Well into the latter years of his ministry, A. Edwin Wilson taught that blacks were cursed, a survey of recorded sermons shows. As late as 1977, while pastoring at Daytona Heights Baptist Church in Chattanooga, Tennessee, Wilson derided the civil rights movement as a work of Satan. He claimed God cursed blacks on account of “perversion,” not color, and he maintained equality with whites was impossible, as the curse would be valid until the beginning of the millennial age.
Wilson, who died in 1987, originated a distinct teaching called “Word of the Kingdom,” a teaching which persists today through the efforts of Arlen L. Chitwood, a published writer and conference speaker who adapted much of Wilson’s theology to his own. Wilson’s racial theories, however, are not so well known.
Out of perversion, a curse
Wilson advocated the “Hamitic curse,” a race theory drawn from interpretations of Genesis 9 (see Wikipedia). He did not invent this doctrine, but adapted it to his own theological system. In his sermons and published writings, he maintained that God planned to curse blacks from time immemorial; that the sin of Ham, recorded in Genesis 9, simply gave occasion for the pronouncement of the curse. Wilson also connected the curse to inherent qualities in blacks, which he reckoned as sexual perversion.
“Study the history of the black race and you find one of their grosser sins in the perversion of the flesh,” he said in a sermon in 1973. “I mention that because the world is filled with commentators who would curse God and Noah for pronouncing such a curse on Canaan for so slight an act as glancing on the uncovered body of his father. Far more than that was involved.”[1. Recorded sermon, April 18, 1973.]
The text he referenced is the narrative account of the drunkenness of Noah, which resulted in one of Noah’s sons shaming him. Genesis 9:22 states, “And Ham, the father of Canaan, saw the nakedness of his father, and told his two brethren without.” The narrative continues, noting that when Noah awoke, he “knew what had happened to him.” Consequently, the patriarch cursed Ham’s son Canaan. Some theologians, however, maintain that Ham did much worse. Wilson entertained two of these theories:
Commentators both among the Jewish rabbis and the evangelical students of the Word of God are divided in their speculation, and I use speculation advisedly because we don’t know exactly. There is one or two things we do know: Noah had no more children. So that there is one camp of interpreters who have come to the conclusion that Ham, the black one of the family, because of an intense hatred, because of his black condition, emasculated his father so that there would be no more blacks born like him. There are others who believe the sin perpetrated upon the person of Noah was the sin which made Sodom and Gomorra so infamous in the sight of the Lord.
But one thing cannot but impress you: Verse 24 — Noah awoke from his wine, and knew, as soon as he sobered up, he knew, more than likely from physical pain[2. One would think.], he knew what his younger son had done to him. Why the younger son? His younger son was black. His younger son possessed characteristics rendering him capable of deeds and acts of which the other two were incapable. [3. ibid.]
That Ham was black accords with ancient race theories, discredited in modern times, that three distinct races were begotten by Noah: Caucasian (white), Mongoloid (yellow) and Negroid (black). Quite literally, from one marital union, Noah begat ethnically diverse sons. Such is drawn inferentially from Genesis 9:19 which states, “of them was the whole earth overspread.”
That Ham possessed qualities “rendering him capable of deeds and acts which the other two were incapable” is invention. Certainly, Ham had little compunction about viewing his father’s nakedness and reporting it, but that he despised his purported blackness is fictive in the extreme, born from an astonishing ignorance of history, culture and race.
No merely man’s words
Wilson believed Noah’s curse was a prophecy of God. In a 1977 sermon, he declared, “The words uttered by Noah are the words of God. Now, the sin perpetrated by Ham was not the cause of the prophecies. They were the occasion of the prophecy, but not the cause of it. Those words of this prophecy would have been uttered whether Ham sinned or not. But Ham’s sin gave occasion to it, but did not cause it.”
To intermingle the races, Wilson taught, would be to disrupt the order of the universe, for God had declared that they should be segregated. Citing several passages in the scriptures, Wilson concluded that unless the races remained separated the gospel could not be spread freely. On this count, he chastised ministers who wanted “to curse Shem [the Jews] whom God has blessed” and “to bless Canaan [the blacks] whom God has cursed.”[3. Selected Writings of A. Edwin Wilson.]
