The Pilgrimage of Dr. Beatrice Batson

Standing before her classroom of Wheaton College students, Dr. E. Beatrice Batson was known to recite the exquisite verse of Donne, Herbert, Crashaw, Homer, Dante and particularly Shakespeare. A gracious Southern lady, she exhibited both an unaffected dignity and an unassuming humility.

During the years of her retirement, Dr. Batson would reflect on her nine decades of life, her reading and travel, and tell her own stories rather than those of her beloved poets. I visited Dr. Bea every other week or so at her retirement home and she shared a few with me. Seated in her recliner while sometimes breathing with difficulty into a respirator, a red blanket tucked beneath her chin for warmth, she retrieved the chapters of her full life from shelves laden with memory.

She remembered when Dr. V. Raymond Edman, fourth President of Wheaton College, occasionally tasked her with editing his devotional books. She would delicately dodge the gig whenever possible to avoid hurting his feelings because she did not like his flowery, mystical style of writing.

On another occasion, when I asked her for a character reference for my registration as an online student at Bob Jones University, Dr. Bea confided that she, too, had attended Bob Jones College, then located in Cleveland, Tennessee, way back in 1938. For how long? “For ten days,” she replied in her deliciously cool, dry drawl. She remembered attending a production of Shakespeare’s Richard III, in which the founder’s talented son impressively portrayed the murderous hunchbacked monarch, though for that performance he had forgotten to limp. “Aside from that,” she added, “he sure was good looking.” When she broke the news to Dr. Bob, Sr. that his college was not for her, he objected. “Bea,” he said, “that just don’t make sense. And if it don’t make sense, God must not be in it.” But it made sense. She moved from there to George Peabody College, then Vanderbilt University and Bryan College. God was in it.

Teaching English at Bryan College from 1947-57, she remarked that she “loved that little school,” but endured a few administrative challenges posed by its president, Dr. Theodore Mercer. She was reticent to comment on those years. When opportunity knocked, she departed Bryan College with the highest recommendations, heading north to Wheaton, Illinois.

On another visit she recalled a 1970’s trip to England with Dr.  Clyde Kilby, Chair of the English Department at Wheaton College and founder of the Marion E. Wade Center. Dr. Kilby handed her a meatloaf as a gift for the aging widow of Charles Williams, an Inkling along with J.R.R. Tolkien and C.S. Lewis. Evidently, the characteristically austere Mrs. Williams was “quite pleased” to receive the dish. Why? Dr. Bea shrugged, observing in her drollest intonation, “For pity’s sake, I cannot fathom why a meatloaf would arouse such excitement.” The details behind the meatloaf caper remain a bit sketchy.

In the following months it became increasingly apparent that the vivid colors of her memory were fading. Her focus was loosening. Books stacked on her bedside table, much-loved titles by Dorothy L. Sayers, Walker Percy and P.D. James, remained untouched. One day she matter-of-factly announced that her manuscript on John Bunyan had been accepted by a major university press who would soon publish it with minimal editing. Congratulations! But I knew that her Bunyan book had been published in 1984.

On the afternoon of my final visit she was awake, though faint and sleepy, lying motionless  in her recliner beneath the blanket. After briefly chatting, I held her hand, then stood in the doorway. “Goodbye, honey,” she said, her voice brittle with age and illness. “I love you.” I love you too, Miss Bea.

Three days later, like the hero of The Pilgrim’s Progress, she entered the Celestial City. The red blanket is cast aside. The respirator is unplugged. Beatrice Batson soars and sings in Henry Vaughan’s “great ring of pure and endless light, all calm as it [is] bright,” joining C.S. Lewis, V. Raymond Edman, Clyde and Martha Kilby, Dorothy L. Sayers, Bob Jones, Madeleine L’Engle, George MacDonald, Theodore Mercer, Shakespeare and all the adoring multitude of students, family and friends who’ve preceded her through the golden gate.

Professor Batson (1920-2019), Professor Emerita of English at Wheaton College, served as Chair of the Department of English for thirteen years and taught courses in Shakespeare for thirty-three years. Professor Batson was the author or editor of 14 books, and the author of numerous chapters in compiled works. During her teaching career, she was a frequent lecturer on college and university campuses in the United States and Canada. After her retirement Professor Batson became the coordinator of the Batson Shakespeare Collection in Special Collections, Buswell Library. She developed the collection into a unique resource bringing together the best scholarship on Shakespeare and the Christian tradition. 

