(Fifth in a series.)
Evidence against Wheaton’s president and trustees’ denunciation of J. Oliver Buswell, Jr. for racist segregationism is found in the writing of Buswell’s sons.
Our last article documented one piece of that evidence in the form of the direct testimony of President Buswell’s son, James Oliver Buswell III, in his article published in Eternity magazine back in 1962. At the time, Buswell the Son was serving on the faculty of Wheaton College and what is noteworthy about his testimony is how directly he attacks any segregation of Blacks in educational institutions.
This specific segregation condemned by the son is the very thing Wheaton’s president and trustees claim his father believed and practiced. Buswell the Son began his 1962 condemnation of educational segregation:
in the Scriptures there is less basis for segregation than for slavery.
Beyond his own biological son, President Buswell had other spiritual sons. These men were Wheaton students under his presidency and witnessed his character and godliness firsthand. My father-in-law, Ken Taylor, was one such man. My father, Joe Bayly, was another.
My own father was under President Buswell while a student (with my mother, father-in-law, and mother-in-law) at Wheaton College. Finishing Wheaton, Dad went to get his MDiv at Faith Seminary—where Buswell was his theology professor.
Dad continued a close relationship with Dr. Buswell after graduating from Faith. While editing Inter-Varsity Christian Fellowship’s (IVCF) monthly His magazine, Dr. Buswell did an article Dad requested titled, “Why I Am a Christian.” At Dad’s request, Buswell also helped with other IVCF projects, including participating in a survey of theology profs on cultural issues. Dad’s personal relationhip with Dr. Buswell and his wife, Helen, continued up to, and following, Dr. Buswell’s death on February 4, 1977.
One month earlier, Dr. Buswell sent Dad this short note:
This note from Mrs. Buswell followed shortly afterward:
A few months later, Dad sent condolences to Mrs. Buswell upon the death of her husband:
These tender exchanges are indicative of the respect and affection Dad had for the Buswells. Why does it matter?
Various descendants of President Buswell have issued statements one way or the other concerning the denunciation of their grandfather (etc.) as a racist by President Phil Ryken and his Wheaton College trustees, but I am not writing as a friend of the family.
Rather, I write as the son of one of J. Oliver Buswell’s spiritual sons. I have no iron in the fire other than defending a godly servant my father honored and loved, from slander.
Living in Cambridge and worshipping at Boston’s Park Street Church, my parents were Inter-Varsity Christian Fellowship’s first staff workers for New England. In a few years, our family relocated to Philadelphia so Dad could take on the supervision of IV’s Eastern regional staff while also serving as publisher of Inter-Varsity Press (IVP) and editor of IV’s monthly His magazine.
Soon after their move, believing in Christian education, Dad and Mother joined a few couples to start Delaware County Christian School in 1949. Writing the founding documents, Dad pushed through the adoption of a policy that Blacks would be free to enroll their children. Note this was back in 1949, a mere nine years after President Buswell was fired by Wheaton’s trustees on January 20, 1940.
For myself, I have no doubts Dr. Buswell’s own commitments and teaching against segregation in educational institutions was a critical part of my father’s ethical formation concerning racial matters. For this reason, with clear determination, Dad led the other founders of Delaware County Christian School to write into the school’s bylaws that Black applicants would be accepted.
Beyond getting the policy of racial integration adopted by Delaware County Christian School in 1949, additional evidence of Dad’s opposition to racist segregation is documented by the following article published in Eternity magazine in 1956—six years prior to Buswell the Son’s Eternity article.
Dad’s article was solicited by Eternity’s editor in chief, Donald Gray Barnhouse. What must not be missed, here, is Dad’s support for interracial marriage—a position unheard of among Fundamentalists and Evangelicals of the time. Speaking as his son, I don’t find this surprising. What I do find surprising is that Donald Gray Barnhouse didn’t cut that part from the manuscript before publication.
But beyond surprising, it is scandalous that, in the entirety of their 122-page Report, Phil Ryken and his trustees refused to present these prophetic witnesses by President Buswell’s sons as evidence contradicting their own false witness against President Buswell.
NOTE: As in the previous article by Buswell the Son, emphases here are not original, but added to call attention to particular statements:
Eternity, October 1956: Vol 7 Issue 10
A Northern Christian Looks at the Race Question: A penetrating evaluation of our imperfect witness
by Joseph T. Bayly
It is always helpful, in a question of this sort, to know a writer’s background and consequent prejudices. Although I never lived there, both sides of my family had their roots in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. My great-grandparents lost their livestock to foraging Confederate soldiers, while their farmhouse was commandeered as a Union hospital. My grandmother’s proudest moment came, as a little girl, when she shook hands with President Lincoln after his address at the battlefield’s dedication.
