Pastor Douglas Wilson: Sodomy is worse than slavery

I didn’t appreciate until years after my Bar Mitzvah how damaging it is to the Jewish faith that they don’t let you pick your Torah portion.

When a Jewish child becomes an adult, they are instructed to read whichever chapter of the Old Testament is scheduled for the week of their ceremony and deliver a d’var Torah, or an interpretation of the chapter they have just read. My cousin got lucky, with his Bar Mitzvah date matching with Genesis 1:1. This gave him familiar source material for which there are a number of avenues for interpretation. I was not so lucky, as my Torah portion was from one of those chapters in Deuteronomy that both the Jewish and Christian faiths have conveniently forgotten about: rules governing admission to and conduct in the congregation.

While everyone knows what happens in the beginning, as it were, all I can remember from my Torah portion is that eunuchs are excluded from participation in religious assemblies. The translation provided to me cited the specific example of a man who has had his testicles crushed by a goat as being disqualified from entry into religious services.

Out of all the verses I had to memorize for my ceremony, that’s the one that stuck with me. Partly because it was graphic and I had a thirteen year-old’s sense of humor, but also because I couldn’t believe that was an actual rule included in the Bible. This is supposed to be a perfect book written by a perfect being, and that made the editorial cut? What’s more, not only was emasculation by goat apparently happening often enough to warrant specific mention in the Bible, but God comes down on the wrong side of the issue. A man suffers a serious injury, only to be punished for it by being denied access to his religious community? It doesn’t take all that much interpretation to conclude that God makes a number of immoral claims as to the moral condition and use of our genitalia.

I include my experience with the God of Abraham as a preface because it’s the context in which I read Pastor Douglas Wilson’s extensive defense of the idea that sodomy is worse than slavery, which he published on Saturday. In theological terms, Wilson is completely correct: If one starts with the assumption that the words of the Bible are the words we should use to set all of our moral standards, then one is forced to conclude that sodomy is worse than slavery. And we shouldn’t be surprised. After all, this is a God who demands subservience to his judgments on the most minute details, such as how many penises must be in a room before religious ceremonies can commence.

Wilson has read his Bible well, and understands that in order to reject slavery and accept non-reproductive intercourse, the Bible is an obstacle, not a guide, which isn’t how the Bible was meant to be read. As Wilson wrote, “We know that sodomy is worse than slavery by how God responds to it.”

He certainly isn’t wrong: Throughout the Bible, sexual impurity is punished with great floods, flaming brimstone and all other manners of utter destruction. Slavery, on the other hand, is treated with kid gloves. As Wilson continues:

Paul says that masters should treat their slaves with appropriate kindness, knowing that they have a Master in Heaven themselves (Eph. 6:9). In the first century, a man could be excommunicated for being a harsh master, but not for simply being a master. Paul says that if an owner is a believer, this means he should be accorded extra respect (1 Tim. 6:2).

That “Master in Heaven” line has led many Evangelicals, including Wilson, to consider themselves slaves to God, forced to obey his will on penalty of everlasting hellfire. In this framework, slavery is good and necessary as long as it’s God doing the owning.

To the contrary, in Wilson’s view, sodomy is not only unconditionally bad, but is itself a form of slavery that leads to the destruction of humanity itself. Wilson again:

Pastor Douglas Wilson, screengrab via YouTube

Pastor Douglas Wilson, screengrab via YouTube

Sodomy is a particularly virulent form of slavery to sin, and slavery to sin is the foundation stone for every other form of objectionable slavery. Political and civic liberty, whenever it has occurred in history, has been the result of widespread gospel influence. Apart from that gospel influence, slavery is the natural and normal condition of mankind….

…But a people who celebrate vice, and who hold parades in its honor, and who even have designed a flag to celebrate it, are paving the way for a massive return of all the political and civic forms of slavery they pretend to despise…

…Any society that takes its own revulsion against certain atrocities as the automatic base line standard, instead of submissively applying Scripture to moral questions, has taken the first and fundamental step in supplanting the Word of God with the words of men, and that cannot end well.

Note here that Wilson is trying to put a foot down on every side of the argument that he can. To hear him tell it, sodomy is a form of slavery, and Christianity can take credit for every great liberation. BUT, a well-ordered society requires “submissively applying Scripture to moral questions,” one of which being that slavery is acceptable so long as slaves work harder for Christian masters, who are in turn less cruel to them. In short, slavery is really, really bad, but only if it’s the un-Christian kind that doesn’t involve directly owning other people.

