An evangelical college in Illinois has suspended a professor after she claimed that Christians and Muslims are worshipers of the same god.
Until this week, Larycia Hawkins was a professor of political science at Wheaton College. Now, she’s in hot water over a show of solidarity she made with Muslims last week.
“I stand in religious solidarity with Muslims because they, like me, a Christian, are people of the book,” she said in a Dec. 10 Facebook post. “And as Pope Francis stated last week, we worship the same God.” To drive the point home, Hawkins also donned a hijab, the headscarf worn by devout Muslim women, and said she would wear it throughout the Advent season preceding Christmas.
“[A]s I tell my students, theoretical solidarity is not solidarity at all. Thus, beginning tonight, my solidarity has become embodied solidarity,” she said.
Hawkins’ stunt, however well-intentioned, upset several higher-ups at Wheaton, who viewed Hawkins’ statement that Muslims and Christians worship the same God as theologically unsound, if not outright heretical.
“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,” Wheaton said in a statement Tuesday. The school also suspended Hawkins through the end of the spring semester.
Unlike many other Christian schools, Wheaton requires all professors to sign a statement of faith, which affirms the literal truth of the Bible, the necessity of being “born again,” and other core tenets of evangelical Christianity. Faculty are also expected to adhere to a strict ethical code (premarital sex is grounds for termination, for instance). But in a Wednesday press conference, Hawkins reaffirmed that statement of faith and said nothing she had done violated it, while also saying she understood why Wheaton responded as it did.
“I think Wheaton takes very seriously its role as a Christian liberal arts institution,” Hawkins, still wearing a headscarf, said to the press. “And I respect the institution.”
Still, the move has upset many at the school, with students protesting on Hawkins’ behalf and several local clergy standing by her at the Wednesday press conference. A letter delivered by students to administrators maintains that Hawkins’ statement is acceptable under Wheaton’s official ideology.
“We believe there is nothing in Dr. Hawkins’ public statements that goes against the belief in the power and nature of God, Christ, or the Holy Spirit that the Statement of Faith deems as a necessary requirement for affiliation with Wheaton College,” says the letter, quoted in The Chicago Tribune.
But despite the protests, Wheaton president Philip Ryken has said the suspension will not be revoked. And some students support that decision.
“I think that, as an evangelical school that has a statement of faith, it is wrong for us to call Muslims brothers and sisters in Christ,” junior Abbie Brigham told the Tribune.
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