As I grew up I do not recall hearing a bitter word about the South. I do recall an attitude of friendliness toward “colored” people. In some particular way we seemed to be considered responsible for whatever problems the Negroes had or created.
For we were white, and white people had brought the Negroes over here in slave ships from their native Africa. One way or another, most white people had profited from this cheap source of labor. And when a sinful wind such as that was sown, we were bound to reap a mighty whirlwind.
As to my Christian convictions, I do not believe that God saves the social order. Jesus Christ died and rose for individual Negroes and white people, as well as for those of other races who become His Body, the Church. His atonement on the Cross is the only ground for divine forgiveness and life—including a more abundant (not necessarily material) life here and now. Because Jesus Christ clearly taught that His kingdom is not of this world, I do not believe the Christian Church has been called to reconstruct the social order of the world in which we live, which in general does not know nor care to know Jesus Christ. The calling of the Church is to proclaim the redemptive message (“Christ died for our sins”) to individuals in the world.
Yet while we deny the Roman Catholic concept of the Church as controller of public morality and authoritative arbiter of questions which involve society as a whole, we observe that historically the Church has been the matrix of most of Western civilization’s advances in corporate (social) righteousness and justice. The restoration of woman to her divinely created position as partner rather than chattel, the institution of hospitals and orphanages, the humane care of the mentally ill and prisoners, the abolishment of slavery: these and scores of other social advances were conceived in the Church. No study is more conducive to an appreciation of the grand scope and power of the gospel than England before and after the Wesleyan movement.
It is easy for today’s evangelical Christians to be nearsighted on this point, especially since the first three decades of the present century are more vivid in our thinking than the eighteenth century Wesleyan revival. For during those years we observed a grotesque new form in Protestant theology known as the “social gospel,” an attempt to change society and bring in the millennium while by-passing Calvary. But we do not give up using money merely because we were once stung with a counterfeit bill!
The Church and the churches seem to have a dual function in influencing matters of social righteousness: prophetic and exemplary. No assembly of Christians at Buchenwald, aware of the cremation ovens, should have been silent, but rather should have declared the prophetic judgment of God’s Word on a state and on men who were exterminating the Jews. To limit one’s preaching to such passages as John 3:16 and Ephesians 2:8 and 9 at such a time would, in my opinion, have constituted unfaithfulness to a divine calling.
Second, but perhaps more important, is the exemplary function of the Church. A local assembly of Christians which welcomed Jews despite the world’s hatred would thereby have witnessed to the fact that prophetic judgment was beginning at the House of God. Nor can the example stop here, for the private, every-day lives of Christians who constitute the assembly are without doubt the most powerful factor in the Church’s influence on the world in any given period.
As he meets with others in the Body, the Christian will be guided in biblical principles which apply to the current problem, and he will come to certain conclusions as to the Christian attitude. When he returns to the world (his non-Christian neighbors, his business associates, those with whom he has social relationships) the Christian will bear testimony—even though he doesn’t say a word—as to what is the Christian attitude toward the problem.
Therefore when Christians lag behind the world in any area of personal or social righteousness, it cannot but discredit the Church of the Lord Jesus Christ and its message.
This is especially true when applied to those who suffer as a result of the attitude of Christians. The general silence of the Church in Germany during Hitler’s persecution of the Jews did irreparable harm to the gospel of Jesus Christ as it was understood by Jews. On the other hand, immeasurable good resulted from those bright, isolated instances where, at the risk of their own safety and security, Christians stood up for the rights of Jews.
For those of us who are Christians, the significant fact in the present situation is that educated Negroes tend to equate racial discrimination with biblical (evangelical) Christianity. Among the reasons for this belief, the most basic seems to be that in the two main areas of the world where the race problem is most acute (South Africa and Southern United States) biblical sanctions are claimed by white people to support their position. The inferiority of the Negro race is “proved” by an assumption that Negroes are the descendants of Ham and are therefore under the curse of God to perpetual servitude. And segregation is defended with the claim that the Bible forbids intermarriage of the races, and therefore social integration is to be avoided.
In those instances where Southern denominations have gone on record as favoring non-segregation in the church and church-related education, the opposition has usually been led by those who are known for their fundamental (evangelical) theology. Small wonder that, “I believe in the Bible,” and, “I believe in segregation,” are identified in Negro thinking, especially among ” those who are educated.
