This is the fourth post in a series of four posts on race and reconciliation. Sincere public apologies in matters like this are difficult for many reasons, some of which I discussed in my exchanges with Thabiti. We live in a time where many are hyper about race, and so whenever you address the topic publicly, you are speaking to a public which includes the pc-police, race hustlers, white guiltists, sheer opportunists, men of good will who have been affected more than they ought to have been by the hustlers, and men of sound sense and good will. The challenge is to speak to the last group, genuinely, without giving an inch to the first four groups, and in such a way as to create opportunities for fruitful reconciliation with the penultimate group. As we should all know by now, demanding apologies is one of the central techniques of modern polemical warfare, and the man who simply capitulates because the hounds have started baying is both a coward and a fool.
Nevertheless, in those places or areas where apologies are owed in the sight of God, they are owed regardless of what the unscrupulous might do with them. Whenever there are men of genuine good will, men engaged in the difficult task of genuine racial reconciliation, men who are willing to both hear and say hard things, who are willing to stay at the table despite the tension, who work hard to understand and express other people’s views with accuracy and fairness, and who are willing to pray together and embrace as brothers when such a difficult meeting is over, the situation is quite different. To such men, men like Thabiti, and brothers I met with in Minneapolis, I want you to know that I deeply regret my failures to anticipate your legitimate concerns, natural feelings, and understandable perspective on some of the things that I have written. I regret the barriers that were erected between us as a consequence and hope that this apology can go some of the way toward removing those barriers and setting us on a course to greater fellowship in the gospel of Jesus Christ.
That is a general statement, and so I need to make it more specific. When I first started speaking and writing on this topic, the group of people I was reaching was very small and pretty insulated. There was no Internet, no blogging, and I had only written a few books, the reach of which was either limited or uncertain. If we did a conference on American history (which we would do), we were pleased to have fifty people in attendance. In short, we were nowhere near any kind of national microphones. We were backwater historians, back porch theologians.
Despite this, I saw clearly (with an eye of faith) that what we were doing and saying would at some point have a significant impact . . . with the first groups I listed above. I was a nobody, but I had every expectation that the pc-police would know my name at some future date, and I was deliberately preparing some stinkers for them. This was not being done for the sake of cheap entertainment — I have mentioned in other settings the kind of thing we were dealing with in our “insulated” circles (e.g. Paul Hill). So there were reasons for it, and I am not sorry about that in the least.
But this being the case, I ought to have guarded against being simultaneously farsighted and myopic. If I could anticipate some things that were still decades in the future (as I did), then I had a obligation to anticipate other aspects of my future as well. If I could see the one, then I had a responsibility to see the other. That is where my basic failure was, and that is what the apology is for.
I did guard myself against accusations of racism (in multiple ways), but there is a difference between anticipatory defenses against the pc-police and the hustlers, and anticipatory love toward those who have been directly affected by real racism, and who are my brothers in Christ. And to whatever extent I have been responsible for any barriers there, I am happy to do my part to take them down.
Would it be a fair summary of your blog to say that you are not asking forgiveness for anything that you said in your books, but for not saying more. The sin you are addressing is primary the sin of omission not comission? As a result, you have difficulty recanting anything in your books because you believe they were appropriately stated to the audiences intended. You regret, however, not actively making more effort to go out of your way to actively demonstrate existing love for those to whom you were not writing?
