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Illinois' Wheaton College Embraces Leftism

Nathan Luis Cartagena

Wheaton College President Philip Ryken recently spoke at a conference hosted by the Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals at which he said,

I'll … add to narcissism and relativism something that I think is becoming an increasing problem and a greater concern to me personally and from a spiritual leadership standpoint, and that is division.

Ryken expounded on the New Testament emphasis on the importance of unity within the church. By repeatedly citing actions taken at Wheaton College, he made clear that Christian unity applies not just within local church bodies but to all of Christendom, which raises questions regarding the beliefs and practices of some Wheaton College professors, most notably--but not exclusively--Associate Professor of Philosophy and fervent evangelist for critical race theory (CRT) Nathan Luis Cartagena.

Let’s review some of Cartagena’s statements wearing our divisiveness-discerning goggles:

· “Trump signaled that he was going to be a white man’s president, dedicated to tapping into and drawing from the U.S.’s deep white nationalist roots and their accompanying sexism. Since ascending to office, he’s labored to establish Trumpism identity politics for white folks. And the Republican establishment has coddled his efforts, as Senator McConnell’s four-year defense of President Trump makes clear.

"President Trump and establishment Republicans like Sen. McConnell show no signs of ceasing their strategic gendered racism. Instead, they’re doubling down on it to keep their base. Yes, they’re cunning enough to place White women such as Sarah Huckabee Sanders and Kayleigh McEnany before reporters. But they know these women will pull all necessary stops to promulgate the Party’s racist, patriarchal agenda. …

"[R]emember that a white man is leading a white party—and the white church is promoting both. What you’re witnessing is a byproduct of the seventies, the latest manifestation of the deplorable linking of Christianity and male-exulting whiteness. … And, to rift [sic] on St. Paul, beware: You may become someone’s enemy if you tell the truth about the Republican Party’s strategic gendered racism. Christian or not, President Trump’s followers prefer their white lies."

· "In racist societies like the US, all functional or evaluative terms carry racist and sexist connotations."

· “Because marginalization and oppression in pigmentocracies operate along racialized lines, Christians should share the common interests of critical race theorists.”

· "A recurring thought: Beware reasonable sounding rhetoric in the mouths of oppression-enablers."

· "I ... detest calling the United States of America 'America'. ... If you’d like to get a sense of my views, watch Puerto Rican rapper Residente’s music video 'This Is Not America.' Warning: The video is graphic and disturbing—as any music video about US imperialism should be."

· "White supremacy is a god that demands human sacrifice and gorges itself on the least of these. And many worship it every Sunday."

· "I teach courses on race, justice, and political philosophy. I labor as a decolonial teacher-scholar committed to Jesus of Nazareth and the Kingdom of God.”

· "I feel [unloved] every time I see an advertisement that presents mi isla as a tourist attraction for the materially privileged. 'Never mind the staggering poverty. Just look at these beautiful beaches! And, of course, don’t overlook these beautiful, erotic bodies?!'”

· "In Living Buddha, Living Christ, renowned Vietnamese Buddhist monk Thich Nhat Hanh offers a rich word about true dialogue while reflecting on interfaith conversations." (To learn more about Thich Nhat Hanh's book and his beliefs, read this essay from well-respected theologian Douglas Groothuis:

Cartagena writes about critical race theory (CRT)—a lot and favorably. Much of his writing is academic in nature, picking apart arguments from scholars critical of CRT. He takes particular aim at Manhattan Institute senior fellow, Christopher F. Rufo, who has been influential in exposing the tenets and pervasiveness of CRT. About Rufo, Cartagena uncharitably says,

Culture-war agitators such as Rufo aren’t interested in offering a just, charitable understanding of CRT.

Paulo Freire, whom Cartagena cites a lot and favorably, was a Brazilian Marxist/Christian socialist, heavily influenced by liberation theology. Other thinkers who influenced Freire include “Marx, Lenin, Mao, Che Guevara, and Fidel Castro, as well as the radical intellectuals Frantz Fanon, Régis Debray, Herbert Marcuse, Jean-Paul Sartre, Louis Althusser, and Georg Lukács.”

Some Americans, including Wheaton donors, Wheaton alumni, and parents of prospective students, may be surprised by Cartagena’s fondness for leftist activists and scholars. In fact, most of the scholars Cartagena favors are leftists.

Here are some of the other leftists Cartagena cites favorably: bell hooks, Derrick Bell, Ta-Nehisi Coates, Buddhist monk Thich Nhat Hanh, Thenjiwe McHarris (who supports "trans"-cultic beliefs and practices), Clelia Rodríguez, Wilda Gafney (whose leftist revision of Gen 2:7-9, 15-17, and 21-25 Cartagena likes), Taunya Lovell Banks, and Mitri Raheb.