An editorial in the Pittsburgh Courier, a leading Negro newspaper, of November 12, 1955, commented under the heading, “The Immoral Moralists”:
The South is at once the stronghold of organized Christianity and the stronghold of Ku Kluxism, the defender of the faith and the violator of the Constitution, the only place in the land where a Christian preacher is likely to be ousted for urging his flock to practice what it preaches.
. . . The members of these Citizens Councils are persons of some importance in their respective communities, and undoubtedly most of them are Christian church members of chiefly fundamentalist persuasion who are dedicated to Christian morality.
And yet they have declared war upon fellow-citizens of another color who militantly seek to have the laws of the land enforced and fair play practiced in their communities…
Credit is being frozen, supplies are being withheld, honest men are being traduced and threatened, teachers are losing their jobs, letters are being illegally opened, telephones are being tapped, fiery crosses burned, and houses stoned.
…Simultaneously, these immoral people attend Bible meetings, seldom miss a church service, send their offspring to Sunday Schools where they learn (or at least hear) right from wrong, become acquainted with God’s word, and are directed to go forth to preach and practice it.
What manner of people are these who can be at the same time, hot and cold, right and wrong, just and unjust, moral and immoral?
…How can these immoralists teach morality to us?
The result of all this is great injury to the primary external calling of the Church: to proclaim the redemptive message to all men, including Negroes, and to bring them to the Lord Jesus Christ. We can hardly exaggerate the impression which such an attitude makes upon Negroes and other non-white races throughout the world. It is bad enough for the non-white races to blame “Christian” America for wrongs against the Negro; it is infinitely worse for biblical Christians to take a position which does such injury to the world-wide Christian cause, especially when (as I believe) the position is not supported by the Bible.
I realize that some Christians for whom I have a great deal of respect and regard in the Lord do not share my convictions, but look upon such a view of the race problem as typical of liberal (in the anti-biblical sense) theological, political, and social thought. But I recall that a century ago a great deal of criticism was directed by some Christians toward other Christians who did not believe that slavery was consistent with Christian morality, and that many liberals and agnostics were in the forefront of the movement to end slavery.
May I briefly give you the biblical position which underlies my opinion in this area of contemporary race relations.
In the first place, the Bible indicates that in this age of grace, all human beings are on an equal basis in God’s sight, and are equally in need of the message of redemption. The Negro is no less a human being than the white, nor do I find any ground in Scripture for considering the Negro lower down on the human scale than the white. Anthropologists tell us that if we take off the outside layer of skin, it is impossible to differentiate between a Negro and white person from the skeleton. And while there has been a cultural and educational lag (as our own Anglo-Saxon ancestors once lagged behind the Romans) Negroes have the same mental capacity and potential as white people, according to scientific studies.
Gunnar Myrdal (An American Dilemma) has summed up the scientific position in these words: “When we approach [race] problems on the hypothesis that differences in behavior are to be explained largely in terms of social and cultural factors, we are on scientifically safe ground. If we should, however, approach them on the hypothesis that they are to be explained primarily in terms of heredity, we do not have any scientific basis for our assumption.”
I feel that we should be quite definite on this point since some white people, including Christians, tend almost unconsciously to consider the Negro as a lower order of human being than the white.
In the second place, I find no biblical basis for the claim that Ham’s descendants are the Negro race. Racial characteristics or color are not mentioned in the Bible in connection with the curse upon Ham. Nor do we find that the various groups of people were dispersed at the time of Ham, but rather at the time of the Tower of Babel. I know of no professional anthropologist —Christian or non-Christian—who identifies the descendants of Ham with the Negro race.
But even if we should grant, for the sake of considering the implications, that the descendants of Ham are the Negroes and that the judgment of God is upon them, this would not excuse an attitude of white superiority over Negroes, or make such an attitude right. God’s Word did predict the persecution of the Jewish people, but historically, woe to that person or nation which carried out the predicted judgment upon the Jews. The Christian has not been called to execute God’s judgment upon others, but in love to proclaim God’s grace.
In the third place, a great deal is currently made by some Christians of the statement in Acts 17:26, “[God] hath determined . . . the bounds of their habitation.” It is plain that this portion of a verse indicates the will of God in the geographical location of the races. Lacking other more definite biblical references, I would be hesitant about grounding the theory of segregation of the races upon such a brief passage as this, especially in view of the introduction to the verse: “[God] hath made of one blood all nations of men for to dwell on all the face of the earth.”
