This November, Wilson’s month of antagonistic blog posts (usually printed later as anthologies sold for $6.95) did not evoke his anticipated fear and trembling. For Wilson watchers and critics, some days online it felt like Wilson’s annual firestorm might have finally reached a critical mass of outside observers—and threatened to consume him instead.
Midmonth, two skirmishes on X (formerly Twitter, and a place where many Christians still gather) sidetracked Wilson. First, Christian writer Karen Swallow Prior found herself in a discussion about the supposedly misleading nature of empathy—a concern of Wilson and his theological kin, such as Joe Rigney, now a fellow at New Saint Andrews (a small college in Moscow that was founded by Wilson in 1994). The conversation turned to the danger of using empathy to evaluate abuse claims. To Prior, Rigney cited a 2023 NQN post by Wilson about “untethered empathy,” in which Wilson told the story of a hypothetical 12-year-old girl claiming to have been raped by her stepfather. In Wilson’s made-up example, the accusation is false, but unquestioning empathy would allow the girl to “do whatever she wants to anyone else, including the baby. Chop it up into little pieces.” The danger of “untethered empathy,” to Rigney and Wilson, is a loss of objectivity, where a victim can require all your allegiance, can become “like God.” This, they say, is a sin.
Prior, who is herself antiabortion (but supports increasing access to child care and offering material assistance to pregnant women, and is an advocate for victims of abuse), responded to the fictional example with a video she’d recently received. Since Rigney had pointed to Wilson’s writing on a hypothetical false rape accusation, “I took the opportunity to ask him what he thought about this true story in this video,” Prior told me.
The video featured Emilie Paige Dye, a 2015 alumna of Logos, the K–12 school Wilson co-founded in Moscow. Dye describes being groomed through attention and inappropriate touching by a Logos teacher, then an elder at Wilson’s Christ Church. Dye has written about how naïve she was at the time: “Because I believed everything purity culture taught me, I knew basically nothing about sex. I hadn’t even googled my questions about my body, fearing that I would stumble on porn and instantly damn myself to hell.”
A school secretary was concerned by the teacher’s behavior with Dye, and in 2014 reported it to school leaders, who, Dye notes, did not escalate the situation to the police at the time. Administrators did see fit to dismiss the teacher from Logos in 2015, but, Dye said, the teacher’s behavior escalated, even as Dye moved away for college. She eventually left the church and cut off contact with the teacher.
Sarah Stankorb | “That Moscow Mood: How Much Culture War Is Too Much?” | December 2, 2023
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