“The parties in this conflict are not merely Abolitionists and slaveholders – they are atheists, socialists, communists, red republicans, Jacobins on one side, and the friends of order and regulated freedom on the other. In one word, the world is the battleground – Christianity and atheism the combatants; and the progress of humanity at stake.” – Presbyterian Pastor James Henry Thornwell, 1850
Anthony Bradley is a black Reformed writer and teacher with a Ph.D. from Westminster Theological Seminary. On Sunday, Bradley put up a post on his blog attacking Doug Wilson, a well-known Reformed pastor and prolific writer. I assumed that since Bradley references 1 Cor. 3 in the title of the post, his main point would be that Wilson or his fans (“tribe”) were giving him undue regard reserved only for God. Instead, Bradley starts off by saying that he is surprised that Wilson is as popular as he is, and, since this apparently displeases Bradley, he spends the rest of the post attacking Wilson for the most heinous of all sins: racism.
Bradley’s First Post
Bradley uses the terms “tribe” and “tribalism” rather oddly. The usual definition of the words denotes a group of people with a common culture and ethnic lineage. While it can also be used to denote any discrete group of people, this usage is really imprecise and gets downright confusing when used in the same context as an unrelated racial discussion, as Bradley does here. Bradley uses this meaning because he is apparently a huge fan of this video; he links to it a total of three times in his 1,000 word post. The video is an interview of Jonathan Haidt, who is the author of the book The Righteous Mind: Why Good People Are Divided by Politics and Religion. Haidt has done research into moral and social psychology as it relates to politics, coming to the conclusion that disagreement persists because conservatives and liberals have much different characteristics in six different value areas. I was actually familiar with Haidt’s research before watching the video, and I think it has merit. Nevertheless, I vehemently disagree with the conclusions Haidt draws from his research and presents in the video interview. Haidt says that people naturally form themselves into tribes based upon shared characteristics and then compete with other tribes. (Again, this is really imprecise; a better term would just be “groups.”) He notes that this tribal arrangement is natural and healthy – so far, so good – but his main thesis is problematic: he teaches that when this competition reaches the point where one or both tribes consider the other as being evil, this tribalism becomes wrong. He thinks this “Manichean”1 form of tribalism is exemplified in modern politics. The problem with this is that there are actually positions, like pro-abortion, which are genuinely evil, and if a group (tribe) advocates for those positions, that does in fact make them evil. There is nothing wrong with such a classification. In other words, Haidt’s thesis amounts to simple moral relativism, where there is no absolute right or wrong: where compromise is good, while consistently holding to a moral code is bad. The correct position is not to never call the other side evil, but to correctly differentiate between practical disagreements and moral nonnegotiables.
Since Bradley repeatedly links to this video when talking about “Wilsonian tribalism,” one would assume that he is using the definitions from the video, that groups (tribes) are good until they start calling the other side evil. There are, of course, several problems with this. First, this is not a Christian position. We are specifically told to call good good and evil evil. In fact, Isaiah 5:20 curses anyone who does not do so. Secondly, Bradley does not actually use the video’s definitions. Although he never gets around to it in this post, his definition of bad tribalism in this context seems to be a transgression of 1 Cor. 3:4-5. However, the use of “Wilsonian tribalism” (non-racial) in the same post as a racial discussion is an intellectually dishonest slight of hand to slyly put Wilson in a negative light from the get-go. By the time we get to Bradley’s third post, the definition of “tribalist” just seems to be “a member of a group I don’t like.” But then again, being sloppy with definitions is the hallmark of those who love to cry racism.
We get to the meat of Bradley’s post with his statement that Wilson’s popularity in Reformed circles is due either to “irresponsible and profound ignorance of Wilson’s views” or to a lack of sympathy and concern for black people:
A blind-eye toward the South could send a clear message to African Americans: “we don’t care that Wilson’s writings are troubling and offensive to blacks.”
This, in a nutshell, is the problem with much of non-white Christianity: a complete lack of reciprocity, a blatant violation of the Golden Rule (Matt. 7:12). Whites must cater to every whim of non-whites, give in to any of their demands, and never say or do anything that might offend them, but the reverse is never true. Non-whites are given a free pass to beat up on whites for their “racism” (i.e. being white) whenever they feel like it. We are not allowed anything of our own – not our countries, not our schools, not our businesses, not our families, not even our churches. I am not exaggerating. Bradley promoted this video by Tim Keller on his site, which teaches that homogeneous non-white churches are important, but homogeneous white churches should seek to become as diverse as possible. In fact, according to Keller, there is no such thing as a white church; he uses his fingers to make scare quotes when discussing white churches but not (as he terms them) “ethnic churches.” This is infuriating. What if someone had posted the following:
A blind eye towards black behavior could send a clear message to white Americans: “we don’t care that black crime and voting patterns are troubling and dangerous to whites.”
Would Bradley be content with that statement, or would he cry “racism”? I think we all know the answer to that question, but whites, especially white Southerners, are supposed to accept his criticism without a peep of protest. No reciprocity.
