Wheaton College, a prominent evangelical school in Wheaton, Illinois attended by Billy Graham in the 1940s, made headlines this week after they removed a plaque in the school’s chapel that commemorated some of their martyred alumni.
The plaque, which honored slain missionaries Jim Elliot and Ed McCully from the class of 1949, was recently removed and awaits the review of a bureaucratic task force appointed by the school’s Senior Administrative Cabinet.
According to a statement from Wheaton College president Philip Ryken, the plaque’s use of the word “savage” is apparently an inappropriate description of the Auca Indian tribe in Ecuador, whose warriors speared Elliot and his fellow missionaries to death before tossing their mutilated bodies into a river.
“For generations all strangers were killed by these savage Indians,” the problematic plaque read in part. “After many days of patient preparation and devout prayer, the missionaries made the first friendly contact known to history with the Aucas.”
Ryken, who once pastored the historic Tenth Presbyterian Church in Philadelphia, said, “Recently, students, faculty, and staff have expressed concern about language on the plaque that is now recognized as offensive. Specifically, the word ‘savage’ is regarded as pejorative and has been used historically to dehumanize and mistreat indigenous peoples around the world.”
The modern-day martyrdom of Elliot and his friends is legendary in Christian circles. Elliot, along with Pete Flemming, Ed McCully, Nate Saint, and Roger Youderian, were all in their late 20s or early 30s when they endeavored to evangelize the Aucas, an isolated tribe in Ecuador. They initially made friendly contact with the tribe and exchanged gifts for several months.
On Jan. 8, 1956, however, a group of Auca warriors fell upon them, spearing them to death before throwing them into the Curaray River.
The brutal murder of the five missionaries was tragic. One might even describe it as “savage.” But the task for which those young men gave their lives was ultimately accomplished when their loved ones were willing to forgive. Instead of harboring bitterness, Jim Elliot’s wife, Elisabeth, and Nate Saint’s sister, Rachel, traveled to the rainforests of Ecuador to live among the Aucas and minister to them.
Many in the tribe ultimately converted to Christianity because of their ministry, including Mincaye, who is believed to have viciously killed both Nate Saint and Ed McCully. I will never forget when Mincaye, who died last April, emerged on stage with Nate Saint’s son, Steve, during a concert with Christian singer Steven Curtis Chapman in 2002. They spoke of the healing that had taken place between them, despite the profound evil Mincaye had exhibited as a young man. Because he had murdered his father, Mincaye came to regard Steve Saint as his tribal son.
It was an unforgettable testimony to the power of forgiveness.
Cancel culture, by contrast, is self-righteous. It believes the present generation has earned the right to wield the editing pen of history. It cheapens grace and makes forgiveness impossible. Anyone frothing at the mouth to cancel another person must first believe there is nothing about himself worthy of cancellation. The sort of pearl-clutching woke hysteria that would chisel away at the apt description of a savage sin also erases the depth of grace required to forgive it.
Woke cancel culture is profoundly anti-Christian. That it finds itself slithering into even the most historically stalwart evangelical institutions ought to concern everyone who cares about freedom.
The views expressed in this piece are the author’s own and do not necessarily represent those of The Daily Wire.
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