Doug Wilson pastors Christ Church in Moscow, ID, and is the author of over 100 books.
According to Doug, Christians have much to learn from our enemies. Hence, Mark asks Doug about his book Rules for Reformers which is a reformational counter point to Saul Alinsky’s Rules for Radicals.
Doug makes the distinction between reformation and revolution and explains how the principles of war can be applied to the culture war.
Some of the questions that will be answered are:
What can Christians learn from a radical community organizer like Saul Alinsky?
What is the difference between principles and methods, and why is the distinction important?
Why is education important in the culture wars?
What is “smash mouth” incrementalism?
Is the pro-life movement a failure and are pro-life bills that fail to outlaw abortion evil?
Do current abortion abolition bills require a state to secede from the union if passed?
Doug Wilson demonstrates how we can have differences in tactics and be respectful. This episode provides some good principles on how to disagree without being disagreeable.
Please watch, listen, and share!
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Mark Harrington (00:01):
What can Christians learn from men like Solinsky and what’s Smash Mouth incrementalism? You’re listening to Activist Radio on the Mark Harrington show, the Mark Harrington show brought to you by Created Equal and you can donate to our ministry by going to created equal.org. Well, today on the program I have as my guest pastor Doug Wilson, and Pastor Doug is here to talk about this book right here, which I have finished reading, which is called Rules for Reformers. Doug is the pastor of Christ Church in Moscow, Idaho. He’s also the author of a hundred or so books. Doug, thanks for being on the program today.
Doug Wilson (00:54):
Great to be with you. Thanks for the invite.
Mark Harrington (00:57):
Well, Doug, I’ve been in the pro-life movement for many years, and I’ve heard your name mentioned here and there, but I had never really gotten an opportunity to read your book, and I finally did, and it was published in 2014. So I’m a little bit behind the times here, but it’s certainly still very relevant to what we’re seeing today. What I’d like to do, I’m going to take the first half of the program to talk about the book. What was the point, what’s the purpose of the book? And I want to talk about one of the things that we’ve been discussing within our movement, and that is the issue of politics and public policy and what’s the best way forward to bring about protections for the unborn. So let’s get started. Let me ask you this. The book was, and I’m going to probably not do a really good job of characterizing it, but you basically take the lessons of the enemy, in particular the positions of Saul Alinsky in his book, rules for Radicals, which I have read and is in my library here, and you more or less give a reformation counterpoint to it.
I think a lot of people have tried to adapt the rules for radicals rules to Christianity. I think you do a really good job here to take what we could glean from his book Rules for Radicals and kind of give the counterpoint to it. So if you would, what can we learn from guys like Saul Alinsky?
Doug Wilson (02:33):
I think there’s some clear and obvious areas where Christians and someone, a radical secularist like Alinsky cannot share. He can do things because the left, because progressives can fight dirty. We’re not allowed to fight dirty. We have to fight like Christians. But there are other places where his intelligence and his canniness enabled him, and I even hesitate to use the word common grace, but it enables him to see things about the way the world works that Christians ought to learn from one of his principles. One of his rules for radicals is you should use tactics that your people enjoy. People enjoy, well, there’s nothing sinful about that, right? We don’t want to say, well, the Godly approach is to use tactics that discourage your people. So basically it’s like an overlapping Venn diagram. There are things that are off the table for us because we’re Christians, there are things that we can do that like pray and tithe that he would not be able to do.
That would be off the table for him. But there are areas of commonality where we can do what he suggests. There’s some areas where I think he sees more clearly the way God made the world than some Christians have concluded in the grip of certain istic traditions. So one of his tactics is to personalize the target, freeze the target, personalize it, make it personal. And we sometimes hesitate to do that because we want to hate the sin, love the sinner, and we don’t understand that Oftentimes there are places where you have to confront the person who is embodying the sin. There’s a person who’s carrying the ball for the other team. You have to tackle that guy. You can’t tackle an abstract running back.
Mark Harrington (04:45):
Well, one of the things I also like about the book is you talk about the difference between a reformation and revolution. I think that’s really important. We should be men and women of reformation, not revolution.
Doug Wilson (05:00):
Right? The historian Christopher Dawson said that the Christian Church lives in the light of eternity and can afford to be patient. The revolutionary, the radical wants to burn it down and they’re not interested in the rebuild so much reformers, Christians care about changing the world for the good, but they don’t have faith in chaos. Have faith in burning it down. The revolutionary believes that we just burn it down. Then somehow mysteriously a new order will spring up out of the ashes. That’s a fundamental belief in chaos. Well, we’re Christians. We believe in our father, we trust in our Father, and he tells us that the yeast is supposed to work through the loaf slowly. He tells us the kingdom of God is like a mustard seed that grows up slowly. The water that fills the earth as the ocean is as full of water. So the earth will be as full of the knowledge of the word that happens slowly. So we are to be deliberate and methodical and anticipating what we’re going to be discussing later incremental in our approach.
