The Professor Wore a Hijab in Solidarity — Then Lost Her Job

16mag-16hawkins-t_ca1-superjumboThree days after Larycia Hawkins agreed to step down from her job at Wheaton College, an evangelical school in Wheaton, Ill., she joined her former colleagues and students for what was billed as a private service of reconciliation. It was a frigid Tuesday evening last February, and attendance was optional, but Wheaton’s largest chapel was nearly full by the time the event began. A large cross had been placed on the stage, surrounded by tea lights that snaked across the blond floorboards in glowing trails.

“We break, we hurt, we wound, we lament,” the school’s chaplain began. He led a prayer from the Book of Psalms, and the crowd sang a somber hymn to the tune of “Amazing Grace”:

God raised me from a miry pit,
from mud and sinking sand,
and set my feet upon a rock
where I can firmly stand.

Philip Ryken, the college’s president of six years, spoke next. His father had been an English professor at Wheaton for 44 years, and he grew up in town, receiving his undergraduate degree from the college. “I believe in our fundamental unity in Jesus Christ, even in a time of profound difficulty that is dividing us and threatening to destroy us,” he told the crowd. “These recent weeks have been, I think, the saddest days of my life.” It was the night before the first day of Lent, the 40-day season of repentance in the Christian calendar.

Wheaton had spent the previous two months embroiled in what was arguably the most public and contentious trial of its 156-year history. In December, Hawkins wrote a theologically complex Facebook postannouncing her intention to wear a hijab during Advent, in solidarity with Muslims; the college placed her on leave within days and soon moved to fire her. Jesse Jackson had compared Hawkins with Rosa Parks, while Franklin Graham, an evangelist and Billy Graham’s son, declared, “Shame on her!” Students protested, fasted and tweeted. Donors, parents and alumni were in an uproar. On this winter evening, the first black female professor to achieve tenure at the country’s most prominent evangelical college was now unemployed and preparing to address the community to which she had devoted the past nine years of her life. As a Wheaton anthropology professor, Brian Howell, wrote in January, the episode had become “something of a Rorschach test for those wondering about the state of Wheaton College, evangelicalism and even U.S. Christianity.”

FULL ARTICLE FROM THE NEW YORK TIMES MAGAZINE 

Evangelical Christians Countering Anti-Muslim Rhetoric

NASHVILLEThere’s been a lot of negative campaign language about Islam this election season—calls for banning Muslims from entering the US and for patrolling Muslim neighborhoods. But there are also serious attempts to oppose anti-Muslims rhetoric. Correspondent Kim Lawton reports on efforts in Nashville, Tennessee to counter hateful speech by building personal relationships between Christians and Muslims. She talks with Rev. Josh Graves, pastor of an evangelical megachurch and author of How Not to Kill a Muslim: A Manifesto of Hope for Christianity and Islam in North America, along with Muslim community leaders who are participating in the bridge-building efforts.

LINK TO PBS VIDEO HERE 

Why Everyone Should Study Islam – A Christian College Student’s Advice for all Americans

Quran

Editor’s NoteSimran Jeet Singh is an Assisant Professor in the Department of Religion at Trinity University.  This essay was written by his student as a part of a class assignment on why people should study Islam.  

My name is Bethany, and I am a collegiate athlete, sorority girl, and dog lover hailing from a Christian family in Bethesda, Maryland. This summer while driving to a morning swim practice I made the mistake we all make once in our driving career. While searching for a power bar in my bag, I let off the brake without noticing and rolled into the bumper of the jeep Cherokee in front of me.

I pulled over to the shoulder, grabbed my water bottle and went out to give my sincere apologies to the other driver for the unexpected “love tap.” What greeted me on the other side of my door however, was the opposite of love. I walked straight into a torrent of Arabic and Muslim phrases being thrown at me faster than I could even react. I was confused and speechless.

I was not a part of the Islamic faith in any sense, and who was this person antagonizing me for it? I could not look this driver in the face, and my eyes wandered to the water bottle in my hand with my name gracefully stretching across its width in large Arabic letters.

My big sister in my sorority had made it for me after finishing her Arabic class last semester. It was then that I put two and two together.

It was a big misunderstanding. The driver had seen the Arabic and automatically jumped to conclusions. Confusion quickly turned to anger, and I turned my back, got in my car and pulled back into traffic. I cried the rest of the drive to practice, not out of sadness or anger, but out of disappointment.

FULL ARTICLE FROM PATHEOS BLOG 

Can Wheaton College survive its never-ending controversy over Muslim and Christian worship?

wheatonWhen Wheaton College professor Larycia Hawkins stands before a group of her peers next month for their judgment, at stake will be not only Hawkins but the future of evangelicalism.

Or that’s how it can feel these days on the campus of the Illinois college sometimes dubbed “the evangelical Harvard.” Evangelical debate has been intense about whether the hijab-wearing political science professor went too far in saying Christians and Muslims worship the same God. The debate has raised larger questions: How large is the evangelical tent, and who decides who is included?

There is no official hierarchy for one of the country’s largest faith communities, and the debate over whom can be labeled an evangelical is particularly relevant as presidential candidates clamor for the “evangelical vote.”