Bradley’s beef with Wilson centers on the book he co-wrote with Steve Wilkins, entitled Southern Slavery: As It Was. It is a short book laying out the case that Southern slavery was in most cases a benign manifestation of Biblical slavery, both when compared to history and when seen in its historical context. Wilson and Wilkins have been accused of cherry-picking their facts to paint a rosier picture of Southern slavery than is factually correct. I believe that that is probably true to some degree, yet I also believe that the truth is closer to their version than to the official history textbook version.
Bradley first cites the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), which is laughable if you are at all informed. Morris Dees founded the SPLC in 1971 after he discovered that he could make more money suing KKK members than defending them. Since then, Dees has used the inkling of white-on-minority crimes to rake in millions of dollars via massive fund-raising campaigns. People from the left and right, as well as charity watchdog organizations, have noted that the SPLC has an absymal philanthropy rating. It is the wealthiest and most profitable charity for its leaders in the entire country, raising far more than it spends and spending a huge amount on yet more fund-raising campaigns. In 2000, Harper’s Magazine published an article called “The Church of Morris Dees: How the Southern Poverty Law Center profits from intolerance,” making the case that the SPLC vastly overstates issues in order to pump up donations to pay its leadership and employees ridiculous amounts of money.
“Morris and I…shared the overriding purpose of making a pile of money,” recalls Dees’s business partner, a lawyer named Millard Fuller (not to be confused with Millard Farmer). “We were not particular about how we did it; we just wanted to be independently rich.”
This why the SPLC focuses almost exclusively on right-wing groups; their donors are DWLs (dumb white liberals). The SPLC’s targets go all the way from tiny, fringe white supremacist organizations to mainstream anti-immigration groups and conservative Christians. The SPLC is an anti-American, far-left con job and in no way a serious or reliable source.
The next source cited by Bradley is a book by two professors, William Ramsey and Sean Quinlan, entitled Southern Slavery As It Wasn’t. The book is a direct response to Wilkins and Wilson’s book. It is important to note that the primary author, Ramsey, received the “Martin Luther King, Jr. Distinguished Service Award in 2005 from the University of Idaho and Washington State University, acting jointly, for public activism in defense of Civil Rights and racial tolerance.”2 With such “credentials,” he is far from an objective party and is pushing just as much of an ideological point as Wilson and Wilkins are, the only difference being that Ramsey is a cultural Marxist instead of a neo-Confederate. I am curious if Bradley actually read Ramsey and Quinlan’s book, because it is just as much an attack on Biblical law as it is on Southern slavery. The factual evidence presented by Ramsey and Quinlan is even thinner and more vulnerable to claims of cherry-picking than the content of Wilkins and Wilson’s book. Throughout the bulk of the book, the authors quote and summarize Wilkins and Wilson’s Christian and Confederate beliefs, do the old “point and splutter,” and then state that they are wrong – usually without any attempts to provide evidence of their own. Like Bradley, they trot out the SPLC as a source by page 2. At the end of the book, they make some wildly speculative assertions about Wilkins and Wilson’s motives and then attack Biblical law, along with “Francis Shaeffer, Gary DeMar, Gary North, George Grant, David Chilton, and especially Rousas John Rushdoony.”
Bradley’s final sources are links to five books he recommends “for a more accurate view of the South.” But this cite-and-run is extremely problematic for a number of reasons:
- If you are writing a blog post attacking someone’s position, you cannot just link to five full-length books and say, “read these and they’ll prove my point.” That is absolutely ridiculous. It is your blog; you prove your own point. Quoting passages from books is fine, but it is your job to do the work of providing evidence – not your readership’s job. This is intellectually dishonest. No one is going to pay $108.64 plus shipping and handling and read 1,784 pages just to see if you are correct or not. Doing this is just a way to look authoritative without actually having to do any work.
- I did read through all five books’ Amazon descriptions and reviews, and, based on that, discerned that only the first book directly addresses the issue at hand. A couple actually undermine his own position by praising black tribalism. (I thought tribalism was bad, Bradley? Or is it just tribalism that you don’t like?) One book claims that white Southerners made up the concept of race from sight, sound, smell, touch, and taste. You can almost always tell race from sight, usually from sound, and occasionally by smell, but touch and taste? What kind of sick stuff is Bradley reading?
- Not a single book is written by a Southerner. They are all written by Yankees, West Coasters, and even by an Englishman.
- All the books have been written within the last few decades. Not a single book is written by a contemporary of the events in question.
- All the authors either went to very left-wing universities and/or won prestigious (read: liberal) awards. There is not a single author with anything approaching conservative credentials. Many of the authors seem to be fixated on the topic for cultural Marxist reasons; for example, one author’s specialty is the French Revolution, and he has some rather disturbing sexual titles on that period.
In summary, Bradley’s sources are a roll call of far-left cultural Marxists, the first two of whom, at least, are just as eager to attack Christianity as the Confederacy. In other words, Bradley puts advancing his own race (“tribe”, if you will) ahead of Christianity, the exact thing he is accusing “racists” like Doug Wilson of doing.
Seven hours later on the same day, Wilson responded to Bradley. His response, “Lord Acton, Anthony Bradley, and Me,” is short and fairly to the point, so I will let it stand as is, adding just a few comments. Wilson loses points for treating “racism” like an accusation a Christian should take seriously, but gains points for calling out Bradley on quoting the SPLC and for showing how Bradley’s guilt-by-association game plays both ways.
