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Saturday, January 06, 2007

 

Like a Thief in the Night, The Defacing of an American Chapel

-by Warner Todd Huston

When the extremist Taleban junta demolished the centuries old Bamiyan Buddha statues in Afghanistan in 2001, the world replied with outrage at the attacks on those ancient artifacts. It was, indeed, an outrage against art, antiquity, history, and religion as these great statues carved into a mountainside in the Bamyan Valley were brutally dynamited by the Islamist extremists then holding Afghanistan in thrall. It was right that the world community expressed their disgust at this obscene destruction.

One would think that no such outrage could happen in the United States, that no one would be uncivilized enough to propose the elimination of a long standing artifact, merely because it had a religious origin.

One would be wrong.

Since 1935 a free standing cross has been standing in Wren Chapel, the place of prayer that has stood for generations as part of the college campus of William and Mary College near Williamsburg, Virginia. Encompassed in the Christopher Wren building, which stood during Thomas Jefferson's days (though this one is one re-built after fire), the Chapel has served generations of William and Mary students. Even as the college was founded with an intimate connection to the Anglican Church in the beginning and later the Episcopal Church, Wren Chapel has served the student body of all religious affiliation and has, for years, had a practice of giving users of the Chapel the option to have the Cross removed during their scheduled time of usage.

That, it appears, was not good enough for School president Gene Nichol who announced that the Cross would be completely removed from its long standing place in the Chapel. Worse, he made this move with no consultation with the school administration, the student body or the alumnus. It was his own, arbitrary decision.

The only announcement the president seemingly meant to issue was a brief email by Melissa Engimann, W&M’s assistant director for Historic Campus. Apparently, Engimann meant to explain to employees who work in the Wren building what had happened. "In order to make the Wren Chapel less of a faith-specific space, and to make it more welcoming to students, faculty, staff and visitors of all faiths, the cross has been removed from the altar area", she wrote.

This idiotic PCism was fully endorsed by our intrepid president later.

At the end of October and after the shock of this absurd decision dawned on everyone, the good president tried to further justify his decision by saying, "Questions have lately been raised about the use of the Wren Chapel and the cross that is sometimes displayed there. Let me be clear. I have not banished the cross from the Wren Chapel."

Interesting how he tried to massage the truth by making it seem as if the cross was only "sometimes" displayed, when it was in reality only sometimes removed!

On December 20th, president Nichol belatedly decided to bring the issue to the student body and alumnus. In a public letter he "apologized" for his precipitous decision... but retreated not one step.

"I likely acted too quickly and should have consulted more broadly. ... The decision was also announced to the university community in an inelegant way", he meekly admitted.

To assuage the hurt feelings he universally inflicted he offered a compromise. He would, he magnanimously claimed, allow a plaque to commemorate the "Chapel’s origins as an Anglican place of worship and symbol of the Christian beginnings of the College" to be placed inside the Chapel. Of course, such a weak effort only commemorates the fact that his decision has turned the Chapel into some average common room, used for whatever purpose is needed and is no longer a Chapel further cementing the destruction of the historic room.

Some compromise.

Nichols went into further detail about how foreboding the Chapel is to students not of Christian background to justify his PC removal of the Cross and re-branding of the room. "I have been saddened to learn of potential students and their families who have been escorted into the Chapel on campus tours and chosen to depart immediately thereafter."

A fanciful tale, Mr. President. Even f true, does it justify the destruction of the historic purpose of the room? Are there no other places on the campus where these people of "other religions" can have their thin skin massaged enough to make them feel "included"?

Nichol went on to wax poetic at the new level of happiness he claims his decision has provided:

"A number of Muslim and Jewish students now report, for the first time, that they are using the Chapel for prayer and contemplation. And I was pleased to learn that the student organization Hillel recently made a reservation to use space in the Wren for the first time anyone can remember."

Can Mr. Nichol honestly say that all these people were somehow prevented from observing their own faiths or having their "meetings" before he summarily removed the Christian intent of the Chapel? What a ridiculous claim it would have been if he had.

With one of the last few sentences of his statement, Nichol said, "We believe in the cause of the College--its singular history, its tradition of life-changing learning rooted in character and rigor, and its promising role in the future of the nation and the world."