Of course, I believe that God controls the bounds of human habitations, and that the great migrations of history are examples of His sovereign control. Such a migration (albeit forced) as that of Negroes to the United States from their native Africa during the past two hundred years we recognize as planned by God. Therefore today we are confronted with a situation which does not involve restricted bounds of habitation, but arises out of the fact that God has permitted various races to live together. The other side of this question is shown by the migration of Europeans to Africa, which has created a similar problem there.
Lest I be misunderstood, I should like to state that I do not consider this exclusively a Southern problem. In his rather definitive work Gunnar Myrdal spoke of it as an “American dilemma,” and I am fully aware that the North has not solved matters.
Whether Northern or Southern, white or Negro, Christian or non-Christian, the natural heart of man—including the motivating roots of his outward conduct —is desperately wicked. Therefore I do not expect prejudices to dissolve or hearts to change as a result of law.
But I do believe that the civil ramifications must be resolved within the orderly processes of law. Such questions as whether a Negro child shall have the opportunity for as good an education at public expense as a white child or not, whether a literate Negro shall be permitted to vote, whether trial before one’s peers involves the right of Negroes to serve on juries: certainly these are matters which should be decided in accordance with the law of the United States, especially the Bill of Rights and the Fourteenth Amendment of our Constitution.
Therefore I have been thankful for the recent Supreme Court decisions which have, in their long-range implementation, guaranteed equal rights to Negroes. Perhaps, as many Southerners have written, the changes were bound to come anyway. Certainly such a state as North Carolina was making considerable progress even before the federal action. But a century does seem to be a long enough time for a freed people to wait for rights which theoretically became theirs when they received their freedom.
What was the purpose of the Supreme Court? Certainly not to change human hearts, but to insure that—as applied to education—every right and advantage which a white child possesses by virtue of his citizenship shall also become the corresponding right and advantage of every Negro child. I have seen few Negro elementary or high schools in the South, but judging by Negro colleges which I have visited and have compared to white colleges, this is no small gain for the Negro. And the experience in Washington’s newly integrated school system, which shows that on an achievement basis Negro children are two or three grades below children who previously attended all-white schools, is an additional indication of the inferior quality of instruction in segregated Negro schools.
It seems obvious that when any inequality of as long standing as this one is corrected, there will be at least a temporary period of many adjustments which will create hardships for both parties. Some Negroes will be disappointed over being placed in a lower grade than they were in at the segregated school, because they are not up to the grade level of work. Negro high school graduates will in other instances be disappointed for the same reason at not being accepted for college matriculation.
And, of course, we can understand the feelings of white parents who observe the educationally retarding effects of admitting poorly educated Negro children to schools which previously had so much higher standards than the “separate but equal” Negro schools. Yet by limiting the size of classes and applying the best educational theories to remedial work in various subjects, this problem can be at least partially met. Certainly, wherever necessary, federal funds should be appropriated to increase and improve facilities, and to subsidize additional teachers.
I am aware that more is involved in Negro educational retardation than inferior teaching and educational plants. Such factors as lack of encouragement to study at home, absence of reference works in the home, the inability of parents to give help, dissatisfaction of children with school and desire to go to work: all these and many other reasons could be given. Yet the question comes to one’s mind as to whether these same factors do not create a similar problem in our Northern schools. Could not the quality of instruction in public schools in the North be vastly improved if children who come from lower income groups were segregated in their own schools? Obviously this would give Northern children in the higher income brackets the same advantages as Southern white children have had up to the present time.
But in doing away with segregation, has the individual freedom of white people been violated? This is the claim of many Southerners, and if it is true, there are serious implications. I believe in individual freedom. But I also believe that the Federal court decisions left the white citizen with his freedom intact, although they greatly enhanced the Negro citizen’s rights.
The individual white or Negro citizen remains free to determine whether he will accept social integration or not. Thus the white parent may decide to send his child to a privately supported, all-white school. The train rider may decide to travel by automobile, thus preserving the segregated travel which he personally desires. The reply may be made that such an exercise of the individual’s right not to accept integration will cost him money, and many will be unable to afford private schools and automobiles. This is true, but before the court decisions this individual freedom of white people was at the expense of Negro men and women, boys and girls who were deprived of that which should be rightfully theirs in American society—a free society which is predicated upon equal rights of all before the law and in tax-supported institutions regardless of race.
