Photograph by J.R. Eyerman—Time & Life Pictures/Getty Images
Something Natalie posted on Twitter early this month has stuck in my craw and I can’t stop thinking about it.
This statement came from a Head of Households meeting where Wilson, during the middle of an internal investigation, preached his side of the story to his congregation. What bugs me about this is that it relies on numbers, followers, page views to determine truth. Those of us in the Reformed tradition (Which Wilson mistakenly counts himself a member of) have rarely had popular consensus on our side. It wasn’t the case in Luther’s time and it certainly isn’t now.
If you want to argue that Natalie has no audience for her story and that it means her claims are either illegitimate or ignorable, then you are essentially arguing that “might makes right”, that quantity determines legitimacy, and that determines truth. This is typical of the heavy handed, macho, faux-masculinity we’ve seen from Wilson’s teaching before. But how does it stack up?
If “might makes right”, if audience determines legitimacy then lets do some simple math:
Doug Wilson essentially has 23,000 followers and Natalie has roughly 500. This proves it right? Natalie has 2.17% of the followers that Wilson has, a fraction of his audience! Wilson says that because of this she has no voice, she’s not worth listening to. Her story is insignificant next to such a man as himself who commands such a powerful following.
Well, this works both ways. First lets compare Wilson to another pastor who has been completely disgraced and is unfit for the ministry:
The math here isn’t as bad, Wilson here has “only” 21.3% of the followers that Tullian Tchivjian has and 1/5th is certainly better than 1/50th. Still, a bit embarrassing that our pastor with the theology that bites back has less than a quarter of the followers of a divorced adulterer who has only been able to remain in the ministry due to his family name.
Now lets bring out the big guns:
Joel Osteen, the poster boy for toothless theology with perfect teeth. Preaching a self-help Christianity that’s more Oprah than Owen. This comparison is, well, it comes out bad for Wilson. He ends up having 0.54% of the followers that Osteen does. According to Wilson’s own logic, Wilson has no audience. He is not worth listening to, he has no legitimacy.
This line of argument is of course, nonsense. Popular consensus and the majority rule have never been the absolute standards for righteousness. Having a large congregation for a small town in Idaho, a vanity press that will print your books of questionable authorship and a controversial blog does not give you any more moral legitimacy than those who elected to raise a golden calf, or those who protested to free Barabbas. You cannot squelch the still, small voices of those speaking truth to injustice with sheer numbers, especially when your attempts to do so reveal what little power you actually hold.