There are two kinds of controversy that have followed our publication of The Case for Christian Nationalism by Stephen Wolfe (Canon Press, November 2022). The first kind is most welcome, in which various folks disagreed with the thesis, and registered their disagreement, some of them loudly. One of our great cultural blessings is that we live downstream from an era when America was a good example of Christian nationalism, which is why we still have the freedom to debate and express our disagreements in such a fashion.
But the other approach has opted for a proxy row, and is simply trying to get Wolfe’s book cancelled.
This second kind of controversy erupted last week when it was alleged that Thomas Achord, a friend and colleague of Stephen Wolfe’s, had published more than a few disturbing tweets a couple years ago. Achord initially claimed that the tweets are not his, and that someone has impersonated him. His account of the whole thing is here, and he has filed an impersonation claim with Twitter. At the same time, he is working with his pastors, and a thorough pastoral review is also in process. In the meantime, the sleuths who are after him have assembled additional evidence that the tweets are in fact his, and I would add that the circumstantial evidence against him is not trivial and needs to be taken seriously.
Update: Thomas Achord has acknowledged the tweets as his, and his statement is here. And Stephen Wolfe has a series of statements here.
In the meantime, you should probably still get the book that everybody’s talking about. It might be wise to pick up a copy of the book that they don’t want you to pick up. Perhaps you should read the book that they don’t want you to read.
What’s in our Budget
As far as the Achord aspect of this story goes, there are only two basic options. Either Achord has lied about these tweets, and they are in fact his, or he is not lying about them, and the Achord family is going to have a thin Christmas because they were collateral damage in a proxy war. Now if Thomas Achord is lying, and the tweets are his, then the foundational responsibility for what has happened to him and to his family lies with him. Play stupid games, win stupid prizes. If he is not lying, and a lynch mob got the wrong man, then we can expect the lynch mob to feel as much remorse after the fact as is customary upon such occasions.
In the meantime, defending Achord’s right to deny his guilt in this matter, as we have done, and to desire a fair hearing for him, is not the same thing as defending the tweet-crimes themselves, as they were clearly published by someone who was not right with God. I bring this up because many of the members of the Internet Jury in the Cloud have evidently not yet taken advantage of this free giveaway of A Justice Primer.
But we here in Moscow have budgeted for both possibilities. As far as we are concerned, at least up to this point, it doesn’t really matter. There are conditions under which it could matter, but as things now stand, it doesn’t matter. For our thinking on that, please see the press release from Canon below. I posted this separately last Saturday, so if you already read it, you may skip this next section. But ICYMI . . .
. . . ICYMI
And incidentally, because I saw some confusion online about it, I did not draft this. But I do agree with it. Here tis:
In an attempt to silence productive conversation surrounding the book, The Case for Christian Nationalism, or to cancel it completely, critics have recently focused a great deal of effort on guilt by association. Allegations have recently been made against a man named Thomas Achord, allegations which he denies. Those allegations are that he tweeted various foul and moronic things. And, as Mr. Achord is a friend and associate of Stephen Wolfe, author of the book, Canon Press is now being pressured to drop the conversation entirely. The problem is, we believe the conversation is an important one. And we object very strongly to this sort of proxy war and daisy chain extortion. We will not allow ourselves to be moved into this particular game of Cultural Cancel Ball, so recently invented by the enwokened left (and governed by fluctuating rules and virtues). One of our authors is friends with someone who has been alleged to have said truly tacky and vile things. While we hate and happily denounce such things, the cancellation levers won’t work on us like that. We publish Martin Luther, who said some vile things himself, let alone what some of his friends may have said. We publish G.K. Chesterton, who was sympathetic to commies and drew racist doodles (and should not have). We remain grateful for our founding fathers, despite their many heresies and hypocrisies, and for Augustine, despite his weirdness about women. And while we highly encourage critics of the recent book, and of Christian Nationalism as an idea, to hit them both with their best shots, so that we all might learn something, we would also encourage those same critics to stop shooting at bystanders (innocent or otherwise). This conversation is valuable and must be had. It cannot be ended by doxxing and denouncing every dubious contact on the periphery who has behaved badly. Truthfully, Kevin Bacon says some reprehensible things. How many degrees of separation must we maintain from him? If one of his friends had a manuscript that we believed to be worth pondering, we would publish it. The Case for Christian Nationalism is generating this kind of resistance because it was timely, and it touches raw nerves. In our minds, this confirms its importance. Tear it to shreds, explore its corners, poke its premises, and stomp its logic. Take it on directly if you can, not like tabloid writers.Canon Press, Saturday, November 26, 2022
The Target is Wolfe
The larger allegation is that Stephen Wolfe is a wolfe in sheepe’s clothing, that he is a bad actor, a die-hard kinist himself, and one who knew good and well what Thomas Achord was up to in his spare time. His book is a thinly disguised apologetic for white Christian nationalism, and so on.
