Art and the masculine

Doug Wilson has been asked by more than one CREC pastor to stop blogging about the abuse cases being handled by the CREC inquiry, including the Greenfield case. As it should be blatantly obvious by now, not only has he not listened, he and his associates appear to have been gearing up to inflict the maximum amount of damage on Natalie Greenfield for at least a month — by embarking on an abusive, aggressively-worded red herring tantrum and claiming that her father abused her, that she is a liar, and that her husband Wesley Petersen’s worldview is abominably warped because, in the course of getting his Master’s degree in art at Portland State University, Wesley produced performance art featuring himself alone in a room, naked. Because Wesley is brandishing makeshift weapons in these videos, Doug (as far as I can tell from his unspecific objection to this) insinuates that it’s something akin to domination porn — that, therefore, Wesley is the real overbearing patriarch in Natalie’s life. Not Doug. This line of attack was so predictable coming from Doug, I’ve already written about it here. The only thing was, I didn’t think that even Doug would stoop so low as to target and attempt to shame Natalie’s family.

Now, of course, if Doug really believed these videos were akin to violent porn, he wouldn’t have linked to them on his blog — particularly not when they’d been stolen and posted on Vimeo without Wesley’s permission. I assume Doug doesn’t go around looking at porn all the time, least of all directing people to watch it. And you know Doug has watched the videos he links to. It’s likely he’s watched them multiple times to make sure he disapproves.

Which brings up an interesting point: how did Doug know about these videos? Contrary to Doug’s claims, many of Wesley’s friends and family didn’t even know about them until Doug posted his latest blog. I sure as heck had never heard of their existence.

Doug’s business associate and parishioner did, however, know about them, and alluded to them in a series of highly inflammatory tweets dating back nearly a month ago in which he tagged the names of Wesley’s videos, then asked “what about enabling men to film themselves naked, put it online and then work with children?” — something nobody picked up on at the time, not even Natalie or Wesley. This particular fellow saw Wesley walking around downtown at one point a few weeks back, pointed and snickered. Even then, Wesley didn’t piece together why. He just thought it was weird.

So there’s that. Then there’s the question: how are Natalie’s husband’s art projects relevant to how Doug handled her abuse case? Hint: they aren’t, except insomuch as Doug is proving his true colors by attempting to shame her and her most constant ally with them.

But assume, just for the sake of argument, that they are relevant. Then the question becomes: is public nudity automatically sinful? Is a naked dude banging a bent piece of rebar against a wall until it begins to straighten an abominable piece of work that shows the inner evil of said naked dude?

If you answered yes to these questions, and you’re a Calvinist Christian, then congratulations, you’ve just invalidated your own religion.

If you’re a Calvinist, then you believe that Jesus is one and the same with the all-knowing, all-powerful and sinless God who predestined Jesus to die a violent death completely naked. He was publicly flogged (with a whip) and then nailed up on cross nude. Taken out of context, this would apparently sound to Doug Wilson and his ilk like the worst torture porn the world has ever seen. If being naked in public by your own volition is a sin, then Jesus was not sinless, and thus could not have validly taken on your sins.

Jesus and Doug Wilson cartoonNow, you can obviously be a Christian and not like Wesley’s art. You can think it’s in poor taste, or that it doesn’t get his intention across effectively. Such art is made for critique — and you are free to not like it or not want to see it. The nature of it being online in a controlled environment (versus in an actual public venue) means that people who don’t want to see it will not — and this is deliberate. Thus, you can flat-out hate this type of art as a Christian, but if you’re consistent, you can’t really say that the existence of the art itself is sinful.

Wesley has noted, “My work is primarily about violence and aggression as inherent human traits. The fact that people find my work sexual is kinda disturbing.” In this context, he points to the long tradition of nudity in both public art and public masculinity, perhaps most notably in the Grecian games. Male nudity points to the obvious masculine, without the cultural trappings inherent in clothing. A naked male with a piece of stick in his hand is Everyman.

Colmar_Painter_-_Running_Warrior_-_Walters_481920_-_Detail(1) copyIf you know even a modicum of art history, you know that it’s rife with images of naked male warriors, from ancient pottery to Michelangelo’s David. And, sure, it’s a little weird when it’s someone you actually know. You might cringe if you visited the statue of David knowing it was modeled after your little brother.

And, again, if you don’t like this kind of art, there’s absolutely no reason to subject yourself to it. But warping its intent and using that as a weapon against a woman who critiques you is absolutely foul.