E.E. Shelhamer and the “old stone walls” of Wheaton College

E.E. Shelhamer (1869-1947), prominent Methodist evangelist and author, writes of his early years at Wheaton College in Sixty Years of Thorns and Roses:

After earning enough to go West, I, for the first time, bade good-bye to home and friends. A day and night of travel brought me to the thriving city of Wheaton, Illinois (twenty-five miles west of Chicago), where preparations were begun for that long-cherished education. In order to lessen expenses four of us preacher boys kept “bachelors’ hall” the first year. One got breakfast, another dinner, I supper, and a fourth one washed all the dishes. In this way we were able to live at the rate of from thirty-five cents to $1.50 a week and grow fat. My first recitation came at 9:30 a, m., hence it gave me five hours (from 4 a.m. to 9 o’clock) for manual labor; then another hour in the afternoon and all day Saturday. I always kept several small jobs ahead for slack times, and averaged from $2.00 to $6.00 a week at fifteen cents per hour. The studying was done at night, sometimes 11:30 finding me poring over my books.

The other boys could not understand why they could not get work while I had more than I could do, but the secret was in leaving white collars at home and going prepared to take anything I could get. Sometimes I had the promise of only an hour’s work, but went at it with a relish and frequently got in a day or more at the same place. Any kind of work was solicited, such as gardening, whipping carpets, mowing lawns, trimming trees, sawing wood, unloading cars, cleaning out cisterns and sometimes other very unpleasant work that made my fingers bleed, but I was determined to make the best of it and not let my father borrow money or sell a cow, which would have been gladly done that he might assist me. I declared that if a boy at the age of eighteen could not educate and care for himself, he was not worth educating.

I well remember the first meeting in which I assisted. At the age of nineteen, I felt that I could no longer be caged up inside the old stone walls of Wheaton College, and accordingly joined a company of three young men at Atwood, Illinois. Souls were getting saved and interest was running high when the devil made his appearance in the form of the Justice of the Peace and other lewd fellows. Their first attempt was to cut down the tabernacle, but they succeeded in getting it only half down when we intercepted them.

Shelhamer usually signed his photos, “Yours for a clean, rather than a big work.”

The next night we remained after service, but well for us that we extinguished the lights, for we were shot at and missed but a few feet: we thanked God in that instance at least for “darkness rather than light.”

Had I applied myself as some of my colleagues did, I might have been a professor in an institution. What an elevation! In fact, when I left dear old Wheaton College it was intimated that I remain and teach. Thank God I escaped!…I remained that year and kept on top of public opinion. The next summer I entered evangelistic work and did not get back to Wheaton again. It was several years before I visited the place, and when I did I naturally inquired what had become of my old colleagues. One had died from the effects of bicycle riding, another was clerking in a little grocery store, another was driving a bakery wagon and still another was preaching for a worldly congregation.

Marked for Life: The Victory of Timothy Stoen

The Reverend Jim Jones, ordained by the Independent Assemblies of God and the Disciples of Christ, founded the Peoples Temple as a haven for the poor, the lonely and the forsaken. Unlike too many churches of the 1950s, the Temple was integrated and radically multi-ethnic. Fearing nuclear strikes during the Cold War in the vulnerable Midwest, Jones and his loyal congregants moved from Indianapolis to California, eventually settling in San Francisco, concentrating on aiding the oppressed and impoverished.

Timothy Stoen, a graduate of Wheaton College and Stanford Law School, met Reverend Jones in 1968 while employed as a deputy district attorney in San Francisco.

Timothy Stoen, 1960 Wheaton College yearbook.

Angry over racism and social disparity, Stoen was impressed with the large numbers of African Americans attending Jones’ church. He told an interviewer, “I had never seen such love between black people and white people — white people actually going up and physically hugging and touching black people and making them feel at home. I remember having seen Jim Jones go up to a little old black lady and just saying, ‘I love you, darling,’ and her eyes just shone.” Joining the People’s Temple, Stoen defended it against attack and offered free legal advice.