In my opinion the great difference between the situation in the North and that in the South lies in this area of law. The Montgomery Advertiser and various other Southern voices have stressed such situations as Chicago’s Trumbull Park race riots and disturbances in other Northern cities. As a Northerner I am ashamed of these incidents, and readily admit that our Northern hearts are desperately wicked. But the difference is that the law (representing the community of citizens in its expression as well as its codification) in the North is unequivocally, in most instances, on the side of equal rights for all. Thus Chicago has provided several hundred policemen to protect the rights of Negroes to live in the Trumbull Park development.
I do not live in a Negro neighborhood, nor in an integrated area. But as a Christian and American who believes in equal rights for others, I could not interfere with the right of Negroes to live on our block. I believe that Negroes, the same as white people, should have the right to live wherever they desire.
My own right to choose my neighborhood, of course, remains intact. If a Negro family moved in next-door, I could choose to move (although I trust that I would not). But I could not prevent the Negro from exercising his right to choose where he will live.
Applying this principle on a broader scale, I feel that instead of white people in the Deep South objecting to the “ratio” of Negroes to whites in their areas, the solution may be for them to move elsewhere in the country where the ratio is less. In spite of the serious personal, economic, and social upheaval this would cause the white people, I consider such a move the Christian (and also American) reaction rather than to continue to subordinate Negroes’ rights to their desires.
And while we are on the subject of moving, we should note that this is the peaceful course of action taken each year by hundreds of thousands of Southern Negroes. In general Southern Negroes have not fought the hopeless battle of their rights in the South until very recently. Instead, migration to Northern cities has been their reaction.
It is estimated that five million Negroes have migrated from the South to Northern cities during the past forty years. Most of these migrants have been unskilled land workers, but in recent years the North has siphoned off many in the educated, professional classes as well—to the Southern Negroes’ loss.
During those forty years the life expectancy of Negro boy babies has risen from thirty-two to fifty-eight years. Numerous other changes for the better have been experienced by Negroes. Small wonder, then, that, in the absence of encouragement from such sources as white Christians, Negroes in the South are turning to the (Northern) National Association for the Advancement of Colored People as representing hope for an even happier future.
Not that I am an advocate of the N.A.A.C.P. On many occasions I believe they have shown poor judgment (for instance, all the fanfare in enrolling Miss Autherine Lucy, which merely invited trouble). But I believe I can understand why Negroes are turning to the N.A.A.C.P. as their source of hope rather than to the Christian Church.
Before leaving this question of law, I should like to quote from an article by George W. Forell, “What the Roman Empire Could Teach Mississippi,” which was published in the (Lutheran) Frontiers.
Anybody who has read the Acts of the Apostles will remember with what efficiency the entire machinery of the Roman Empire operated on behalf of one of its least important citizens. The Roman civil servants in Palestine insisted that there had to be specific charges against Paul when the Jews accused him and wanted to kill him. Though these government officials didn’t particularly like Paul, according to the law a Roman citizen had certain inalienable rights—not merely on paper but in fact.
Before we start making nasty comments about the Romans we should ask ourselves what would have happened to Paul if he had been a Negro in some Mississippi county and opposed the mores of that community. Would an appeal to his rights as an American citizen have helped him? Would the machinery of our government have been as effective as the machinery of the Roman Empire?
Now, remember, the emperor at that time was probably Nero. He certainly was a worthless individual according to all historical records. But in spite of his personal repulsiveness, the empire he ruled was an empire of law and order. It was a government of law rather than men….
It seems a fairly common notion that having more nice, pious individuals in government would automatically improve our political situation. If only our public officials would go to church on Sunday, we’d all be in good shape.
I am sure that most people in Mississippi go to church very regularly. And I am equally convinced that Felix and Festus, the civil servants in the Acts of the Apostles, never went to church at all. But Felix and Festus had respect for law and protected the rights of Roman citizens.
At the time of Emmett Till’s murder I looked in vain for any biblical Christian comment from pulpit or in the Christian press. The only truly Christian reaction I found was in an unlikely place: a Life magazine editorial. I did read an editorial by a Southern Christian leader in a fundamental paper which completely overlooked the boy’s murder and commented derogatorily on his father’s Army record.
Dr. Melville J. Herskovits, Professor of Anthropology at Northwestern University, has carried out careful research which indicates that 71.7 per cent of American Negroes have white ancestry. If anything, this figure is low since it only includes those about whom the facts were known. As a Christian I have been disturbed by the high proportion of mulattos one sees in the South—a proportion not noticeably less than one observes in New York or Chicago. Yet in the South intermarriage is not legally possible.