The contrast between Wilson’s conciliatory tone and attempts to resolve the matter privately are in stark contrast to Bradley’s belligerence and appearance of not acting in good faith. After Bradley’s first shot at Wilson and Wilson’s rather amicable response, Bradley decided to post the following tweet: “There is such bloodthirst amongst some conservative evangelicals for arguing & ‘debates.’ Verbal gladiator competitions. #NotInterested.”
One of the more interesting parts of Wilson’s post is this statement:
And last, fully consistent with everything above, let me conclude by issuing Dr. Bradley a cordial invitation to come out to Moscow in order to speak at an event we will organize for him. We will pay for travel, lodging, and an honorarium, and the topic will be of his choosing. We will be flexible as to the time in order to accomodate [sic] his schedule and ours. We can go out for a beer at Bucer’s afterward.
This seems a bit excessive. If Doug Wilson and his church want to waste their money, then that’s their business, but I have to wonder how much a black man accusing him of racism had to do with this conciliatory overkill. If someone had, say, accused Wilson of denying the divinity of Christ, denying the Trinity, or some other sinful belief, would he have been offered such an opportunity? Several years back, when Wilson and Kinists were debating racial issues, why was such an invitation not extended to a Kinist? One wonders.
Bradley’s Second Post
On Monday morning, Bradley posted a response to Wilson’s post in which he claimed to provide “a summary of a continued discussion” between them so far. In reality, Bradley did not address Wilson’s post at all, or, you know, provide a summary of their discussion. Instead, he just posted a bunch of links attacking Wilson and Wilkins’s book again. It looks as if he just Googled anti-Wilson stuff and slapped them into a post. He even misspelled one of his source’s names – twice. I am really rather incredulous as to how Bradley managed to get a Ph.D. with such sloppy work. He rehashes the citations of leftist cultural Marxists Ramsey and Quinlan, and then adds the pro-homosexual, anti-Christian philosophy professor Dr. Nick Gier to the list. The rest are either anti-Christian, like the attack on classical Christian education by OCU, or otherwise tangential, like World’s identification of a plagiarism issue in Southern Slavery: As It Was, which was an oversight by Wilkins.
Wilson’s Second Response
In Wilson’s response to Bradley’s second post, displayed Tuesday morning, he does a masterful job of articulating that this dust-up is not really about racial issues, but about the “pick an offense, demand an apology” routine. He then points out the shoddy nature of Bradley’s sources and spends the rest of the article talking about how pastors should expect accusations in this life; they might not be vindicated until heaven, but it is still their duty to persevere. Except for Wilson again using the word “racism” as if it actually means something, it was a good article.
Bradley’s Third Post
Wilson sent Bradley a free copy of his newer book, Black & Tan, which is something of an update and expansion of Southern Slavery: As It Was. Later on Tuesday morning, Bradley responded to it. Unlike Wilson’s first book, I have not read Black & Tan, and, as such, I cannot directly comment on Bradley’s attack of it. However, since he drags out Ramsey and Quinlan yet again, adding another Yankee professor and another West Coast professor to the mix, neither with conservative credentials, I would hazard a strong guess that my earlier arguments regarding leftist sources hold true to this post by Bradley as well. Bradley’s choice of sources he is using to attack Wilson are very telling, and show how Thornwell’s quote at the beginning of this article is just as true today as it was 162 years ago. Bradley is siding with the anti-Christs to protect the historical narrative which gives the preferential status his racial tribe currently enjoys. Defending the Old South is important because it was the last manifestation of Christendom in North America and one of the last in the entire world: the last gasp of over one thousand years of Christian European civilization. By attacking the Old South, the modern cultural Marxist is attacking, not simply the Confederacy, but the entire foundation of Christian social order. This is why it is so completely vilified by the Christ-haters today.
Again, I covered this in the reciprocity section on Bradley’s first post, but I will point it out again. Bradley says:
What continues to trouble me, and other black leaders in evangelicalism, is the utter disregard for the sensitivity of the Southern history for blacks and the flippant dismissal of why it is that someone who professes to be a Paleo-Confederate (or any kind of “Confederate”) would be a stumbling block to many of us. . . .
“Black and Tan” seems to be curious title for [a] book that is an apologetic for Slavery As It Was. Even worse, to not understand (or care) why such a title would raise additional concerns for blacks in [sic] even more troubling.
I wonder how much sensitivity a white Southerner wanting to fly the Confederate flag, to support states’ rights and secession, and to preserve his ethnicity would get from Bradley? From what I’ve seen, “racial sensitivity” is a one-way street with Bradley.
It will be interesting to see if the debate continues and, if so, where it goes from here.
- See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Manichaeism. Manichaeism is an ancient gnostic heresy which involves the idea that matter is inherently evil. Haidt misapplies the term by using it in a context where good and evil forces simply exist in the world. Manichaeism is more specific than that. ↩
- http://www.amazon.com/William-L.-Ramsey/e/B001JSDSMY ↩