Wheaton College Professor Is Put on Leave After Remarks on Islam

22 Dec 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

Christian College Punishes Professor for Heresy.

CHICAGO — A professor at a suburban Chicago Christian college who is wearing a headscarf to demonstrate solidarity with Muslims has been placed on administrative leave after making statements about the faiths’ similarities that the college said conflicted with its “distinctively evangelical” identity. Wheaton College has suspended tenured political science professor Larycia Hawkins after she wrote an essay on Facebook showing her solidarity with the Muslim community, according to a statement posted to the school’s website Tuesday. Larycia Hawkins, who is a Christian and an associate professor of political science at Wheaton College, a private evangelical school west of Chicago, was put on leave Tuesday. Hawkins elaborated, “as Pope Francis stated last week, [Christians and Muslims] worship the same God.” “Wheaton College faculty and staff make a commitment to accept and model our institution’s faith foundations with integrity, compassion and theological clarity,” Wheaton wrote in a statement announcing her suspension. “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.” The college’s statement did not clarify whether the issue was solely with the “theological implications” of Hawkins’s claim that Muslims and Christians worship the same God, or with the seeming authority she granted to the Pope.

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. The school also said it “has no stated position on the wearing of headscarves as a gesture of care and concern for those in Muslim or other religious communities that may face discrimination or persecution,” and that Hawkins was placed on leave “in response to significant questions regarding the theological implications” of her statements.

Wheaton College students, who last week raised concerns of their own about comments Liberty University President Jerry Falwell Jr. made in the aftermath of the California shooting, took to social media to defend Hawkins and call for her to be reinstated. Hawkins added that she’d asked friends at the Council on American-Islamic Relations whether non-Muslims wearing the hijab is “haram (forbidden), patronizing, or otherwise offensive to Muslims,” and got their blessing. Thus, beginning tonight, my solidarity has become embodied solidarity.” She linked to a Christianity Today interview with Yale theologian Miroslav Volf on the topic. Hawkins, a tenured faculty member, explained her decision to wear a headscarf throughout the Advent period preceding Christmas in a video interview with the Chicago Tribune on Sunday.

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. The description of God is partly different.” 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 added that while the college welcomes goodwill towards Muslims, “overtures of Christian friendship must be enacted with theological clarity as well as compassion.”

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. 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. 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.”

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