Reverend Jones, awash in bitter allegations and spiraling paranoia, relocated his congregation to the humid jungles of Guyana, establishing the People’s Temple Agricultural Project, also called Jonestown, where Stoen sent his six-year-old son, John Victor, to be communally raised. In 1977 Stoen resigned his job with the district attorney and moved to Jonestown to join John Victor. After Stoen returned to California for a short period, his ex-wife, the former head counselor for the People’s Temple, revealed to him that Jones’ “miraculous” healings were fake.

Pressure on the Temple increased as news agencies reported financial fraud and human rights abuses. Daily the tropical socialist utopia crumbled beneath Jones’ mental instability. Awakened to the mounting danger, Stoen fought to retrieve his son, but Jones refused. Members promised they would die before surrendering John Victor to Tim Stoen or the U.S. government. On November 18, 1978, Jones, desperate and totally unhinged, ordered his followers to drink grape Flavor Aid (not Kool-aid) laced with potassium cyanide. Sadly, they obeyed.

As hundreds of men, women and children dropped choking and vomiting to the ground, Jones, speaking calmly through a loudspeaker, exhorted his surviving disciples in San Francisco to “get” Tim Stoen. Continuing his rant, Jones ominously prophesied that the young attorney with “nobody else to hate” would finally destroy himself. By the end of the day, 907 people lay dead, including 304 children. John Victor was found poisoned in Jones’ cabin, and Jim Jones lay dead from a gunshot wound to the back of the head, delivered by an unknown assailant.

Jonestown remains the largest mass murder in history. Historians note with irony that were it not for this event,  Reverend Jim Jones would be remembered as a great civil rights leader.

In the years following, Timothy Stoen successfully resumed his career as a California prosecuting attorney. Despite professional success, he bore profound grief. He writes in his memoir:

But I also had deep guilt for violating the “moral code” — for sinning against God. Guilt for replacing the whole truth of God with the half truth — the idolatry — of ideology. Guilt for violating fidelity in marriage. Guilt for giving Jim Jones credibility while blinding myself by ideological passion to his emerging flaws. Guilt for making numerous untrue statements, and committing other moral compromises along the way.

As Stoen struggled with his haunted memories, it seemed that Jim Jones’ prophesy was proving true.

Reading several key books, particularly M. Scott Peck’s People of the Lie, Stoen began to somewhat comprehend the evil of Jim Jones and the psychological dynamics of the cult. He writes in his journal, “…This reading is making me see that I have a deep-seated passion for communion with God.” After hearing Alan Jones preach at Grace Cathedral in San Francisco, Stoen spent Good Friday, 1988, meditating on the stations of the cross.

In response to that utterly poignant Good Friday, I recognized the truth that Jesus Christ had suffered and died for me, that he had then conquered death, and that he was now offering — to all who asked — forgiveness for the wrong things they had done. I asked Jesus the Christ for forgiveness. Miracle of miracles, I was given it. The grief was assuaged. The guilt was gone. Mercy had triumphed. The curse — Jones’ further trespass into Satan’s dominion — was smashed. The prophet was vanquished.

On March 9, 1997, Timothy Stoen married Kersti (“Shesti”). On June 26, 2000, he resumed his career as a California prosecuting attorney. He was nominated in 2010 to the California District Attorneys Association as Prosecutor of the Year, and in 2014 was honored as one of the five top wildlife prosecutors in the state. Stoen tells his remarkable story in Marked for Death: My War with Jim Jones the Devil of Jonestown (2015).

“Lighting the Way” Evan Draper Welsh, 1904-1981

The following article was taken from the December 1981/January 1982 issue of the  Wheaton Alumni Magazine. It celebrated the life and ministry of Evan Draper Welsh, Wheaton College chaplain, who passed away 37 years ago today.
Chaplain Welsh, 1957

Evan Draper Welsh ’27, D.D. ’55, who served for 26 years as chaplain to Wheaton College students and alumni, died early on December 17, 1981.  He suffered congestive heart failure in his home in Wheaton, and died shortly after entering Central DuPage Hospital.

Born on September 3, 1904, in Princeton, Illinois, Evan spent his boyhood in Newton, Kansas, Long Beach, California, and Elgin, Illinois, before enrolling in Wheaton Academy.  While attending Wheaton College, he served as president of his freshman class and as captain of the football team his senior year.  Additionally, Evan’s activities at Wheaton included membership in the Excelsior Literary Society, the Y.M.C.A. Cabinet, and participation in varsity debate.