The Taliban would have been proud of president Nichol, as they would surely have used similar rhetoric to justify their destruction of the Bamiyan Buddha.

So, another Christian symbol is wiped off the face of the Earth to be replaced by the religious sentiment of the multicultural, a PCism that erases anything not of its liking and banishes it from sight. Wren Chapel--or is it now just the Wren room-- is now safe for use, cleansed of all that horrible Christianity.

Yes, the Taliban would be proud of president Nichol.

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Comments:
Your post makes it sound as if the Wren cross were utterly destroyed when it was removed from permanent display. I missed the part of your post where you paint a complete picture of the fate of the cross - that even after the initial removal, it was available for use at any Christian service or upon individual request, and that as a part of the December 20 compromise, it will now be displayed all day on Sundays.

For a small public university with only one religious chapel (which is also used for non-religious events), I find it completely appropriate that William and Mary's Wren Chapel not be a dedicated Christian space. Any time the Chapel is used for a Christian event, a beautiful cross is available for use. Why must the display of theQA cross be the default when the space is used for a choral concert or an orientation event?
 
Sarah wrote: "I find it completely appropriate that William and Mary's Wren Chapel not be a dedicated Christian space"

Then we completely disagree. I am outraged by turning a "Christian space" into some common room, especially since it has been a Christian space since the day the school was built!

I find your attitude to be destructive, anti-Christian, anti-American and just flat out wrong.

Unfortunately, too many people today are just like you and would love to see Christianity destroyed.

You won't like the America you find on the other side, though.

Thanks for stopping by and commenting.
 
I'm not anti-Christian, but pro-religious diversity. You lost me when you called me anti-American, though. I would take offense at that, but it's such a cliché - couldn't you have come up with a more inspired insult than that?
 
This comment has been removed by the author.
 
(I deleted my comment above for a misspelling)

It wasn't an insult, it was descriptive. You are not for "diversity", you are for destruction. You are for elimination of the Christian religion and that is decidedly NOT American.

This chapel has been a place of Christian worship for decades and decades. The cross has stood since the 1930s. You want both eliminated.

People who's delicate sensibilities are damaged by displays of Christianity have so many other options to find rooms at the college to observe their own faith... but what do you want to do? Attack the Christian room.

This is no pean to "diversity". It is a straight out attack on Christianity. If there were no other options for people of "diverse" thoughts and creeds to observe their faith, a point MIGHT be had in making the room somehow less Christian. But there is no such problem.

This is just one more example of the banishment of history and Christianity while all OTHER religions and "feelings" are held up as better or more worthy of assuaging.

Attacks against Christianity, while in vogue on our hateful College campuses, is nothing but religious bigotry. Anti-Christian bigotry.
 
For someone who has never met me, you seem to know a lot about what I am for and against. I contend that you do not, and shouldn't presume to.

You seem to believe that some cold classroom in Rogers Hall or a meeting room in the University Center are a separate but equal solution for students of non-Christian faiths to meet and worship. I ask you, when a disaster or tragedy befalls the campus and the campus comes together to grieve and heal, should the non-Christians feel fortunate that they are allowed into the Christian space to join in community? Or should they go to their separate but equal meeting place, since the chapel is clearly earmarked for the Christians and Christians alone?

I stand by my belief that the Wren Chapel is now, in the twenty-first century, a college chapel, not a Christian Chapel. The College was closely knit with Christianity upon its founding, but it is now a public university. If you have ever visited the College of William and Mary, you would know that there is no other space on campus that is the equal of the Wren Chapel - to suggest that students of other religions simply find another space is dismissive and contrary to the responsibility of a publicly funded university to promote no single faith but to welcome all.

I fear that this debate, if you can call it that, will go nowhere, and as such this will be my last comment on this post. I wish you peace.
 
Sarah wrote:"I fear that this debate, if you can call it that, will go nowhere, and as such this will be my last comment on this post. I wish you peace."

Debate? There is no debate here. You feel you are 100% right and I know you are wrong. Not much to debate there.

W&M College is doing its level best to destroy Christianity and you are lending asisstance.

Anyway, thanks for stopping by.
 
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