28 thoughts on “Art and the masculine

  1. Doug Wilson is showing the true depths of his own sickness in this most recent attack. Male nudity in the art world is mundane. For Doug to go ballistic with Wesley’s art videos like this shows his abject ignorance, his profound stupidity, and most notably, his stark fear.

    Doug’s statements in “Jezehellsbells” make it clear that 1) Doug is physically terrified of Wesley (which is quite funny to me, really; what a milquetoast), and more importantly, 2) DOUG STILL SEEMS TO FEEL HE HAS SOME CLAIM OF OWNERSHIP over Natalie. This is the truly appalling nature of his statements.

    Doug desperately wishes to exert his claim of ownership by Calvinist patriarchal right over Natalie, and he views Wesley as standing physically and imposingly in Doug’s way. Which raises a genuine and very serious question to Natalie in my mind:

    Natalie, this situation with Doug’s direct attack on your husband now goes far beyond anything that Jamin Wight has done. What’s really going on here? Did Doug touch you himself? Did Doug sexually abuse you himself in some way? It’s sure looking like it to me, because Doug is exhibiting all the impotent rage of a sexually obsessed, abusive man who cannot gain access to his target.

    …God, this situation disgusts me. Shame on Doug Wilson. A thousand times shame.

    1. Dash, I think that what Doug Wilson did was emotional abuse and that overtones were indeed of a sexual nature. No pastor has any business asking a young woman about specific points of her sexual experiences, if she specifically used oral sex and exactly what her actions were…. this is a sick trespass of emotional boundaries and Wilson knows this.
      If Natalie was to falter and go back to him, he would immediately continue his trespassing on decency. Instead, because she is not available and will not be silenced, he obsessively posts to his blog.
      Wesley’s art has so little to do with Wilson’s ‘biting’ problems but the preacher’s smear campaign is very typical of evangelical fundamentalist preachers. Good for Doug Wilson! He brings it to the world wide web for all to read. Well done, pastor!

      1. I’d personally tag this as Spiritual Abuse, since it is in the context of religion.

      2. Just for clarity’s sake, I hope I didn’t come across like I’m suddenly interrogating Natalie. I’m probably overreacting. But seriously- Doug is acting like he has some personal sexual claim to Natalie. It’s fucking creepy.

    2. “impotent rage of a sexually obsessed, abusive man who cannot gain access to his target”

      Actual touching or sexual behavior doesn’t have to be involved for this sort of rage to be expressed; the mere loss of control over the target is enough.

    3. Dash,

      Yes, it is coming across as creepy. There’s times I’d love to be able to read minds, and Doug Wilson’s is rising to the top of my list!

  2. Another irony is that Doug Wilson is a self-proclaimed authority on classical education. At no point in his studies has he ever come across the concept of gymnos? Social male nudity was a common and accepted part of the classical world of thought that Wilson purports to champion; hence the gymnasium where athletes trained and philosophers discoursed in the buff. It’s something Wilson certainly should be familiar with if he ever took, say, a high-school level Greek History course. Either Wilson knows this or he doesn’t. If he doesn’t, he is an utter charlatan and fraud with no meaningful academic knowledge in his self-claimed field of expertise; if he does, he is being willfully disingenuous.

    As @SimeonTheFool devastatingly pointed out last night on Twitter, if we are wondering how Doug Wilson really feels about artwork featuring seminude men engaged in Greco-Roman wrestling, we simply need to check the cover of his book Future Men. (In this case the seminude figures are prepubescent boys, which is… actually far worse, if we take Wilson’s claimed position that this is a sexualized thing.)

    On the subject of (nude) Greek philosophers, I wonder if Wilson knows about the fallacies of Red Herring, Poisoning the Well, and Argumentum Ad Hominem? Again, this is the stuff of middle school/high school Elementary Logic classes. If I ever need an example of all three of those fallacies at once, I think I might refer to Douglas Wilson’s post. It’s (forgive me) a stark naked example.

    In short: Wesley Peterson may have posed nude, but it’s really the emperor who has no clothes.

  3. DW seems to have embarked on a scorched earth policy with Natalie and her loved ones, simply to show what he is capable of when someone speaks their truth to his power. He is demonstrating that he is vicious to the core, and is picking up whatever is handy as a weapon. His blog is his cudgel.