Following graduation, he did graduate work at Princeton Theological Seminary and the University of Minnesota, where he studied English literature.  While at Minnesota, Evan pastored Bethany Presbyterian Church on the college campus.

In 1933, he accepted a call to pastor the College Church in Wheaton, where his father had served.  During his 13 years there, he became very active on the Wheaton College campus.  He also continued graduate study at Northwestern University, completing the M.A. in philosophy in 1938.  Evan moved to Detroit in 1946 to pastor the 1700-member Ward Presbyterian Church.  He also taught at Detroit Bible College.

In 1955 Evan received an invitation from President V. Raymond Edman to accept the newly-created position of college chaplain on Wheaton’s campus.  The new chaplain, who also served as assistant professor of Bible, was awarded the doctor of divinity degree from the College that same year.

During his 15 years as chaplain, Evan became endeared to countless students through his helpful counsel, his faithful visits to the health center and local hospitals, and the traditional ‘open house’ hosted each weekend at his home.

Evan retired from his post as chaplain in 1970, but continued in the capacity of alumni chaplain until his death.  Even when on vacation he poured himself into building and renewing friendships with alumni, and encouraging them in their Christian faith.

Evan’s outreach extended to the community through the teaching and visitation ministries of the College Church of Wheaton until his death. His popularity as a summer Bible conference speaker occupied much time in his earlier years.  Evan’s commitment to spread the Gospel worldwide fired is involvement in the evangelism service and national and foreign missions of the United Presbyterian Church, U.S.A.

Evan & Olena Mae Welsh, 1970s

At the time of his death Evan was survived by his wife, Olena Mae Hendrickson ’41, of Wheaton, two daughters and eight grandchildren.  He was preceded in death by his first wife, Evangeline Mortenson ’27.

The relationships we value most become our greatest losses.  In the homegoing of Dr. Evan Draper Welsh ’27, Wheaton College suffers the loss of an institution and countless thousands find a vacancy in their lives where a deep friendship had been.

But the ministry of that life continues. From his perspective, Evan Welsh’s gift to us was only a means to an end.  His love for us rose from a desire that we might know the love of a greater Friend, and commit ourselves to that One.

Evan Welsh would not want praise lavished upon his life.  The tributes given to him underline the purposes of his life.  He related those goals in an article in The Tabernacle Bulletin, 1961.

I am increasingly convinced that the true source of happiness for the growing child of God is the setting of certain high and definite goals for his or her life, and then, the giving oneself to the achieving of those goals.  Surely this is what Paul had in mind when he wrote in Colossians 3:1-4: ‘If ye then be risen with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God.  Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth.  For ye are dead, and your life is hid with Christ in God.  When Christ, who is our life shall appear, then shall ye also appear with Him in glory.’

“The other day with the glory of God in mind, and thinking of the peace of heart that comes when God is truly glorified, I sat down and listed several high goals that I believed the Lord wanted me to strive for.  I listed seven, and I really believe they are relevant for every Christian’s life.  They’ve already blessed my own soul, and if sharing them gives new direction and fire to some other Christian I shall be thankful.”

Evan proceeded to list the following goals: disciplined growth in godliness; growth in the knowledge of the Word of God; prayer; soul winning; witnessing throughout the world; cultivating a strong church life; and undertaking the “rich ‘adventures in friendship’ which await that one who will prove himself friendly.”

“These goals are high,” Evan continued.  “They’re difficult. They’re costly.  But I believe they are Biblical, and that the ones who to make them the core of their lives will have a new zest for living — and the life here will more and more resemble that in Glory.”

We pay tribute to a man who ran untiringly toward his goals.  We thank a loving family who shared themselves and their dear one so freely.  And we thank the Lord for His servant, Evan Draper Welsh, who reminded us of the beautiful reality of life in Christ.

“For the path of the just is as a shining light, that shineth more and more unto the perfect day.” (Proverbs 4:18)


 

See also: Highway to Heaven – Sesquicentennial snapshot

 

This He Believed

Robert O. Ballou (1892-1977) achieved distinction in American literature as one of the sharpest editors in twentieth century New York publishing, accepting, among other accomplishments, the manuscript for John Steinbeck’s The Pastures of Heaven (1932). Associated primarily with the Viking Press, his deeply ecumenical interests are reflected in the titles of the books he edited: The Portable World Bible (including selections from sacred volumes), The Nature of Religion, The Bible of the World and The Other Jesus: A Narrative Based on Apocryphal Stories Not Included in the Bible. In 1938 he wrote This I Believe: A Letter to My Son, relating his personal faith.