When you start with the assumption that God is not only good, but perfect, then you have to do some serious liturgical gymnastics in order to come to what would otherwise be the obvious understanding that owning people is worse than getting a blowjob. In insisting that, based on a straightforward reading of the Bible, sodomy is worse than slavery, Pastor Douglas Wilson has made that abundantly clear.


Jon Green graduated from Kenyon College with a B.A. in Political Science and high honors in Political Cognition. He worked as a field organizer for Congressman Tom Perriello in 2010 and a Regional Field Director for President Obama's re-election campaign in 2012. Jon writes on a number of topics, but pays especially close attention to elections, religion and political cognition. Follow him on Twitter at @_Jon_Green, and on Google+. .

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53 Responses to “Pastor Douglas Wilson: Sodomy is worse than slavery”

  1. sandy says:

    is theology ever “sound”? nonsensical gobbled-guk.

  2. taxicolor says:

    Gabe Caligiuri, I too am a Christian and am familiar with both testaments. I doubt that anything I say can change your mind on this. Indeed not even Jesus’ words were able to get through your indoctrination. He is the ‘Fulfillment”. Sacrifices are not longer needed as he was the ultimate “Sacrifice for Us All”. Please go back and re-read the New Testament again with an open mind. I will not do your study for you by giving you relevant verses.

  3. Moderator4 says:

    Perhaps you should take this issue up with Jon Green, the site owner.
    You are a newcomer to this blog, and do not yet have any understanding whatsoever about how the blog, or the Moderators, work.
    Perhaps you should start your own blog, and run it the way you would prefer.

  4. Moderator3 says:

    When someone has the last word, it’s just that. No one speaks or writes after that. I’m certain you know the definition of last.

    I wasn’t getting involved with the discussion. I was getting involved with the give and take between two commenters.

  5. Gabe Caligiuri says:

    Moderator3, that’s a strange question. I had a response for him/her, and I’m letting them know it will be my last. Should you really be getting involved in discussions on threads? That’s not very impartial of you.

  6. Moderator3 says:

    If you gave Becca the last word, why did you make this comment?

  7. Gabe Caligiuri says:

    I hope I am wrong but unfortunately I only have your comment to go by, which is incredibly inaccurate, slanderous and hateful. I’ll let you have the last word. Lord bless you.

  8. BeccaM says:

    You could not be more wrong, in every respect.

  9. Gabe Caligiuri says:

    Hi BeccaM, you are obviously very unfamiliar with the Bible and orthodox Christian teaching. I have been a Christian for 20 years (coming from atheism), attended many churches, read the entire BIble several times, and I’ve never heard/seen anything close to the gross mis-characterization you have given above. I wonder how much studying you’ve done and how many Christians you know? Or if you’ve been hurt by a professing Christian? It’s tragic to see that you are actually the very thing you claim to oppose: hateful and intolerant.

  10. Gabe Caligiuri says:

    Hi taxicolor. I am a Christian and I’m very familiar with both testaments. I read through them every 1-2 years. So what did Jesus say to invalidate the Hebrew Bible (Old Testament)? I’m not familiar with that passage. Have you read the gospels?

  11. Butch1 says:

    Same here. ( I always feel like saying to them “Speak for yourself” when they say something like that. )

  12. Butch1 says:

    You do not yell when you pray. I think that is a silent event. ;-)

  13. Butch1 says:

    “This is your brain on religion.”

  14. woodroad34 says:

    I think we all know religion is worse than slavery….it’s worse than anything. Mind-numbing, war-starting, killing-in-the-name-of, bigotry-because-of evil. People don’t like religion because of what religion is. Spirituality is encumbered because of religion.

  15. David Deeb says:

    Would Jesus have fired the teacher. I think we all know the answer. Also what does the minister know about slavery or sodomy?

  16. Moderator3 says:

    Please, no yelling.

  17. K P S SURESH says:

    The time to preach seems to have come a full circle. lETS PRAY. IAM WITH YOU, PASTOR

  18. Kim O'Brien says:

    Guys like him helped turn me into an atheist

  19. 2karmanot says:

    Good one! :-)

  20. BeccaM says:

    I’ve read the Bible, cover to cover, many times, although I will admit not recently because I came to the same conclusions you did. It’s not only ridiculous and full of contradictions, many of the assertions people make aren’t even accurate to the text they claim to cite. And the cherry-picking…gah.

    There are some good bits in there. “Judge not”, “Blessed are the peacemakers,” and the Golden Rule are inspired philosophies centuries ahead of their time. Yet it’s clear enough those good bits are the first to be tossed aside when a Christianist fanatic wants to get on with the judging, punishing, and war.