Tim, yes, that would be fair — as far as it goes. But there are things that I would put differently, so this was not just a matter of omissions/
Pastor Wilson, I admire your willingness to engage in this difficult issues. With the way technology has caused many theological (and otherwise) disagreements to get out of hand, the way you and Thabiti have handled this very sensitive issue is a testimony of the grace of God. You made some mistakes, and those mistakes were made very public. What is truly remarkable is that even though you did lack judgment in some ways, the two of you were able to talk through things and work through them like real Christians should be able to. This was a very real disagreement over… Read more »
With regard to apologies, I see that it is important that we make them. I have a question as to how far we should go in insisting on others make them to us. I see this as a defense of ourselves, yet Scripture tends to suggest that we defend others and let God defend us. So it is right for us to apologise and right for us to encourage others to apologise to those they have defended, yet we should be more cautious about demanding others apologise to us. It not the command not to demand apology but to forgive?… Read more »
To add to your lexicon: hypermetropic
Hey bethyada, Here is a list if things I think through in these types of situations.I would give a verse list, but I’m typing on a smart phone :) 1)We are never to demand that someone ask forgiveness, as if we deserve it. 2) we are to always be ready to forgive, I.e. forgive from the heart. 3) forgiveness is a transaction – conjoined rooms/prodigal Father example- we open our door standing waiting for them to open theirs. 4) we always confront sin – Matt 18 – the aim of confrontation is restoration, not demanding our rights. 5) As a… Read more »
Normal 0 false false false EN-US X-NONE X-NONE MicrosoftInternetExplorer4 By far, the most disappointing thing about apologies like this one is that it comes across as not very apologetic. Furthermore, the whole line of pc-police, race-hustlers, and white guiltists echo the talk of Fox News, Rush Limbaugh, Glenn Beck and other more extreme secular political forces. It’s the very nature of this priviledged form of speech and opinion that make it VERY difficult for Reformed groups, and by it’s very demographic – a largely white male dominated sphere to really make significant strides in racial reconciliation. African Americans are… Read more »
By far, the most disappointing thing about apologies like this one is that it comes across as not very apologetic. Furthermore, the whole line of pc-police, race-hustlers, and white guiltists echo the talk of Fox News, Rush Limbaugh, Glenn Beck and other more extreme secular political forces. It’s the very nature of this priviledged form of speech and opinion that make it VERY difficult for Reformed groups, and by it’s very demographic – a largely white male dominated sphere to really make significant strides in racial reconciliation. African Americans are so familiar with the idea of being lectured and condascended… Read more »
Mike — Let me try to clarify something that might answer at least one of your concerns. I don’t think Doug is saying that he’s not apologizing to people like Sharpton and Jackson because he disagrees with them, but because he does not believe himself to be guilty of the sorts of things they would be likely to accuse him of. By analogy, if I pulled Sally’s hair, but didn’t kick Mary in the shin, there’s no need for me to apologize to Mary, right?
Valerie, By another analogy, suppose I reached for the salt and knocked my bowl of soup over onto both Mary and Sally. Both Mary and Sally are upset–soup is hot and their clothes are ruined. Mary says, “Well, I guess accidents happen.” Sally says, “How dare you! You did this on purpose, I just know it!” It probably will not help the situation to say, “Well, I’m sorry to YOU, Mary, but I won’t apologize to Sally.” Whether or not it was on purpose, I did spill my soup. Both Mary and Sally were legitimately hurt by it. Sally’s accusation… Read more »
Thanks for your reply Valerie. I think your analogy is goof, but far too simple for this situation. Yes, he shouldn’t apologize to people who intentionally stoke racist sentiments. However, that would be assuming that he has no skin in the game, or is blameless. Yet, I’m still not aware of Doug formally condemning the type of slavery that took place in the American South. It’s one thing to argue that the biblical form of indentured servitude (slavery) in the bible is “biblical”, but it’s another to argue or not make clear at all, that this was not the default… Read more »
Could someone explain the Pastor Wilson’s connection to Paul Hill?
Mike — I think “goof” was a typo for “good” but it made me smile…yeah, I’m a goof, for sure! ;^) It’s been several years since I read Black and Tan, but I recall that it included acknowledgement and strong condemnation of the abuses that took place under the U.S. system of slavery. He hasn’t ever been a cheerleader for those things. He argued that things weren’t all abuse, all the time, in all places, the way they’ve often been characterized, but that’s not the same as denying that things were ever that bad. Here’s a paragraph from page 42:… Read more »
Dave — Listen to the discussion with John Piper. Doug addresses it there. There was no direct relationship, but he notes that Hill was “operating out of the same circles” with regard to pro-life activism, but took things in a direction they ought never to have gone. His argument connecting Hill with the slavery issue is that if using lethal violence to fight the great social sin of abortion was wrong, then using violence to fight the great social sin of slavery was wrong.
Amanda — Rereading the first paragraph in the post above, Doug doesn’t say he wouldn’t apologize to those guys; he says he won’t give them an inch. That is, he won’t frame his apology in such a way that would give any credence to their agenda.
Valerie, I think very few people view American chattel slavery as something that occurred under the worst possible conditions at all times. So, when people like yourself or Doug seem to make a concerted effort to make that clear, by using phrases like “sometimes” (over and over). The excerpt that you included above is helpful, but only reinforces what many already believe. While some may paint an overly harsh picture of slavery, Doug paints it too soft in some respects. His wording alone in the paragraph above skips around and uses semantics that leave room for debate. “This impression inherited… Read more »
Actually, that’s what I believed for most of my life, based on what I learned in school and saw portrayed in popular culture.
If your point of view is that there should never have been slavery, at any time, at any place, under any rules, then having slaves was mistreating them by definition, both in Roman times and in the 1800s. The Bible never says that.
re: Howard: “then having slaves was mistreating them by definition”
It is correct that the Bible never says that. It seems that the Bible allowed for slavery (indentured servitude?) to repay debt, including making restitution for a crime committed. However, there was harsh punishment for what we would call “the slave trade.” Exodus 21:16 – “he who kidnaps a man, whether he sells him or he is found in his possession, shall surely be put to death.”