This week, Wheaton’s faculty council, which represents the college’s 211 faculty, unanimously voted to recommend the administration withdraw its efforts to fire Hawkins and to end her administrative leave, citing “grave concerns” about the process.

The dispute is splitting those affiliated with the college, the alma mater of evangelist Billy Graham and considered one of the standard-bearers of U.S. evangelicalism. Alumni have flooded the college with letters and the evangelical magazine Christianity Today — without picking a side — warned that the issue “threatens to undo” the college.

FULL ARTICLE FROM THE WASHINGTON POST 

What Arab Christians Think of Wheaton-Hawkins ‘Same God’ Debate

arab-christiansLarycia Hawkins has a fan in Egypt.

Theresa, the nine-months-pregnant wife of a Coptic Orthodox juice stand owner, could not hide her admiration when told how a Christian professor had donned a hijab in solidarity with Muslims facing prejudice in America.

“It is a beautiful thing she has done, going beyond the norm to better approach others,” she said.

“But it would not work here.”

Her comment came on the heels of her husband Hani’s discomfort. He called the symbolic act “extreme.”

In doing so, the humble man mixing mango and strawberry mirrored the reactions of most regional evangelical and Orthodox theologians to the core question of the Wheaton College dispute: not Hawkins’s hijab, but her “same God” explanation for it. All commended her intentions, but only one—the Palestinian head of a seminary—praised it as a stand for justice.

One pastor called it “excessive.” A bishop, “unnecessary.” And therein lies the rub. Whether considering donning the hijab in solidarity or debating if Muslims and Christians worship the same God, Arab Christians operate in a vastly different religious context.

Only recently have American Christians had to deal with issues raised by Muslims in their midst. The 9/11 tragedy birthed a political culture that seeks unity through theological terms, said Salim Munayer, head of the lauded Musalaha reconciliation ministry in Jerusalem.

“But among Muslims and Christians in the Middle East, the discussion is not over whether we worship the same God,” he said, “but rather Muslims challenging us that we worship one God at all.”

At a recent interfaith event in Cairo, a black-robed, long-bearded Coptic Orthodox priest stood at the podium and abandoned a standard Christian introduction used for centuries.

“In the name of the One God, whom we all worship,” he intoned, sidelining the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. Repeating a phrase popularized by George Anawati—an Egyptian Dominican who strove to heal the Muslim-Christian divide—the priest celebrated all the two faiths held in common.

FULL ARTICLE FROM CHRISTIANITY TODAY 

Do Christians And Muslims Worship The Same God?

istock_000003109511_large_wide-fe00e9894f52538af036aa0ffab55fd1a6113493-s800-c85Larycia Hawkins, a professor at Wheaton College in Illinois, decided to wear a headscarf during the Advent season as a gesture of solidarity with Muslims. In doing so, Hawkins quoted Pope Francis, saying that Christians and Muslims “worship the same God.”

But some evangelical Christians disagree — and Wheaton, a Christian school,responded by putting the political science professor on paid administrative leave. The college says it needs time to review whether her statement puts her at odds with the faith perspective required of those who work there.

 

Most mainstream Muslims would generally agree they worship the same God that Christians — or Jews — worship. Zeki Saritoprak, a professor of Islamic studies at John Carroll University in Cleveland, points out that in the Quran there’s the Biblical story of Jacob asking his sons whom they’ll worship after his death.

“Jacob’s sons replied, ‘We will worship the God of your fathers’ — Abraham, Ishmael and Isaac. He is the God,” Saritoprak says. “So this God that Jacob worshipped, this God that Abraham, Isaac worshipped, is the same God that Muslims worship today.”

Christians, however, believe in a triune God: God the father, God the son (Jesus Christ) and the Holy Spirit. And many evangelicals will say that means Muslims and Jews do not worship the same god as Christians.

FULL ARTICLE FROM NPR

Wheaton College Suspends Hijab-Wearing Professor After ‘Same God’ Comment

hawkins-e1449978129986A tenured Wheaton College political science professor who pledged to wear a hijab during Advent in support of her Muslim neighbors has been placed on administrative leave. Not for donning the Islamic head covering, but over “significant questions regarding the theological implications” of her explanation of why she was doing so.

“Wheaton College faculty and staff make a commitment to accept and model our institution’s faith foundations with integrity, compassion, and theological clarity,” the college stated in announcing the decision. “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.”

Larycia Alaine Hawkins, an associate professor who has taught at Wheaton since 2007, announced last week that she’d don the traditional headscarf as a sign of human, theological, and embodied solidarity.

“I stand in religious solidarity with Muslims because they, like me, a Christian, are people of the book,” she wrote in a Facebook post on December 10. “And as Pope Francis stated last week, we worship the same God.”

Hawkins also sought approval for her actions from the Council on American Islamic Relations, a sometimes controversial Muslim advocacy group.

Her comments made headlines, but also led to criticism from other evangelicals.

“This statement is unbelievable,” tweeted Baptist blogger Denny Burk, professor of biblical studies at Boyce College in Louisville. “Really jaw-dropping.”

“A holy kiss to you who disavow the idea that Muslims & Christians worship the same God: I love you,” Hawkins wrote in a Facebook response to critics. “Peace & respect.”

FULL ARTICLE FROM CHRISTIANITY TODAY