Wilson argued God separated the races at Babel (cf. Gen. 11) for a purpose, so that people “might seek after the Lord and come to know him and be saved.”[4. Recorded sermon, May 2, 1973.] He added that “the sons of Ham, the sons of Shem, the sons of Japeth, have all been divided into different races and languages and families,” and that God “took the sons of Ham, of whom are the servile nations and he scattered them across the southern part of the earth, from the equator on.”
Segregation and degradation
Wilson insisted that servitude was the proper condition for blacks. “An historical documented fact is evident. You can mark this down. You can do research work on it, all you want to. It is an established fact that every descendent of Ham … has been or is in a state of servitude. The curse pronounced upon Ham was a curse of servitude. Not color. A servant. He’s to be a servant. That’s given rise to an expression that’s used among theologians, they talk about servile nations. God has given certain nations of the world to be servants of other nations.”
What level of research Wilson conducted on the subject is unknown, but on several occasions he demonstrated a total want of knowledge regarding the history of slavery or black culture. Several times he stated that blacks were the most vicious slave traders, but this ignores entirely the horrors of the Middle Passage, the terror of slave-breaking, and the violation of slave women, raped en mass by white slave holders and overseers. It is true, however, that some African tribes participated in the slave trade.
His comments regarding black office holders betrays a profoundly racist sentiment:
“The spirit of the Lord says there are three things that tear up the relationships in the world today, and for four which it cannot bear. Number one, for a servant when he reigneth. That’s all I’m going to read tonight. One thing the earth cannot stand, one thing that disquiets the whole order of things is to take a servant or slave and put him in a position of power and authority. And if you want a commentary on that just make a study of the cities of the United States that have had servants for mayors. That’s all you have to do. That’s the word of God. That’s the word of God.” [5. Recorded sermon, June 5, 1977.]
Wilson boldly asserted that segregation was justified even in the church. His proof, however, was not strictly drawn from the scriptures:
“Generally speaking, around the world, what’s the hour and the day that manifests the strongest evidential segregation? It’s on Sunday, and what time? Eleven o’clock. That’s particularly true in what area of the world? … Bible Belt? What is the capitol of the Bible Belt? … Chattanooga is the capitol of the Bible Belt, you know it is. What other city in the world has Bible taughting (sic.) schools like this city? No place but the Bible Belt that have it. Now why is the eleven o’clock hour in Chattanooga the most segregated time and place in the world? There is a reason for it. Because in a majority of the pulpits you’ll still find the word of God.”[9. Recorded sermon, April 18, 1973.]
The ministry of A. Edwin Wilson in the 21st century
Wilson’s sermons and writings remain in circulation today. His sermons are hosted at two sites registered to Pastor Jim Brooks: http://calvarybiblechurchtn.org and http://thedisciplescall.org. Wilson’s sermons are also hosted at http://hopeofglory.net, which is registered to Daniel Shannon, a Baptist pastor in Alaska.
(Brooks, incidentally, is scheduled to speak at the 2010 Word of the Kingdom Conference. Also scheduled are Chitwood and the man who succeeded Wilson at Daytona Heights Baptist Church, Royce Powell. All three are connected in some way to Wilson’s strident segregationist views, which is noteworthy as two other speakers are of African descent. The conference is hosted by Cornerstone Christian Fellowship in Jacksonville, Florida — see link.)
Pastor John White, now deceased, maintained Wilson’s tape ministry. He lauded Wilson, explaining, “He taught things from the Word of God that I had never heard before, and therefore was challenged to check him out. I found out that what he taught about the mysteries of the Kingdom of Heavens could not be refuted without twisting the meaning of words and being inconsistent in interpretations.”[6. See http://www.gbcne.org/abouthost.html.]
Chitwood, who edited and published Wilson’s writings in 1981, wrote in the introduction to the collection, “The articles in this periodical covered a broad range of Biblical subjects and came from the pen of an individual who, through many years of prayer, study, and meditation upon the Scriptures, was pre-eminently qualified to write on these subjects.”
Continue reading Wilson: Sin of blacks found in the “perversion of the flesh”