I haven’t read Pastor Doug Wilson lately. He never said much that’s original; for all of their fame, fortune and power, very few celebrity pastors care to rock the boat by going against worldly currents. That being said, he showed up on my radar when half a dozen media outlets accused him in concert of trying to create a theocracy in Moscow, Idaho. Worth looking at…
Heehee, funny accusations! I can’t resist.
The background here, so far as I can tell: a member of Wilson’s inner circle set up one of those mysterious shell corporations that offers “data-based solutions” and never seems to have customers despite employing many people. It now operates in three countries and has been buying much acreage in the Moscow area. This has somehow triggered the local globalists, possibly just because Wilson is using their own tactic of a secret corporate front, but to what purpose I can’t tell.
Inside the Church That Preaches ‘Wives Need to Be Led with a Firm Hand’
By Sarah Stankorb, 18 September 2021
In 2000, Jean, then 16 years old, moved with her mother to Moscow, Idaho, after her parents separated. (Jean is a pseudonym due to safety concerns.) Men and children, prompted by an email from Christ Church, met them at their new home, a split-level rental, to unload the moving truck. Their new city was a beautiful place, says Jean, where “flowers bloom in well-curated beds, Christmas lights are up year-round, and police still ride bicycles.”
Moscow is an idyllic university town, most notably anchored by the University of Idaho, dotted by historic buildings, and known for its thriving arts scene. The in-town farmers’ market is populated by friendly, well-dressed “kirkers”—local shorthand for members of Mother Kirk, the nickname for Christ Church, which boasts about 900 congregants in the town of 25,000. Christ Church is a communal ecosystem unto itself, with affiliated institutions throughout Main Street and the business district: the K-12 Logos School; a publishing house, Canon Press; an unaccredited pastoral ministry program, Greyfriars Hall; and a private college, New Saint Andrews.
Jean and her mother…
…hadn’t joined Christ Church before they arrived, but Jean had plans to attend New Saint Andrews. She thought that it was like any number of religiously affiliated schools and that Christ Church was just another church. “It is such a sweet town,” said Jean. “You’d never guess there was such hatred.”
“Moscow is great! We have gays and BLM protests and craft beers! There’s even a trendy, famous church that will accept me as I am!”
Mother Kirk can be a joyous, faithful community. But the conservative congregation also is at odds with Moscow’s more liberal population (surrounding Latah County voted for President Biden in 2020). Depending upon whom you ask, the town hosts either a Calvinist utopia or a patriarchal cult in which women must submit or face discipline at home and at church. At the center of it all is notoriously controversial Douglas Wilson, the firebrand pastor who’s been presiding over his Mother Kirk fiefdom for more than 40 years.
Wow! Does heaven truly exist upon the Earth?
To learn about Christ Church’s culture of abuse and social control, VICE has interviewed 12 former and current church members and Logos students, and reviewed court and medical documents, church correspondence, and business filings. Ex-kirkers describe a punitive community in which women are told they must defer to church leaders and cannot say “no” to their husbands, men are taught to strictly control their homes, and those who speak out can be isolated and harassed.
VICE would instead have leaned about Christ Church’s culture by, y’know, going to Christ Church and asking questions there, except their minions kept exploding into flames when crossing a threshold.
During Jean’s first year as a non-matriculating student at New Saint Andrews, Christ Church’s college of about 150 students, she met a charming, handsome upperclassman. His father was a deacon at Mother Kirk. By her second year, they started dating and soon he said he wanted to marry her. “I had stars in my eyes,” remembers Jean. “But then he got physical. I was a virgin, and it scared me.”
Decision time! Either the altar or the exit, Barbie! You didn’t get to finish your degree first and test drive a few other boys just to be sure. It’s for the best, though; you’ll have kids while young and be free of student debt!
Within their first year dating, heavy petting turned to coercive sex. He’d get her drunk and refuse to accept her wishes not to have sex. He refused condoms. Jean, who had been raised on a steady diet of purity movement books, felt like she had no choice but to marry him, “or I was somehow unclean and unworthy.” Before they got married, she joined the church, taking covenant vows in front of the congregation. After her vows, kirkers came up and shook her hand, saying how beautiful she was. “That’s a big deal to men in leadership,” says Jean. They brag about how their women are more beautiful than ‘pagans’ wives.’”
Sounds personality cult-ish, I admit, but nothing damning so far.