But in times like these, we would be out of our minds to pull a book simply because of allegations like that. This is 2022. What isn’t racist these days?
Now if actual hard evidence of bad deeds were to be produced, of Wolfe himself and not of a friend-of-a-friend-of-a-friend, we would then play the ball as it lays. Obviously. Say that a photograph of Stephen in blackface surfaced, or of him in a KKK outfit emerged, and it was undeniable that it was in fact Stephen. We would take him aside at that time and say, “Friend, we don’t think that Canon Press is the place for you. You belong in Virginia’s gubernatorial mansion. Or perhaps you might serve as the prime minister of Canada.” Or words to that effect. We would offer to buy him a bus ticket to Richmond or Ottawa. A third party might then take him aside and tell him that forgiveness for this kind of thing cannot be found in Christ, but only in becoming a Democrat.
But also at that time, we would also not apologize for our refusal to take action earlier. And why? Because the sentencing should always come after the trial, a trial in which actual evidence was introduced. You know, like in the old days. See ibid.
In the meantime, since we have been talking about circumstantial evidence, what about the circumstantial evidence here to date? If Wolfe is a kinist, trying to advance the kinist agenda, then why on earth would he write a book that contradicts the kinist agenda, and then get it published with a press that is so manifestly hostile to the kinist agenda? You don’t advance a cause by repudiating it. Or so it seems to me.
An Aside to the Actual Kinists Out There
Since we are talking a lot about you guys, I thought it might be appropriate to take you aside for a minute. You all like to think of yourselves as the shock troops of the resistance, as an elite corps of hard-headed race realists. You are in fact the soft underbelly of the resistance.
You are not the lost golden apples of the Hesperides in the true West. You are the crabbed fruit of the West, lying on the ground in one of our lower-IQ orchards, most of which fruit the ants have already carried off.
If anyone on the right suddenly starts talking about the Jooozzz, and is sounding suspiciously like Ilhan Omar, the chances are outstanding that it is one of you guys.
The tweets in question in this case can sound so brave right after two in the morning, and also after two beers, right before you publish them, but when your opponents find those tweets and are consequently saying ohboyohboyohboyohboy to themselves, they are not doing this because they just plopped their lame arguments onto the sturdy slab of an oak table called the adamantine right. No, they actually found a two-dollar card table of the wobbly right, the kind that collapses as soon as they put any kind of weight on it. That’s why the ohboyohboyohboy reaction.
This below is something I said last summer in a discussion with ministers in the CREC.
“That said, I really appreciate the wariness that our men have about the kinists . . . The reason I appreciate this wariness is that we really need to police this border very carefully, because all it will take is some young CREC buck using the n-word at the worst possible moment—and he will undo the labor of decades.”Me, discussing with fellow ministers how we might guard our denomination against this kind of crap.
If you doubt what I say, consider what is unfolding in this situation, and think more about what I say. And stop being such idiots.
Confronted with this kind of grease fire, we are not going to distance ourselves from anything that we were not already distanced from. We never want outrage—which in these demented days is almost always eager to drive the car—to be allowed anywhere near our steering wheel.
There is an important principle here, and to illustrate what I mean I need to adjust something that Achord said in his statement:
“Even Douglas Wilson himself became involved in warding off damaging claims against himself or Moscow generally (Canon Press published Wolfe’s book) with a series of posts and videos denying racism and anything adjacent to it.”Thomas Achord, My Story
But my recent attacks on kinism, anti-Semitism, and the like are nothing new. They are not examples of me trying to sidle away from anybody for PR reasons. I have been fighting with kinists and their ilk since Joel McDurmon was still in short pants. I have been fighting this kind of rancid thinking for decades because it is one of the oldest methods Satan has employed for corrupting the gospel. See, for example, here (2005) here (2005) and here. (2019). And there are plenty more, if you like.
I write like I hate this stuff because . . . and please follow me closely here . . . I hate this stuff. Because . . . Bible.
The reason I fight ethnic animosity and ethnic vainglory is because such attitudes are manifestly wicked, and one of a faithful preacher’s central tasks is to attack sin.
“Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine.”
2 Tim. 4:2 (KJV)
As the subsequent verses make plain, the reference to “in season” and “out of season” means that we must talk about the people’s sins when they are willing to hear you out and when they are not willing to hear you out. We should attack sin when it wins you popularity and when it pulls down calumny on your head. And do you want to know who to trust in situations like this? Look for that weird trademark—that funky admixture of high praise and dark vituperation.