The white Southerner usually is strongly against intermarriage and severe in punishing any Negro who has social contact with a white woman. Yet judging by the evidence of mulattos one sees in the South, many white men evidently treat Negro women as chattels. Surely a Christian should protest against such a sinful, hypocritical double standard.
A mild-mannered, elderly Pullman porter on the Southern Railroad put it this way several years ago: “We Negroes can’t understand why white men aren’t willing to sit next to our women, when they’re so ready to sleep with them.”
Now I certainly do not mean to imply that white Christians in the South are responsible for this situation. But when I hear Southern Christian leaders crying out against white children going to school with Negro children, I cannot help wondering why their prophetic voices are silent on these weightier matters of the law where the Bible speaks with no uncertain sound.
Intermarriage is one of the prime factors in most white people’s attitudes toward the contemporary race question. But I am inclined to agree with the comment of an elderly Negro professor in a Southeastern college: “Intermarriage is the first thing that white people think of when the Negro problem is mentioned, and it’s the last thing the Negro wants. On the other hand, equal social and economic opportunity is the first thing the Negro wants, and it’s the last thing the white person considers.” And yet to my way of thinking as a Christian and American, even this matter of intermarriage is involved in a true concept of personal freedom. We must always remember that individuals get married —not races. Avoiding the question of biblical teaching or social implications for the moment, I am convinced that any law which forbids the marriage of two human beings who desire to be married (apart from some mental or disease impediment) is a denial of personal freedom—whether that law is made against Jewish-Aryan marriages under Hitler or Negro-white marriages in the South.
Of course, for the Christian who desires to know the will of God, the question is what the Bible says, rather than what the state permits or does not permit. (By this I do not imply the Christian’s disobedience of the law, but the conclusions he reaches in his thinking. These conclusions will determine how he votes and what pressures he brings within the framework of a democracy to accept, reject, or repeal specific laws.) As I read the Word I find just one commandment with reference to forbidden marriages: for the Christian, marriage must be “in the Lord.” The unequal yoke is that which binds Christian with non-Christian, not one race with another. And in the Old Testament, the forbidden marriage for the Israelites was on the basis of those who did not know the Lord Jehovah, not on the basis of color.
Whenever I am confronted by my own prejudices against intermarriage, I recall God’s punishment of Miriam with leprosy (Num. 12:1 ff.) when she murmured against Moses’ marriage to an Ethiopian woman. (For a brief, but thorough, treatment of this woman’s nationality, see Dr. Allan A. MacRae’s section on Numbers, p. 177 in The New Bible Commentary, Eerdmans). Had Moses’ marriage to a dark-skinned African been sinful, surely God would have pointed this out, even though He still might have punished Miriam for her rebellion.
Now I recognize very grave social and personal consequences of intermarriage in contemporary American society, especially to children who are born of such a union. But I believe there is a basic difference between feeling that intermarriage is inadvisable on these grounds and attempting to erect a Christian doctrine against intermarriage—if God has not said this in His Word.
Arising out of this conviction that intermarriage is wrong, and that consequently the races must be kept separate, are a whole set of restrictions in the South. A white Christian friend of mine commented recently that in Atlanta (Ga.) his own personal freedom had been interfered with as it had never been interfered with in the North. Desiring to talk with a Christian Negro graduate student at one of Atlanta’s Negro colleges, my friend found that the only place they could meet was at a Negro Y. M. C. A. Several years ago one of the IVCF leaders visited the South and desired to meet with the Negro staff member, who is a cultured university graduate. Knowing the tremendous difficulty of meeting together in the Southern city where they were at the time (despite the fact that they were both men), the IVCF leader requested permission from a thoroughly fundamental Christian school in the city for them to use a small room, or meet in a lounge. Permission was refused, although the college is preparing scores of missionaries to serve in Africa.
On a Sunday afternoon last spring Mrs. Bayly and I had a mixed group of white and Negro girls in our home for a little visit, for Bible reading and supper. One or two of the girls were Christians; the rest desperately needed to know the Lord Jesus Christ. We have had Negro students from Africa as guests in our home, including overnight. Would these acts of hospitality to the needy and strangers be legally possible if we lived in the South? If not, we would feel quite definitely that our personal freedom was being denied, unjustifiably and against American principles.
As Christians we want the freedom, wherever we live, to use our home to provide hospitality in obedience to the Word of God.