  21. BeccaM says:

    Thanks Fixer. You’re most kind.

  22. The_Fixer says:

    The only thing that Wilson’s essay has done for me is to confirm my existing view of the Bible as being absolutely, unbelievably ridiculous, full of contradiction. Anyone who takes the whole reprehensible thing to heart is at best misguided, and at worst, deranged.

  23. The_Fixer says:

    A million upvotes for you, Ms. Becca. That was a comprehensive refutation of this idiot Wilson’s drivel.

  24. The_Fixer says:

    Yeah, may have been a transcription error in the bible – “I said pearly grates not gates.”

  25. The_Fixer says:

    Yup, that’s my take on it. It ain’t even good fiction.

  26. BeccaM says:

    I agree with most of your points, except the one where you’ve suggested Wilson wants to be on every side of the argument.

    It is clear to me he’s a homophobic bigot who equates being gay with the worst forms of evil he can imagine. As I noted in a rather overwordy comment above, he uses the language of disease to describe homosexuality. He further misrepresents the actual text of the Bible for the supposed reasons as to why Sodom and Gomorrah were destroyed by the Sky Tyrant. If one reads the book of Lot, there is no mention whatsoever about men having sex with each other in either of those cities. None. Lots of mentions of lack of hospitality and mistreatment of guests though.

    This isn’t wanting to have it both ways. The douche nozzle actually thinks what two consenting adults do with one another in the privacy of their own home is manifestly worse than human slavery. He describes slavery itself as really quite evil. Then takes the position that being gay is worse. From the way he writes, he is very clearly offended when gay people aren’t ashamed of being gay.

    (He also repeatedly misuses the term ‘slavery’, equating it with free-will forms of human behavior where he personally disapproves.)

    I keep using the word, but the only accurate way to describe Wilson’s position is that it is quite depraved.

  27. BeccaM says:

    I’m not so sure you should have. His entire Disqus comment history is flogging this book, which when I looked it up was written by him and has been available from the usual book and media outlets for close to ten years now, with new editions of the same book released every few years.

    And he was thread-jacking Jon’s post.

    However, I’m not a moderator. :-)

  28. BeccaM says:

    And remember: If you’re not (1) one of the people who believe in exactly the right way and (2) didn’t live your life 100% according to a whole bunch of arbitrary rules, many of which have nothing to do with being moral or ethical, you get to suffer torments forever and ever and ever, with no hope ever of redemption. Somehow, eternal torture is seen as appropriate for the mistakes of a brief mortal life, including inadvertent ones like being born in a non-Christian land and never hearing about this Jesus guy before you die.

    All because whatever other qualities the Sky Tyrant has, a sense of proportional and fair justice clearly isn’t one of them.

  29. BeccaM says:

    They were also having sexual relations with some of the slave women.
    The slave owners had to change their views because of this obvious

    Not really, no. Slaves have been raped throughout history because they’re seen by their masters as sufficiently human to f*ck, but not enough so to bother with this little thing called ‘consent.’

    Raping female slaves, especially when young, was also seen as an effective (albeit depraved and evil) way to break them psychologically.

  30. BeccaM says:

    What’s really depraved is Wilson seems to believe that being a slave is a choice.

  31. BeccaM says:

    Yeah… Wilson’s essay is a litany of ignorance and mis-attribution, isn’t it?

  32. Hue-Man says:

    You clearly have an outdated view of slavery. Why just a few days ago, Justice Thomas explained it all to us (I’m sure his slave ancestors would agree with him 100%):

    “The corollary of that principle is that human dignity cannot be taken
    away by the government. Slaves did not lose their dignity (any more than
    they lost their humanity) because the government allowed them to be

    Remember: Slavery Good. Sodomy BAD. (Where’s the Cooch when we need somebody to evade the obvious question?)

  33. Hue-Man says:

    “Political and civic liberty, whenever it has occurred in history, has been the result of widespread gospel influence.”

    Wow! 4,000 years of history wiped out including Greek civilization (earth is only 6,000 year old, of course). Over the last 20 centuries, how many billions of people would disagree (strongly) with this statement. For my part, I would point to other, less pleasant outcomes of “widespread gospel influence”.

  34. BeccaM says:

    A few points–

    Only in a few places is the Bible — Old Testament and New — relatively specific about the sexual acts the Angry War God named Yahweh finds objectionable. Anybody who points to Lot and the story of Sodom and Gomorrah as an indictment against male-on-male sexual relations is jumping to a whole lot of subjective conclusions which aren’t supported at all by the text itself. Yahweh was in a mind, supposedly, to destroy the towns due to their ‘wickedness’ (non-specific, except that drunkenness was a big part of it). To spare the towns, Lot apparently talked down the Angry War God to needing to find only 10 virtuous men, and Yahweh sent a couple of angels to check it out. (Note: Neither women nor children counted, because both were considered property at the time.) Lot entertains the angels at his place while the angels plan their Santa survey. So a mob shows up at Lot’s house and demands to be allowed to rape the angels.

