Christian college places professor on leave after comparing Christianity, Islam

23 Dec 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

Christian college professor wearing headscarf put on leave.

CHICAGO (AP) — A professor at a suburban Chicago Christian college who has been placed on administrative leave after donning a headscarf to demonstrate solidarity with Muslims said Wednesday that her actions are demonstrations of her own faith. An academic at a Christian college in Chicago has been suspended after wearing a headscarf in sympathy with Muslims, in the latest sign of America’s confusion over faith, minorities and freedom in the wake of terrorist attacks.

In a moment when relations between Christians and Muslims are so strained, claiming that adherents of the two religions worship the same God can be controversial.Larycia Hawkins, a professor of political science at Wheaton College in Illinois, recently made an unusual gesture to show solidarity with Muslims: She decided to cover her hair with a hijab. It wasn’t clear how long Hawkins was suspended for, but some of the student leaders who had been involved in talks with administrators said it was through the spring semester.

In recent days, she began wearing a hijab, the headscarf worn by some Muslim women, to counter what she called the “vitriolic” rhetoric against Muslims in recent weeks. “In the spirit of Advent, my actions were motivated by a desire to live out my faith. Attitudes towards Muslims have hardened since a husband and wife killed 14 people in California, in an attack apparently inspired by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant. In an official statement, college administrators expressed concern over the “theological implications” of her statements and promised a full review. She didn’t state why in her piece and did not return requests for comment to The Washington Post, but this fall has seen anti-Islam rhetoric rise sharply in the public square, including by GOP presidential candidates.

With fears of terrorism simmering and Donald Trump calling for Muslims to be blocked from entering the United States, many American Muslims are on edge. Science professors can teach evolution, government professors need not support conservative political theories, and students don’t have to worry about strict dress codes or stringent curfews like students at more fundamentalist colleges do. Thus, beginning tonight, my solidarity has become embodied solidarity.” She linked to a Christianity Today interview with Yale theologian Miroslav Volf on the topic.

But I think that Muslims and Christians who embrace the normative traditions of their faith refer to the same object, to the same Being, when they pray, when they worship, when they talk about God. The idea that non-Muslim women should wear hijabs to protest Islamophobia started in Australia, where a social media movement urged women to wear hijabs and post selfies amid a national debate about head and face coverings.

The description of God is partly different.” 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. The college has experienced racial tension, including an incident in March when football players wore KKK robes and carried Confederate flags in a skit as part of a team-building exercise. So please do not fear joining this embodied narrative of actual as opposed to theoretical unity; human solidarity as opposed to mere nationalistic, sentimentality. Essentially, Wheaton argues Hawkins went too far: that it’s fine to call for respect for Muslims and their right to religious freedom, but that its professors should uphold Wheaton’s “distinctively evangelical Christian identity.” “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,” the college wrote. When Hawkins went to work at Wheaton, she had to agree to considerable theological and cultural requirements that Wheaton places on its faculty and staff.

A school official admitted that “students have been hurt by the decision.” Wheaton’s firm stance against homosexuality has led to it being named one of the least LGBT-friendly colleges in the nation, even ranking as the ?1 worst some years. Why are we comfortable with Catholics and Jews but remain quiet when Muslims are persecuted?” said Kaleebu, 19, who grew up in Uganda but now lives in the D.C. region. “I think people are saying she’s saying the religions are fundamentally the same but that’s not necessarily true. Muslims don’t believe Jesus is the son of God.” 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.

They both believe that they are worshiping the Creator of the universe, though of course they have different understandings of who his prophets are, different beliefs about the Trinity, and different understandings of the law that God wants us to follow. Hawkins is being used as a scapegoat, that will send a message to those of us who are employed full time.” The suspension took place less than a week after Wheaton College student leaders published an open letter in their student newspaper denouncing recent controversial comments by Liberty University President Jerry Falwell. Because Wheaton is the most prominent and elite evangelical Christian college — playing a similar role to Notre Dame’s with Catholics — those tensions get a special amount of attention. Hawkins’ point, which is that Christians should love Muslims, and that they should stand together with them in “human solidarity,” would also be unobjectionable. Speaking to thousands of students about terrorism, Falwell urged them to arm themselves, saying it would “end … those Muslims.” He later said he meant only violent radicals.

How Christian colleges, particularly more conservative places like Wheaton, should participate in interfaith efforts is a question that’s drawing attention as American Islamophobia grows. The Wheaton administration later issued a statement praising that open letter, saying school leaders agree with students’ effort to “address our nation’s challenges through respecting the dignity of all people, rejecting religious discrimination, and pursuing the peace that triumphs over hostility.” I can certainly see why Wheaton might object to claims that Islam is theologically sound — but I don’t think that would be the “theological implication[]” of Prof. The question in Hawkins’s case is whether she deviated from the Wheaton faith statement, and the evangelical college’s theology, when she explained her reasoning for donning the hijab. My view is that people who teach at religious colleges, which have as their mission to “serve[] Jesus Christ and advance[] His Kingdom” — rather than to pursue knowledge, wherever it might lead — can rightly be expected to follow religious orthodoxy.

The questions of Islam and religious freedom are particularly salient at Wheaton, which often invokes religious freedom as the reason for its opposition to Obamacare’s contraception mandate. Such requirements of orthodoxy strike me as bad for the pursuit of knowledge, but I presume that faculty members and students go into such institutions aware of the requirements, and able to evaluate the costs and benefits of those requirements. (I’m much more bothered when institutions that claim to be all about untrammeled inquiry and challenges to orthodoxies try to constrain faculty and student views; that strikes me as a sort of bait-and-switch.) I’m just surprised that Wheaton’s religious orthodoxy would condemn Prof.

Because of the close ties between Republicans and the religious right, many Christian colleges are seen as de facto supporters of conservative policy, and not just on social issues such as abortion and same-sex marriage. Going down this path, we instead follow the voice of Jesus, calling us to love our neighbor and to pursue peace toward those hostile to us or our faith, and to stand in solidarity with our Muslim brothers and sisters. The college supported the students’ letter: “We are grateful that our emerging leaders are encouraging other Christians to treat and to speak about our Muslim neighbors in loving and respectful ways,” its statement read.

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