The wedding, officiated by Wilson, was four years after she moved to Moscow. Starting nine months after they were married, they had a baby every other year until the couple had four children.
For 98% of human history, this was normal cause & effect.
One night, after their first was born, her husband came home drunk after she was asleep. He pulled her over, lifted her nightgown. She told him “not tonight,” that she was tired. He got angry. She tried clawing away, then pushing him away with her arms. He pinned her down, so she used her legs to kick him. That’s when he unbuttoned his pants. “When he was done, he passed out drunk and I locked myself in the bathroom and cried.”
“My husband touched me! It was horrible!” See what happens when you finish your degree first, Barbie? No matter the degree, you end up a BA in Social Trends And Redistributionist Diversity. Forever.
She called a kirker friend about it the next day. The friend attended a Christ Church plant—a seedling congregation based in Christ Church’s doctrine and culture—and “she said the same thing was going on in her marriage.” Marital rape, it seemed, was normal.
Not just normal… it ain’t even a thing in Christian circles! Also, for 98% of human history.
So, Jean didn’t report it. Jean’s husband raped her over and again a couple of times a week for about a decade, either with violence or by waiting until after she took a prescription sleeping pill.
“Basically, every time he touched me. I even tried pretending that I had a headache but he just gave me pills!”
Sometimes, “I’d wake up with him having me or I’d wake up the next morning and be bleeding or see the signs.” Jean has since been diagnosed with PTSD from sexual assault.
Years into her marriage, Jean went to several pastors at Trinity Reformed, a Moscow Christ Church plant, and told them her husband had been raping her. Although they did notify Christ Church leaders, because her then-husband’s father was an elder who could be disciplined if his son continued to sin, the pastors at Trinity, “all told me not to report it and that I was wrong. These pastors told me a wife is not allowed to tell her husband no.”
That IS disturbing. The clergy made up nepotism excuses instead of just laughing in her face? Perhaps they have one alcohol prohibition too many.
Jean’s then-husband’s drinking increased. She says he held her against walls, slammed a lot of doors, pounded the walls, once pointed a loaded gun at her, raped her with a champagne bottle. The pastors at Trinity told her not to go to the police, not to separate.
Eventually, she prepared for divorce and left the Christ Church community, knowing she’d just be excommunicated if she tried to stay. One woman’s counselor called her after the split, telling Jean that she “was causing [her husband] to turn to porn now that I was divorcing him.”
This sounds like a woman wrecking her own home. “It’s rape every time you touch me! I have PTSD from you wanting another kid with me! And now you’re using porn! What, am I not good enough, you filthy rapist? I’m the only woman you’re allowed… and NO MEANS NO!”
In the time since leaving the Christ Church community, Jean’s car has been vandalized regularly, the air let out of her tires several times. Online, she’s had to block kirkers, including teachers from Logos, angry about her divorce. “I have been called a whore, bitch, and cunt,” she said.
What a bitch.
A Man Penetrates, Conquers, and Colonizes
Cigar-puffing and presenting like a Christian philosopher king on YouTube videos, pastor Doug Wilson is a radical provocateur, even among outspoken Christian conservatives, and appears to relish Twitter wars and blog battles.
Yo, VICE, he’s Tradcon weak sauce. Everything you accuse him of here, I regard as a bare minimum of Christian devotion.
In the 1970s, he became pastor of Christ Church, which is now influential within the Communion of Reformed Evangelical Churches, a denomination Wilson helped found that includes more than 100 churches nationally. In 2003, 94 ecclesiastical charges were brought against Wilson by his denomination—from improperly using church funds to pay off students’ casino debts to “carnal threatening” of others—but the charges were ultimately dropped. Last year, Wilson published a novel called Ride, Sally, Ride about a Christian man who runs his neighbor’s sexbot “wife” named Sally through a trash compactor, and YouTube recently removed Wilson’s video making a moral argument for fake vaccine passports.
I was going to fisk his article on fake Vaxx IDs until I realized that I’d be violating my own standard of not opposing other Christians who might take that path.
In his book Father Hunger, the pastor writes that a lack of fatherly authority and biblical masculinity (one that does not “simper and lisp”) is the root of various modern failings, including the “poison” of egalitarianism between genders. He has written “the sexual act cannot be made into an egalitarian pleasuring party.” Instead, he argues that “a man penetrates, conquers, colonizes, plants,” while a “woman receives, surrenders, accepts,” and that “true authority and true submission are therefore an erotic necessity.”
