You might have noticed that MoscowID.net has amassed a mini-archive of written quotations by Pastor Douglas Wilson of Christ Church, Moscow, on the subject of rape and his conviction that the State should execute rapists — especially child rapists. Today, I want to string these quotes together in the chronological order that Mr. Wilson wrote them to demonstrate two patterns:
- For over 27 years (pre- and post-Sitler) Doug Wilson has unequivocally affirmed in writing the necessity of executing child rapists as a matter of justice, and
- For the last 10 years Mr. Wilson has created a lone exception to this necessity for serial pedophile Steven Sitler. I call this exception “Biblical Republic Flimflam” for reasons that will be evident.
Before proceeding, a few caveats: Team Truth is neither advocating nor opposing the death penalty in this blog post. This is not a political statement; it’s a review of Doug Wilson’s apparent flexibility on a matter that he describes as a biblical doctrine (Fidelity, page 85). Some of Team Truth believes that Steven Sitler should die in prison; others believe the State should have mercifully executed him, though this was never an option. Everyone believes it’s just a matter of time before he gets caught doing the inevitable.
I put some observations beneath some of Doug Wilson’s quotes; we flagged the dates of Doug Wilson’s flimflam with a royal blue background; all italics are original unless otherwise noted; and all of the thumbnails are clickable to enlarge. We begin with a complete op-ed column that Mr. Wilson wrote for the Lewiston Morning Tribune in 1989, which is exactly on point:
After such criminal activity becomes standard, society becomes calloused, believing somehow that there is nothing that can be done about such things. After this mentality develops, it takes a particularly vicious crime to shock the general populace back into sensitivity.
In the last few weeks, it appears that we have had three different examples of this sort of thing. They are: the gang rape and violent beating of a woman in New York’s Central Park by a group of youths out “wilding,” the discovery that Jim Wright had as his chief aide someone who had been convicted of attacking a woman with a hammer, cutting her throat and leaving her for dead and the most recent case of the 7-year-old boy in Tacoma who was allegedly raped and sexually mutilated by a known sexual psychopath.
All these cases made headlines, but they did not do so because of their rarity. These are the sorts of things that unfortunately happen every day in our country. Americans watch news of this kind of thing every night, numbly, and every once in a while the horror of it all will strike everyone at once.
Why do these things happen, and what can be done to stop it?
I have no doubt that the suggestion I am about to offer will strike some critics as “simplistic.” The critic will intone, “What you have to understand is that these criminals are victims themselves, desperately in need of treatment and counseling.”
On the contrary, what is needed is magistrates who will start hanging violent criminals from a tall tree.
Bloodthirsty? No. Just? Yes, and justice is the very thing that has been missing from our judicial system. Given the nature of man, we are not offered the choice of no bloodshed — we must choose between the death of innocent victims, or guilty criminals. If we refuse to decide, then we have decided against the victims.
“But,” the liberal critic argues, “the death penalty has not been proven to be an effective deterrent.”
Common sense will tell you that strict penalties do deter other criminals, but that is not the point. The death penalty should not be evaluated on the basis of its utilitarian value. It should be done because it is just. And besides, for those who demand deterrent value, the death penalty does deter the one executed.
Part of the horror of the Tacoma story is found in the fact that the judicial system was previously involved — and was criminally ineffective. Violent assault is bad enough, but in our judicial system we have crime, capture, conviction, parole, crime, capture, conviction and parole. After this happens a bunch of times, some poor kid gets attacked, and politicians get indignant. “This is an outrage,” and so forth. Well, it is an outrage, and when are these indignant politicians going to start doing the jobs of civil magistrates and executing justice? When are they going to change our corrupt system?