Though born and raised in Wheaton, Illinois, Ballou did not attend Wheaton College nor did he tread the well-worn evangelical trail. In fact, while maintaining a strong religious sensibility, Ballou cast an often scathing critical eye on his surroundings. Attending the Methodist Episcopal Church of Wheaton (now Gary Memorial United Methodist) with his mother and siblings, he recalls:

He [the pastor] was there to tell me what God was and what I believed about him, and so the next morning, when he asked me, “Do you believe in God?” before all of the people of the Methodist Episcopal Church of Wheaton, Illinois, I said, “Yes,” just as I was supposed to. Probably my voice was very childlike and sweet and convincing…

As he matured, Ballou noted a few ironies:

After a few years the little wooden church seemed not good enough for us Methodists of  Wheaton. Then a very rich man named Elbert H. Gary, a man who was the head of a big steel company which took the iron ore…and made it into rails and locomotive wheels so that people could have “locomotion and transportation” gave us enough money to build a new church building of stone and cement and oak with stained glass for the windows. They called it the Gary Memorial Methodist Episcopal Church, so that it would always bear the name of the man who had given money with which to build it. The way they named it made it sound as though Elbert H. Gary’s name was really more important than the name of Christ, whose church they said it was. And of course it was quite true that Christ had given us no money with which to build a stone church, and Elbert H. Gary had.

Continuing in this vein, Ballou pens few wry words about Wheaton College, or rather its then-president, Dr. Charles Blanchard:

I remember a man named Blanchard, who was president of Wheaton College. He felt that it was wrong to work on Sunday. He thought the railroads should not run on Sunday because that made the engineers and the firemen and the conductors and brakemen work. And so he would never ride a train on Sunday. Once he had to come visit some friends of ours named Steck, who lived about fifteen miles from Wheaton. He went there on Saturday, on the railroad. But he stayed all night and had to be back at Wheaton on Sunday. But on Sunday he wouldn’t ride on the railroad because he thought that making the railroad men work was not keeping the Sabbath day holy. So he asked Auntie Steck to drive him back to Wheaton and she did. I remember that it seemed to me that making Auntie Steck hitch up the horse (which was work) and making the horse run fifteen miles to Wheaton and fifteen miles back (which was work for the horse), was making the Sabbath day even less holy that it would have been if he had ridden on the train, for the railroad men were working whether he rode the train or not.

At the end of the memoir, Ballou concludes:

Seek your God quickly, my dear son. Never cease in your search — you, and all of your generation and those who are to come after you. Let you find quickly the glory of God which will lighten the world before it is too late, lest the spirit of man perish and the human race, proved futile, shall be wiped from the face of the earth by the God of Moses and Elijah, the God of Gautama Buddha, the God of Zoroaster, the God of Vardhamana, the God of Lao-tze, the God of Jesus, the God of St. Francis, the God of your grandmother, the God of Richard Wagner and Beethoven…the God of gentle spring rains, of growing flowers and singing birds, the God of flood and drought and earthquake…the God of peace and of war, of harmony and of discord, the one true God who is within your soul. My love for you and my faith in you be with you always in your search.

Laity Lodge, Holy and Healing

Laity Lodge, situated in the Frio River Valley near Leakey, Texas, overlooks a magnificent vista of forested hills and jagged rock. Far from urban chaos, this retreat stands as a haven for those needing to explore pressing questions, absorb the peace of the Spirit, or simply run into God.

Founded in 1961 by Howard Butt, Jr., the lodge welcomes its guests to encounter the sacred in privacy or community. Visitors to the canyon sing, walk, converse, eat and pray. Trusting every guest to engage all available resources, each retreat is opened with these words: “We have an agenda, but we don’t have an agenda for you.”

