Christian missionaries Jim Elliot, Ed McCully, Nate Saint (a missionary pilot), Roger Youderian, and Pete Fleming were speared to death for no reason except that’s what the Huaorani tribe — aka the “Auca” — in the Ecuadorian region of the Amazonian jungle had done for centuries to outsiders.
The missionaries had spent months cultivating an opening to the tribe that had no known prior contact with the outside world other than Spanish conquistadors and, more recently, sporadically with a few Shell Oil explorers, some of whom they also attacked.
The missionaries had exchanged gifts in face-to-face contacts with members of the Huaorani that were encouraging to the North American men who hoped to bring the Gospel of Jesus Christ to the tribe.
But then, without warning, on Jan. 8, 1956, members of the tribe speared all five men to death and dumped their bodies into a nearby river. Four of the five bodies were subsequently recovered by a heavily armed military contingent.
Ultimately, Elizabeth Elliot and others continued the missionary work started by her husband and were rewarded with the conversion of many members of the tribe. She eventually wrote two books about the life and death of her husband. An award-winning movie — “End of the Spear” — was made in 2005 that focused on the mission through the eyes of Saint, the missionary pilot.
And that brings us to Wheaton College, the once-esteemed evangelical campus in Illinois that includes among its most famous graduates, the great evangelist Billy Graham. Wheaton historically has been informally linked with the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC).
Wheaton’s class of 1949, of which Elliot and McCully were members, gifted the school with a plaque in 1957 dedicated to the five martyred missionaries. On the plaque, which was for many years displayed in the college’s chapel, were these words: “For generations, all strangers were killed by these savage Indians. After many days of patient preparation and devout prayer, the missionaries made the first friendly contact known to history with the Aucas.”
You won’t find that plaque today because it recently fell victim to the false god of Woke-ism, the cancer of political correctness that puts the unforgiving demands of identity politics above a factual tribute to the missionary spirit and courage of five brave men.
The reason, according to a recent email from Wheaton College President Philip Ryken to the campus community, is the plaque’s use of one word, “savages,” which allegedly rendered it “offensive.”
Why? Because, Ryken claimed, that insidious word “is regarded as pejorative and has been used to dehumanize and mistreat indigenous peoples around the world.” Wheaton students and faculty members had complained about the plaque. As a result, the school’s senior administrative cabinet will appoint a task force to review the plaque’s wording and make a rephrasing recommendation by May 1.
A more obedient expression of conformity to Woke orthodoxy than Ryken’s will be hard to find these days. That it is uttered by the president of a college allegedly devoted to Christian education is a measure of how far the Woke cancer has penetrated the American evangelical community.
But let’s look at Ryken’s Woke claim a little deeper. The fact is members of the Auca speared the five men to death. No trial, no opportunity to talk things through. No rule of law under which conflict can be negotiated and settled.
Now ask yourself, how is a murder in 1956 using a spear any different from one committed in the American West in 1875 by an outlaw using a six-gun? There is no trial, no opportunity to talk things out to a peaceful resolution, no rule of law under which conflict can be negotiated and settled.
As the theme song from an old Western put it, “the only law Liberty Valance understood was the point of a gun [spear].” The reality is the word “savages” can be applied equally to the actions of the Auca who killed the missionaries and to the gun-slinger; both acted outside of law, outside of civilized society, savagely.
So the word has nothing to do with demeaning or dehumanizing anybody, except, as applied by Cancel Culture, the victims of savage, uncivilized violence, whether delivered with a spear or a “hog leg” six-shooter.
Woke-ism, sparked by Critical Race Theory that ascribes all sin to inherently evil Caucasians, who as a class enjoy “White Privilege” and use it to oppress “people of color” like the Huaorani, thus misappropriates the term “savages” to weaponize it against advocates of anti-savagery, aka “civilization.”
That’s not to deny the Auca feared themselves to be threatened by the Ecuadorian military and representatives of Shell Oil, which wanted to explore the tribe’s historical lands for the Black Gold.
But the five missionaries had nothing to do with either the Ecuadorian military or Shell Oil, except in the fevered minds of the Woke who stereotype all three groups under the damning rubric of “Oppressors.”
And once missionary work is dismissed as a tool of oppression, the church will cease entirely from sending out missionaries to fulfill Christ’s command to take the Gospel to the whole world. After all, we wouldn’t want to oppress anybody by sharing the Gospel with them!
For more on the amazing story of the five martyred missionaries, check out this video produced some years ago by Steve Saint, son of the murdered missionary pilot, especially as he explains how he could not merely forgive the man who speared his father, but even love him:
Mark Tapscott is an award-winning investigative journalist who covers Congress for The Epoch Times, and is founder and editor of HillFaith, an apologetics ministry sharing the Gospel of Jesus Christ with congressional aides on Capitol Hill.