Wheaton College professor’s remarks in effort to support Muslims lead to …

23 Dec 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

Christian college suspends academic who wore headscarf in solidarity with Muslims.

Wheaton College, an evangelical Christian institution, has disciplined a professor who put on a head scarf in solidarity with Muslims and said they worship the “same God” as Christians.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.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 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.” Following a protest and sit-in of about 100 people Wednesday afternoon on campus, President Philip Ryken and later Provost Stanton Jones said they would not be lifting the suspension.

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. 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. 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 her Dec. 10 Facebook post, Hawkins was also wearing a hijab, explaining she planned to do so through the entire Christian season of Advent to show “human solidarity” with Muslims. 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.” The college and Dr Hawkins could not immediately be reached for comment.

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. 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. But the disciplinary move appeared to be in response to statements she made on Facebook this month that touched on the monotheistic similarities between the religions.

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. 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.

Hawkins was “one of my favorite, most influential professors.” She noted that Dr Hawkins quoted the pope, and that the Rev Billy Graham, the evangelical minister and a graduate of Wheaton, had made similar remarks about other religions, including Muslims being “called by God.” “Wheaton is holding a double-standard,” Ms Wendelberger said of the leave imposed on Dr Hawkins. “I was saddened by it. 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. Faculty and staff must agree with the college’s faith statement, which includes the primary doctrines of Christianity, including that the Bible is “inerrant in the original writing” and that God created Adam and Eve “in his own image.” They must commit to its community covenant, which requires living by a set of principles, including opposing same-sex marriage and remaining chaste before heterosexual marriage.

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.

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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