    Dash, your brilliant insight gave me chills, and rings true to me:
    “DOUG STILL SEEMS TO FEEL HE HAS SOME CLAIM OF OWNERSHIP over Natalie. This is the truly appalling nature of his statements.
    Doug desperately wishes to exert his claim of ownership by Calvinist patriarchal right over Natalie.”

    It’s as though he believes in pastoral droit du seigneur.

    I don’t think he ever physically touched Natalie; as I mentioned above, words are his weapon of choice, which he wields to heal or abuse, as is his wont.

    I do think that at least a few supporters think that he has crossed the line and are beginning to be critical of his actions.

    My admiration for Natalie continues to grow, as she responds to each new insult with an incredible measure of grace and thoughtfulness.

    1. As Howl wrote: “Doug still seems to feel he has some claim of ownership over Natalie. This is the truly appalling nature of his statements.” Indeed. I’ve never had the misfortune to have been a Dougsciple, but a very good friend of mine, a former Kirker, had the temerity to cross Doug years ago, and it would appear that is the way Wilson operates. He can make life, shall we say, “interesting” for those of his flock who decide “no, thanks.” Narcissistic only begins to describe Doug Wilson.

  4. I keep wondering why on earth DW thinks that the videos are relevant evidence about anything. Years after Natalie’s abuse, Jamin strangled his wife. Years after Natalie’s abuse, Wes filmed himself nekkid. Why is the latter so important and the former is ignored?

    He keeps repeating that he wanted to “protect Natalie”, apparently from her father and from public shame. Which just tells me that Doug doesn’t understand abuse at all, because Natalie had and has no reason for shame. The alternative hypothesis, of course, is that Doug was more interested in protecting Greyfriars’ reputation than caring for Natalie.

    He publishes letters that Natalie wrote but can’t show that Natalie didn’t want to press charges. He claims that the abuse was the result of the Greenfields “folly”, but ignores all of the evidence that Jamin was and continued to be an abusive and manipulative liar. He implies that Natalie is not a Christian and therefore (by his strange logic) not trustworthy. But Jamin’s ex is a churchgoer — is she lying?

    As for The Doane, words just fail me. He seems to think he is an edgy neocalvinist artiste, filming Doug smashing flowerpots. Snickering at Wes and the weird Twitter campaign just makes me think he needs to grow up. As you imply, perhaps a classical education should include a decent art history class.

    1. Some of Doug’s more fervent supporters via his blog are indeed stating, clearly and publicly, that Natalie’s degree of “lust” during the time Jamin was abusing her is relevant. Evidently, the more sexual desire, the more sin, and then she went and compounded that sin by spurning Doug’s counseling, leaving the church, and marrying someone who explores links between masculinity and violence through performance art.

      That train of thought, plus the contention of several that his naked piece was sexual in intent–“filthy,” “depraved”–managed to shock me. The piece itself, which I watched once Wes posted it to his Facebook, was certainly not titillating. As a 60+, enthusiastically heterosexual woman, I had a nostalgic moment of thinking “ah, youth,” but that was it. In terms of impact and aesthetics, I wouldn’t personally advise him to quit his day job, but I am likely not the demographic the piece is aimed at. Having also seen one of Doug’s music videos, I know Wes is the guy I would rather have a drink with and talk about art.

      1. “Some of Doug’s more fervent supporters via his blog are indeed stating, clearly and publicly, that Natalie’s degree of “lust” during the time Jamin was abusing her is relevant.”

        This from guys who find that simply watching a nude body makes them feel ‘filthy’. Male nude too, huh

        Clearly they have problems with their own sexuality.

        If they hadn’t also ‘trashed’ a therapist for finding knowledge in the godless foolish realm of US higher education, they could be directed to a good psychologist.


      2. .. and the same set of supporters are also finding Natalie’s marriage to Wes (based on the video) more troubling than Steven Sitler’s marriage to Katie.

  5. First off, thanks for linking my Red Herrings article. I’m honored you found it valuable enough that it merited a link to help provide context for your excellent article here.

    Secondly, what a fantastic point to bring up Wesley’s piece in the context of classical art. If the Greeks and Romans had access to the sort of technology we had today, this may be the exact sort of thing they’d create with those mediums. What on earth would ‘Classical Education’ look like then?

  6. Train wrecks are fascinating. That’s why we watch them. Or we watch Russian dash cam videos of accidents. Or we watch Doug Wilson…

    I’m following two other church melt downs (the FLDS and Scientology). All three have one thing in common – a leader who is so sure of himself that he’s dragging down his religion with him.