Valerie, I honestly think it was worse than most people understand. How many slave narratives have you sought out?
The thing which Christians have no need to apologize for (in the sense of cowering to the PC police) is the constrained use of slavery (forced labor), as sanctioned in God’s Word as one valid means of restitution for actual debts owed. Apparently we do, however, still need to provide a great deal of apologetic concerning those constraints. Namely, the sinfulness of kidnapping those who owe no civic or moral debt, the offense of slavery based on racism, the crime of enslavement beyond the repayment of debt, mistreatment of slaves (not just physically, but including blocking their betterment and education),… Read more »
Mike — I’m sure my reading has been much less extensive than Doug’s. I don’t remember what I read in school — 30 years post-high school, I figure I’m doing well to remember that I attended at all ;^) — but I’ve recently read Frederick Douglass and Booker T. Washington and a smattering from a website that has a repository of accounts from former slaves. I think I’ve read enough to know that the bad was very bad, indeed. You’ve acknowledged yourself that it wasn’t as bad as possible all the time in every place, so I’m not really sure… Read more »
I do not wish to be manipulative, but if you have a chance to read this, would you please signify your actual views (again!) by replying to this post with a hearty “Amen”? I think an utterly direct and pithy statement is needed for some folks.
I, Douglas Wilson, do hereby condemn any and all race-based chattel slavery as contrary to the plain teaching of the Holy Scriptures.
Jay, if you follow the pastor, I think what your asking him to reafirm is pretty self evident. No?
To Valerie (katecho) and others. I think what’s potentially offensive to black people and others is the insistence to continually license slavery (under biblical terms) as something good or benign. While the form of slavery in the bible is permissible, that doesn’t by default make it a good, but perhaps fair (repayment of debt owed, POW, etc..). If you study Leviticus and the year of jubilee etc., God made a way for slaves to be freed. This was obviously good as well, as most men don’t willingly become slaves. Now, what’s somewhat offensive in this regard is the notion that… Read more »
PB, I do follow him. He is my Pastor, as a matter of fact; and I am quite aware of his position. I’m just convinced that the more level headed – yet, somehow still offended – folks need an extraordinarily clear concise admission. Obviously, this will not satisfy most… but it might satisfy some. Then again, who knows? I just know for certain that Wilson does, in fact, condemn all forms of race-based servitude. I am also certain that any and all forms of human ownership as property simply sinful. So all those engaged in the incessant complaining about how… Read more »
Jay, believe me, no one is looking for some pithy statement. I’m concluding that many of you are simply unaware of all the statement that Mr. Wilson has made that are historically questionable. I could get biblical, but it’s unnecessary when his historical perspective is slanted if not altogether false. I hate to put him in the league of David Barton, but the statements below are pretty darn close to typical Evangelical revisionism or even worse a racist slant to the facts. What we’re looking for are explanations to statements like the following that came from his book “Southern Slavery… Read more »
Now, what’s somewhat offensive in this regard is the notion that every time someone like Doug or others here prepare to condemn American chattel slavery they always must preface it with a non-apology for their support of the biblical concept of slavery. Why? We must never apologize for the Bible. We must never be embarrassed by it. We must start there, standing on the foundation of the Word of God, and bring every thought captive to the Living Word as He has revealed Himself in the written Word. It must never be the other way ’round. So we must… Read more »
Mike, Tubman, Douglass, and Washington are heroes of mine. (When the heck are we going to get some great movies made about these people?) But their narratives are, you must admit, anecdotal. Have you read the “Slave narratives” as compiled by the Roosevelt administration circa 1930’s? Long before I even knew who Doug Wilson was, I went through hundreds of them… and was shocked at how many former slaves looked back upon their life as slaves in a positive light – especially when compared to the way their lives were at that present time! Now, I think Wilson’s assessment that “Slavery… Read more »
Valerie, yes we both believe the bible to be the ultimate authority. I understand how you could have taken my statement that you posted above in the wrong way. I apologize for that. What I’m trying to get at is the very nature of a true apology really gets at the heart of the issue, and doesn’t finagle it in the process. Can he not just denounce slavery in America as wrong with somehow conflating it with biblical slavery. My primary point was that to even compare the two causes misunderstanding. The biblical model, looking more like a well respected… Read more »
Mike I mean no disrespect, but your description of Roman slavery seems pretty rosy. Have you read any narratives of Roman slaves? I can’t help wondering if there were great grandchildren of Roman slaves reading this they might take issue with your description. Why can’t we just out and out condemn Roman slavery without the qualifiers?
