It all began in December when Professor Larycia Hawkins wore a hijab (and posted a picture on Facebook) in solidarity with Muslim women, adding that Muslims and Christians believed in the same God. Wheaton officials said that statement — not the wearing of the hijab, they seemed to say through clenched teeth — potentially violated the evangelical Christian school’s Statement of Faith.
On Saturday, the schools president Philip Ryken announced that the school had reconciled with Hawkins, though she had decided she would no longer be working there.
“The Administration and Dr. Hawkins have come to a place of resolution and reconciliation,” Ryken said in his email. “With a mutual desire for God’s blessing, we have decided to part ways.”
In a separate email to the faculty, Wheaton provost Stan Jones said in an email Saturday that he has withdrawn charges for firing Hawkins and asked Hawkins for forgiveness.
“I asked Dr. Hawkins for her forgiveness for the ways I contributed to the fracture of our relationship, and to the fracture of Dr. Hawkins’ relationship with the College,” he wrote.
The apology comes more than a month too late. Even though a significant number of faculty members (78 out of 211) signed a letter asking for Hawkins to be reinstated as a professor, the issue wasn’t resolved until Wheaton’s new reputation had been cemented.
The school is sometimes referred to as the “evangelical Harvard” — which isn’t just a statement about how good it supposedly is, but a subtle jab to more fundamentalist Christian schools that value rigid beliefs over valid questions. I think we can lay that phrase to rest once and for all. Harvard would never force a professor out for the crime of mild heresy. Wheaton’s insistence that the Christian God shouldn’t be tainted by those brown people who take a different route to Him — over a good professor showing compassion to an oppressed minority — shows the school is really no different from every other faith-based institution.
It’s not enough that you believe in their God; you have to believe the ridiculous minutia they push upon everyone, too. Don’t ask questions. Just obey. And if you dare call into question an aspect of the religion that’s merely implied in the Statement of Faith, you’ll be punished for that, too.
In any case, Hawkins won’t be there anymore, and the faculty is all the worse as a result. Maybe now, though, she can get a job at a school that values her mind instead of one that punishes her for using it.
(Image via Facebook)