Abortion, race, and Wheaton College

January 14, 2019

Wheaton College Under Scrutiny Over Race, Abortion, and “Offensive Rhetoric” Talks

Wheaton College, one of the nation’s leading Christian universities, is under scrutiny for its treatment of two very different presentations about race. While a pro-life talk was deemed “offensive rhetoric” by student leaders, another secular address riddled with explicit language and identity politics received little critique.

In a revealing Townhall column, pro-life activist Ryan Bomberger lets alum, parents, students, and the general public in on an unexpected controversy surrounding Wheaton College, race, and abortion.

For Bomberger, the controversy started after Wheaton College Republicans invited him to offer an address to students on campus in November 2018. His talk, titled “Black Lives Matter In and Out of the Womb,” examined the link between racism and the abortion industry. But he also focused heavily on his personal testimony incorporating Christian foundations, making the consequent backlash astonishing.

Bomberger is biracial. He was conceived in rape and then adopted. He himself is an adoptive father and is a well-respected pro-life advocate and author of the book Not Equal: Civil Rights Gone Wrong. He is also a Christian who uses his testimony to affirm that all life is created by God and bears his image, despite worldly circumstances and “unwanted” labels.

“As an adoptee and adoptive father who was conceived in rape, I challenged [Wheaton] students to see the most vulnerable, the most marginalized, and the most powerless among us as having equal intrinsic worth and God-given Purpose,” wrote Bomberger.

Much of Bomberger’s discussion aimed to expose abortion’s targeted assault on the black community. “In New York City, for every 1,000 [black babies] born alive, 1,101 are aborted, and they call this reproductive justice,” Bomberger explained to his young audience. He also went on to criticize the #BlackLivesMatters movement’s failure to address abortion’s genocide on unborn black lives. (You can watch his entire address here on YouTube.)

It seems a bit scandalous then, that within a week after his talk, a campus-wide email was sent out via the Student Activities Office calling Bomberger’s talk “offensive rhetoric.”  The email said that his talk left “many students, staff, and faculty of color feel unheard, underrepresented, and unsafe on our campus.” The letter was signed by three student body representatives who promised to organize a safe space for continued dialogue on the topic. (Bomberger made the email available here in its entirety.)

Bomberger has been vocal since the bewildering claims came to his attention, suggesting the involvement of two Wheaton administrators in the Student Activities Office and writing, “I wish the school would have responded by encouraging students to think critically, discuss the message from both sides, and challenge themselves on the content presented.”

However, it is a newly discovered, expletive-laden presentation on race from back in September 2017 that has spurred on Bomberger’s insistence that something is off with Wheaton’s approach.

In his column, Bomberger shared clips from a presentation given by Dr. George Yancy, a philosophy professor at Emory University, who was invited by Wheaton College’s philosophy department and held in the famed Billy Graham Center. Yancy’s talk is starkly different from Bomberger’s Biblically-grounded presentation.

You can listen to a portion of Yancy’s campus presentation, here. A lengthier version is available here. Be warned that Yancy’s remarks include profanity and some graphic descriptions. Honestly, it is tough to listen to his presentation for all the foul language and secular reproaches, seemingly equating white supremacists with all white people. For example, Yancy tells students “If you’re black, you should be scared as hell here at Wheaton College” and “I feel like I won’t leave you with much hope after this talk. It’s not about leaving people with hope. That’s not my job.”

One attendee noted during a Q&A clip that there was no mention of God during Yancey’s discussion. In fact, the philosophy professor’s presentation lacked a focus on forgiveness and reconciliation, as one might expect to hear on a Christian campus.

Now, even Christian colleges should expose students to varying viewpoints. But it seems odd that Bomberger’s talk, which closely aligns with Wheaton’s Christian worldview would be labeled “offensive rhetoric” in a campus-wide email by student leaders. Meanwhile, Yancy’s talk which seemed to lack any Christian foundation received zero backlash from student body representatives. No campus-wide emails sent comforting any discomfort among the student body — no safe spaces created for further processing and dialogue. At least, none to my knowledge or Bomberger’s knowledge for that matter.

Bomberger does not hold back in his refutations of Yancy’s talk and the school’s overall attitude, sharing:

We must fight the sin of racism and work toward understanding and loving one another in intentional and tangible ways. Yancy’s approach isn’t it. He’s stuck in 1860. He admits he has no practical or spiritual solution to offer: “It’s not about leaving white people with hope. That’s not my job. White America sees me as a n***er. White America sees you, if you are black, as a n***er. And I don’t want you to forget that.”

