Too Big to Fail? Doug Wilson, Ed Litton and the Moral Crisis of Church Tribalism

Today, we focus on the latest scandal involving Doug Wilson. I say “latest,” because there have been myriad scandals, over many years, involving the pastor-provocateur of Christ Church in Moscow, Idaho. A sane conservative Christianity would have risen up en masse, a long time ago, to repudiate him as unfit for the ministry. It’s not like we didn’t have ample grounds for concern. (See, for example, this and this.)

As I’ve lamented before, the problem is that much of conservative Christianity today really doesn’t care that much anymore about godly behavior, morals, ethics or basic integrity. Kinda, but not really. This is why we see so many Wilson supporters and enablers reacting to the latest Vice expose of Wilson not with moral outrage at Wilson, or with an even-handed “we really need to look into this to see if these accusations are true,” but with snide attacks on Vice, the secular media in general, the liberals, yada, yada, yada.

Will any of them change their tune after reading Wilson’s utterly transparent deflection and typically wordsmithy obfuscation of what was actually alleged by the women in that Vice article? Call me crazy, but if Vice wrote an article like that about me, my response would be plain-spoken. It would be either this: “This whole story is made up. It’s libel, and I demand a retraction” or this: “I am overwhelmingly grieved by my sin, and I cannot continue in the ministry anymore. I hereby resign.” It certainly wouldn’t be that right now, “there is actually a need not to” answer any of these charges (wrong) or “we are being attacked precisely because we oppose the sexual revolution” (doubly wrong). Wilson’s response alone should raise red flags on top of your red flags, if you even see any.

But perhaps in the eyes of his fanboys and fangirls, Wilson is just “too big to fail.” That was the term that was applied to the big banks during the 2008 financial crisis, a way of reminding taxpayers that there was no choice but to fork over $700 billion to the financial institutions through the Troubled Asset Relief Program. You can go bankrupt, little Joe Main Street. But the banks? Too big to fail. A lot of people rightly saw that as a double standard, unfair and outrageously dishonest, given what boneheaded government decisions led up to that crisis in the first place.

The same applies here. To too many conservative Christians, weirdly, I think Wilson also is seen as “too big to fail.”

Here’s one argument I often hear: Wilson is a voice crying out in the wilderness, when so few men of God are! We need him, for the cause of Christ! He’s bold! He’s smart! We need all the conservative leaders like him that we can get!

So, for instance, at a time when we’re drowning in rainbow flags and many pulpits are Revoice-compromised, they’ll point to the fact that Wilson boldly stands up against homosexuality and transgenderism. That’s true. To which I say, yes, but so what? There are a lot of us standing up against Big Gay who aren’t also calling feminists “small-breasted biddies” or creating false-martyr narratives for themselves and their churches, much less being embroiled in continual scandals over a host of other theological and moral issues. (I implore you: Please click on the links I posted in the first paragraph and read everything written there, so we at least have some baseline for rational discussion on this topic.)

Recent case in point: In September 2020, Wilson falsely claimed that his people who gathered to protest a local mask mandate were cited for singing hymns, writing: “The policemen who were involved in citing and arresting people for singing hymns really ought to be heartily ashamed of themselves.” Except the Moscow-Pullman Daily News told a totally different tale, reporting: “Five cited for alleged face mask order violations at ‘psalm sing’ hosted by Christ Church outside Moscow City Hall … Of the five cited, two also were arrested for suspicion of resisting or obstructing an officer. The fifth, (Gabriel) Rench, was arrested but not charged with allegedly refusing to identify himself to police, according to (Moscow Police Chief James) Fry.”

I’m all for standing up against mask mandates and government tyranny, but why didn’t Wilson just tell the truth about the reason for the arrests? What was even the point of creating a different narrative, when it was so easy to disprove? Does anyone care that Wilson did this, since it casts a shadow on his character, or is he just “too big to fail,” conservatives? Is this sin of his too little to consider? Charles Spurgeon’s famous sermon comes to mind: “The best of men have always been afraid of little sins.”

I would honestly ask: If you have read through everything I’ve linked here so far, how much redder can your red flags get? Why do you still cling to Wilson as some kind of conservative savior, without whom the “movement” of biblical fidelity allegedly will collapse?

Pardon me for my bluntness, but I do not believe biblical Christianity will ever be in such peril that we’ll ever need Doug Wilson to save it. Or any other man. Quite the contrary. We rely on the Lord Jesus Christ alone to sustain and uphold His church, do we not? I also think biblical Christianity is in peril, in part, precisely because the same people who claim to hold to biblical fidelity just plain refuse to hold their Tribal Chief to the same moral standards that they expect of your average Christian plumber or housewife — and with a lot less scrutiny, to boot. (And before you think I’m just picking on my own “tribe” — while understanding that I am a conservative Christian who is also certainly no Federal Vision-y Wilsonite — I’m going to address the same sin committed by liberals in just a minute. So stay with me. There’s plenty of guilt to go around.)

A key passage to re-read is James 2, which knows nothing of the “too big to fail” mentality and plainly addresses this sin of partiality that is rampant these days: “My brothers, show no partiality as you hold the faith in our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory. For if a man wearing a gold ring and fine clothing comes into your assembly, and a poor man in shabby clothing also comes in, and if you pay attention to the one who wears the fine clothing and say, ‘You sit here in a good place,’ while you say to the poor man, ‘You stand over there,’ or, ‘Sit down at my feet,’ have you not then made distinctions among yourselves and become judges with evil thoughts? … If you really fulfill the royal law according to the Scripture, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself,’ you are doing well. But if you show partiality, you are committing sin and are convicted by the law as transgressors. For whoever keeps the whole law but fails in one point has become guilty of all of it. For he who said, ‘Do not commit adultery,’ also said, ‘Do not murder.’ If you do not commit adultery but do murder, you have become a transgressor of the law. 