I do not deny that there are strong feelings on a personal basis here in the North. Without doubt some of our neighbors are opposed—perhaps some of them strongly so—to our entertaining Negroes. But we commit this to God, knowing that we are in His will in the use we are making of our home.
Surely, we who name the Name of Christ cannot be content to maintain the dead prejudices of our old natures. Nor as redeemed people can we take advantage of others for our own advantage. For by the Spirit of God we have received the ability to discern right and wrong, and the power to will and to do that which is right.
Several years ago two students from the University of Georgia attended InterVarsity Christian Fellowship’s summer training session, Campus in the Woods, in Canada. Cabin assignments were arbitrary, and we were later concerned to find that the Georgia students would be in a cabin with seven other white students—and a Negro student from Detroit. We prayed but did not change the cabin assignment. On the last day of camp (after a month), the two Georgia students came to thank me for placing them in a cabin with the Negro student.
“We were saved last year at the university, and we’ve wondered ever since whether our new life in Christ would make any difference in our attitude toward Negroes or not. This month we found that it has, and it has been wonderful to live with Bill as brothers in Christ.”
The Christian who accepts the Lord’s commission cannot overlook the implications of all this in the evangelization of Negroes. Unfortunately, many Christians, both Northern and Southern, are concerned for missionary work in Africa who are unconcerned about the Negroes in their own towns and cities.
On the surface it may seem as if the American Negro is being evangelized through his own churches. But a warning was sounded by the previously quoted old Negro professor: “Don’t be misled when you see the lights in Negro churches on late every night. That represents our social life, not our religious interest. The Negro community is emotional—except for the educated—but it is not Christian.”
A survey of Negro theological education by Ralph A. Felton indicates that 17 Negro seminaries are training 224 students. Another 105 Negro students are enrolled in predominantly white seminaries, so that the total number of Negro students receiving theological training in the United States is only 329. Last year’s Negro seminary graduates represented only 11 per cent of the new pastors needed as replacements in Negro churches.
The Roman Catholic Church has gained many Negro members through its open door policy in most Southern dioceses. In many instances those Negroes turning to Romanism are the well-educated leaders of their people.
If American Negroes are to be evangelized, those who will do the evangelizing must be trained in our evangelical Christian schools and seminaries. Schools which are at present closed to Negroes must open their doors to them, and other schools where doors are already open (in the North) must admit more than their present token few. A noteworthy example of a school which has accepted this responsibility is provided by Providence-Barrington College (in Rhode Island), which had one or two Negro students several years ago. Last year they accepted ten Negro men and women and, of course, give them the same dormitory facilities and dining room privileges as white students.
But what may you and I do?
The following suggestions are directed toward the writer as much as toward readers of this article.
(1) We must recognize our prejudices. And unless we have a clear “thus saith the Lord,” we should not identify our viewpoint with the Word of God.
(2) We must be willing to have God’s Spirit change our prejudices so that they no longer conform to the world, but conform to His Word.—Or at the least, we should be willing to see Him change our children’s prejudices.
(3) We must try to understand the Negro’s viewpoint. Because we know a Negro laundress or handyman, we should not assume that we know the contemporary Negro attitude. A fire is smoldering, but it is leaping into flame among the educated.
(4) We should not follow a politician merely because he goes to church or quotes Scripture in his speeches.
(5) We should be willing to accept disadvantages, and even suffer wrong, rather than to cause others to suffer for our advantage.
(6) We should pray for the evangelization of the Negro people, and pray that Bible training may become available to and accepted by many Negro young people.
(7) We should seek to present the gospel to at least one Negro by winning him as a friend.
When Dr. Billy Graham spoke recently in Philadelphia at the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church U.S.A., he expressed the concern of a growing number of white Christians, both North and South. Harrison Fry summarized his words in the ‘Philadelphia Evening Bulletin as follows: “The evangelist sharply criticized failure to take a stand on issues of the day, such as the race problem, and asked for stronger courage in doing so.”
It may seem as if we can do very little at the moment. But we who name the Name of Christ must be satisfied with nothing less than the eternal, biblical position on contemporary questions, even though our prejudices and pride of life may be torn to shreds. And we must manifest the love of Christ—-who was never concerned about what others thought of Him, and who on one occasion risked a bad reputation by talking with a sinful woman from a despised race at a public well.
But thereby He evangelized a city.