Our nation has a problem with true child abuse. True child abuse is the sort of thing a policeman would call child abuse. When children are used in pornographic movies, when children are tortured, or not fed, the state has a compelling interest in the protection of such children. And with true child abuse, a just intervention would commonly involve a fair trial, a tall tree and a short rope. (Doug Wilson, Child abuse is terrible; so is paranoia about it, Lewiston Morning Tribune, December 16, 1989)
Our civil law includes the category of statutory rape, which is certainly a biblical concept. If someone under the age of adult responsibility is forcibly taken away (whether for sexual purposes or not), the crime is a species of kidnapping, which in Scripture deserves the death penalty. Part of the reason why a society should have wise and godly men for judges is that they must determine in such cases whether the one raped is almost of age. But when we are dealing with young children who are abused by adults (pederasty, child porn, etc.) the penalty for those guilty of the crime should be death. (Douglas Wilson, Fidelity: What It Means to Be a One-Woman Man [Moscow, ID: Canon Press, 1999], 85)2
- A genuinely repentant man in such circumstances must confess everything, fully and completely, and this would include any crimes he has not been charged with. The chances are good that the authorities do not know everything he has done. He must plead guilty in court to any crimes he committed, publicly declare that he has sought God’s forgiveness, and ask for forgiveness from the families of the victims. So that they might know that this is not just talk, Rader must strive to receive the death penalty. A repentant man who had done these things would evidence his repentance in his whole-hearted desire to be executed. In this, he should echo the words of the apostle Paul. “For if I be an offender, or have committed any thing worthy of death, I refuse not to die” (Acts. 25:11).
- If in substance he manifests repentance this way, that repentance should be accepted by his brothers and sisters in Christ, and he should willingly go to his death a communicant member of Christ Lutheran Church. If he does not do these things, if his declared repentance is only an emotional sorrow that does not bear the marks of true repentance, then he should be excommunicated from his church.
The situation is obviously filled with tangles, and I do not envy Rader’s pastor at all. He was right that a godly response to the situation contains things that “some people will have a hard time hearing.” But the difficulty should cut across the political spectrum. Those who think that the grace of God could never come to someone like Rader will have a hard time hearing about any kind of forgiveness for such a man. And those who think that forgiveness must mean a removal of all consequences will have a hard time hearing that a repentant man in such a case must ask to be executed, and must be supported in this desire by his church. But there it is. (The B.T.K. Killer and the Objectivity of the Covenant, March 4, 2005)
Doug Wilson wrote this blog post (above) six days before he learned that a serial pedophile in the Kirk had raped an unknown number of children on the Palouse and across the nation. It is exactly on point, with the exception that no one knows if Sitler murdered any of his victims (we cannot ever know this because the State has depended upon his self-disclosures for essentially everything we know about his criminal activity). This blog entry is tantamount to a theological position paper because Mr. Wilson categorizes it as “the Objectivity of the Covenant,” which is code language for a CREC doctrinal novelty, and according to this statement Doug Wilson requires the serial criminal to demand the death penalty for his crimes in order to prove his sincere repentance. However, contrary to letter and intent of Mr. Wilson’s position, Steven Sitler pled down his innumerable crimes against 25+ children to one count of Lewd Conduct With A Minor Under Sixteen Years Of Age, and since then he has motioned the Court twice to relax the terms of his probation so that he may live in the same home with a child whom he admits sexually arouses him. Mr. Wilson’s argument here is the most convincing reason why Doug Wilson could not honestly or consistently tell Judge Stegner, “I have a good hope that Steven has genuinely repented” — let alone “urge” the judge to show leniency. By this standard the Kirk should have excommunicated Sitler and his attorney in 2005. But because of Mr. Wilson’s double standard, the serial pedophile now gallivants around town with wife & child, a kirker in good standing, objectively flouting the system of justice that Mr. Wilson claims to uphold.
The recent revelations of homosexual abuse of boys by various predatory priests over the course of many years is the kind of problem that I think should be addressed (in the civil realm only) with a tall tree and a short rope. Not only am I not ashamed of thinking this (because of Leviticus, in context), I believe that those who are willing to defend such predators should be ashamed of themselves. (How We Handle Words, June 3, 2005)
The blog citation above is exactly on point (unless you believe that pederasty is morally worse than pedophilia) and two aggravating circumstances accompany it:
- Doug Wilson wrote this at the very time that Steven Sitler’s attorney (Dean Wullenwaber, a kirker in good standing) was plea bargaining with the State in the matter of Sitler’s serial predations of children, to reduce his sentence; and
- Doug Wilson had not yet notified the Kirk about Steven Sitler or his crimes (he waited until November 8, 2005), which suggests that Mr. Wilson was more concerned about creating the appearance that he opposed sexual predators than he was about actually cultivating an environment that really did oppose sexual predators.