    Put one man in a position of power, add ego, and stir.

  7. Katie, I laughed for a full 15 seconds over the banner photo on this post. I clicked the link and saw a naked, classical butt. Perfect for this post. It was a good laugh.

  8. I find Doug’s continual sexual innuendos far more disturbing than nudity in the service of art, which as other commenters have pointed out has a long history in the so-called ‘classical’ tradition that Doug so earnestly espouses.

  9. Pastor (sic) Wilson has posted a long, tortuous epic fail of a defense of his linking the non sequitur videos. Turns out Portland is a villain. “The Christian community here in Moscow was aware of it because Wes and Natalie moved to Portland and were very public in their embrace of that town’s vibe…but she nevertheless…has been very much a daughter of Portlandia.” THE Christian community, Pastor (sic) Wilson? You refer, actually, to YOUR particular, peculiar, Christian subculture community, no? The funny thing is, Pastor (sic) Wilson, the Moscow “vibe” is much closer to the Portland “vibe” than whatever “vibe” you believe to have created in my hometown. But might I ask, what’s it like to be an absolute expert on, well, everything? From A-Z, aardvarks to zygotes, you know it all. Truly astounding.

  10. “The only thing was, I didn’t think that even Doug would stoop so low as to target and attempt to shame Natalie’s family.”

    It’s been his go to move for 20 years. Taking on the pig is always war to the knife, because it’s never about the truth, only about the pig’s empire building.

    “I find Doug’s continual sexual innuendos far more disturbing than nudity in the service of art, ”

    Yep. It’s weird for a “pastor” and his elders to talk non-stop about sex and rock and roll right?

  11. Having read Doug’s piece I’m just disgusted that anyone is deceived by him. Thanks again for a good piece, Katie. I think what is sad is that many Christians will not read around to hear different perspectives on this, and will not consider the way Doug is behaving as the wickedness that it is. He is truly reaching at this point, and his actions are dragging Christ’s name through the mud in a way he will accuse others of doing for speaking against his actions. Truly despicable. There is no reasoning with his kind of perversion.

  12. Regarding the videos, they struck me as strange and I didn’t understand them before reading Wes’s explanation. Unlike ancient Greece or Rome, I think our modern cultural context in the West makes it impossible to view living nudity without any sexual connotations coming to mind. I also think that from a purely Biblical point of view, such nudity would likely be considered out of bounds for a Christian.

    Having said all that, Wilson’s comparison of his own actions to that of a lawyer calling up a character witness is…interesting. Since he’s going for a courtroom metaphor, my question for him would be, what kind of attorney makes sure all the details of his case get leaked to the press during discovery or the trial itself? Katie’s opening sentence is highly interesting, in this regard.

    Give this guy enough rope, and eventually…

  13. I don’t understand the prudishness. It’s as if people can’t stand seeing their own species’ bodies. Do they never stand naked and see what they look like? We are bodies and it’s merely cloth that covers us.

    Perhaps if the only time one considers one’s body is during sex, it is difficult to see it any other way? Yet God made us and He liked what He made. Why refuse that?

    But then, I don’t understand the lack of good art from Christians, either. We used to be able to do it. What happened? After all, we are still children of the God who made the universe….

    Doug, of course, knows that his followers are a particularly squeamish bunch and he is using it against them, to finagle them into stopping the uncertain thoughts that keep pressing into consciousness. It’s a device one tries after the others have failed. lol

  14. Like any good magician, Doug Wilson wants people to look where they shouldn’t and not look where they should. This is done to fool people.

    Wilson wants us to look at a video of a naked man doing nothing of any consequence so we don’t see images of Jamin Wight raping Natalie. And since there aren’t any videos of the rapist, the audience in front of Doug Wilson (known as the Kirk and his blog readers) turns away from what truly matters to what doesn’t matter at all. They look where they shouldn’t. Presto, change-o! The victim has been turned into a sinner, and the sinner into a victim. Amazing trick! Audience applauds.

    It’s important to note that the true sheep of Christ hear his voice and do not follow a stranger. Sheep are notoriously near-sighted, and they don’t see the trick. They hear the words of the Shepherd. They hear the testimony of Natalie Greenfield. They hear the confession of Jamin Wight. Natalie is the victim. Jamin is the sinner. And Doug Wilson is the one who perverted justice. They are not fooled by the magician.

    Maybe he should change his name to Mark Wilson.

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