Douglas Wilson’s new book “Rules for Reformers” is so far the best written book that I have read by him. Conservatives are going to love it for what it says, and they are not going to like it for what it means. Liberals are just not going to like it. But that is to be expected because I have found that most of Dems don’t like any of their truth to get chiseled into stone because they are very nervous about the society for the preservation of rocks taking away their nods of affirmation. What sets Wilson apart from other conservative political blowhards like Hannity or O’Reily though, is that he is an agitator but not in the way Fox News agitates which is more like the two old geezers in the Muppet’s. They may look down on the whole show but you also know they are really a part of it.
This book does have a sense of humor which follows because so does Wilson. The humor may sneak up on you and it may make you squirm more than it will make you throw your head back but that is more the intended effect. This book is not gluten free, there is a ton of gluten all in it and it’s going to stick to the roof of your mouth.
The most helpful things in this book are the rules for Reformers themselves and how they descend from the ten principles of war. These rules and the principles behind them take a good deal of unpacking because they are totalizing but not generalizing, which I have found most Christians avoid the former and stick to the latter because keeping things general (especially when it comes to sin/repentance) generally means very little will stick. Wilson’s explanation of the use of deception in warfare and how it applies to our culture wars is a great feat of juggling, and I don’t say this to be negative. These are hard subjects that carry a lot of tension. The way he handles this is not like a clown with three nerf balls in the air. He’s more like a guy with three chainsaws in the air and one of the saws is about to throw a chain.
There are many quotable gems in the book including a fun chapter that appears to be nothing more than a tweet dump. Which may seem like some content recycling in order to add some heft, but in the context of the book it makes sense. This book is about cultural engagement and Wilson lines up his ammunition accordingly. Lines like “in one sense heaven and hell are have the same definition. They are both places where you become what you have been becoming” let you know that Wilson is a wordsmith, and thinks carefully on what he is saying. This book is shrewd in it’s creation. It’s a steak with the right kind of salt ratio.
I don’t want to harp too much on what Wilson does not say, but I do want to point out that when it comes to using Alinsky’s Rule for Radicals (of which the book is mostly based on and a Christian answer to) he applies them well to the left but either does not mention or does not see how the right (especially Fox news) uses these Alinsky’s tactics all the time. I would assume that he does not mention them over not seeing them but the book is not to denounce Alinsky’s anit-christ like system of power grabbing so much as it is to deconstruct it and build a different kind after the materials from the first have been thrown in the refiners fire. The shiny stuff stays.
All in all this was an enjoyable read even if Wilson will employ words at times that I am not ashamed to admit that I occasionally have to google. His understanding of satire and humor are perhaps the most lacking in the conservative arsenal, not that they don’t laugh enough but that they don’t laugh at themselves enough. But that could probably go for all of us.