Jay, it’s crazy that you mentioned making a movie about those three, who are also heroes of mine. It’s actually a dream that I have to accomplish one day. Funny! Regardless of whether or not we agree, thank so much for responding graciously. Both you and Valerie alike. Personally, while I can find Washington (Up From Slavery) to be anecdotal at times or maybe not anecdotal, but romanticized I don’t find Douglass and Tubman that way at all. Yes, it may be difficult to verify their accounts, but what would be their M.O. for embellishment? Can’t we take a clue… Read more »
Excellent. We’re starting at the same place, which means we might get somewhere together. ;^) A couple of thoughts in response to your post: No need to cite scripture when referencing the trans-Atlantic American form that was so detestable, there is no Christian element to it to be found there. I’d disagree about the need to cite Scripture in regard to the trans-Atlantic slave trade, because it is in Scripture that we find the unqualified condemnation of it: “He who kidnaps a man and sells him, or if he is found in his hand, shall surely be put… Read more »
I have no material substance to add to this thread, but would like to offer my appreciation for the tone and tenor of the considered responses. It is very easy (maybe expected?) for this subject to devolve into petulant, line in the sand, YOU couldn’t possibly understand exchanges. At the very least it appears to display that the conversation can be had in an edifying manner. Thanks to those involved.
Pastor Wilson, I am the person who asked the question that prompted your blog post titled Delenda Est. On that post I asked another question that I have not seen you answer in regard to the issue of race based slavery in the south. I will ask it once again here and if you choose not to answer I will drop it realizing you may not have worked out a way to deal with it. Can you please explain why the race based slavery of the south does not constitute enough of a departure from scripture to put it into the… Read more »
After reading some of your posts responding to Thabiti Anyabwile, I bought your book, Black and Tan.
I am sure I missed some of the discussion between you two. On Blog & Mablog is there a place that has the links to all of your discussion, his and yours? After reading the book I would like to read the discussion you both had from beginning to end. Last year when I listened to America’s Wars audio, I found that informative as well. And one last thing thank you for the Omnibus curriculum.
The initial Anyabwile-Wilson conversation [I know this would be more convenient in list form, but, well, we’re all still waiting for a Sincere Public Apology for the lack of functional line breaks in the comments system. ;^) I put the Anyabwile links in bold and the Wilson links in italics in hopes that would make things a little easier to navigate.]: TA1: Why Respond Publicly to Doug Wilson’s “Black and Tan”?, TA2: Doug Wilson’s Views on Race, Racism, Slavery and the Bible, DW1: Patrick “Nostradamus” Henry, DW2: How Koinonia Conquers, TA3: The Cost of Our Chosen Entanglements, DW3: Love Is… Read more »
Gaaah…I knew I’d mess up somewhere! TA3 should be titled “Slavery and the Bible: The Perspective of this Abolitionist.” The link goes to the right place, though.
Thanks for your comprehensive listing, Valerie! I never had a chance to go through them all in good order, and this was very helpful! Now, what I find interesting about that amazing – and edifying – debate is the apparent lack of any such examples from the antebellum period itself! There were good Christians all over the place – but no notable dialogue about the nature of Southern Slavery between brothers of goodwill that we can point to? I’d have to assume that the attempt was tried. But I’ve never read a jot or tittle of anything but the political… Read more »
I thought some of you may be interested in tuning into this. Gates is one of the foremost African American historians. Here, you’ll get a more academic perspective on black history from slavery until now. This could serve as a great primer for many who have no foundational understanding of the ills of slavery, the generational collateral damage and the continuing struggle for freedom. Blessings
Oops. Here’s the link…..
Thanks, Mike. I don’t have a TV, but I may try to hunt that down online.
Everyone realizes that the “Slave Narratives” of the Roosevelt administration were recorded 70 years after slavery ended, right? To take that oral history as remotely descriptive of the general state of Southern Slavery would be a little ridiculous Considering the numerous horrific abuses and prejudices that Black people were subjected to in much of the US from the 1870s on through the 1960s, it’s not surprising that some elderly slaves looked upon a few 70-year-old childhood memories with rose-colored glasses. Or that they, in a world where black people still had to act subserviently to white people, simply said nice… Read more »
Here’s a bit from the Mississippi History Society about the historical reliability of the narratives (included the accounts that were hidden from the record)…………………………………………………………….”All significant slave occupations are represented in the WPA Slave Narratives, as are both large plantations and small farms. All of the respondents were elderly, of course. The average age was 85, and nearly one in every ten claimed to be 100 or more years old. All had been freed some seven decades before they were interviewed. Most had known slavery only in childhood or youth. Unfortunately, the quality of the interviews rarely matched the quantity. Few… Read more »
Can we say that the blacks who left white churches after Emancipation, and the whites who failed to work hard to make leaving look less attractive, collectively failed both the Southern Church and society as a whole?
Has anyone written on this topic?