In other words, don’t treat Big Shots or Small Fries in the church any differently. Both the rich man and poor man are equal under God’s law: guilty. And both are saved the same way: Through faith in Jesus Christ. Same guilt, same standards, same expectations, same gospel. Show no partiality. As a Christian, you are not to embrace any “too big to fail” system — especially among your clergy, who will come under God’s stricter judgment (James 3:1).

Now let’s talk about the neo-liberals, the liberals, the Woke, the feminists — you know, the people on the other side of the theological/political aisle in our churches, the ones conservatives oppose so strongly that they’ll actually justify Doug Wilson’s behavior and theological heresy just to score points in their mutual ongoing war.

This liberal crowd, if we can call them that, believe Ed Litton, president of the Southern Baptist Convention, also is “too big to fail.” I find it funny that so many of you liberals who backed me to the hilt for exposing Mark Driscoll’s rampant plagiarism and lying in 2013 (thank you, by the way) now have next to nothing to say about Ed’s rampant plagiarism or lying. What’s your excuse? That Driscoll offended women, but Litton will address the sex-abuse problem in the SBC, so Litton gets a pass on the same sins? Do you really think no truth-telling non-plagiarist could possibly fix the sexual abuse problem in the SBC — and that only Ed is up to the challenge?

You hypocrites. You just don’t want conservative Southern Baptists to win a round by basking in the victory that a hat-in-hand Litton resignation would afford them. But Litton should resign, a position you’d take if you were actually applying sheer moral principle to this matter, instead of tribalism. You’ve acted the same way when it comes to other SBC elites who should be run out of their positions on a rail but aren’t, simply because they’ll do your bidding. You put up with their moral corruption, while focusing all of your attention on the corrupt people on the conservative side. Guess what? Every corrupt leader should be treated the same way, so shame on all of you. (And it’s worth reiterating that, by the way, the matter of sexual abuse in the church isn’t a “liberal” issue. It’s a grave, across-the-board moral issue.)

Come on. Be honest for once, all of you who are engaging in this despicable sin of partiality. You do not protect your Tribal Chiefs out of moral or biblical principle. If this were about principle, you would hold everyone, friend or foe, to the same moral standards and call them out equally. Instead, you call out the other tribe’s sins to make yourselves look good and to score points against your enemies. Then, you look the other way if one of your own guys commits the same sins, because calling him out would just help your enemies score points against you. As if all of life is one big chess game, instead of a serious, short march into either eternal heaven or eternal hell.

Are we really this morally bankrupt and juvenile? After all I’ve witnessed over the last decade, I must conclude that the answer is yes. Yes, we are. Neither side — if we can reduce the church to two sides for the sake of making the point — is innocent.

I have so many stories to tell, which probably will remain untold, about people on both sides intentionally covering up the worst of sins committed by their pet church leaders for either political or financial gain. They also cover up their own sins. There is so much lying, so much greed, so much sin of every kind among your “heroes,” church. Why won’t you face that? Why won’t you hold every one of these people to a biblical standard?

This shouldn’t need to be said, yet it needs to be said again. As Christians, we demonstrate that we belong to the Lord by our obedience to his commands and by our godly behavior. This means that we must be honorable and fair and have integrity regarding scandalous matters in the church, regardless of who’s involved in the scandal. We must pick no favorites and excuse no one. Ourselves, most of all.

If your Tribal Chief is accused of some grave sin, but he is actually innocent as charged, great. Defend him with the facts and evidence. That’s the right thing to do. But if you look at the facts and evidence, and he’s plainly guilty, then say so in the same way you would say it about the other side’s Tribal Chief. And see to it, as much as possible, that fair standards are applied and that justice is done. Otherwise, you’re just the religious equivalent of the Democratic National Committee.

One more thing before I go. A lot of Christians talk about the desperate need for revival in a country that’s collapsing. But have we ever stopped to consider that our own immorality is possibly why revival eludes us?

No revival ever comes without a cleansing of the temple first. And there’s plenty of temple-cleansing that has to start happening across the board, but particularly within “biblically faithful” Christianity, which actually deserves God’s discipline as sons (Heb. 12: 4-12). If you guys think God is going to give us some sort of beautiful victory against the liberals because we can turn a phrase, or fill conference seats, or sell lots of books, or because our doctrinal statements are sound, or that we’re going to somehow save evangelicalism from Wokeness and Critical Race Theory and social justice and LGBTQ+ “Christianity” while simultaneously tolerating or excusing the sin of our pet Tribal Chiefs, then you’re all delusional. Worse, you’re denying the very testimony of God’s holy Word!

If we want our spiritual health back, our idols first have to be smashed. All of them. Our sin and corruption have to be confessed. We have to cry out before God over our sin and make it our whole lives’ aim to honor Him from now on! Remember the legacy of Hezekiah: “And he did what was right in the eyes of the Lord, according to all that David his father had done. He removed the high places and broke the pillars and cut down the Asherah. And he broke in pieces the bronze serpent that Moses had made, for until those days the people of Israel had made offerings to it (it was called Nehushtan). He trusted in the Lord, the God of Israel, so that there was none like him among all the kings of Judah after him, nor among those who were before him. For he held fast to the Lord. ..” 2 Kings 18:3-6

These are the kinds of men we need today. It’s why the church has to stop turning men into idols and apply God’s moral standards to everyone, equally.

No pastor, no church leader, no theologian and no Christian is “too big to fail.” Now, what will we do about it?