And:

Christianity offers a completely different perspective. It’s called love (a word never mentioned by Yancy). It transforms everything, makes us new creations, compels us toward forgiveness, and creates real and lasting unity. If preaching that message gets me, students, or faculty smeared on a Christian college campus, then smear away. Someone will be set free.

I agree with Bomberger on this one. Yancy presented no tangible solutions to America’s deep racial tensions, only a heap of contempt and shaming. There are better ways to address America’s race problems. According to IRD President Mark Tooley, there is a “very needed initiative for racial reconciliation that uniquely rediscovers a venerable tradition of understanding the nation under both divine judgment and mercy.” Christian students especially need exposure to this unique approach to racial reconciliation.

As Tooley explains, “This message is unfashionable in much of American Christianity that now rejects or minimizes the providential role of nations. But Christians cannot help our nation heal unless they also understand the nation’s purpose under God.”

 


10 Responses to Wheaton College Under Scrutiny Over Race, Abortion, and “Offensive Rhetoric” Talks

  1. Michael Moore says:

    What on earth is going on with our college students today? Especially with those who are supposed to be Christian.? First we have the article about Urbana 18, which was supposed to “excite Christian college students about missions”, and instead seemed to do more to turn them away from Christianity. Now, this.

    Wheaton College, “one of the nation’s leading Christian universities”, sure bombed out with this one. Are Christian college students not any more prepared for life’s challenges than secular students?

  2. carrie says:

    Wheaton College does not uphold the book of Genesis as an inerrant text. They gave up teaching Biblical creation some time ago. Genesis, chapters 2, and 3 culminating the work of chapter 1, tell of man’s special creation by God. Understanding the full, explosive truth of these chapters is crucial to realizing the importance and infinite value of all human life. Wheaton is a has been school for any discerning Christian. And it is heartbreaking….

    • That’s a fact. J.H. Walton has been a terrible influence on the College. One of his students is a Scripture professor at Mt. St. Mary’s Catholic Seminary and he is polluting the seminarians with his Walton-like evolutionist story telling that passes for scholarship.

  3. William says:

    Those who are honest about race and race relations in America know that no other country in all of human history has done more to address a racist past than the USA. Way too much of this contemporary racism rhetoric is manufactured for purely political reasons. It’s built around the old adage of divide and conquer. What this country so desperately needs is unity around common human needs and issues that are blind to race. We need mature conversations devoid of the racial component. Of course continue to work to improve race/people relations, but for goodness sake start by acknowledging what has already been accomplished, what is actually going on daily where people of all races are getting along just as people and unconcerned about each others’ race, dispense with the alarmist, unsubstantiated malarkey, and be HONEST for a change. All are the same in Jesus — a Christian truth that certainly needs emphasizing and pointed out where practiced.

  4. Stephen Leonard says:

    Has anyone from Wheaton’s administration spoken yet to the Yancey and Bomberger talks and reactions. Especially the lack of response to Yancey, and the bombastic response to Bomberger.

  5. Steve Walters says:

    The issue was not even with Bomberger’s talk, it was about comments that he made, unfortunately not recorded, during the Q&A portion. Ed Stetzer has written a few pieces regarding this, as he was a faculty member involved in handling the backlash that Yancy brought to campus.

  6. Joe M says:

    Stetzer does a great job of not sharing. It’s still hard to know just what the the man said to upset so many.
    Meanwhile, we need a good article on Walton’s IVP series.

  7. Matt B says:

    The best way to resolve this issue is for the “philosophy” department to host both of them for a professionally supervised and refereed debate. Not knowing much of Bomberger or Yancy’s background, they may hate public debate – it can be intimidating, but the score is not what matters, just the opportunity of the two of them to meet on Wheaton’s campus and express their views to one another in a civilized manner (ie no swearing, just civil and friendly – even if heated at times- debate).

    The debate should be structured as such- as a means of giving both parties opportunity to address each other face to face. Donors, Students, Parents of students, students and supporters of both Bomberger and Yancy, as well as Bomberger and Yancy themselves… should push for this to happen on Wheaton’s campus.

  8. WALTER CARROLL says:

    I am sure that Jim Elliot would be terribly disappointed with his alma mater. It is a sad day that one of the foremost Christian colleges in the United States would so totally embrace moral relativism and abandon the scripture and absolute truth.

  9. Robert says:

    “racism” is a phoney, nebulous “sins”, which has no fixed definition except to the supposedly offended and oddly, only exists as white oppression against blacks.

    This is nothing but Cultural Marxists agit-prop and any institution that suggests “repentance” from it is to be shunned and condemned as preaching a different gospel from that of Jesus and Paul.

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