The first great satanic attempt to unravel the gospel in this particular way was at Antioch, and the apostle Paul identified the attempt to segregate Jew and Gentile there as rank hypocrisy on the part of Peter and Barnabas (Gal. 2:11-13), and a falling away from grace on the part of any Galatians who went along with the same kind of nonsense (Gal. 5:4).
“And have put on the new man, which is renewed in knowledge after the image of him that created him: Where there is neither Greek nor Jew, circumcision nor uncircumcision, barbarian, Scythian, bond nor free: but Christ is all, and in all.”
Col. 3:10-11 (KJV)
Now Christian nationalism, as defined in Wolfe’s book, is entirely consistent with this Pauline vision. But the Pauline vision as stated here is much larger than the Christian nationalism of just one nation. It is Christian internationalism, or globalism, if you want me to be a little provocative. It is mere Christendom. Christ is the emperor now. More on this in a minute.
But Speaking of Joel McDurmon . . .
I must return to Joel McDurmon for a moment.
The job that Thomas Achord lost was that of being headmaster of Sequitur Classical Academy in Baton Rogue. That is where Rod Dreher has had his kids for years, and even though Rod pulled his skirts away from Achord immediately, Joel McDurmon nevertheless took to Twitter to chastise Dreher for his complicity. You see, the classical emphasis of Sequitur, and the intolerable whiteness of the people in their brochures, indicates that Rod Dreher was as much in bed with Achord as Wolfe was. Maybe even more.
Winston Churchill once defined an appeaser as one who feeds a crocodile—hoping it will eat him last. So Joel really needs to be more wary. The day will come when being pals with Rachael Denhollander won’t be sufficient protection. Somebody on the Inquisition Council might look into the contents of American Vision’s book catalog during Joel’s tenure there. I don’t know, man. There’s an awful lot of white people in that thing. There are even Christian histories of America, as white as . . . oh, I don’t know . . . as white as Sequitur Classical Academy maybe. There are defenses of the American founding, and that was a slave-holding era. That catalog is just teeming with Eurocentric concerns, and Joel oversaw it for years. A little more self-awareness, Joel.
If we know anything about the cancel car, it should be the fact that it has no brakes.
For a publisher like Canon to have a morals clause in their contracts is simply good business, and always has been. To drop an author for demonstrated cause is not giving way to cancel culture. But to give way to this kind of pressure would mean that we at Canon had given up on our goal of being outfitters of the Reformation—which we have no intention of doing. It should mean that we were hypocrites for publishing A Justice Primer, and as much as it might pour oil on troubled waters if we admitted to such hypocrisy, we are not going to do it.
Equal Weights and Measures
One of the people bringing the proxy charge against Wolfe through Achord has been Alistair Roberts. I bring this up, not to attack Roberts, but to defend him, actually, but then to look for the same courtesy to be extended to Wolfe.
Alistair has hosted a podcast with Matt Anderson, who sits on the board of Revoice. To this argument and counter-charge, Roberts replies that his objections to the Revoice project have been plainly and publicly stated. Fair enough, and we are all glad to hear it. Moreover, I am happy to accept it at face value. But Wolfe’s rejection of kinism has also been plainly stated, and was plainly stated in the book we are all talking about.
“Judge not, that ye be not judged. For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged: and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again.”
Matthew 7:1–2 (KJV)
If Roberts can chum around with Anderson, despite their plain disagreement, a disagreement that Roberts knows about, then why can’t Wolfe chum around with Achord, despite their plain disagreement, and even supposing Wolfe knew about it? Suppose that Achord’s denials are shown to have been false, and it is manifest to the world that he is in fact a kinist. Why could not Stephen Wolfe register his disagreement with that perspective—oh, I don’t know, maybe put it in a book or something— and continue to work with Achord on various other projects? How is this different than Roberts/Anderson?
Now of course it is different. It is different because.
Now Alistair is in no way responsible for the existence of this double standard. But there is a reason why he can work with Anderson and nothing about that is combustible. And also why everything that Wolfe does is entirely combustible. Take a step back, and look at it dispassionately for a few minutes.
So Alistair is not guilty of the double standard that has been created by others . . . but in this case he is a passive beneficiary of it. I will explain to you why such an approach wouldn’t be allowed, and why our modern double standards on this have been codified in concrete. The people we are up against are hellbent on homogenizing the world, and a widespread acceptance of sodomy is a liquefying agent that advances that agenda, and various regional, national or ethnic loyalties (whether they are scripturally virtuous, benign, or malignant) are hindrances to that agenda. This is why they are so intolerant of all the malignant forms of bigotry, but even more intolerant of anything like a Christian and virtuous resistance to their forms of totalitolerance.