    Angels aren’t men. Heck, nobody even truly knows what kind of parts they have or none. The whole point is the sin was of breach of guest rules and hospitality. In response, Lot offers up his virgin daughters to be raped instead. The mob refuses. “Newp! Angels, for raping, now.” So Yahweh blinds the mob and smites the towns. He also turns Lot’s wife into a pillar of salt just for looking at the smiting in progress, even though technically, by the laws of the time, Lot should’ve been held responsible for any mistakes his women-property may have made.

    We are to presume that it’s perfectly fine for women (including virgins), children, and babies to be slaughtered for the misdeeds of the menfolk. Given the prevalence of slavery at the time, Yahweh would also have been smiting slaves who had no choice but to be there. And furthermore that somehow out of all those people, there truly weren’t as many as ten decent ones worth saving. Lot though, the guy who offered his own daughters to be raped to spare his guests, is the one Yahweh saves. Him, and two daughters who later on being all baby-crazy living alone on a mountain decide one day to get daddy drunk and rape him. Nice people, right.

    Now then, Leviticus… That looooooong set of rules is quite often quoted out of context, and of course we all know how modern Christians cherry-pick which ones they feel like enforcing on themselves and others. But the missing context is those rules are specifically laid out for one group of “Chosen People”, and only as a condition for living in a particular holy area. They were never intended or expected to be universal across all cultures or locations.

    As for jumping forward to Paul/Saul of Tarsus and his voluminous letters, again we have cherry picking. His position was ALL sex was bad, and really that good followers of Jesus should just stop bumping uglies totally and let the human race go extinct. Because that’d bring back Dead Jesus and the end of the world.

    Douglas Wilson though engages in the worst, most reprehensible forms of moral relativism, taking a practice we modern people know to be pure evil and declaring it to be not as bad as two people of the same gender enjoying sexual relations with one another. The latter hurts nobody. Slavery, however, is the involuntary subjugation of a human being, almost always through torture. We humans have come up with quite a few evil things we do to one another, but slavery is one of the worst.

    Yeah, the Bible is totally fine with slavery, but that right there should be a clue-by-four as to why it cannot be used as a perfect guide for moral guidance. At some point, a truly good and moral person would read the stuff claimed to be from a supremely benevolent deity and realize, “This is just a bunch of men who decided they wanted ultimate authority for their depraved crimes and conquests, so they wrote down their own preferences and declared, ‘God sez so.'”

    Yahweh, later promoted to “God”, condones slavery. And as if that isn’t enough, he also frequently orders acts of genocide. Plus of course, let’s not forget how making fun of a bald guy is a crime punishable by execution via bear-mauling.

    “What’s a fair price for selling my daughters into slavery?” “God says this much. Oh, and you really shouldn’t sell her to your own people because you might accidentally run into her and see what you’ve done.” “Thanks!”

    It is absolute BS when someone says, “I consider myself a slave to God.” No. This is a gross misapprehension as to what it means to be a slave. Mistreatment and torture, the involuntary breaking of a human being’s will and autonomy is part of what takes a sentient human being and turns them into a will-less slave. You cannot be a ‘slave to sin’ — because sin is only when someone chooses to be immoral, but slavery is itself the absence of free will and the freedom to make choices.

    There’s one line in particular though from Douglas Wilson’s evil screed I find especially abominable:

    “Sodomy is a particularly virulent form of slavery to sin.”

    This is the kind of rhetoric that quickly turns to eliminationist solutions. ‘Final solutions,’ I dare say.

    He uses the language of disease to refer to same-sex relations. He refers to homosexuality as an ‘atrocity.’ Why? Exactly who is harmed by it? Even if one were to posit that being gay is morally wrong (which I do not agree with at all), nobody is harmed save those who willingly choose to engage in same-sex intimacy.

    Choice is the OPPOSITE of slavery.

    Wilson, basically, is a horrible, evil monster for even suggesting such a thing.

    And didn’t someone once say something about the devil quoting Scripture for his own malign purposes?

  35. Badgerite says:

    This is just another form of Sharia law. The Christian version of the same. It is un American and appalling. The God who created the universe cannot possibly be such an #######. So I would surmise that the Bible is man’s work. Creation is God’s.

