1. About 15-20 years ago, a now-defunct Atheist blog said that America was both a Christian Nation and Not a Christian Nation, and this combination was a source of the country’s cultural strength.

      A Christian Nation in the sense most of the population self-identified as Christian with a general Christian consensus. Not a Christian Nation in that no one form of Christianity was able to Dominate everything with their One True Wayl. And that the combination of and tension between the two was why American became what it was.

  13. This is Reverend Doug Wilson, he of the Calvin beard and Andrew Tate-sized cigars, whose most famous tag line was “The Man Penetrates, Colonizes, Conquers, Plants; the Woman Lies Back and Accepts.”

    To me he will always be “Penetrate/Colonize/Conquer/Plant Wilson”, the Jerk with his personal “Kirk” up in Idaho. “Just like the Manosphere, Except CHRISTIAN(TM)!”

  14. Very well thought out responses on this thread. Can we please remember them next time someone laments or makes derogatory statements about why so many Black voters are Democrats? (No, we aren’t “brainwashed” or “on a plantation”, but have STRONG issues with the Doug Wilsons having significant voices and influence in conservative circles – for obvious reasons!)

  15. These are alarming times to be honest. You have someone that is fully advocating a theocracy, to the point of excluding people from office based on religious views; but he’s persuading people he’s more moderate by taking a stand against anti-semitism (OK, good on him for this at least). I mean he’s “more” moderate in the literal sense of the word, but on that extremism scale it’s like a 95 out of 100 instead of 99.

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