Frederick Buechner, author of Godric and The Sacred Journey, was a frequent speaker at Laity Lodge, where his recorded lectures have been transcribed and published as The Remarkable Ordinary (2017). He recalled:

On my first visit to Laity Lodge, when I was told not to turn left at the Frio River but in the Frio, I knew I had reached the land of Oz. After my first few days there I knew that, more even than Oz, it was a holy place. The high hills spoke of it. The river spoke of it. The “blue hole” where we swam spoke of it, as did Betty Ann Cody’s a cappella singing of “There Is a Balm in Gilead,” which left my face streaming with tears and which I will remember until the end of my days.  I don’t believe I have ever known a place as full of human kindness and openness and grace as I have found in virtually everyone I met there….I doubt I will ever get there again, but it will always remain part of the best of who I am.

Theologian J.I. Packer, author of Knowing God, said, “Laity Lodge…is one of the Christian world’s best kept secrets. Personal maturity in Christ is what it was and is about, and its ministry goes from strength to strength.”

Madeleine L’Engle, author of A Wrinkle in Time, spent one month each year for a decade at the Lodge. She began one lecture series declaring, “I am very blessed to have been here for this month in this place which, I believe, is holy and healing.”

Madeleine L’Engle and Luci Shaw at Laity Lodge, 1997.

Eugene Peterson, pastor and translator of The Message, supported Laity Lodge’s efforts to erase the distinction between the “full-time” minister and the layman. He wrote, “…That seed quickly  matured into a lifelong determination to do whatever I can to abolish this expert/layperson division in the Christian community.”

Laity Lodge speakers whose papers are archived at Wheaton College include Frederick Buechner, Madeleine L’Engle and Luci Shaw.

The story of Laity Lodge is chronicled by former director Howard Hovde in A Dream That Came to Life: The History of the Laity Lodge Retreat Center (2007).

The Miracle of Muriel Arney

Muriel Arney of Red Oak, Iowa, was born totally blind in one eye, and partially blind in the other. But with a determined heart, she engaged life with more focus than many who are fully sighted. Writing an autobiographical statement for her Wheaton College application, she remarked, “I broke my arm in third grade while coasting. The pain wasn’t bad, missing school was terrible.” This statement summarizes Muriel’s relentless love of learning. Afflicted with a “spastic” leg ailment in addition to her blindness, Muriel managed to convey a radiant love for people and education. “There is nothing that she will not try or do,” wrote a former grade school teacher, “and she wants no sympathy.”

Walking with a cane, Muriel maneuvered efficiently throughout campus, carrying a tape recorder under her arm for recording lectures and class discussions. Listening intently to the sounds all around her, Muriel recognized fellow students and professors by their voices and footsteps, remembering names, though she hardly knew many of them. While enrolled at Wheaton College, she learned Braille and studied with friends as her vision worsened to total blindness, accompanied by terrible throbbing headaches. Navigating chapel aisles or crowded hallways, she was terrified that someone might jostle her and detonate the excruciating pain.

While attending the winter evangelistic services on February 7, 1957, the guest preacher, Reverend H. Lawrence Love, delivered the closing prayer as Muriel listened with her head bowed. Looking up, she was greeted by a stunning surprise. “There was my roommate,” she said, “plainly visible to me; the pain was entirely gone. How shocked I was! As soon as the service was over, I said to my roommate, ‘I can see!'” Later that night during a prayer meeting in Williston Hall, Muriel saw for the first time the girls who had been assisting her. The next day a medical examination proved 20-20 vision in her left eye. The Psychology Department chronicled the event as a genuine miracle.

Graduating from Wheaton College in 1959, Muriel continued her education at Illinois State University in Normal, Illinois, and eventually completed her teacher’s certification. Suffering further operations, she used crutches and braces for support as she commenced her career as a teacher to those with disabilities. Suffering deeply but ready to testify to her savior’s abiding love, Muriel Arney died in Red Oak on December 26, 1968, after an acute five-day illness. Her life verse was II  Samuel 22:33, “His way is perfect and he maketh my way perfect.” Muriel’s mother, Pauline, wrote to Alumni Magazine, “May the testimony of her life for her Lord continue to be an influence and a blessing in the lives of her host of friends.”

Owen Lovejoy Scholarships

Owen Lovejoy (1859)

On November 23, 1859, the minutes of the Board of Trustees of the Illinois Institute, the precursor to Wheaton College, record that the Rev. Jonathan Blanchard opened the meeting in prayer and that seven new members joined the board.  Among these founding Trustees of the soon-to-be-established college was Owen Lovejoy, the younger brother of martyred abolitionist Elijah P. Lovejoy.  Owen was also a sitting U.S. Congressman from Illinois (who later introduced the bill to outlaw slavery in the United States) and an intimate friend of Abraham Lincoln.

