This is a complete and accurate transcript of the tape of the oral history interview of Jesse Wilbert Hoover (CN 319, T4) in the Archives of the Billy Graham Center. No spoken words have been omitted, except for any non-English phrases which could not be understood by the transcribers. Foreign terms which are not commonly understood appear in italics. In very few cases words were too unclear to be distinguished. If the transcriber was not completely sure of having gotten what the speaker said, "[?]" was inserted after the word or phrase in question. If the speech was inaudible or indistinguishable, "[unclear]" was inserted. Grunts and verbal hesitations such as "ah" or "um" were usually omitted. The transcribers have not attempted to phonetically replicate English dialects but have instead entered the standard English word the speaker was expressing.
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... Three dots indicate an interruption or break in the train of thought within the sentence on the part of the speaker.
.... Four dots indicate what the transcriber believes to be the end of an incomplete sentence.
( ) Words in parentheses are asides made by the speaker.
[ ] Words in brackets are comments by the transcriber.
This transcript was made by Wayne D. Weber and was completed in August 2006
Collection 319, T4. Interview of Jesse Wilbert Hoover by Paul Ericksen, October 7, 1985.
ERICKSEN: At the end of the last tape I asked whether there were things that we hadn’t covered and one thing you mentioned was the reason for the evacuation of missionaries from China. Could you talk a little about that?
HOOVER: Yes, I’ll be very happy to because I think there may have been some misunderstanding regarding that whole unfortunate episode. I say “unfortunate” and yet I say that with tongue-in-cheek because subsequent recent history has proved that the church in China under the extreme pressures and persecutions multiplied many times over during those awful years. But in the estimation of a great many people the evacuation of the missionaries from China seemed to be quite unfortunate. That’s quite understandable in our human view. First of all, let me remind you that all of us are still human. On several occasions knowingly, at least knowing in some part, the probable risks involved and feeling so much depended on what I was in position to do, I literally took my life in my hands. And yet let’s be realistic about it, we’re all human and we try to protect our lives, if we, can by the grace of God. I think that’s not only humanly speaking understandable, but I think it’s right, necessary. And so I do not feel that anyone should be critical of the missionaries for abandoning China at that period. There was in my estimation...there was not an element of retreat or giving up but it was chiefly in the field of concern for the best ongoing interests on the Chinese Christian church, Christian mission itself. Let me explain. One of the chief hazzards that not only my relief staffs but Christian missionaries were facing in China as it was being taken by the Communists was the sneering thrust that the Chinese Christian was the running dog of the foreigners, particularly the...particularly the American missionary. And this was one of the chief hazzards and stumbling blocks to any genuine work in China. In other words the Chinese Christians individually and at that juncture the Chinese Christian work in general was without any question better off without the foreigners. I know that some who listen to me may find it a bit difficult to accept that. But that is my firm inalterable conclusion. I say “inalterable.” I have to have some very, very positive strong evidence to the contrary to ever alter it. I felt that that was need as a...a background for what occurred in the evacuation of China. Whether each individual missionary who evacuated was fully conscious of all that was involved here, I cannot say, but I know this is the general climate on which that evacuation took place.
ERICKSEN: The other thing that you...you mentioned was a question you have wrestled with earlier in your life. Could you...
ERICKSEN: ...state that question and then talk about it?
HOOVER: Yes, I had entertained the notion that is somewhat popular in some circles yet today that some of these primitive peoples are better off left alone. And I concede that there is a certain aspect in which this may be true, but not in the sense that most people refer to it. I had the privilege of traveling rather extensively in the Philippines and some of the back areas of the Philippines, among some of the most primitive peoples of the world according to anthropologist. And one of the things that disturb me, one of the things that upset me, one of the things for which I wasn’t quite prepared was the fact that even these most primitive peoples are inclined far more to adapt from what we call the advanced cultures of the world, to adapt the worster aspects rather than there better. To me a very graphic proof of the inherent depravity of human nature, which we conceive of and express in somewhat variant ways but which is a very fundamental concept of the entire Christian world. Now to help in the resolution of that problem, farther back in my student days at Wheaton [College], a young couple from the interior of Africa (and I’ve forgotten which nation) but they went there as the first foreigners, at least the first foreign missionaries. The society there was so primitive there that they were still cannibals. This young couple spoke at a chapel at Wheaton when I was there and discussed very frankly all the imputations of it. And their conclusion was that these people answered very well to the description the apostle Paul gives us in the first chapter of Romans of the downward progression of the human experience and that none can truly claim no responsibility for their actions. In other words, even the most primitive people know better and therefore are responsible. Now to go into the further implications of that is not the purpose here. To simply say that after rather extensive traveling among various tribes and peoples in very primitive conditions, my own personal conclusion is exactly parallel. These people are inclined to accept the downward pulling pressures and not to respond as regularly to the things that could be helpful. Not to...not alone on the spiritual level but it’s true even in regard to natural things. And therefore they do positively, most emphatically need the loving influence of the gospel of Jesus Christ.
ERICKSEN: A follow-up question. From your visits to the Orient or to Europe ( I guess would have to be the Orient), can think of any specific examples where you saw this...
HOOVER: Well, yes, probably...
HOOVER: ...probably...probably one of the most...
ERICKSEN: ...to accept the downward?
HOOVER: ...Well, yes, probably...probably one of the most striking examples is how readily everyone over there seems to pick up the American cigarette habit. In more recent years proved to be one of the most devastating and debilitating and downward pulling aspects of our whole Western way of life. And I started to say “everybody.” That’s a little exaggerated, of course, but everybody is so ready to take up things like this instead of...of...of trying to seek out the things that might be of benefit to them.
ERICKSEN: Okay. Well, thank you very much for the interview Reverend Hoover. I appreciate your contribution to the program.
HOOVER: I trust that is...will be of some to help to someone.
ERICKSEN: I’m sure it will be. Thank you.
END OF TAPE