The idea is pervasive. In Wilson’s wife Nancy’s book, The Fruit of Her Hands, she describes wives as lovely, enclosed gardens cultivated for marital sex: “But of course a husband is never trespassing in his own garden.” In 2017, Jean says, another member of the church told her a man is allowed to rape his wife.
Correct. She gave permission, in perpetuity, at the wedding.
Other survivors within the Christ Church community have stories of a culture of allowance around abuse. Former church member Natalie Greenfield was 14 when Greyfriars Hall student Jamin Wight, who was in his mid-20s, started sexually abusing her. In 2005, when Greenfield reported the abuse to police, Wilson asked the investigating officer to give leniency to Wight. Wilson cast their sexual interactions as the result of a parent-arranged courtship—something Greenfield maintains is untrue—but, according to emails gathered in an extensive analysis of Wilson by researcher Rachel Shubin, the judge seemed to accept Wilson’s narrative and rejected a more stringent plea agreement under charges of sexual abuse of a child. After Wight’s conviction (on a lesser charge of “injury to a child”), Christ Church plant Trinity Reformed emailed congregants thanking those praying for Wight. Following his release, Trinity funded $3,000 toward sending Wight on a Haitian mission trip. In 2013, Wight was charged with attempted strangulation of his wife and later found guilty of domestic battery.
This quickly becomes VICE’s pattern of attack: blaming Wilson for other peoples’ conduct. While it’s worth noting his role here, it’s not Wilson that they manage to condemn.
Wilson also officiated the wedding of Steven Sitler, a former New Saint Andrews student convicted of lewd contact with a child under 16, despite Sitler’s parole officer’s objections. (Sitler, on lifetime parole due to the number of victims he confessed abusing, could not be unsupervised with children.) Wilson maintains a unique role in the Sitler saga, saying he encouraged the father who discovered the abuse to report it to the police, but Wilson later welcomed Sitler back to Christ Church (with a chaperone). At Sitler’s wedding, according to one guest, Wilson explained that sometimes people need to get married so the flesh can be contained. Using a wife as a sexual decoy to distract Sitler from children didn’t work. Later, a judge ruled Sitler must be chaperoned around his infant son, due to admitted sexual stimulation resulting from contact with the baby.
Seems okay, for Wilson. He advocated both justice and mercy, and he correctly thought that men need sex regardless of parole status.
The person I have a problem with in that story, is what stupid sort of skank-whore married a convicted child molester?
A culture that normalizes sexual abuse and harassing survivors is just one manifestation of the authority and control that blends devotion to God with submission to church leaders. For years, Christian blogs, such as Spiritual Sounding Board and The Wartburg Watch, have detailed sometimes anonymous accounts of Christ Church’s spiritual abuse, a phenomenon typically defined as faith leaders creating a toxic culture within a church or community and using their position to shame and control. Kirkers have long been afraid to speak out. That may be changing: a wave of former and current church members are stepping forward now, thanks to a new YouTube channel. On Courageous Empathy, host Kevin McGill, a Seventh Day Adventist pastor, interviews ex-kirkers about their scarring experiences with the church.
Yes, Wilson is charismatic and successful but questionable in his grasp of Christianity. But instead of voicing the solid objections raised by many Christian voices, VICE argues instead that Wilson is a bad feminist. Which tells us who their target demographic is.
Much of Doug Wilson’s work is arguably the continuation of that of his father, Jim Wilson. In 1971, Jim Wilson moved to the Moscow, Idaho area to start a Christian bookstore after retiring from the Navy. The elder Wilson’s 1964 book Principles of War: A Handbook on Strategic Evangelism is a how-to for spiritual takeover of individuals, cities, and nations. Doug Wilson has described Moscow as a city right-sized for spiritual conquest. If all continues according to plan, Mother Kirk’s dominion over Moscow will deepen as its influence spreads.
Are we talking spiritual or physical takeover? To be honest, at this point I wouldn’t have a problem with either.
There are tensions in Moscow between the kirkers and other town residents wary of land purchases by business owners affiliated with the church. The pandemic underscored perceived camps within the business community, particularly as Christ Church members protested a local mask ordinance. (Doug Wilson’s son Nate and two grandsons were charged with 13 misdemeanors for posting anti-mask stickers and anti-government drawings around downtown Moscow.)
Heehee. Boys will be boys.