Prolegomena to the Next Stuff We Would Like to Do
So is there room for debate on loyalties and nations? There most certainly is, although we continue to believe there are more productive ways to debate the issues than by shooting by-standers.
Here is one place where I believe that Wolfe and I would have a disagreement. I mention this as something of a curiosity, because we can do this without yelling at each other.
Last summer, I provoked a discussion very similar to this one by saying that I had more in common “with Nigerian Anglican women who love Christ than I do with white conservative American men who don’t.” Now in his book, Wolfe points out (rightly) that a stable society requires more than a shared eternal destination. This is exactly correct—if you put a Japanese, a Navajo, a German, an American, a Swede, and a Zulu in a workshop together, with every last one of them regenerate and godly, they still would have difficulty building a birdhouse together. Thus far I take Stephen’s point, and completely agree with it.
But I was talking about loyalties the next level up, which is why (as a postmillennialist) I also want to talk about a mere Christendom in addition to Christian nationalism. If you will allow me to say it tongue in cheek, I am also a Christian globalist. I once heard the late Greg Bahnsen say that an organization like the United Nations was a good idea. It is as corrupt as it is, not because they think unity between nations a good thing, but rather because they have turned away from the gospel of Christ and the law of God as the only basis for such unity.
Let me illustrate what still needs to be worked out. I have no trouble considering myself a Burkean conservative, but respect for disparate national traditions can be taken too far. Suppose we have an ideal Christian republic, and somewhere within sailing distance there is a stable and traditional Confucian society. The Christian churches in that first republic have a duty to send missionaries to the Confucian society, and let us suppose they do this. Let us grant them a certain measure of success, and three small churches are established, meeting in homes. Now let us further suppose that these churches catch the attention of the Confucian authorities, and let us say that they crack down on the young churches. Now what are the young Christians there to do with regard to their loyalties? Because they are Christians now, they are going to start working with foreign nationals, who have a different background, culture, and language, on the brand new shared and exciting task of smuggling Bibles, clean contrary to their ancient folkways.
That illustrates what I mean by having “more in common with.” The Great Commission means that all Christians everywhere have the shared task of remaking their respective nations. Wolfe is correct that these nations have to be tackled one at a time, and each on their own terms (and with their own interests in view). But I want to insist that this shared task of all Christians everywhere means that the nations necessarily overlap, like they were a complicated Venn diagram.
This is just another way of saying that just one Christian nation is, in principle, the beginning of a Christian world. And just one nation like that is nothing more than one packet of yeast in a lump of dough. Mere Christendom.
So Christian nationalism is just one step in a magnificent staircase that ascends farther than any of us can see. Is it too much to ask you to come with us? Upstairs must really be something.
More NQN Swag
A big part of what we do here in November is that we give stuff away. As in for free. This helps offset the impression that our refusal to qualify assertions during November proceeds from a churlish heart. Rather it comes from a heart brimming over with generosity and open-handedness.
So at the bottom of every NQN post, look for the current offers, whatever they might this week. Please note that these are different from the earlier giveaways.
I want to exhort you to take advantage of these giveaways. We have already busted all previous records for free books going out the door—numbering in the tens of thousands, actually—and it would be really fun to lap ourselves a few more times.
1. This week’s links to free Kindles include THREE free books, not just two. The first is my book Ploductivity, which is my attempt to explain how to get things done. The second is George Grant’s An Experiment in Liberty, a book on the American founding. The third book is Plowing in Hope, which is a study on the theology of culture. Three free books in all. These are all Amazon affiliate links.
2. Also November, anyone can get one free month of Canon+ using the code NQNQ. This only works for new subscribers—sorry, it doesn’t work for existing or annual subscriptions. If you do this, you will be able to watch my new documentary over Thanksgiving, and to do so for free. The name of the doc is “How to Save the World (in Eleven *Simple Steps).” That would be simple steps, not easy steps. Critics should be sure to watch it in order to confirm their suspicions about the apparent megalomania of the title, but which will turn out to be a dud. Since disappointing my critics has become something of a hobby of mine, I do encourage critics to take advantage of this free offer.
3. And this November, current subscribers can give a year’s subscription of Canon+ for just fifty bucks—$49.99 instead of $95.88. That way you can get that pastor, friend, or enemy the Canon+ content they’ve been so wishing for.
4. For the rest of November, e-versions of A Justice Primer are free here in my Mablog store. I think the people who are fighting Wolfe’s thesis through hostage-taking might need a refresher.
A Justice Primer
A basic introduction to the principles of biblical justice, desperately needed in our time.