Larycia Hawkins, an associate Professor of political science at Wheaton College probably thought she was on safe ground when she favorably compared Christians and Muslims as both “people of the book.” She probably thought she was on even safer ground when she quoted Pope Francis’ statement that Christians and Muslims worship the same God.
Boy, was she wrong.
Wheaton College, a prominent evangelical school in Illinois, has placed a professor on administrative leave after she posted on Facebook that Muslims and Christians “worship the same God.”
The official school statement Tuesday about associate professor of political science Dr. Larycia Hawkins’s suspension said Wheaton professors should “engage in and speak about public issues in ways that faithfully represent the College’s evangelical Statement of Faith.”
(all links in quoted material are from the original source)
Doubtlessly completely unrelated to her suspension was the fact that Hawkins (who happens to be the only tenured black female professor at Wheaton) had the temerity to express on Facebook her solidarity with Muslim women who are routinely and increasingly targeted for attack due to their demonization by people like Donald Trump:
On Dec. 10, Dr. Hawkins posted photographs of herself on Facebook in a Muslim head covering, which she vowed to wear at work, in airplanes and at social events during the weeks before Christmas in solidarity with Muslims facing religious discrimination.
“I stand in religious solidarity with Muslims because they, like me, a Christian, are people of the book,” she wrote in the post. “And as Pope Francis stated last week, we worship the same God.”
Oh no we don’t! Allah is a totally different God. Wait..what? If the Christian God and the Muslim God aren’t the same, then either one of them has to be a big fat liar or else there are two Gods. But the Pope’s already vouched for Allah, saying he’s the same guy as the Christian God. The exact same guy! You couldn’t tell them apart in a lineup!
For the record, both religious traditions worship the God of Abraham. According to the college, however, the mere suggestion that Allah and God could be the same Big Guy In The Sky prompted some “unnamed faculty” at Wheaton to pose “inquiries” about Ms. Hawkins, inquiries that apparently so discombobulated the College that they suspended her, releasing this statement:
“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.
So rather than address this “confusion,” the college takes her job away? What kind of message does that send to the students? Somewhere I read that universities—particularly religious-based ones–are to supposed to be able to tackle these kinds of “confusing” issues. Isn’t that what a theological education is for? And we know it wasn’t her wearing the hijab that prompted this—the college makes that painstakingly clear:
The college president, Philip G. Ryken, emphasized in a statement on Wednesday that Dr. Hawkins’s words, not her appearance in a scarf, were the issue. He said Wheaton had “no stated position on the wearing of head scarves as a gesture of care and concern for those in Muslim or other religious communities that may face discrimination or persecution.”
Many in the student body at Wheaton do not agree and have said so:
More than 40 students met near Wheaton’s campus Tuesday night to draft an open letter to President Philip Ryken, asking for Hawkins’s reinstatement.
The letter quotes a coalition of concerned students and alumni. “We believe that there is nothing in Larycia Hawkins’ public statements that goes against the belief in the power of God, Christ, or the Holy Spirit that the Statement of Faith deems as a necessary component to Wheaton’s affiliation,” it reads. It asks that she be reinstated.
The students are staging a sit-in at Wheaton’s President’s office on Wednesday, and apparently they have the support of some of the faculty and staff:
A Wheaton staff member who spoke on the condition of anonymity said the suspension “sets a precedent for what professors can post on their Facebook page. If Dr. Hawkins is being used as a scapegoat, that will send a message to those of us who are employed full time.”
I’m sorry, but the college’s explanation doesn’t pass the smell test, particularly in the times we’re living through right now. Ms. Hawkins’ statements in that Facebook Post are mild vanilla. Acknowledging that Muslims and Christians are both “People of the Book” is hardly the stuff employment suspension decisions are made of. As far as “Worshiping the same God,” as the Times article notes, even Billy Graham has said that or something very similar.
There’s something else going on here, and it doesn’t sound like something Jesus would approve of.