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 if 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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