What was wrong with this story?
College professor suspended after she posted these words to Facebook
December 18, 2015
The private evangelical Wheaton College in Illinois suspended political science associate professor Larycia Alaine Hawkins after she posted on Facebook that both Muslims and Christians "worship the same God."
The school issued an official statement on Tuesday, as reported by the Washington Post, describing the nature of Hawkins' administrative leave: "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."
Hawkins' Dec. 10, 2015, post declared that she stands "in human solidarity with my Muslim neighbor because we are formed of the same primordial clay, descendants of the same cradle of humankind," adding that she had decided to wear a hijab to show "embodied" and "human solidarity" with Muslims. She continued, "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."
But it may be that another part of her post raised eyebrows, especially after the attacks in Paris and San Bernardino. "I stand in religious solidarity with Muslims because they, like me, a Christian, are people of the book," she posted on Facebook. "And as Pope Francis stated last week, we worship the same God."
The Chicago Tribune indicated that perhaps some evangelical Christians could interpret that statement as a type of religious fusion.
"While Islam and Christianity are both monotheistic, we believe there are fundamental differences between the two faiths, including what they teach about God's revelation to humanity, the nature of God, the path to salvation and the life of prayer," Wheaton College said in a statement, according to the Tribune, which also reported that Hawkins would address her suspension at a news conference Wednesday at First United Methodist Church at the Chicago Temple.
About 100 students, according to the Post, staged a protest and a group also presented a letter to the college's president and provost calling for the professor's reinstatement. "Dr. Hawkins has and continues to be an invaluable resource to the students of Wheaton College, particularly to those of color," part of the letter said. "She is known for her sharp intelligence, her challenging intellect, and her ability to encourage those around her to live an incarnational faith."
The Post reported that there were chants of “Reinstate Doc Hawk,” “We love Wheaton!” and that some women had on hijabs in solidarity.
Students, coping with finals, appeared split on the situation. Senior Wyatt Harms, a political science major, described her to the Tribune as "unparalleled in her academics" and "a refuge for so many students on campus."
But David Burnham, a junior majoring in business and economics, backed the college's decision, citing to the Tribune the "profound theological implications" of her statements. "By placing her on leave, the school says it doesn't believe Muslims and Christians worship the same God. The college had no choice."
The support of Hawkins students also popped on the Internet, and many of them commented on her Facebook Post: "To my wonderful mentor who has taught me so much about what it means to honestly and fiercely love others I join you in solidarity for this advent season," says one girl who also shared a photo of herself wearing the hijab. "Wheaton needs more professors like you," adds another one. "This is beautiful. Thank you for being such an incredible example to all of your students and friends," a Facebook friend commented.
Hawkins complete Facebook post can be seen below:
Theologians also weighed in on the situation, citing concerns and issuing praise.
Biblical studies Professor Denny Burk of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Ky., didn't see enough clarity in Hawkins' statements, according to the Tribune. "We're people of the book, but our books are very different. ... The Bible is witnessing to Jesus Christ the son of God. That's unique of all the world religions, and that uniqueness was what I thought was missing from what she said."
Miroslav Volf, a theology professor at Yale Divinity School, portrayed Hawkins' act to the newspaper as more of a fitting Advent devotion. "Advent is the time where Christians are particularly aware of the precariousness of those who are weak," he told the Tribune. "She has not denied any of the Christian claims that God was the holy trinity, that God was incarnate in Jesus Christ and Christ is the savior of the world who died on the cross. She has not denied any of these claims. I think in the Wheaton constituency, there's strong enmity toward Islam."