Mark Harrington (06:18):
Well, here at Created Equal, we are committed to the long view. I’ve been at this for almost 20 years, and we teach people our young people that we didn’t get here overnight. It’s not going to change overnight, although we can pray for radical change to take place. We know historically change takes time, generally speaking, and we don’t want to employ the tactics of the enemy in order to find some kind of cheap solution because those solutions generally don’t last very long. Amen. So Doug, in the book you talk about the difference between principles and methods. What is the distinction and why is that important?
Doug Wilson (07:04):
Principles are permanent. They’re timeless. Methods change from generation to generation. So 3000 years ago, a battle would be fought with bows and arrows and spears and chariots, and those are methods. And we don’t fight battles with bows and arrows, spears or chariots anymore. We use automatic weapons and tanks and metal ships and so forth. So our methods are completely different. Principles are things like mobility or surprise or concentration of force. So a general fighting 3000 years ago is going to want to surprise the enemy. The winning army is likely to be the one that surprises the losing army is likely to be the one that is surprised. That’s a principles, that’s a principle of war, and it’s identical to what a winning general would want to employ today. So principles are constant and the temptation is to rely. If you’ve got a brand new fancy super duper weapon, the temptation is to rely on that weapon and neglect the principle.
So that’s why, for example, the United States and Vietnam was able to fight for many, many years using the highest tech weapons available. But because we ignored principles of war, we just relied on our methods. And so one of the principles of war is communication. You want to cut the supply line of the enemy. Well, in Vietnam, the supply line ran through Laos. So for political reasons, we didn’t cut supply line of the enemy and we suffered for it. So if you neglect principles, you’re going to lose. And if you rely on methods you’re going to lose. And so that’s why Christians have to realize the internet is a method.
Mark Harrington (09:13):
Doug Wilson (09:14):
Right. The internet is a method. It used to be maybe a generation ago where you had poster board and demonstrations outside a particular location and you wanted cameras and newspapermen there. Well, newspapers are a method, so you don’t want to be like the generals that are fighting the previous war.
Mark Harrington (09:40):
My guest is Pastor Doug Wilson and he pastors at Christ Church in Moscow, Idaho. I’ve actually been there, pastor. We conducted some outreach there at the University. Washington State University, right? No, Idaho. That’s across the border. Yeah, we went to University of Idaho.
Doug Wilson (10:01):
Mark Harrington (10:02):
University of Idaho. Okay. Anyway, so yes, I have been there and actually conducted outreach on that university. It’s been many, many years ago. But we appreciate Doug being on the program. And folks, you can pick up the book Rules for Reformers by going to Doug’s blog. And if you would, Mr. Producer, pop that up there, you can pick this book up. And if you are a pro-life activist and you have not read this book, you need to read this book because he takes some of the lessons of the enemy, which in this case is salinsky. And I guess redeems ’em in a way gives the counterpoint for reformation for the Christian. And I think it’s very instructive. Also, some of the rules of war are also used in the culture war, which is what we find ourselves in today. Doug, let me ask you. I mean, we’re now whatever, 40 years into the official culture war, if you want to call it that.
And on many fronts it looks kind of grim. I would even submit that at least at current, we are losing the culture. War doesn’t mean we’ve lost, but things are not heading in our direction for the most part except maybe one little bright spot. And that is the pro-life movement, which is kind of maintained a status quo over these years. Everything else seems to be going lightspeed over the cliff. What do you account that to The fact that we’ve been able to maintain kind of a presence at least, and we haven’t lost that battle entirely yet. Right.
Doug Wilson (11:39):
I would point to a number of things. I think one of the credit where credit’s due when Roe v Wade came down, it was touch and go whether evangelicals were going to break pro-life. There were a lot of evangelicals who had not thought through the issue in detail. And I would give Francis Schaeffer and c Everett Coop credit, absolutely credit for educating the evangelical church and getting a pro-life set of assumptions into our DNA and into our bones. So even when someone is a temporize or if they’re evangelical is going squishy on abortion, they have to pay lip service to the pro-life. Cause it goes without saying that evangelicals are pro-life and that wasn’t always the case. So that would be the historical reason. One of the reasons why I think we’re not losing in the same way in the pro-life front is the invention of the development of ultrasound technology. I think that that technology brought home in a very vivid way, the humanity of the unborn children that we’ve been maintaining all along. In the early days of the pro-life movement, the only place where you could see the humanity of the unborn child was in grotesque surgery photos, bloody children who’ve been killed by abortion, which is what we
Mark Harrington (13:17):
Still use on the street. By the way, we still use those on college campuses even today.
