Doug Wilson and the “Gaylag Archipelago”
When a federal judge struck down Idaho’s gay marriage ban last week, fellow blogger Kathryn Elizabeth tweeted the news at Christian pastor and author Douglas Wilson. Wilson is well known for his anti-gay views, and he and Kathryn Elizabeth have sparred over the issue before. Wilson’s response won’t be a surprise to anyone familiar with his work, but it illustrates a problem among religious opponents of LGBTQ rights.
Yes, you read that right—Wilson is worried about being sent off to “Gaylag Archipelago.” But don’t let the obvious hyperbole lead you to miss the point—it is mainstream within evangelicalism today to speak of being “persecuted” or “hated” for being anti-gay. A WORLD magazine article titled “‘Haters’ and the Hated” made this point last year:
The word has come down a lot. Once it applied to Adolf Hitler; now to Chick-fil-A. The “haters” of today, as defined by popular rhetoric, are those who argue with current wisdom. . . . It’s easy to attach the hate label to opponents of the issue du jour, and only a slight stretch of the imagination to picture today’s haters stringing up the issue du jour to lampposts in the devilish light of bonfires. This is convenient: If all your opponents are haters, righteous indignation is a valid response. Haters barely deserve to live, much less shape public policy. They must be defeated, by any means necessary.
But let’s talk about the real thing. “If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you” (John 15:18). . . . To the extent that you abide in Christ, the world will hate you. It will even project its hatred on you.
Bryan Fischer of the American Family Association was even more clear:
We’re hearing a lot about the reinstatement of segregationist Jim Crow laws these days, as homosexual activists fling this accusation at the state of Arizona. They argue that SB1062, a bill which simply protects religious liberty in the Copper State, is tantamount to the reinstatement of discriminatory laws.
As so often is the case, the situation is actually the reverse. It is in fact the bullies and bigots of Big Gay who are reinstating Jim Crow laws, only this time the marginalized and segregated Americans are Christian businessmen. Faith-driven vendors are being told that unless they submit to the owners of the liberal plantation, they will be punished by their homosexualized overlords and sent to the margins of society.
Hence the “Gaylag Archipelago.” I was a child in the 1990s, before marriage equality took the center stage it has today, but even I remember hearing that with the direction the country was heading Christians would eventually be put in jail for believing that homosexuality is a sin. The “Gaylag Archipelago” fits this mentality perfectly—it imagines a world where gay people are the oppressors and evangelical Christians are being robbed of their rights and will ultimately be rounded up and put in internment camps.
Wilson has put it like this:
The same sex marriage crusade has nothing whatever to do with what people can do sexually in private, and it has everything to do with what you will be allowed to say about it in public. We are not talking about whether private homosexual behavior will be penalized, but whether public opposition to homosexual behavior will be penalized.
But you know what? I’ve been involved in the movement for marriage equality for some time now, and I have yet to hear a single person call for those who believe homosexuality is sin to be jailed or sent to work camps. I also haven’t heard anyone calling for banning people from stating that they believe homosexuality is a sin. In actuality, the belief that homosexuality is sinful will go the way of the belief that black people and other minorities are lesser than white people. No one is put in jail for being racist, or even for publicly airing their racist sentiments (unless those sentiments involve threatening physical harm). There are no gulags where racists are rounded up and imprisoned.
But let’s take a look at what these self-prescribed “victims” have in store for their “oppressors,” the LGBTQ community. This from the same Bryan Fischer I quoted above:
We do not believe that homosexual behavior out to be normalized. We don’t think—I don’t think it ought to be legalized. It should not be promoted, it should not be endorsed, it should not be sanctioned, it should not be subsidized. And, in fact, this is the way it was in America for the first 342 years of our existence, well the first 357 years of our existence, from Jamestown in 1607 until Illinois in 1962, the first state in the union to lift sanctions, criminal sanctions, against homosexual behavior. It was still sanctioned in 49 states until 1972, it was even sanctioned according to Antonin Scalia in about 24 states in 2003 when the Lawrence v. Texas ruling came down I counted up about 12 or 14 but somewhere in that neighborhood still had public policies that prohibited homosexual behavior, did not give it legal sanction, it was prohibited, it was against the law under their state code. And so, we believe, I believe, I’ll just speak for myself here, I believe that homosexual behavior should again be contrary to public policy, to put it bluntly it ought to be against the law.
So then the question comes in, what sort of sanctions are you prepared to impose? If it’s going to be against the law, and the law is going to be applied, somebody is apprehended in a way that calls into play this law, this public policy against homosexual behavior, what should be done? What should be done with those defenders? And that’s a legitimate question. Do you put them to death, like they did under the Mosaic law, do you lock them up, do you fine them, what do you do?
Well I want to suggest something, and this just absolutely ticks off homosexual activists, but it makes perfect sense to me. Remember, we’ve talked about this before, but according to the CDC . . . 91% of all of the males in the history of the [AIDS] epidemic either contracted HIV aids through having sex with other men or through injection with drug abuse. Now we have policies in our culture to deal with injection with drug abuse. . . . So here’s my suggestion, very simple, very straightforward, that our sanctions for homosexual conduct should be the same as they are for drug abuse. In other words, whatever we decide are appropriate public policies to deal with drug abuse, those ought to be the same policies that we use for dealing with homosexual behavior because the risks are the same. If we’re concerned about the health of people involved in injection drug abuse, we want to protect them, we want to liberate them from this, and we’re going to have certain policies in place to deal with that, it could involve fines, it could involve incarceration.