  36. Mark Rosenkranz says:

    Thank you. I appreciate it. There really is some wisdom in Dr. Brian Swann’s statements. I was really taken back to what he had to say. an example of this is when he stated that slave owners originally viewed slaves as subhuman. They were also having sexual relations with some of the slave women. The slave owners had to change their views because of this obvious dilemma.

  37. Moderator3 says:

    Technically, this is spam. I’m letting it go, but another moderator may disagree.

  38. Mark Rosenkranz says:

    The issue of slavery really has been forgotten. After two and a half years, I recently started promoting a audio book entitled, White Male Privilege that addresses a few different issues; one of which is slavery. If you get a chance listen to the audio sample. Dr. Brian Swann who is head of The Harvard Dental Department School Of Medicine had some interesting things to say!

  39. 2karmanot says:

    Imagine when they wake up and the Pearly Gates seem to be in the Fireplace.

  40. 2karmanot says:

    Yep, something about pleasure fluids scares them to death. Maybe they weren’t properly house broken.

  41. 2karmanot says:

    Well, you put your finger on it. Philosophy 101: That which is rational is not necessarily true and that which is real is not necessarily true. Just ask Aquinas, whose exquisite mumbo jumbo proves the existence of a magical sky gawd.

  42. taxicolor says:

    Fundamentalist “Christians” spend way too much time trying to cherry-pick the Old Testament. They should consider what Jesus said about the Old Testament. Then there is the whole Sodomy thing. What was the sin of the people of Sodom? It certainly wasn’t what they think it was. They call themselves Christians so I think they should be a little more attentive to what their Christ had to say.

  43. 2karmanot says:

    Hmmmm “put a foot down” Do I detect a cloven hoof? Could it be Satan in disguise? Hmmmm #Church Lady

  44. 2karmanot says:

    “something blatantly ridiculous” : The Bible in a nut-shell (pardon the pun)

  45. 2karmanot says:

    Slavery is addiction to an Iron Age, imaginary, masculine sky tyrant, who both loves us and afflicts us with punishment, sickness, and whimsical smiting on bad hair days. Take heart, however, death is the only absolute one can know and absolute extinction its greatest joy.

  46. goulo says:

    A rational person reading the Bible would notice that God as portrayed in the Bible is happy with slavery while punishing people for all manner of trivia (not just same-sex relations but all kinds of random arbitrary stuff, like not wearing clothes made from more than one kind of fabric, etc etc) and therefore conclude that the Bible is obviously not Absolute Truth.

    It’s too bad that so many people notice something blatantly ridiculous in the Bible and instead conclude. “Well, it’s in the Bible so it must be true”.

    It’s also weird that these same Bible-believers conveniently ignore that Biblical heroes often had multiple wives and concubines. So much for their “Traditional marriage has always been one man and one woman.”

    And the Biblical heroes are constantly exterminating other tribes and nations. So much for “Islam’s holy book is nasty and violent, not like Christianity’s happy fun love-filled holy book.”

  47. gratuitous says:

    Wilson seems to want to put a foot down on every side of the argument, and in many cases put two. He gets lost pretty fast in the excerpt you’ve quoted: “slavery to sin is the foundation stone for every other form of objectionable slavery.” Okay, all well and good, even if I don’t agree. But then Wilson goes flying off the rails: Political and civic liberty, whenever it has occurred in history, has been the result of widespread gospel influence.”

    Wait, what? Is he saying that political and civic liberty never occurred in the days before Christ? Because that would be . . . very wrong. And if civic liberty is a desirable goal, because of that alleged widespread gospel influence, then why isn’t Wilson happy about the legalization of same sex marriage? Why were so many Christians opposed to marriage equality, an expansion of civic liberty to more citizens?

    Wilson isn’t correct on theological terms, or even on his own terms.

  48. Wow! worse than slavery? That is just insane.

  49. UncleBucky says:

    Bingo. They should instead deal with the message of Jesus rather than worrying about their “ticket to heaven”, eh? :D

  50. nicho says:

    I don’t know any sane person who thinks – -and talks — as much about sex as religious fundamentalists. They are — pardon the expression — slaves to it.

  51. UncleBucky says:

    Honestly, I don’t care a jot about this mish mash of theology. There is no sky god. Time to abandon it and all this hoo ha and get both our feet planted firmly in the 21st Century.

    I can’t take anymore of this repeating of these injurious and damaging memes.

  52. 2patricius2 says:

    If sodomy is so much worse than slavery in Wilson’s mind, maybe he would not mind being a slave for a day or a month or a year.

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