(Eighth in a series.)
We’ve been publishing a series of articles defending past-president of Wheaton College, J. Oliver Buswell, against Wheaton’s President and Trustees’ denunciation of him as racist. For years Wheaton’s Trustees had been anticipating the research and production of a document which would provide them public justification for their long-intended removal of Buswell’s name from their campus.
Finally, September 14, 2023, the Trustees released their Historical Review Task Force Report along with their announcement that Buswell’s name would be removed from the campus library and signage.
The scarlet “R”1 has been pinned on the dead white man.
Frederick Douglass knew us well a century and a half ago: “America is false to the past, false to the present, and solemnly binds herself to be false to the future.” We are his future.
The point isn’t that racism didn’t and doesn’t exist. The point is the Trustees’ denunciation of J. Oliver Buswell, Jr., is tendentious history. Their Report is a fabrication toward an end decided long before the Trustees’ staff began their research and writing.
Robert Louis Stevenson warned, “the cruelest lies are often told in silence.” Just so, Wheaton’s Trustees stated their Task Force was “commissioned to study the history and legacy of Wheaton College from 1860 to 2000.”
Thus they silenced research and discussion of Wheaton’s past quarter century.
Wheaton’s Trustees also limited their Task Force’s “historical review” to Wheaton’s history “with respect to race relations.”
Not injustice, oppression, or bloodshed.
Just “race relations.”
This assumes a common understanding of “race,” but what is the definition of this politically charged word?
Cambridge Dictionary defines “race” as “the idea that people can be divided into different groups based on physical characteristics that they are perceived to share such as skin color, eye shape, etc., or the dividing of people in this way.”2
Given their shared physical characteristics, preborn babies are a “race.” Concerning “relations,” their mothers are often hostile against them—to the point of bloodshed.
It is incontrovertible the slaughter of this race of persons properly lies within the purview of the Trustee’s Historical Review Task Force. Consider the oppression and injustice this discrete people group has suffered over the course of the past seventy-five years. Here in North America, we murder one quarter of the members of this race each year. Worldwide, the annual victim count of these youngest and tiniest of our race is equivalent to one percent of world population.
Yet many were shocked the Task Force delved into this aspect of the history of race relations between preborn and their mothers among Wheaton administrators, staff, professors, and students. The President and Trustees had expected the Task Force to understand their use of the word “race” meant nothing more than skin color. They were shocked by the extensive documentation of the bloody relations of father, mother, and preborn child which comprised almost half of the Report first submitted to them in draft form.
Querying their Task Force on why they had interviewed past presidents, trustees, professors, and students concerning their reproductive health decisions and practices, Task Force members defended their work. Limiting “race” to skin color would have been for them to connive at the greatest slaughter ever carried out by the powerful against the weak across all human history.
One of the principal researchers served as the Task Force spokeswoman, responding to the Trustees’ objections to their work:
Countless of the weakest and smallest members of our covenant community here at Wheaton have been murdered. Are we not to document our own part in this massive bloodshed whose victims number in the hundreds of millions among both churched and unchurched across America? Does their murder not matter to God? Should their absence from our homes and campus not grieve us? Should we not lament them? Should we not repent for this blood on our hands?
At the inception of our work, we knew you wouldn’t approve of any research into the slaughter of the preborn within our Wheaton community. We did stop our research at the year 2000, as you stipulated to us. But we felt it was unconscionable to spend a hundred pages on the Underground Railway and purported exclusionary admission practices a century ago while remaining silent about the slaughter of our little children so widely practiced today—including here in our own college community.
We have always understood the content of this Report would be subject to your approval. You appointed us and you can do as you wish with this work you paid for. But if you remove the half of our Report containing our interviews and research into the practice of infant murders by members of the Wheaton College Community up to the year 2000, with respect we respond that your doing so will deeply grieve us.
It was a tough couple of hours of negotiation between the Task Force and Trustees. A spokeswoman for the Trustees expressed their horror over the Task Force’s willingness to invade the privacy of fellow Christians. She said no outsider had the right to speak on behalf of little babies in their mother’s womb. The mother was the only one qualified to do so. She said every woman had a right to do what she wanted with her own body. As she spoke, she seemed to be suppressing intense emotions.
When she was through, a male Trustee brought the matter to an end, stating:
The only shared physical characteristic you were to report on is skin color. We hope you understand. We will remove all those transcripts of interviews with mothers and fathers concerning the children they killed and the torment of conscience they suffer.
Maybe file that part of your work in our college archives with a prompt that the next Historical Review Task Force beginning their work in the year 2123 should start their research with an examination of what we will delete from your Report.
Starting with the paragraph above beginning, “Yet many were shocked,” what’s written is fiction. None of it was thought or spoken by anyone but me. Here.
That it never occurred to the Historical Review Task Force to include the present genocide of the race of preborn ongoing without and within the Church today is more damning than had the above actually occurred.
In our perverse age, the least of these die silently as bullies and loudmouths are fawned over and appeased.
Here’s one example of the high moral sensibilities and principles Wheaton’s President and Trustees claim for themselves which, the reader must understand, have absolutely nothing to do with our slaughter of the little babies God has created who each bear His Own image and likeness:
[The absence of Black students among us a century ago] is not in keeping with the biblical ideals that undergird Wheaton’s historical creedal commitments, with the high moral standards we pursue in our present-day institutional values, or with the hospitality we hope to inspire in our students.
Back in the eighties, my father called to ask if I’d like to come to a debate he’d agreed to at Wheaton College to be held in the “Stupe,” Wheaton’s student union. He’d been asked to speak against abortion opposite a woman from the Religious Coalition for Abortion Rights who would be speaking in favor of abortion. Not finding any person of authority on their own campus willing to take the pro-life side, they asked Dad if he’d do it himself. He was a well-known alumni and lived eleven miles outside Wheaton, so travel wouldn’t be inconvenient.
Dad agreed and I travelled down from Wisconsin to join him.
It was scandalous that Wheaton had to go off campus to find anyone of authority willing to take a public stand against abortion. It was more scandalous that Wheaton invited someone to defend the murder of little babies on their campus bearing the motto, “For Christ and His Kingdom.”
My clearest memory of that shameful evening is Dad’s opening statement:
Two things as I begin.
First, I am not “pro-life. I am “anti-abortion.” Evangelicals never want to say anything negative. Everything has to be said positively.
But slavery wasn’t brought to an end by a “pro-negro” movement. Those who opposed slavery called themselves “abolitionists” and slavery came to an end because of the “anti-slavery” movement.
Second, I make no apology for opposing slavery as a man. Abortion is not a “woman’s issue.” It is an issue of human justice. Men and women alike must oppose it.
Dad was one of J. Oliver Buswell’s many sons in the faith. President Buswell would have been proud of him.
Let’s end with a cartoon drawn by fellow Presbyterian Chuck Asay, longtime political cartoonist at the Colorado Springs Gazette. (The story behind the cartoon.)
(Eighth in a series.)