Source: The American Conservative
Here is a link to theologian Alastair Roberts’s compelling, lengthy, and thorough case for why the former Sequitur Classical Academy headmaster Thomas Achord, pictured above, is likely to be behind a vile racist, antisemitic, misogynist Twitter account, under the name “Tulius Aadland,” despite his denial. It starts like this:
Thomas Achord is the headmaster of a private classical Christian school, the co-author of the 2021 book Who is My Neighbor? An Anthology in Natural Relations, and is co-host of the Ars Politica podcast with Stephen Wolfe, the author of the recent book, The Case for Christian Nationalism. Ars Politica is devoted to Christian political thought and has been running for seventy episodes, and Achord’s public political project is focused on applying his understanding of the Christian political tradition to the present day.
Of what relevance is Achord? Achord came to my attention initially because of his association with Stephen Wolfe. I cannot know and do not claim to know to what degree if any Wolfe shares what I believe Achord’s views to be. I will here lay out what I believe to be the case about Achord’s views, based on publicly-available information. I do not make any claims about Wolfe’s own. Achord’s work is, in my view, representative of a small but troubling corner of the world that has been broadly called Christian nationalism, and one which I think it would be disastrous to see come to define the movement.
Just a few days ago, Wolfe recommended Who is My Neighbor? as a work by two of his friends. The Kinist IronInk blog describes Who is My Neighbor? as follows: ‘This book is nearly 700 pages long and it provides one quote after another culled from authors (both Christian and Pagan) from Ancient History to modern times, which demonstrate that the doctrines of Kinism have been what all men in all times and in all places have believed.’
More of its contents are laid out in this thread.
Based on my understanding of it, I am firmly opposed to Achord’s political project and to anything like it. This opposition is not coming from someone who is a ‘leftist’. I have been vocal in criticism of mass immigration policies (see this Theopolis conversation, for instance), advocating some views that would be highly objectionable to many. Indeed, Achord favourably quotes statements from me in his book. Nor am I an opponent in principle of Christian nationalism, a position advanced by some of the voices I most admire in political theology and of which, in some form, I myself might reasonably be classed as an advocate.
Rather, my concern is that there is either a stowaway hidden in a specific Christian nationalist project, or perhaps certain projects are functioning as Trojan horses. I fear that Achord is one example of that. I am aiming to bring that to light in hopes of staunching such influences, because I believe it to be a corruption of ideas which I think are very good and important indeed.
There is nothing that would do more to discredit and weaken any Christian nationalist, postliberal, or other similar project than for one of its advocates to be in fact using it as cover for segregationist or white nationalist views. There is nothing that would be more destructive to the movement than to allow it to be so coopted without opposition.
This is absolutely correct! Me, I don’t know about Wolfe’s book, other than it has been widely discussed among Protestants I follow. Like Roberts, I don’t have a problem in principle with “Christian nationalism,” depending on how you define it — that is, I don’t know that I would endorse Wolfe’s views. Maybe I would, I dunno. I haven’t read the book, and don’t take a position on a book I haven’t read.
But I first became aware of the Achord thing by reading Twitter a few days ago. It very much matters to me whether or not Thomas Achord is guilty of being behind the Tulius Aadland account. Why? Because my children all studied at Sequitur. My wife, until all this emerged and she resigned in disgust, taught there for six years. It’s a small Christian school that has been vital to the life of my family, and of Christian families I know and care about. Thomas Achord has been a (talented!) teacher there for years, and has for the past several served as its headmaster. If its headmaster was living a secret life online as a racist, antisemitic, misogynistic white nationalist, you’d better be sure that I’d want to know about it! Such a thing, if true, could bring shame and even destruction onto the school — and worse, given that Tulius said explicitly on his thread that he is heavily involved in Classical Christian Education, and wanted to use it as a Trojan horse to smuggle in white nationalism:
When I first read on Twitter the allegations that Achord was Tulius, I arranged for this information to get into the hands of the Sequitur board at once, with the message that they had better be aware of this and start looking into it, because it was blowing up. This came not from Alastair Roberts, but from me — and not because I believed that Achord was guilty, but because I didn’t want the board of a small school I cared about to be blindsided by a controversy emerging on Twitter about its headmaster. I figured they would look into it, and ask Achord about it. I don’t really know Achord — he is a very quiet, modest, friendly man; I can’t recall ever having had a conversation with him of more than a few words — but I certainly didn’t suspect that he would be behind this account. The only thing I knew about him, aside from his position, was that in the great 2016 flood in the Baton Rouge area, he went out in his boat to rescue people, until the local authorities made him and other private boaters stop. Cajun Navy stuff. It’s a good man who does that.
The next thing I knew, Achord had been let go by the school. And then I saw he wrote an essay on Medium making himself out to be a victim of someone who impersonated him on Twitter, as “Tulius Aadland,” resulting now in the persecution of him and his family. He positioned himself as having resigned to spare Sequitur grief, and strongly asserted his innocence. Personally, I wanted to believe that. Nobody who cares about Sequitur wants something like this to be true.
