A Fundamentalist Pastor Seeks To Convert A Gem State College Town Into His Own Private Theocracy.

Author:Simmons, Tracy

MOSCOW, Idaho -- For many local residents, this town is just about perfect.

Surrounded by the rolling Palouse hills, the city of 25,000 is home to the University of Idaho and trendy coffee shops and restaurants like One World Cafe, Bucers Coffeehouse Pub and the gastropub Tapped.

In 2018, Moscow, nicknamed "heart of the arts," was named by Livability as the best city in the U.S. to raise a family. It's a place where progressive residents and local entrepreneurs get along just fine, said Ryan Rounds, a resident and veteran and a former University of Idaho student.

"Moscow is an amazing city that tries to strike a balance between the 'hippie' population and the business/development-oriented population," he said.

The city also stands out for its residents' unusual take on God and politics.

Two-thirds of Idahoans identify as Christians, according to Pew Research Center, ands six in ten voted for Donald Trump in 2016.

In Moscow and the surrounding county, however, about half the population voted for Hillary Clinton in the last election. And while the city has plenty of churches, including four Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saint meetinghouses, only 30 percent of Moscow identifies as "religious," according to an analysis from Best Places.

One congregation is hoping that will change--an ambition that's been a source of tension for years.

Led by controversial pastor Douglas Wilson, Christ Church of Moscow has for years been planning a spiritual takeover of the town--transforming both its politics and its soul. Wilson is gentle and soft-spoken when not behind the pulpit but will go head-to-head with anyone in a debate.

And he does not mince words about his views on Moscow.

"Basically this is a blue dot in a very, very red state and the blue dotters are pleased," Wilson told Religion News Service (RNS) in an interview. "Our mission is 'All of Christ for all of life' and if you drill that down, then for all of Moscow. "

The church website explains the church's mission further.

"Our desire is to make Moscow a Christian town," it reads, " ... through genuine cultural engagement that provides Christian leadership in the arts, in business, in education, in politics, and in literature."

Not everyone in the community is on board with that plan, Wilson admits. He also told RNS the idea of a spiritual takeover of Moscow started with his father, James, who came to the area after retiring from the Navy to start a Christian bookstore at the nearby Washington State University campus. Jim Wilson is now in his 90s and is being cared for by Douglas Wilson and his wife, Nancy.

In his 1964 book, Principles of War: A Handbook on Strategic Evangelism, Jim Wilson explains that the concepts of physical warfare can be applied to strategic evangelism.

According to his dad's text, Douglas Wilson said, a takeover of Moscow...

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