Potoked Again

Reactions to the NYT article were not long in coming. This one comes from the Southern Poverty Law Center, the world’s richest civil rights organization. Mark Potok, author of this article, was upset that Molly Worthen, author of the NYT piece, wrote a balanced, critical piece when the SPLC clearly sees the crying obligation for hysterics. The need of the hour is to soak one’s progressive hair in lighter fluid, set a match to it, and run around in tight, little circles.

A professional, Molly Worthen didn’t do this, and so Potok steps forward to fill the gap. And part of this is done by getting certain key facts gummed up. For example, he repeatedly calls our college Saint Andrews, which isn’t the name, and which Molly Worthen didn’t do. And he says that the college treats R.L. Dabney as a foundational Western thinker, right up there with Plato and Aristotle. Really? News to me. So then, Mr. Potok, what classes on Dabney’s thought are taught here? What books of his do we have the students read? Do you know anything about this at all? The NYT had a fact checker call us repeatedly. The last fact checker who ventured onto the premises of the SPLC looking for employment was chased right out again for his logocentrism.

Potok calls the booklet Southern Slavery As It Was a sorry piece of scholarship, I don’t begrudge him that one because it actually was pretty lousy. But I redeemed myself later in the story by writing Black & Tan, which these guys hardly ever want to talk about. But you, gentle reader, can get Black & Tan and read for yourself all about the Southern Slavery booklet in an appendix of that book. And while you are at it, you can check out the cover blurb for Black & Tan by Eugene Genovese, one of America’s premier historians. Actually, these are perilous times so allow me to run the blurb right here.

The Reverend Douglas Wilson may not be a professional historian, as his detractors say, but he has a strong grasp of the essentials of the history of slavery and its relation to Christian doctrine. Indeed, sad to say, his grasp is a great deal stronger than that of most professors of American history, whose distortions and trivializations disgrace our college classrooms. And the Reverend Mr. Wilson is a fighter, especially effective in defense of Christianity against those who try to turn Jesus’ way of salvation into pseudo-moralistic drivel.

This is from “Eugene Genovese, Ph.D., Columbia University, author of nine books including Roll Jordan Roll: The World the Slaves Made, winner of the Bancroft Prize in American History, teaching positions at Rutgers, University of Rochester, Yale, Cambridge, and formerly a distinguished scholar in residence for the University Center, Georgia,” and one who plainly does not know how to do the lighter fluid drill. This does not mean that Mr. Potok is now mandated to agree with what I wrote in Black & Tan. It is, however, important for him to stop acting as though the book were written by some kind of north Idaho berserker who has swastikas spray-painted on his backhoe. But if the SPLC had to start refraining from bogus charges of racism, where would all the money come from then? Right, my mistake. Carry on.

Potok violates the ninth commandment from hell to breakfast:

Wilson also argues that cursing one’s parents is punishable by death; that children of parents who don’t believe in Jesus Christ are “foul” and “unclean”; that women were created to be submissive to men; and that if a woman is raped, the rapist should pay her father a bride price and then, if the father approves, marry his victim.

And so allow me to supply this man with some editorial help in bold and deletions [in brackets] so that the positions represented will then be transformed into positions I actually hold. For they certainly are not in that condition in the paragraph above:

Wilson also argues that cursing one’s parents [is] was punishable by death in Old Testament law prior to the coming of Christ, which remade the world; that children of parents who don’t believe in Jesus Christ are covenantally “foul” and “unclean” as the apostle Paul stated (1 Cor. 7:14), such that they were not to be baptized as infants; that [women] daughters and wives were created to be submissive to the protection of [men] fathers and husbands, thus freeing them from the oppression of having to submit to men generally; and that in OT law if [a] an Israelite woman [is] was raped by a boyfriend/acquaintance, the rapist should [pay her father] endow the woman he defrauded with a bride price, reestablishing her again as a free woman in Israel, and then, if the father approved, marry his victim.

There. Now that is at least recognizable, although still not the way I would choose to put it. Many more qualifications would have to be made, especially for readers like Potok who cannot be troubled to read an entire book.

Molly Worthen knew enough to distinguish the positions of the college from the misrepresentations of some of the people associated with it. Maybe that’s why she’s writing for the Times and Mr. Potok is writing breathless articles to keep the donors juiced.

An autobiography alert here: Before I was Reformed I had read a bunch of the Reconstructionist stuff on economics, education, politics, and so on. I liked the fact that they seriously sought to bring the principles of the Bible to bear on everything, This was when I was still a conservative evangelical, outside the Reformed orbit, and not really acquainted at all with the heart of Reformed theology. But around this time, one of the first flesh and blood Calvinists I ever met gave me some mainstream Reformed literature critical of the recons — I think to keep me from being too influenced by them. That man was Dr. Roy Atwood, currently the president of NSA and a good friend. But I also had my own troubles with the recons, and so I was attracted to the biblical worldview series of books (edited by Marvin Olasky) precisely because those books had the strengths of the recons (apply the Bible to everything) without some of the glaring weaknesses. That was how I came to write the book on education for the Turning Point series — Recovering the Lost Tools of Learning.

Now I write all this for those reasonable souls who are ready and willing to look at the facts, and one of those facts is that Potok knows not whereof he speaks. I do not expect to persuade Potok with these references because, according to his employer, everybody to the right of Hillary is a screaming Ku Kluxer, and I am afraid that would even include a Christian gentleman like Marvin Olasky.

You turn to wife. “Olasky. He’s with World magazine. We get World, don’t we?” Yeah, because you’re a Nazi too.

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