Several years later during the annual trustee meeting of June 1864, Rev. Blanchard, now President of Wheaton College, proposed a new scholarship to honor Owen who had passed away the previous March. The Lovejoy Scholarships would support the education of students of color, and in his remarks about the fund, President Blanchard praised the work and character of his dear friend:

“As it has pleased our Heavenly Father during the last year to remove by death the Rev. & Hon. Owen Lovejoy, a member of this Board, we desire hereby to express our loyal and cheerful submission to the ordering of our Sovereign, infinitely wise and good, while we record our affectionate sorrow and our appreciation of the Christian, the philanthropist, the patriot, who has been removed from us in the meridian of his powers of his influence of his success.

As the life long champion of the despised slave he was worthy of our admiration and our affection. But to his principles of sympathy with everything, with everything that tended to abate from the spirit of caste and to promote a healthy public sentiment, he was willing to cast in his name and influence with this Institution, even when political honors, that had begun to rest upon him, might have tempted him to decline such a relation.

We will ever cherish the memory of his virtues, while we believe that the savor of his self-sacrificing life will be preserved as one of the rich legacies of our nation.

Whereas the Trustees of the Lovejoy Monument Association have proposed the endowment of Lovejoy Scholarships for the education of colored persons [sic] in such of our literary and professional Institutions as will receive the recipients of those funds to equal privileges and on the same terms with the white students.

Resolved, that this Board highly approve the proposed plan of perpetuating the memory of that Christian patriot, that true philanthropist Owen Lovejoy and that we proceed to the endowment of a scholarship of 1000 dollars upon the conditions required by the Monument Association and to be called the Lovejoy Scholarship.”

 

Will D. Campbell and Jim Wallis

At a time when racial tensions are high, we can revisit the unique career of a man who was a civil rights activist yet also sought to evangelize white supremacists.

Will D. Campbell, author and activist, occupied a distinct and somewhat lonely category as he preached a transcendent message of peace during an era of sharply divided political ideologies. Ordained in 1941 at age 17 as a Southern Baptist preacher, Campbell briefly served a pastorate in Louisiana before engaging his lifelong public ministry — advocating for Civil Rights. Presenting himself as a backwoods “bootleg” hayseed, wearing cowboy boots and straw hats, he actually possessed a fine intellect, abundant courage and quick wit. Campbell, siding unhesitatingly with the oppressed and disenfranchised, was one of four who boldly escorted African American students, known as the “Little Rock Nine,” into the racially segregated Little Rock Central High School in 1957. Campbell was also the only white man to attend the founding of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, led by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. in 1957.

In addition to frequent lecturing at churches and universities, Campbell wrote fiction and non-fiction. His novels include The Glad River (1982) and The Convention (1988). His autobiography, Brother to a Dragonfly, was a finalist for the 1978 National Book Award. Though Campbell vigorously battled inequality, his simple Christian faith elevated him above the violent forces of impassioned rhetoric. For example, he visited James Earl Ray, the assassin of Martin Luther King, Jr., in prison, insisting that the segregationist too is a child of God and a brother. He also ministered to members of the Ku Klux Klan, performing marriages and funerals, visiting them in jail and hospital.

At one prominent event he introduced himself: “My name is Will Campbell. I’m a Baptist preacher. I’m a native of Mississippi. And I’m pro-Klansman because I’m pro-human being.” Not surprisingly, Campbell’s extraordinarily irenic ministry infuriated other civil rights leaders, stirring deep resentment. How could he do such a thing?

“Mr. Jesus died for the bigots as well,” Campbell reasonably responded. “Christ’s death and resurrection is for Eldridge Cleaver [Black Panther leader] and Robert Shelton, the Imperial Wizard of the Ku Klux Klan.”

Campbell later remarked, “I never was able to explain to them that pro-Klansman is not the same as pro-Klan. That the former has to do with a person, the other with an ideology. I tried to stand patiently, even in the face of fear and danger, because I had so recently learned that lesson myself.”

