At this point, I’m wondering if Doug Wilson is just messing with his fans. I mean, surely he’s not so dense that he doesn’t realize how poorly it reflects on him as a pastor, rhetorician and educator to do the things he’s doing.
Doug’s reasoning for posting videos he claims are perverse is this: posting videos of a nude man shows how depraved the man is, and therefore how depraved his wife’s character is, and therefore that she cannot be trusted when she criticizes Doug. Because both the man and his wife consider these videos to be “normal.” Whereas they have a real problem with what Doug preaches about sex.
Literally none of this is true. And it’s obvious it’s not true, because Doug doesn’t bother to back it up with a single shred of supporting evidence — no quotes from blogs, no hints as to what he’s even talking about. Other than the videos. The videos, he seems to think, speak for themselves. Oh, and the fact that the couple, Natalie and Wesley, lived in Portland for awhile. That’s apparently damning evidence when you’re looking for ways to paint people as unrepentant, hurting villains.
Some background: before Doug trotted these videos out for public viewing, they’d existed in obscurity on a Vimeo account created by the artist. One of them had a grand total of 27 views, basically all of them art faculty, since the reason for the existence of the videos was to add to a body of work for grad school exploring the intersection of humanity, aggression, and modernity. Natalie says she doesn’t think she had even seen this particular video, and when she did see it after Doug posted it, she found it slightly jarring at first blush — and like many others, I did also. However, I really loved the concept Wesley expressed in his artist’s statement after all this went down, because I, too, have felt the power of the innate, running barefoot in the dusky forest, swimming upstream against a waterfall, eating and dancing outside as so many have before me. Humanity is something more than sitting at a desk parsing out philosophy while we grow fat and weak, after all. It’s about the power to fight in the real world, and against your own demons more often than not.
But back to Natalie: certainly she’d never commented publicly about how this (or the other) video was “normal.” “It’s not like we invited people over for dinner and had it playing on the flatscreen,” she quipped.
Which brings us to another point: Doug’s claim that Natalie scrubbed her blog and Facebook of anything that would be offensive to Christians. I literally have no idea what he’s talking about, and I’ve been reading her blog for years, her Facebook feed for years. She revamped her blog to focus on abuse, deleting posts about e.g. her family’s journey with her son’s health problems, given that the previous audience had been limited to friends and family. I’m sure Doug is not ignorant of the fact that it’s relatively easy to find archived copies of webpages, and if what he’s saying is true — that she was promoting some kind of offensive lifestyle prior to these last few months — he would obviously have no moral problem trotting them out or linking to the deleted blog posts about this offensive lifestyle.
But he can’t, because they don’t exist.
And this brings us to yet another point: Doug’s apparent inability to fact-check before he makes public claims. It’s hilarious that in this post, he makes a big show of correcting one of the many, many factual errors he’s made in the course of talking about Natalie and her family, saying it took him days to track down the correction. Whereas it would have taken him all of a few minutes to check the veracity of his claim that fellow pastor Andrew Sandlin had taken down his post supporting Natalie after Doug posted these videos — something that was untrue, and which Doug had to correct after people he trusted pointed this out to him.
Again, this is by no means the first time Doug has made factual mistakes — his take: they aren’t factual mistakes, because you have to take every word that comes out of his mouth in the context of everything he’s ever said, instead of what he says at any given time, ignoring the fact that he says things that are at odds with one another. When you say opposite things, all eventualities are covered — one of the many, many reasons that Doug Is Always Right. It’s interesting, then, that he’s saying a person’s track record should disqualify him or her from making statements people ought to believe.
That brings us back to the fact that he thinks naked people are evil. Or whatever his objection to Wesley’s videos is.
The answer is, if you’re taking him by things he said elsewhere: he doesn’t. You can find a video here where he answers the question “What is your perspective on nudity in art, particularly when it comes to education?” His response: “I think a lot of Christians have a simplistic understanding of nudity, where they think nudity equals porn. Because they’re saying, well, in pornography everybody has their clothes off…” This, he says, is false. He points out that Jesus was hung up naked on the cross, and says he doesn’t think it’s “true at all” that seeing a naked person equates to automatic lust.
So reasonable, right? Heck, if this was all I knew of Doug Wilson, I’d think he was a thoughtful guy. So where in the world is he getting his claim that Welsey’s art is perverse? If nudity being acceptable in art is dependent on context, then Doug should have taken the context into consideration — the intended audience, the intended message. He did neither. Instead, he or someone apparently acting in concert with him stole an artistic product from the artist (known as illegal reproduction, and yes, this is a crime; merely crediting the artist does not make stealing the work OK) and dispersed it without even (apparently) considering the intent or message of the artwork — instead, he used it to paint the artist as a human being of loose moral character.
About that: I know that Doug does not believe Wesley is a man of loose moral character, because Wesley worked on his home and taught his grandchildren martial arts. For all Doug is saying it’s not a good idea to have Wesley around one’s children, Doug didn’t actually have a problem with Wesley until… until…
… Until Wesley’s wife began to speak out against the way she and her family were treated by Doug ten years ago.
So this is not actually about Wesley or Wesley’s art. This is about destroying people who back Natalie.
And, obviously, Wesley finds that the way people are treating him and misrepresenting him speaks volumes. “I have never treated anyone from Christ Church or any other CREC church with anything but respect and kindness. When I see these people on the street, I stop to speak with them and ask how they’re doing. But I don’t matter. I’m trash because I won’t say I’m a Christian. So who I am as a man and a father and husband doesn’t matter — it has no worth. The fact that I have always respected their beliefs and treated them with acceptance and warmth in spite of the fact that we don’t see eye to eye? That doesn’t matter. The only important thing for them is that I am not a Christian and that I make contemporary art. They use those two things to create my identity and to hurt Natalie.”