Doug Wilson (13:23):
And I have no objection to that, but I would like a one-two punch, basically a one-two punch. This is what you’re doing, this is what you’re doing. And on the other hand, this is the kind of person you’re doing it to before you did it. So a picture, an ultrasound picture of a healthy, happy, contented child juxtaposed with the photos we’ve always had, I think has been one of the reasons why the pro-life movement has been maintained. Also, I
Mark Harrington (13:59):
Don’t agree before. We’re going to run out of time really fast here, Doug, so we got to keep moving. But let me jump to the, I told you before the program that I watched or listened to a debate that you had with an abolitionist who is by the name of Scott Herdman. I know Scott and Scott’s a good guy, and you guys basically discussed the differences between what is being considered as abolition on the anti-abortion front and incrementalism. You subscribe to something, and I like the term smash mouth incrementalism. If you would, can you describe what that means?
Doug Wilson (14:37):
Sure. This is another instance of learning from the left, learning from the progressives here in Idaho. When the environmentalists, let’s say, come and they ask for a million acres to be set aside as wilderness area, everybody involved in it knows that next year if we give them what they want, we all know that next year they’re going to be back asking for 3 million acres. We know that giving them what they’re demanding right now is not going to put this issue to bed. The left has successfully been doggedly committed to their form of incrementalism, and they’ve used it very effectively. The problem that the abolitionists are pointing to, and it can be a very real problem, is that incrementalism and the pro-life cause can sometimes get people to forget what we’re in the fight to do. So if I say smash mouth incrementalism, what’s the smash mouth part? Well, that means that we’re not going to rest. We’re not going to be done. The mission will not be accomplished until human abortion is outlawed, period. Rape, incest,
Mark Harrington (15:52):
Which opposition here created equal has been forever. We’re for the end both. I mean, we’re working towards the ultimate end to abortion, the abolition of abortion. But on the way there, we’ll take what we can get on the way to ending it all together. Another thing I liked in the debate that I mentioned prior is that you said one way to handle this is for the governors to sign a statement saying this bill, whatever it is, you can name it a 20 week ban, a down syndrome ban, whatever
Doug Wilson (16:24):
Mark Harrington (16:25):
That they would sign a statement saying, this isn’t far enough. We want to go here. And that allows the principal to stay out in front of people. I like that idea.
Doug Wilson (16:38):
So what you don’t ever want to do, as someone that I was debating with one time about this, he said, you never want to settle for a solution that says, and then it’s all right to kill the baby. So if pro-lifers settle for that and allow themselves to be maneuvered into a position of saying, and then it’s all right to kill the baby, you’ve been outmaneuvered. But I would say that the abolitionists are incrementalists also. They’re just geographical incrementalists as opposed to time in the womb incrementalists, if they want to outlaw abortion in Oklahoma, for example, or in Idaho, why one state? Why are you incrementally? Well,
Mark Harrington (17:25):
The reason is they can’t get it done on the federal level, and that’s what we believe. We don’t think we can get it done on the federal level working at the state level. I mean, it’s completely a pragmatic decision
Doug Wilson (17:36):
Completely. It’s a matter of strategy and tactics. So you can’t say, because we’re finite, because any place where we engage the enemy is going to be a finite point that mean, and we can’t win every, all at once. That means that everybody involved in this is an incrementalist. So I would say there are incrementalists who have not forgotten what the point of the war is about, and there are incrementalists who have,
Mark Harrington (18:03):
Right, and that’s true of the pro-life movement. I think there are people that have lost sight of what we’re here to do. It’s become something else to them. It’s always been about abolishing abortion to me from the beginning. Our organization here has stood for that and continues to, we’re not all that political to begin with, but we will support measures that get us in the direction of finally ending it together. Doug, if you would, I wanted to take you down the road of the possibility of one of these abolition bills, if you will, the anti-abortion, abolition bills actually being signed into law. One of the things I thought was interesting in your conversation with Scott Hernan is you tried to get them or him to answer the question, what happens next? Because when a governor signs a bill of abolition, he also, according to the abolition bill itself, he has to defy the federal government and the ruling of Roe versus Wade. And I don’t think they’ve, in my opinion, have thought through that fully and what that might implicate.