But it’s impossible to overlook this post on the Tulius Aadland account:
That photo was taken inside the Hope building of Istrouma Baptist Church, where Sequitur meets for classes. Notice the stylized cross above. That’s the Istrouma logo. Here’s a shot from the church’s website:
If we are to believe that Thomas Achord is not Tulius Aadland — an alias that, as Alastair demonstrates, is close to ones Achord has used in the past — then we must believe that this troll, in an effort to discredit him in 2022, sneaked into the Sequitur classroom building — this, despite the building having security — and snapped this photo, then posted it on a racist, sexist, misogynist Christian chad account, without drawing attention to the fact that it was taken inside the Sequitur building.
Really, do you believe that? I guess it could have happened, but it seems to me highly unlikely. It seems more reasonable to believe that Achord, as Tulius, never imagined that the Istrouma logo would give him away years later, when this very lightly followed Twitter account came to light abruptly and unexpectedly.
If Achord is Tulius — as seems completely reasonable to believe, given this, and given the dossier Alastair Roberts has compiled — then you’d better believe it matters, entirely apart from Achord’s association with Stephen Wolfe. It matters to me as a parent of kids who went to Sequitur, and as someone who cares very much for the school’s success. It matters as someone who doesn’t want the CCE movement infiltrated and used by racists for their evil goals. (Achord has written beautifully and well about CCE elsewhere.) This darkness needs to be brought to the light. Plus, Achord is a talented teacher and speaker whose work has presence beyond Sequitur, throughout the Classical Christian Education world. If Achord is Tulius Aadland, then he has no business having anything to do with teaching kids, running schools, or using his rising profile in the CCE movement to quietly mainstream white nationalism. If Sequitur’s board weren’t made aware of the controversy, then this innocent school could fall with its headmaster, and not see it coming. So too could the well-meaning institutions within the CCE world that involved Achord in their pedagogical work.
I sent the smoking gun tweet to Alastair Roberts, as I’d heard that he was working on a longer piece about Achord. By the time this happened, Achord had already been fired, and written his defense on Medium. I wanted Roberts to know that there was evidence, in this Tweet, that the Medium essay was untrue.
Roberts makes a case for why this matters regarding the Stephen Wolfe project. It’s a good one; I think he’s right. It’s completely fair to ask Wolfe to give an accounting for what he knew about Achord’s views, and to what extent he shares them. Why? Strictly speaking, his book speaks for itself, but it’s understandable that people may wonder where all this Christian nationalism, at least Wolfe’s version, is going. If it’s in the Achord direction, then that is towards the kind of racial consciousness that conservatives like me regularly deplore publicly when it comes from the Left. It is intolerable on the Right, and we have to say so, especially when people who believe these things hold positions of authority within our communities.
Once more: I have no opinion about the Wolfe book, because I haven’t read it. But it is not “guilt by association” to expect Wolfe to explain his relationship with Achord’s thought, given that they are partners on an ideas podcast. If Achord hadn’t involved himself with Stephen Wolfe, author of a popular book about Christian nationalism, to propagate religious and political thought via a podcast, his name never would have come up, his apparent secret online life would have remained a secret … and the board of Sequitur, as well as his colleagues, would never have known about it.
If he is Tulius Aadland, as seems clear from the evidence, then it is a very, very good thing that this darkness saw the light of truth and exposure. There is one man responsible for the destruction of Thomas Achord’s career and reputation, and it’s not Alastair Roberts. It is possible that Stephen Wolfe knew nothing of what seem to be Thomas Achord’s real beliefs about race, Judaism, and women — and if so, he has to make that clear, because Thomas Achord is his close professional associate in the battle for ideas.
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Alastair Roberts is the bringer of painful but vital and important facts to light. It is always a sign of weakness and cowardice to blame the messenger. Read the entire Roberts essay on Achord, and make your own mind up. All this evidence may or may not be sufficient to convict in a court of law, but there is no way that the board of directors of a Christian school could see all that and do anything other than dismiss Thomas Achord. And remember, they let him go days ago! I don’t know this for sure, but I suspect that when the board members saw the “smoking gun” tweet above, they instantly knew what people not intimately involved with the school would not: that the photo had been taken from inside the Sequitur classroom building. That’s probably why they didn’t believe his protestations of innocence. I know I wouldn’t have, and I don’t. But if he’s got a good explanation that puts him in the clear, well, let’s hear it. Impugning the motives of Achord’s critics is cheap and unworthy of the seriousness of this matter, both for Christian public witness, the integrity of the CCE movement, and the political future of our country.
If what Alastair Roberts reports is true — and I believe it is — then he and others who have worked to expose it have done a work of light. Achord, if he is truly Tulius, knows this — which is why he posted under a pseudonym. He had to have known that it was completely unacceptable to the kind of people he was seeking to influence. And if Wolfe’s particular form of Christian nationalism smuggles in racism and anti-Semitism, then those who are broadly supportive of the Christian nationalism project need to understand what’s really going on here. There is nothing Christian about racism. As St. Paul teaches, “Here there is no Gentile or Jew, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave or free, but Christ is all, and is in all.” (Colossians 3:11).
We should expect Roberts and others to be attacked by those who want to keep evil shrouded in darkness. All of us who worked to expose evil in the Catholic Church, regarding sexual abuse, know exactly how this works. If they can’t deny the substance of the thing, they are going to attack the supposed motives of those who expose evil.