As Wilson has built out the church’s holdings, he has protected his empire through theology that demands submission and church discipline, and for those who do not comply: excommunication, and occasional online bullying. For kirkers, speaking up takes courage. There is a regular section in the printed church bulletin listing the names of those who have strayed—as one former member describes, a list of the excommunicated—along with a prayer request for repentance from sin. It functionally serves as a record of people whom kirkers ice out. Families cut off loved ones over leaving the church. Others, as Jean found out, lash out against ex-members with harassment. Small businesses suddenly lose customers, and while it is hard to prove a boycott, the timing suggests as much. The tight-knit Christ Church community which provides so much can also be quickly taken away.
Wilson’s influence extends beyond church campuses in Moscow. Christ Church’s Logos School serves as a template for the classical Christian school movement. He helped form the Association of Classical and Christian Schools to accredit similar institutions, now numbering more than 200 accredited and full members nationally on its website (the organization has since distanced itself from Wilson). Some former Logos students describe the enforcement of modest dress, “Godly” gender roles, and “prompt and cheerful obedience” to teachers, as well as prohibitions of romantic relationships between students.
“Why won’t you mentor me?!” “Okay, fine.” “He rayyyped meeee!”
This sounds much like a personality cult forming.. .but dang if VICE doesn’t make Wilson look good by highlighting all the positive aspects of a personality cult. Community standards, informal enforcement of cultural norms and significant defenses against outside attack come to mind swiftly.
All these chicks want a piece of that, then they find out after joining that there’s a price for stable family dynamics. Specifically, there’s no exit from a Christian marriage!
Kamilla Niska, who is now 25 and attended Christ Church and Logos through 11th grade, describes being spanked with a wooden paddle in 6th grade, once by a female administrator, once by a male principal. (In a copy of the 2012-2013 Logos parent/student handbook, provided to VICE, the Discipline Policy states: “The principal may require restitution, janitorial work…spanking, or any other measures consistent with biblical guidelines which maybe appropriate.”) Raised by an adoptive, single mom, Niska says she “didn’t get touched by adult men,” so being bent in a prone position, hands on her principal’s desk as he struck her, haunted her dreams. Other boundaries were violated. Later, in 10th grade, when Niska was covertly seeing a boy at Logos, Nancy Wilson started pulling her into classrooms to talk, and asking if they’d done anything physical. Were they in a relationship? Was she keeping pure?
Wilson is evil because his school allowed spanking nine years ago. The media obviously aren’t trying to discredit Wilson with this hatchet job; they’re scaring the feminists of Moscow that he’s building a real-life Handmaid’s Tale theocracy!
Former Logos student Helen Shores, 37, was called in for a solo meeting with Doug Wilson after she lost her virginity at 16 to her then boyfriend, who had confessed they’d had sex to his parents. Wilson “wanted me to tell him in detail, everything that happened when we had sex,” says Shores, who was told by Wilson that her boyfriend had already told him everything. “So I needed to tell him in absolute detail what sexual experience happened, how many times it happened, all that kind of stuff.”
The solo meeting part is objectionable. Daddy should have been present, or at least another Church man in good standing. But the boldfaced, yes, was that a one-off failure or was it time to marry them… since they’re of age and obviously enjoying each other?
Mother Kirk has grand expansion plans for the Logos School. Thirty acres of land has been purchased on the Northwest edge of Moscow to build a new school complex. A promotional video on the fundraising campaign page touts itself as a reminder “that much of what we are doing in education… is exported to hundreds of classical Christian schools across the country and beyond.”
After [vocal Logos opponent Sarah] Bader appeared on [YouTube], someone sent her an ominous picture of a knife via Instagram. She has worn a pistol on her hip since last year, when she spoke up against Christ Church members strategically buying up business property in her own neighboring small town, Troy (population 900). She noticed an armed kirker had made a habit of sitting outside her business.
Sounds like Doug is up to something. Maybe just reinvesting his wealth… land ownership is a common hedge against inflation… but if he’s building a tiny empire of domestic wives and men who hate the vaxx then more power to him.
Lordship in the Home
Counseling sessions—with school children, church members, and married couples—were one of the main mechanisms through which Christ Church pastors engendered a culture of male domination. Although Doug Wilson holds pastoral and counseling roles, he does not have formal theological training, did not graduate seminary, and is not a licensed counselor.
That would be a serious problem if Doug Wilson was Catholic.