Now, in the interests of full disclosure, I need to make a distinction between what kind of outcome we should seek in a situation like this, and what kind of outcome should happen in my ideal Christian republic five hundred years from now (the kind of Christian republic these people are afraid I am going to spring on them tomorrow morning by nine). Currently, under our present laws, something must be done with people like Steven Sitler. Those Christians who are involved in the process (family, attorney, pastor, friends, victims, and so on), need to have a basis for what they urge. This is why we are all trying to play a game of chess on a backgammon board.
In that ideal Christian republic, I would not have any problem with the death penalty being one of the options on the table for serial pedophiles. . . . (Playing Chess on a Backgammon Board, June 13, 2006)
Enter flimflam. The citation above is taken from Doug Wilson’s first public account for why he asked Judge Stegner to show Steven Sitler leniency. He essentially wrote it to the locals in Moscow and it was the first time in 17 years that Doug Wilson qualified his position on the death penalty by appealing to an “ideal Christian republic five hundred years from now” as the requisite agent to execute sentence. It was also the first time that Mr. Wilson fudged his standard by calling the death penalty “one of the options on the table.” Mr. Wilson’s statement bears little resemblance to the blog post from June 2005 (above) where he called upon the “civil realm” to hang men who rape boys and he shamed anyone “willing to defend such predators.”
Second, given what I said above, I believe that violent rape by a sexual predator should be answered by a tall tree and a short rope. But I don’t believe that the statutory rape of a seventeen-year-old girl by her nineteen-year-old boyfriend should be treated the same way. Sue me. In between those two extremes of rape are various other gradations of rape, and I am afraid to disappoint Ms. Moon, but I am not in favor of any of them. Who would have thought? I would want to punish them differently, but I would want to punish them all. (A Tall Tree and a Short Rope, September 26, 2012)
The recent revelations of homosexual abuse of boys by various predatory priests over the course of many years is the kind of problem that I think should be addressed (in the civil realm only) with a tall tree and a short rope. Not only am I not ashamed of thinking this (because of Leviticus, in context), I believe that those who are willing to defend such predators should be ashamed of themselves. (One of Those Circus Ponies, June 23, 2013; this quote is an affirmative citation of the blog post “How We Handle Words,” from June 3, 2005, quoted above)
The fact that someone was convicted of a sex offense does not mean that all sex offenses are in the same category of offense. We do need to have the category of statutory rape, and it needs to policed with tough sanctions, but we also need to remember that it is a different kind of offense from the rape of a three-year-old. The latter is the kind of offense that you execute people for, and the former usually is not. It is important to distinguish, in terms of legal consequences, the creep show from the fornicator. (Sexual Justice, July 21, 20143)
The public record describes with too much detail Steven Sitler’s rape of a three-year old child, which occurred in a Kirk home on Doug Wilson’s watch. And nine years after helping Steven Sitler elude accountability for his crimes, Doug Wilson declares his belief in the death penalty for those who rape three-year olds.
Of course, I hasten to break satiric voice here because we live in a time when satire has become virtually impossible. Someone might think that I am the one urging that we go easy on rapists, when it is I who want to deal with rapists with actual biblical justice. It is feminism that is laying all the intellectual — heh, so to speak — groundwork for a robust defense of both rape and rapists. (Feminist Rape Constructs, January 21, 2015)
Note the word “urging.” In his letter to Judge Stegner, Doug Wilson wrote, “I would urge that the civil penalties applied would be measured and limited” (emphasis added).