Here are some letters to the editor received in response to Dad’s article which Eternity printed over the course of the next several issues:
Eternity, December 1956
Vol. 7, Issue 12
Letters to the Editor:
THANKS AND NO THANKS ON RACE ARTICLE
Thanks be to God for Joseph Bayly’s article in October’s ETERNITY. I look for, and seldom find, such conviction in evangelical circles re racial prejudice.
As Bayly points out, Bible-believing Christians who favor segregation of the “inferior” Negro are not reading their Bibles aright.
WILLIAM R. STACKHOUSE
New York, N. Y.
…In my opinion this is an immoral article and socialist propaganda.
Grand Rapids, Mich.
…It was one of the clearest and best articles. … Although born in Florida, educated and reared there and in Alabama, Tennessee, Kentucky, and now in seminary in Texas, I have felt that segregation was unjust, unethical, and unchristian. … So many Christians are silent, or worse, are even accepting as Christian the worldly attitude of hate and superiority.
J. MARTIN BALDREE
Fort Worth, Tex.
Joe Bayly has done a thoroughly good job in his article “A Northern Christian Looks at the Race Question.”
In the New York Times Magazine for September 23, there is an excellent article written by a Southern Negro educator, which should be read by all thoughtful Christians. Among other things he says, “The reasons they (Southerners) give for insisting on racial segregation are defined as sociological and cultural rather than moral or ethical or even humane. No Southern white opinion, respectable or otherwise, has, in the past half-century, seriously ventured a moral or ethical or humane justification of the Southern way of life.”
Of all the many articles I have read on the pros and cons of integration and the race problem, Mr. Bayly’s article in the October issue is by far the most excellent, unbiased, and truly Christian exposition of the subject I have come across. He discusses and answers many of the questions that other articles on the same subject either omit or ignore.
MRS. DICK PRUITT
Anderson, S. C.
…As a white Southern woman, I deeply resent Mr. Bayly’s comparison of the South with Germany under Hitler.
The Southern Negro is not mistreated. Walk down untold numbers of the streets of New Orleans and you will see Negro and white living in the same block.
…I am in agreement with Gunnar Myrdal, also. White Southerners take the stand for segregation because of racial and cultural factors of the Negro and not because of heredity. With every new privilege comes a responsibility, and the average Negro of the South is not capable of assuming full community responsibilities, nor is he ready to take his place beside the white man.
MRS. EDWARD M. COLLEY
New Orleans, La.
…I was utterly amazed that you would allow such an article to be published in your paper. It is extremely sad that there is so much crass ignorance displayed by people who do not live in the South, on the race question…. Our Negroes are treated ten times better in the South than any Northern city can boast of—we have no Harlems or race riots. They enjoy privileges and a decent place to live far beyond any other section. ….
MRS. GILBERT F. DOUGLAS
… Life magazine has done a much better job of covering the problem than Mr. Bayly. The few paragraphs that would conciliate in the article in ETERNITY are so short and weak.
MRS. T. J. OZBUN, SR.
Eternity, February 1957
Vol. 8, Issue 2
… I would like to commend your courage in taking up the matter [of segregation] in your magazine.
I am a young Japanese Christian student who has been embarrassed by this anti-Christian… idea of segregation in the land which is supposed to be the [leader] of the free nations of the world.
[It is especially difficult] as a foreigner and a Christian to see this kind of brutal and uncivilized practice still going on …and harder to see American Christians accepting this practice as normal …in their daily Christian lives. …
…I was… impressed by a recent number of ETERNITY carrying the article on segregation. … Here in Brazil where total integration is practiced satisfactorily, it seems almost incomprehensible …that the U. S. A., which is both the foremost champion of democracy and the strongest Protestant country, should have resisted so long and so violently proposals of integration. Even Brazilian Christians are sometimes vocal in protesting that the States have been un-Christian and unethical until recently. It is certainly refreshing to see an evangelical magazine which does not leave all social issues to modernist campaigners for justice!
DENNIS G. PAPE
Joao Pessoa, Paraiba, Brazil
So now I challenge Phil Ryken to produce any prophetic, public witness against racist segregation and in defense of interracial marriage back in the forties and fifties by any member of his own family line. If he steps up to the challenge, I will print that witness here as a part of this series.
I give the same challenge to Jim Goetz, Darrell Bock, Dave Geiser, Chuck Pollard, Greg Waybright… Is there even one white member of Wheaton College’s Board of Trustees who can demonstrate any of their ancestors condemned segregation in educational institutions and defended interracial marriage publicly in the forties and fifties?
Do not forsake your own friend or your father’s friend. (Proverbs 27:10)
(Fifth in a series.)