Doug Wilson (19:08):
And Jesus tells you, when you’re about to go to war, count your troops. Do I have the resources to complete this fight that I’m picking? Do I even know what fight I’m picking? And I think that some people, they just think it’s going to be a grand gesture. They think that they’re going to be able to have a pro-life state the same way that states can legalize marijuana, or the same way that cities can make their city a sanctuary city for undocumented illegals. No, no, because abortion is our adversary’s blood sacrament agreed. They will let the marijuana thing go. They will let the illegal alien thing go because in fact, they want that, but they don’t want any kind of true sanctuary for the unborn. So consequently, the troops would be sent in right now. And that’s not an argument for flinching. That’s just an argument I think of Oscar Wild. It’s reality. It’s reality. Oscar Wild said, A gentleman is someone who never insults someone else accidentally.
If a state starts a war with the federal government, it ought not to be something they back into or blunder into. So let’s say, and I don’t want to sound too radical or too much of my hair on fire, let’s say there were a state somewhere that seceded from the union over the pro-life issue, and let’s say it came to fighting, let’s say it came to that was the issue of secession. We don’t want babies to be killed. I think that that would be a worthy thing for the governor and the people of that state to do. I would cheer them on and quite likely be there with them. I don’t think that’s a bad thing to do. I do think it’s a bad thing to do accidentally.
Mark Harrington (21:13):
Yeah. And so why do you think, I mean, you used the word secession. That’s what the pro-abortion advocates use also to defeat these bills. Why does it really mean secession? Or does it just mean, well, the federal government might roll the tanks or they might pull funding or some kind of constitutional crisis because secession is a pretty strong word. I mean, it’s a bold move, obviously, to secede from the union.
Doug Wilson (21:39):
Yeah. So I would say basically, I use the word secession in my discussion with anti incrementalists or the abolitionists because I’m saying there are certain places you are not willing to go, certain things you’re not willing to do, so you’re not willing to sign a bill. Let’s say you’re the governor of the state. You’re not willing, I’m an abolitionist. I won’t sign this heartbeat bill. Okay? And I’d say, yeah, but you would sign the bill outlawing all human abortion, and if the bill fails, you remain politically connected with the state next door that allows abortion on demand up to birth. Why are you doing that? Because the abolitionist is trading on the purity of the rhetoric, and I’m simply pointing out, no, we’re all complicit in this mess. It really is a mess and we have to fight the fight from where we are
Mark Harrington (22:38):
Agreed. My guest again today is Pastor Doug Wilson, and you can go to his blog at Doug Wills, that’s one l.com and on there they’ll list all of his books. He’s written over 100 of them. This one Rules for Reformers. I just got done reading and I suggest you pick it up. If you are a pro-life activist and you are interested in tactics, how to best execute the pro-life strategy in America, then you need to pick up this book because I think it gives you some really practical things to be considering as to how we go forward in fighting this evil. Doug, we’ve got about a minute left, not a whole bunch of time, but if you would, real quickly, one of the things that I feel is unhelpful is to categorize the pro-life movement as the reason abortion remains legal, discounting the work that hundreds and thousands of pro-life activists Christians have done over the last 60 years or so. Obviously, abortion is still legal. We have failed. If you want to hold us to that accounting, which I think is true, but there are a lot of good pro-life people out there that continue to fight for the right reasons. I’m concerned that that throwing the baby out with the bathwater is unhelpful. And if you would, we don’t have a whole lot of like 30 seconds. What are your thoughts?
Doug Wilson (24:09):
Sure. Basically, I would want to flip it around. I believe that the pro-life in Europe, there is no pro-life movement to speak of. The thing that pro-lifers have done in this country is they’ve kept the issue alive, they’ve kept the issue alive. And the thing that people don’t recognize is that we’ve been in existence long enough, have millions of people show up in Washington every year to march, and we’ve existed long enough for the pro-life movement to develop a hard right wing, the
Mark Harrington (24:40):
Abolitionist, which is necessary. And I agree with you. Again, my guest has been Doug Wilson, and you can pick up his book Rules for Reformers or any one of his 100 books that he’s authored by going to doug wills.com. That’s one l doug wills.com. We’ll see you next time. God bless you. God bless America, and remember America to bless God.
Speaker 3 (25:03):
You’ve been listening to Mark Harrington, your radio activist. For more information on how to make a difference for the cause of life, liberty and justice, go to created equal.org.org. To follow mark, go to Mark Harrington show.com. Be sure to tune in next time for your marching orders in the culture war.