One of the twittertaunts thrown at me in different ways has been my apparent inconsistency in my love for Steven Sitler and my support of the death penalty for certain crimes. And by the way, I don’t just love Steven Sitler, I love his victims also. But there is in fact no inconsistency at all. In a hypothetical biblical republic, I would support the death penalty for child rape, but that republic is not yet upon us. However, quite apart from the penalties applied by the current justice system, you may remember what that father in Texas did a couple years ago. The Texas grand jury in that instance did the right thing, and there was no injustice done. (The Only Kind of Gospel There Is, September 10, 2015)
Enter flimflam. Up to this point, Steven Sitler had fallen off the radar and Doug Wilson had slipped back into his “I want to deal with rapists with actual biblical justice” cruise control. But MoscowID.net launched on September 6, 2015, and Mr. Wilson suddenly changed his position in order to reconcile his written record with his actual deeds. Thus he invoked the “hypothetical biblical republic” and claimed “no inconsistency at all,” which is a textbook non sequitur. A consistent reading of Mr. Wilson’s words on this subject does not allow for an “hypothetical biblical republic” because he never stipulated “hypothetical” when he called for tall trees and short ropes (five times), executions, and actual biblical justice in the matter of dealing with rapists in the present tense. In each case he represented himself as a champion of biblical orthodoxy, the defender of helpless victims, and the lethal opponent of child rapists.
Douglas Wilson’s imaginary “hypothetical biblical republic” is a red herring that spins attention away from his dogmatic stance on the death penalty but ultimately creates more problems for him than it solves. For example, he doesn’t explain how circumstances would be different in a “hypothetical biblical republic” than they are today or why those circumstances would warrant the death penalty more than today. He never says why he neglects to include this salient qualification in his expositions on the subject except when he accounts for his letter to Judge Stegner. He doesn’t contemplate what the judicial system would look like if everyone adopted his “five hundred years from now” excuse. Imagine a judge saying, “In an ideal Christian republic five hundred years from now I would execute this serial pedophile, but today I’ll cut him loose.” And Doug Wilson doesn’t clarify why he favors the death penalty for pedophiles “five hundred years from now” but until then he encourages them to marry and have children. Color me slow, but I fail to see how this satisfies the demands of justice, and Doug Wilson is the one who originally complained, “justice is the very thing that has been missing from our judicial system.”
Doug Wilson’s “hypothetical biblical republic” is ridiculous and readers should understand it exactly how he means it: It’s a lofty-sounding excuse (at least from a distance) that he uses to blow off accountability for his written words. It’s also a clear message to anyone listening to what he actually says — namely, you cannot trust him to keep his word until he reaches that “ideal Christian republic five hundred years from now.”
1 As a point of reference, Doug Wilson wrote this column about 4 ½ years after Steven Sitler was born (November 1, 1984).
2 The second paragraph of this chapter in the book Fidelity precludes Mr. Wilson from advancing the “Postmillennial Biblical Republic 500 years from now” argument, because in it he appeals to a here & now interpretation of Scripture for a proper understanding of rape and its appropriate penalties:
One of the first things we must do in seeking to understand this is to take a stand against the sexual relativism of those who are most shrill about the evil of rape. If we do not have the standards of the Bible, then the only way we can make judgments about the sexual behavior of anyone is on the basis of personal preference. In other words, if God will not judge the rapist on the Last Day, then all the feminist screeds in the world should not make a rapist feel bad about what he is doing. A great desire is evident in our culture to “absolutize” the evil of rape, but since the process is an arbitrary one, suspended in midair, there is no reason to take it seriously. In a world without absolutes grounded in the character of God, a man can take what he wants. And if what he wants is an otherwise unattainable woman, then rape is a live option. So the only way to condemn any rape is to turn to the standards of God’s law. But once we have done this, we discover that some situations which our society calls rape should not be included. (Douglas Wilson, Fidelity: What It Means to Be a One-Woman Man [Moscow, ID: Canon Press, 1999], 81)
3 Mr. Wilson appended the following note to this blog entry:
“This post is going to be incorporated into a book on the principles of justice that I am working on with my friend, Randy Booth, hence the first person plural pronoun. For the time being, some of my previous work on this can be found under the tag A Justice Primer.” (Sexual Justice)
Therefore, Doug Wilson repeated his point about executing the rapists of three-year olds in his book A Justice Primer, which Canon Press published in May 2015 and subsequently removed from the market in December 2015, after Rachel Miller discovered that the authors stole large portions of their body text.