His invaluable perspective on race and equality was not lost on key figures of the burgeoning social gospel movement. Jim Wallis, founder of Sojourners, invited Campbell on August 18, 1980, to write for his magazine:

You speak more sanely and clearly about reconciliation and the gospel than anybody I know. We would be very happy to have an article from you on what reconciliation means now, especially in light of the deteriorating racial and economic situation. Your relationship both to southern blacks and poor whites, and the Klan in particular, is pretty unique, and you might want to write something out of all that. Stories drawn from your travels as a sort of pastoral troubleshooter would well illustrate such an article. If the idea grabs you at all, we’d be interested. You could shape the article in any direction you wanted.

Campbell replied on September 2, 1980:

My feeling here is that I don’t have anything to say that I have not said several times already. The alleged resurgence of the Ku Klux Klan is, I believe, largely a media mind stance. The Klan has never really gone away. I continue to try to point out that a few hundred poor, confused folks marching around a burning cross, or even gunning down folks marching in Greensboro, are not the real racist enemy in the country. And a lot of folks go on seeing me as some kind of apologist for the KKK. I have never said that they are not evil. The point is that we who practice the sophisticated and socially acceptable brand of racism are more evil.

After an active career of prophetic proclamation and courageous action, Campbell died at age 88 in 2013.

Jim Wallis’s brief exchange with Will D. Campbell is maintained in the Sojourners collection (SC-23) of Special Collections, Buswell Library. Sojourners’ mission is to inspire hope and build a movement to transform individuals, communities, the church, and the world. You can read more about their racial justice efforts here

Faculty Voice – Plotting and Theming: Why I Became an English Major

Twenty-five years ago, the Wheaton Alumni magazine began a series of articles in which Wheaton faculty told about their thinking, their research, or their favorite books and people. Professor of English Emeritus Wayne Martindale (who taught at Wheaton from 1981-2011) was featured in the Winter 2011 issue.

Almost like a dare, students (and parents) often ask, “What can you do with an English major?” Because Philip Ryken was an English major, my answer could now be, “Serve as the eighth president of Wheaton College!”

Wayne Martindale, c2011

Actually, I do take this question seriously and often relay the vocations of former student teaching assistants. Statistics from the College help round out this list. Then, I get to the answer that has mattered most to me: Literature is about life and helps me understand it.

I didn’t come to an English major easily. My own undergraduate sojourn led through four majors: engineering, Bible, psychology, and English.

Looking back, I see that the hook was first set in my high school senior English class. We had to memorize 40 lines of Shakespeare’s Macbeth. I grumbled with the rest, but secretly, I loved it. For one thing, here in my previously unbookish life, was beauty. It was a beauty laced with the tragic sense that the future might be ugly or hurtful-or worse, count for nothing. “Tomorrow, and tomorrow, and tomorrow / Creeps in this petty pace from day to day / To the last syllable of recorded time.”

Shakespeare’s potent vision made me see that actions had consequences and could invite unnecessary pain; that unwashed guilt is living hell; that evil may and must be confronted.

I had found high seriousness. Choices mattered. Despite Macbeth’s claim that life was “a tale told by an idiot,” all lives had themes. There was a pattern of meaning we readers could see, even when the characters could not. They were all born for something noble, even if they missed it.

From Shakespeare to Dickens and Dostoevsky, there were many books filled with “seeings.” I discovered the truth of T.S. Eliot’s dictum that we come back from imaginative explorations to “where we start…And know the place for the first time.” In the plots of our lives, the sequence of events might seem random and the patterns fraught with apparent trivia- I sleep, I eat, I wash the dishes-over and over. Yet, even amidst the messy clutter of life, our experience is always suggesting some goodness and beauty and meaning beyond “ordinary” living. A literary plot skips the clutter and stages the patterns of life. As Lewis says, successful writers “throw off irrelevancies” and usher us into “whole classes of experience” closed to us before, and thus, “instead of ‘commenting on life,’ can add to it.”

But even plots and poetic images must move through time and space. What we really want is to connect with something that transcends both. That’s where the theme comes in: it is the meaning bigger than the sum of the parts. The author, like an interior designer, has come in and permanently rearranged the furniture of our minds.

It’s an easy step for the Christian reader to see that the teeming plot of human history is everywhere pregnant with the theme of the necessity of salvation and the reality of reconciliation.

The plots of our lives move through time and space, not randomly, but crafted by a Divine Author into a meaning beyond the sequence of events to fit an eternal theme. All stories are God’s story.