(RNS) — Larycia Hawkins never questioned what she should do.
It was days after the 2015 San Bernardino shooting, in which 14 people were killed at a center for people with developmental disabilities. Then-presidential candidate Donald Trump seized upon the religion of the two shooters and declared he’d ban all Muslims from entering the country, and Liberty University President Jerry Falwell Jr. encouraged students at his evangelical Christian school to get concealed-carry permits because “good people” with guns could “end those Muslims.”
So Hawkins — then a political science professor at Wheaton College, an evangelical school in the Chicago suburbs — posted a photo on Facebook of herself in a hijab and announced plans to wear it through the Christian season of Advent as an act of “embodied solidarity” with Muslim women.
“I stand in religious solidarity with Muslims because they, like me, a Christian, are people of the book. And as Pope Francis stated last week, we worship the same God,” she wrote.
The pushback was immediate. Within a few months, the first black, female tenured professor at Wheaton had lost her job.
Hawkins’ story is detailed in “Same God,” a documentary that premiered late last month at the LA Film Festival.
To filmmaker Linda Midgett, responses to the professor’s act revealed the polarization within both evangelical Christianity and the country as a whole.
The documentary tells Hawkins’ story through interviews with student and faculty supporters who were at Wheaton at the time and with the interfaith leaders who rallied to her side. Several more screenings are planned, including showings this month in New Orleans and Chicago.
So far, audiences’ reactions show the importance of Hawkins’ story and its resonance beyond Wheaton, Midgett said.
“In some ways, I felt like she got her voice back,” she said, “because she lost her voice when she lost her job and she just was kind of shuttled out of the evangelical community.”
What happened at Wheaton was the perfect storm, according to the filmmaker, touching on hot-button issues of theology, race, gender, academic freedom, religious freedom, Islamophobia. Some evangelicals thought that Hawkins was a heretic. Others believed she was doing the things Jesus had told his followers to do.