The Seeds are Sown for a Culture War in Moscow, Idaho
Nick Gier printable version print page     Bookmark and Share
Fri Dec 28, 2007 at 02:07:10 PM EST
We are delighted to welcome Nick Gier as a new front page regular for a series on Christian Reconstructionist activist Douglas Wilson. Nick has taught religion and philosophy at the University of Idaho for 31 years. He was coordinator of religious studies (1980-2003), and Senior Fellow at the Martin Institute for Peace Studies and Conflict Resolution (1990-2000). His books include Wittgenstein and Phenomenology (SUNY Press, 1981), God, Reason, and the Evangelicals (Univ. Press of America, 1987), Spiritual Titanism (SUNY, 2000) ngier/steab.htm, and The Virtue of Non-Violence (SUNY, 2004) He is currently working on a book entitled "The Origins of Religious Violence" -- FC

[Christ Church's] teaching style is often abrasive, even at times caustic toward both believers and non-believers. We believe this style of teaching is contrary to Christ's teaching and to his example . . . . --Elders of the Evangelical Free Church of Pullman, Washington, November 23, 2003.

Preface Douglas Wilson of Moscow, Idaho has established a very impressive religious empire, about which I will write a series of columns. Wilson is pastor of Christ Church, which together with a sister church Trinity Reformed, has about 650 adult members in a town of 21,000 (including 10,000 University of Idaho students). He is founder of the Classical and Christian School Association, which, beginning with Moscow's Logos School, now has 204 affiliated schools in the U.S., Indonesia, and Nigeria.

Wilson is also founder of New St. Andrews College in Moscow, on which the City Council has placed an enrollment cap because of its central downtown location. Wilson also runs a 3-year seminary program Greyfriars Hall, the graduates of which are sent to plant new churches after the Christ Church model. Furthermore, Wilson co-founded the Confederation of Reformed Evangelical Churches, a small denomination that follows the “Federal Vision,” a theology now rejected by every major conservative Presbyterian denomination. Finally, Wilson has his own publishing house, Canon Press, which at one time grossed an average of $1 million per year.

The articles that follow will reveal that Douglas Wilson embodies all the qualities of the discredited evangelical pastor, everything except having TV program, great hair, and sexual escapades.

After resigning is navy commission, James Wilson was active in the Officers Christian Union during the 1950s. His vision of a "literature" ministry led to the founding of many Christian bookstores in college towns all over America. In 1971, Wilson started One-Way Books on the Washington State University campus, 8 miles across the border, and then Crossroads Bookstore in Moscow not long after.

In 1954 Wilson started writing a small book that would have the title Principles of War: A Handbook on Strategic Evangelism, first published in 1964. He thought that college towns, especially those with state universities, would be both strategic and feasible evangelistic targets. In a recent interview, Jim Wilson said that he was fortunate to find two such towns and universities so close together. With some relish he recalled a thought he had then: "We could fight one battle and win two states [for Christ]!"

I told Jim Wilson that I thought that upraised sword on the front cover of his war book was rather provocative, but he just shrugged his shoulders and said that it was only a symbol. A very dangerous symbol I was tempted to add.

Wilson argued that even though the methods of warfare should not be used to evangelize, its principles could be applied very well. I missed another chance for a comeback as I thought about the Christian Taipings in the 1850s having altar calls with the aisles guarded by soldiers with upraised swords. See more on the Taipings at

Qualifying this, as many Christian extremists do, as spiritual warfare, as if to imply that physical warfare is worse, is deceptive. The stakes in spiritual warfare are much, much higher and require all expedient means. In such a war there is no option for diplomacy, cease-fires, and there is no Geneva Convention to set any legal framework.

As one bathroom scribner once wrote: "Constant war is a small price to pay for eternal peace." Items for sale at Moscow's New St. Andrews College bookstore are engraved with a Latin motto translated as "for the faithful, wars shall never cease."

The New York Times Magazine carried an article (9/30/07) entitled "Onward Christian Scholars," which featured New St. Andrews College, founded by Wilson's son Douglas. In it Father Wilson took issue with his son's application of his evangelical war principles:

"The object was to take over the town with the Gospel of Jesus Christ, but to do it in an underground fashion. One of the principles of war is surprise. You don't tell people what you're going to do. Douglas told them, and he gave them someone to shoot at."

I first met Douglas Wilson after the first session of my “Introduction to Philosophy” class in late August, 1975. He introduced himself and asked me one question: “Is it OK if I defend the faith in this class?” I answered with a fate-filled Yes. When I told this story to faculty and students at Wilson's New St. Andrews College in April 2000, I got a big laugh when I said that saying No would not have made any difference.

While Jim Wilson sold his religious books and pastored Pullman's Evangelical Free Church, Doug and I were having friendly debates in and out of the classroom. Wilson took nearly every course that I offered, but we agreed that I would not be the best person to chair his thesis committee.