Raheb once said, "We have for too long tried to spiritualize the notion of liberation in the Bible. We’ve replaced liberation with salvation and the cross became nothing but atonement." Can't have the cross signifying "nothing but atonement." Wouldn't be prudent.

Leftist Cartagena isn’t a lone leftist at Wheaton. Theon Hill is another controversial leftist

professor who said in a July 2022 interview, “Politically, I identify as a progressive.” In that interview, he also compared Colin Kaepernick—or as Hill calls him “Kap, a brother in Christ”—favorably to biblical prophet Amos and claims to have “benefited greatly from Critical Race Theory.”

Theon Hill

In a Holy Post podcast with controversial Skye Jethani, Hill endorses reparations for blacks (start listening at 39:45)—a highly divisive cultural position.

Hill also teaches a course at Wheaton--once known as the Harvard of Christian colleges--titled "Rhetoric of Hip Hop” in which he reportedly shows vulgar rap videos to students. When so many young men and increasing numbers of young women struggle with porn addiction, is it wise for Hill to show students vulgar videos? Might this be a divisive act?

Wheaton offers a racially segregated graduation ceremony called the “Racial and Cultural Minority Recognition Ceremony.” And in Wheaton’s commitment to non-divisiveness, it now has a racially segregated faculty organization called the African and Africana Strategic Advisory Council. Apparently, no whites allowed. What next? Separate drinking fountains?

Wheaton’s embrace of “progressivism” pertains not only to race but also to “gender.” Associate Professor of New Testament, Reverend Amy Peeler, has written a book titled Women and the Gender of God that has been widely criticized, including by Anne Kennedy in Christian Research Journal, Denny Burk on the Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood website, and John C. Clark in Touchstone Magazine whose indictment extended to Wheaton College as well:

The significance of Peeler’s book is not the book itself. It is one among many in that trendy, boutique genre of academic-types intent on recasting Christian doctrine to fit their own presumptuous and provincial agendas. This book commands attention because its author is a professor at a bellwether evangelical institution, testifying yet again to the internal confusion and collapse of evangelicalism that will require more to remedy than benign collegiality and convenient ignorance.

Then there’s Wheaton College’s “Refuge” discipleship group, “a supportive community group for undergraduate students who self-identify as gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, or questioning.” Do any Wheaton faculty members believe same-sex erotic relationships, same-sex “marriage,” or cross-sex identification are consonant with Scripture? If so, who?

It's no wonder one Wheaton College employee describes Wheaton as a “woke disaster,” saying that Wheaton does not merely lean left. Rather, according to this employee, “It’s far more than a tilt. It is an avalanche.”

While Cartagena and Hill likely supported the letter sent by President Ryken to the Wheaton College community in the fall of 2020 just after the violent BLM/Antifa insurrections destroyed cities and lives, others may find it divisive:

Dear Campus Community,
We all are witnesses to the egregious and senseless violence that recently claimed the lives of Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, and George Floyd. Their deaths speak to the enduring presence of systemic and institutional racism within our society. …
As Christ followers, we denounce systemic racism and police brutality against any racial or ethnic group. Today especially our hearts are filled with pain for the inhumane treatment of our brothers and sisters in the African American community. We stand united with African American students, faculty, and staff who are all deeply affected by these ongoing acts of racial violence and other sinful injustices, often on a daily basis.
[W]e are also committed to identifying and addressing policies and systems in our own institution that hinder access and success of members who belong to marginalized and oppressed groups. In order to have the impact on the world that God is calling us to have, we are resolved to think and act in ways that create a more loving, equitable, and just community.
Wheaton College pursues a biblical commitment to respect and love all people as equal image-bearers of Jesus Christ. This is mandated by Scripture, promised in our Community Covenant, and detailed in our Christ-Centered Diversity Commitment.
To the members of our community belonging to the African diaspora, please know that you have our love, support, and concern.

Perhaps Wheaton stakeholders should find out more from President Ryken about the beliefs of Wheaton faculty members on race and sexuality and whether the statements and actions of Cartagena, Hill, and other leftist faculty members foster unity within the Christian community. I assume Dr. Ryken would agree that donors, prospective donors, and parents of prospective students are entitled to transparency regarding faculty beliefs on controversial cultural issues.

*Laurie Higgins is the mother of two Wheaton graduates, one of whom also received his master's degree from Wheaton College.


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