(Second in a series.)
Do not forsake your own friend or your father’s friend. (Proverbs 27:10)
The archives documenting J. Oliver Buswell’s life and work are voluminous, but decentralized. The Wheaton Trustee’s Report cites only their own “Buswell Library” archives, but there are other archives with Buswell collections—particularly the Presbyterian Church in America’s St. Louis archives where Buswell holdings are substantial. President Ryken’s Historical Review Task Force sent a person to St. Louis to copy a large part of of the PCA’s Buswell collection, so it’s surprising Wheaton’s Task Force Report makes no acknowledgement of this.
Seeing no mention of their dependency on the PCA Buswell Archive, we wonder which documents in the PCA’s Buswell collection Wheaton’s researcher chose not to bring back and deposit in Wheaton’s own Buswell archive? But this leads to a fundamental question: Is there any reason to trust Wheaton’s president and trustees in what they have chosen to include and exclude from their Report?
Was the mandate Wheaton’s president and trustees gave to their Historical Review Task Force that they were to produce a fair and objective document summarizing the evidence they found? Or rather, did they inform one or two members of the Task Force—sotto voce, of course—that they intended to pronounce President Buswell a racist and it was their job to produce evidence justifying their future verdict?
The question is whether the Task Force produced a Report that is true, or one that is false? Specifically, has the Buswell history been objectively assembled and released, or have they produced a tendentious history which, at 122 pages, is seemingly thorough; and at 421 footnotes, seemingly scholarly?
This is a deeply Christian question we are asking. We know our own redeemed hearts remain deceitful, and so we cultivate our self-critical capacity (partly by being married). Near the beginning of our worship services each Lord’s Day morning, we are led in a prayer of confession, and during the week we confess our sins daily to God and our wives and children. We look for reasons not to trust ourselves. We ask questions of ourselves, certainly; but we ask questions particularly of those who attack the godly, accusing them of sins that are all the rage among worldlings today. Knowing the hatred of God leading the wicked toward a certain judgment, we see through their denunciations of our godly fathers as sexist, anti-Semitic, hateful homophobic, racists.
No. We know, love, and honor our godly fathers, so we defend them against the mob’s attacks. We remember all the mob attacks on Moses, whom Scripture declares “the most humble man on the face of the earth.” We remember Aaron and Miriam’s denunciation of Moses.1
Under the rule of law (as opposed to Saul Alinsky, BLM, CRT, and Cornel West’s rule of mob), the prosecutor must be careful to disclose information contrary to the charges against the accused. In its Justice Manual, the U.S. Department of Justice explains this requirement:
A prosecutor must disclose information that either casts a substantial doubt upon the accuracy of any evidence—including but not limited to witness testimony—the prosecutor intends to rely on to prove an element of any crime charged, or might have a significant bearing on the admissibility of prosecution evidence. This information must be disclosed regardless of whether it is likely to make the difference between conviction and acquittal of the defendant for a charged crime.
President Ryken and the Wheaton Trustees delegated the prosecutorial task to their Task Force of fifteen members and three research assistants, for a total of eighteen. Of those eighteen, ten are paid employees working at Wheaton and directly under Phil Ryken’s authority. Of the remaining eight, three are students at Wheaton and directly under Phil Ryken’s authority. These three are also under the authority of the five faculty members serving next to them on the Task Force.
President Ryken and the Wheaton Trustees are the jury. They have received 122 pages of evidence they paid employees to assemble. Based on that evidence, the president and trustees of Wheaton College have publicly pronounced their verdict. They have declared former Wheaton College President J. Oliver Buswell, Jr., guilty of segregationist racism.
With this pronouncement of their verdict, they have also pronounced their sentence: Posthumously, President Buswell is sentenced to public shaming as well as the removal of his name from the campus library and signage.
After days searching for evidence in favor of President Buswell’s character and convictions concerning race, our next article will bring forward one distinct category, Dr. Buswell’s sons. This line of evidence was excluded from the Task Force Report. There is no mention of the testimony of President Buswell’s biological and spiritual sons to their father’s innocence of their charge of racism. There are a couple quotes from Buswell the Son indicating his own opposition to segregation and racism, but no detailed engagement with his work opposing racism and its bearing on his father’s racial convictions and commitments.
So then, we will start with President J. Oliver Buswell’s biological son, James Oliver Buswell, III, who served as a professor of anthropology at Wheaton College for a few years beginning in the late fifties—fifteen years after his father’s tenure as Wheaton’s president. We will disclose significant portions of Buswell the Son’s writings against racism, demonstrating how the Task Force failed to disclose that, if they were correct and Buswell the Father was a segregationist racist, his son James Oliver Buswell, III, bore not the slightest resemblance to his father.
It is one sign of the untrusworthiness of the Task Force’s Report that they did not state this fact.
(Second in a series.)