We’re seeing a real trend for people who deal in the drug issue to move away from incarceration for nonviolent drug offenders toward rehabilitation. Let’s put these people in therapy, let’s get them in a drug treatment center, rather than lock them up let’s get them help. Now frankly, I am sympathetic to that. . . . Here’s what I’m getting at. . . . What I’m talking about is taking the same policies that we use for drug offenders, because we know it destroys people, it hurts them, it damages them, and since the same health risks exist with homosexual behavior, then it seems to me that we ought to take the same policies and apply them to homosexual conduct, that we ought to direct people toward rehabilitation as an alternative to incarceration. Let’s not lock them up, let’s get them therapy, let’s get them help. I mentioned Nicolas Cummings, former president of the American Psychological Association, he says look, it works, conversion therapy, reparative theory, whatever you want to call it, if people are motivated, they can change, they can redirect their sexual energy. . . . This approach fits with conservative principles.
Sometimes I wonder if the reason people like Bryan Fischer are convinced that LGBTQ activists want them stripped of their rights and imprisoned is that they are projecting what they in fact want on their opponents. In other words, Bryan Fischer wants to make “homosexual behavior” against the law, and wants to give “offenders” a choice between prison and reparative therapy, so he assumes that his opponents want to make “true” Christianity against the law, and to imprison or “reeducate” offenders.
And what about Doug Wilson, of “Gaylag Archipelago”? Wilson has increasingly refused to fully nail down his position on what should be done with gay and lesbian individuals, among other. This may be in part because some of his earlier forays on the subject resulted in widespread outcry. For example, Wilson had this to say in a 2003 interview:
The Bible indicates the punishment for homosexuality is death. The Bible also indicates the punishment for homosexuality is exile. So death is not the minimal punishment for a homosexual. There are other alternatives.
Then in 2009 he put his position like this:
Wilson says he rejects the Reconstructionists’ political tactics and distances himself from the label, claiming that his view of Old Testament law is more subtle than theirs. But when I asked what he thought of the death penalty for homosexual acts suggested in Leviticus 20:13, he did not shy away from the theonomic hard line that disturbs many Christians. “You can’t apply Scripture woodenly,” he says. “You might exile some homosexuals, depending on the circumstances and the age of the victim. There are circumstances where I’d be in favor of execution for adultery.…I’m not proposing legislation. All I’m doing is refusing to apologize for certain parts of the Bible.”
There’s also the matter of Wilson’s magazine, Credenda/Agenda. Wilson is both founder and editor of the publication, and some years back he published an article titled Your Eye Shall Not Pity, by Greg Dickinson. This article is less ambiguous.
The civil magistrate is the minister of God to execute wrath on the wrongdoer (Rom. 13:4). God has not left his civil minister without guidance on how to exercise his office. The Scriptures set forth clear standards of judgment for many offenses. Capital crimes, for example, include premeditated killing (murder), kidnapping, sorcery, bestiality, adultery, homosexuality, and cursing one’s parents (Ex. 21:14; 21:16; 22:18; 22:19; Lev. 20:10; 20:13; Ex. 21:17).
In contemporary American jurisprudence, none of these offenses is punishable by death, with the occasional exception of murder. The magistrates have dispensed with God’s standards of justice. Some Christians believe this is an improvement. They would be horrified to think that the “harsh” penalties of the law should still be applied. Sometimes this is the result of the mistaken belief that the Old Testament has no further application after the advent of Christ. This is an exegetical problem. Too often, it is the result of a sinful view of the criminal. This sin is called pity.
. . .
Thus, the Bible teaches that pity is not an option where God has decided the matter.The magistrate, God’s minister, is to faithfully execute justice according to God’s standard, not man’s.
What the Bible does not teach is that the preaching of the gospel and repentance have no place on death row. Indeed, it is hard to imagine a place where there is a more immediate need of grace, and a presentation of the gospel should be the first response of Christians to those who are condemned. But condemnation still must come if we are to be obedient to God’s Word.
We must respond to the wrongdoer biblically in both judgment and grace. This means that we must return to an obedience which confines pity within the bounds which God has established for us.
It’s worth noting that no one has put either Doug Wilson or Greg Dickinson in jail for what they have said. Indeed, neither has been arrested for their comments, or fined. Just as there are no laws against racist comments, there are no laws against calling homosexuality sin—nor are there likely to be. Contrary to Wilson’s reference to a “Gaylag Archipelago,” Wilson and his friends are free to go on saying these things if they so choose. But while they are legally free to call down all the divine judgement they please, they do not get a free pass from popular outrage.
I suspect that Wilson’s references to a “Gaylag Archipelago” may stem from some of his recent experiences when speaking on college campuses. In 2012, Wilson was heckled and shouted over during a speaking engagement at Indiana University. I suspect Wilson blurs the line between popular anger over his views on homosexuality and legal oppression. Of course, that problem goes beyond Wilson. The WORLD magazine article I quoted above claimed that “The ‘haters’ of today, as defined by popular rhetoric, are those who argue with current wisdom.” In other words, the author is under the impression that evangelicals are “hated” simply because they disagree with the popular consensus. It’s as though she cannot see the very real pain and damage evangelicals cause by their opposition to LGBTQ rights and their belief that same-sex attraction is sinful, and the anger that pain might inspire.
I don’t want to give the impression that every evangelical Christian wants gay people to be executed, rounded up, exiled, or sentenced to reparative therapy. In 2013, 59% of white evangelicals said that homosexuality should be “discouraged” but 30% said it should be “accepted.” Also in 2013, 49% of white evangelicals supported some form of civil union. But there seems to be a fairly high correlation between evangelicals who claim to be persecuted by the push for LGBTQ rights and evangelicals who believe homosexual behavior, as they term it, should come with legal sanction. And that correlation makes Wilson’s reference to the possibility of being sent to a “Gaylag Archipelago” incredibly disingenuous.