One woman who reached out to McGill was Kimberly McCullough, whose ex-husband was an early Doug Wilson disciple. McCullough, 56, was a dutiful, homeschooling mother. She read the Bible with her children. She recalls her husband saying “No wife of mine is going to work” and needing his permission to cut her hair. But when he started disappearing from the home for long stretches, he still demanded sex on his return.
Good for him! He was keeping his pants on while away from home and getting it done when he could with wifey. Exactly his marital duty!
Her husband was absent so much, when he did come home, she was left feeling “who is this strange man who wants to take my body?” Not to submit to his wishes would be sinful, she knew from Doug Wilson’s teachings and Jim Wilson—Doug Wilson’s father—made this clear in counseling sessions with McCullough.
McCullough says she was counseled, “if the wife did not concede, she was in sin,” and believed a woman could be excommunicated from the church for refusal to have sex with her husband. Faith was central to her. She couldn’t understand why sometimes her throat would seem to close, her body suddenly gripped with panic. Her anxiety attacks went undiagnosed for years.
…And that’s YOUR marital duty, wifey. You don’t pledge to be his one-and-only then get to refuse him.
The counseling sessions were sometimes later wielded against disobedient members. When McCullough finally left her husband after 18 years, the elder Wilson—who describes himself on dust-jackets as a pastor, counselor, and director of Community Christian Ministries—was called as a witness in their divorce case. McCullough remembers Wilson claiming he did not have to maintain confidentiality from their counseling sessions as he is not ordained. He saw himself more as a Bible teacher, he noted in court recordings. (Her ex-husband could not be reached for comment, but the details of their marriage and divorce were confirmed with courtroom recordings.)
She cheated on him while he was away then monkeybranched… probably when the kids were ‘old enough’… and then Wilson told the divorce judge that she was guilty of marital neglect! Exactly what a pastor should do in that situation.
Like his father, Doug Wilson articulates those lessons in his book Reforming Marriage, writing: “Wives need to be led with a firm hand” and that “it is tragic that wholesale abdication on the part of modern men has made the idea of lordship in the home such a laughable thing.” In Federal Husband, Doug Wilson asserts men must assume full spiritual responsibility for the household, including any wifely negligence to submit in: “spending habits, television viewing habits, weight, rejection of his leadership, laziness in cleaning the house, lack of responsiveness to sexual advances.” Such a husband must confess failure in leading his wife, outline clear expectations, and repeatedly point out her failures. If she complies, “he must move up a step, requiring another of her duties be done.” If she continues to rebel, it’s appropriate to call in the church elders.
That boldfaced is the sort of thing that keeps Wilson from being popular with mainstream… err, conservative… dangit… with remnant Christian observers. When we Protestants organized our churches to self-destruct when compromised, we never imagined that ALL of them would INDEPENDENTLY be compromised in the SAME generation.
Many of the emotional dynamics ex-members described in the church run parallel to coercive control in abusive relationships, while theological demands for submission normalize the same pattern at home. Church leaders, doubling as counselors, know how to hurt rebellious members.
In a letter on Christ Church letterhead, the church’s Center for Biblical Counseling ministry counselor Mike Lawyer informed one woman after hundreds of hours of counseling she was being suspended “from the Table of the Lord” until she confessed and repented after leaving it up to her husband to clean and prep food, putting her kids in daycare, and “ignoring the God given roles,” including submission.
Move over, Cinderella! Barbie isn’t allowed to watch soaps all day anymore!
Another woman, Cori Phillips, is a 51-year-old homeschooling mother of 10 children and attended Providence Church, planted by Doug Wilson’s brother Gordon (now a teacher at Christ Church’s New Saint Andrews College). When Phillips began to raise concerns about Doug Wilson’s blog to her church leaders and on Facebook, a church leader cast Phillips as a dangerous woman, warning a friend’s husband to shield his wife from Phillips, and spread a mix of misinformation and decades’ old details from pastoral counseling sessions.
The church leaders didn’t listen to a woman’s complaints about their Bible teaching because the Bible told them not to?! How unChristian!
I still regard Wilson… and every other megachurch celebrity pastor… with much suspicion. But it was hilarious to watch VICE try so hard to scare feminists into attacking his little empire that they ended up praising Wilson for things that he did right… indeed, that few other clergy are doing right.
With enemies like VICE.com, Doug Wilson doesn’t need friends.