Wilson wrote a fairly respectable M.A. thesis on free will and then returned to his local ministry at Faith Fellowship, later renamed Community Evangelical Fellowship (CEF). Faith Fellowship started as sister church of Pullman's Evangelical Free Church.

In the early 1980s Wilson and I team taught (along with two other people) a course on 20th Century theology, and then we had a debate on abortion in February of 1983. My side of the debate has developed into the essay at

Wilson had a regular column in what was then called The Idahonian, and he came out with a piece that listed points that I tried to refute in the debate. In a letter to the editor, I cried foul, not because I could claim that my refutations were necessarily sound; rather, because Wilson did not mention my responses at all. It was at that point that I began to question Wilson’s intellectual integrity, and subsequent actions and events have convinced me that he and his closest associates are not honest men.

In December 1993, the CEF elders, concerned about doctrinal shifts in Wilson's theology, presented him with an ultimatum that he either conform to the CEF statement of faith or resign as pastor. (There was also a dispute about Wilson mixing church and non-church funds.) Wilson organized church members against the elders and successfully outmaneuvered them.

In order to validate his usurpation of power, Wilson drafted a letter attesting to his godly character and his qualifications to remain pastor. Even though the elders refused to sign the document, Wilson and his closest associates continued to swear until July 2003 that the signatures were obtained. Two of the three elders then resigned in disgust.

With the dissenters gone, Wilson moved forward with changing the name of his church to Christ Church, and he pushed his own doctrinal agenda, including infant baptism and paedo-communion, the rare practice of giving children the consecrated wine and bread. This was a dramatic change considering the fact that, from its very beginnings CEF was Arminian (non-Calvinist) and Baptist.

In February, 2003, two Christ Church members brought "Solemn Charges" (a 108-page document) against Wilson for maladministration, pastoral abuse, and doctrinal errors, and the unsigned document of December 1993 reemerged as an issue. Wilson demanded that members of Pullman's Evangelical Free Church (EFC) investigate some of the charges. When EFC members asked to see the "signed" letter, no one in Christ Church could produce the goods. Six months later the Christ Church website contained a statement conceding that the CEF elder signatures were never obtained.

To this day, all that Wilson can muster as an explanation is that he corrected the "mistake" as soon as it was discovered—"soon" defined in this case as 127 months. See Wilson's convoluted defense of January 31, 2006 at

As I conclude Part One of this series, I will only note, because I cannot fully explain, what I call "The Navy connection." Jim Wilson, Christ Church elders Dale Courtney and Patch Blakey are retired naval officers. (There are undoubtedly more.) Jim Wilson brought Doug Busby out from Annapolis and he now is pastor at Pullman's Evangelical Free Church, estranged from Christ Church because of the crisis explained above.

Douglas Wilson and Michael Lawyer, Wilson's administrative assistant and Christ Church elder, met on a submarine during the early 1970s. We know that the Air Force Academy is a veritable den of conservative Christians. Does the Naval Academy also have its fair share?

Most of us have little sense of the little religious/political empires that comprise the religious right. Your authoratative and yet up-close and personal reporting on the rise of the neo-theocratic organization of Doug Wilson is exactly the kind of specificity we need to get a clearer grasp of what we are up against culturally and politically around the country.

by Frederick Clarkson on Sun Dec 30, 2007 at 11:37:57 PM EST

You are correct about Wilson's lack of integrity. For all the preaching about accountability, he takes none, nor does Tom Garfield, who is the most irresponsible "principal" (pawn) in his empire. I believe he has become totally blind to the evil that has grown in him, and is powerful enough (though not from God) to emotionally bludgeon and manipulate others to stand by him-thinking he can do no wrong when he is just another imperfect person-who "sees through a glass darkly".
I was there at the beginning, and I remember you at a meeting and being shut down when attempting to speak. He has always done that with rudeness and ridicule, whatever the subject matter. He is nothing but a bully on the playground and so teaches the same behavior. Thank you for being vigilant--though in truth no one needs to tear them down; they will cannibalize themselves. But there is much devastation and human pain as the result. As another believer is destroyed, he realizes that the others before him were ambushed the same way--and Wilson's "love" is only his warped creation, the result of pride and sick need for power.

by sylslater on Fri Mar 11, 2011 at 12:13:42 PM EST

What a great writing it was. The seeds sown for the war i just cant imagine what would have happened in those days during war. I better go through best essay reviews articles for ancient history. But it has been related with the spiritual life.

by ConnieScholl on Fri Mar 17, 2017 at 04:58:02 AM EST

Yield is normally measured in read more grams and is worked out by the average yield found by the breeder.

by lifetime on Mon Jan 20, 2020 at 03:07:08 AM EST

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