The crusaders versus the infidels: Moscow’s muscular Christianity

Has “Trinitarian Skylarking” turned into godly gang warfare?

By Nick Gier
Reader Columnist

After learning that New St. Andrews College now has permission to take over more of downtown Moscow, I thought I would check out its website. I had not done so since 2010, and I was in for a surprise.

Instead of pictures of macho guys (and only a few women) wanting to rumble, I found no machismo and almost double the number of young women. Has there been a change in the culture of the college? I don’t think so.

In 2010 the headline is “Yo, Secularism, Why Don’t We Step into the Alley?” The page describes the NSA faculty as “not timid in a rumble,” and they want to make the students “dangerous” so that they can “throw the lies of this age up against the wall, lifting wallets and the occasional gift card.” It ends with “an invitation to a brawl.” See for yourself at

After the initial shock receded, my first thought was “How can they possibly recruit young women with this raw machismo”? Out of seven images only one includes female students.

Silly me, I forgot that some females might want to go to a college where they can meet “real” Christian men to whom they can be properly submissive. These evangelical brawlers would defend their honor in an alley or anywhere for that matter.

NSA men, however, would not defend their ladies’ right to vote. According to NSA’s founder, Douglas Wilson, misguided women might decide to cancel out their husband’s wise choices in church and political matters. Wilson also believes that only propertied males should vote.

The phrase “muscular Christianity” came out of the Victorian Age, where Charles Kingsley and Thomas Hughes encouraged young men to combine Christian ideals with physical conditioning. Thanks to muscular Christianity, I built up some pretty nice biceps at the local gym of the Young Men’s Christian Association, but I still ended up with the Unitarians, who of course cannot fight their way out of a wet paper bag.

I would like to propose that the New St. Andrew’s thespians do an adaptation of West Side Story. Instead of the white working-class Jets and the Puerto Rican Sharks, the gangs should be renamed the Crusaders and the Infidels.

I foresee two snags in this version of the play. Although the killing of Maria’s brother by the Jet’s Tony could go ahead, the love story between Christian Tony and non-Christian Maria would be a real stretch. NSA men must get the permission from a potential date’s father (or from Wilson in loco parentis), and Maria would have to convert.

Even more problematic is the fact that there can be no truce between the gangs at the end. For Wilson and other conservative evangelicals, there will be bitter warfare until Christ comes to smite the infidels.

In 1964 Douglas’ father, Jim Wilson, wrote a small book entitled “Principles of War: A Handbook on Strategic Evangelism.” In an interview I told Wilson Pere that I thought that upraised sword on the front cover of the book was rather provocative, but he just shrugged his shoulders and said that it was only a symbol. A very dangerous symbol, I was tempted to add.

Wilson assured me that this was spiritual, not physical warfare, but being thrown up against a wall sounds pretty physical to me.

Has Douglas Wilson’s “Trinitarian skylarking” now turned into godly gang warfare? An example of the former is an outrageous April Fool’s stunt. In 1999 NSA students stole University of Idaho letterhead and used the English department’s FAX line to announce a feminist scholar who would lecture topless. Wilson later admitted encouraging his students to do the deed.

As a “post-millennialist” Wilson believes that there will a 1,000-year Christian theocracy with strict enforcement of biblical law until Christ deigns to appear. I might prefer to get it over with more quickly in the “pre-millennial” Rapture. I’ll paraphrase John Milton’s Satan: I would rather fry in the Rapture and take my chances in Hell than serve oppressive Christian masters.

During the time that Wilson was taking my philosophy courses in the UI Administration Building, a saying appeared in the third floor men’s restroom. It read: “A long war is a small price to pay for eternal peace.”

One might ask: What kind of peace is this when everyone who has not converted to your religion has been killed? Now that would be the ultimate in Christian terrorism.

Nick Gier of Moscow taught religion and philosophy at the University of Idaho for 31 years. Read all about Pastor Wilson at

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