A Christian professor at Wheaton College has been suspended, and now faces review, for one of the most ridiculous offenses imaginable: saying that Christians and Muslims worship the same god.
Larycia Hawkins, a political science professor at the private religious school, decided to don a hijab in order to show solidarity with Muslim Americans.
She took to Facebook to explain her decision — and made the following observation:
I stand in religious solidarity with Muslims because they, like me, a Christian, are people of the book. And as Pope Francis stated last week, we worship the same God.
But as I tell my students, theoretical solidarity is not solidarity at all. Thus, beginning tonight, my solidarity has become embodied solidarity.
As part of my Advent Worship, I will wear the hijab to work at Wheaton College, to play in Chi-town, in the airport and on the airplane to my home state that initiated one of the first anti-Sharia laws (read: unconstitutional and Islamophobic), and at church.
The New York Times explained the sequence of events that led up to Hawkins’ suspension:
Last Thursday, Dr. Hawkins posted photographs of herself on Facebook in a Muslim head covering…
The next day, Wheaton College said it had received inquiries about remarks on social media by unnamed faculty about the relationship between Christianity and Islam, and their “fundamental differences.”
“Some recent faculty statements have generated confusion about complex theological matters, and could be interpreted as failing to reflect the distinctively Christian theological identity of Wheaton College,” the statement said.
Two days later, Dr. Hawkins said on Facebook that after her gesture of solidarity with Muslims, she had “received pushback almost exclusively from other Christians. The pushback has primarily centered on the claim that Christians and Muslims worship the same God.”
Wheaton responded by suspending Hawkins, writing in a press release on Wednesday,
In response to significant questions regarding the theological implications of statements that Associate Professor of Political Science Dr. Larycia Hawkins has made about the relationship of Christianity to Islam, Wheaton College has placed her on administrative leave, pending the full review to which she is entitled as a tenured faculty member.
Wheaton College faculty and staff make a commitment to accept and model our institution’s faith foundations with integrity, compassion and theological clarity. As they participate in various causes, it is essential that faculty and staff engage in and speak about public issues in ways that faithfully represent the College’s evangelical Statement of Faith.
This isn’t just intolerant of marginally different religious viewpoints (and it certainly is that). This isn’t just an absurd overreaction to a pretty basic assertion (and it’s that, too). This is an indication that Wheaton’s primary goal isn’t education, but rather indoctrination. A proper institution of higher education is supposed to make you think, to raise questions, and equip you with the tools to answer them; Wheaton, on the other hand, has responded to a challenging idea by suspending the person who raised it.
Christian blogger Fred Clark has even harsher criticism of the school’s decision:
Wheaton administrators are asking us to accept that this black woman’s suspension has nothing to do with her gesture being, in part, a rebuke to the viciously anti-Islamic rhetoric of political candidates (and a home-state governor) from the party they explicitly support as an article of faith. That’s not credible.
Wheaton administrators are asking us to accept that this black woman’s suspension has nothing to do with appeasing Rich White Christian donors who share that partisan militancy and anti-Islamic sentiment and were thus horrified when this picture of Hawkins wearing a hijab was splashed all over the media as representative of the institution they fund in the understanding that it continue to represent people who look and think just like them. That’s not credible.
For a school with a reputation for being a more liberal Christian college, this decision reminds us that very little separates them, ideologically speaking, from their more conservative counterparts.