Let Us Know You Are Wheaton By Your Love

Let Us Know You Are Wheaton By Your Love January 6, 2016
Screenshot from Youtube: Dr. Larycia Hawkins speaks about her recent suspension from Wheaton College by slow911.
Screenshot from Youtube: Dr. Larycia Hawkins speaks about her recent suspension from Wheaton College by slow911.

Dear Wheaton College Administration,

On this day, the Feast of the Epiphany, the day of the manifestation of the True God to the whole world, I ask that you come to an epiphany of compassion, understanding and love, and fully reinstate Dr. Larycia Hawkins.

Today we celebrate the journey of those from outside of the Jewish tradition who were guided by wonder and love stirring in their hearts to seek God’s glory. When we consider the journey of the wise ones to Jesus, we must acknowledge that God speaks beyond our understanding and familiarity. Without the cultural context of Jesus’s contemporary Jewish followers, without the tradition of the Church that guides many of Jesus’s followers today, people came from outside, guided by God’s revelation of love and mercy. How they discerned the message is a mystery, but the Source from whom it came is clear. At Epiphany, with the story of outsiders from afar, we acknowledge that God has revealed Godself – beyond our traditions, beyond the narrow confines we use to separate ourselves from others – to the whole world.

So Epiphany is a day to recognize that God speaks to all of us, and thus it should be a day to recognize that the same God speaks not only to Christians and Jews, but also to Muslims, to Hindus, Buddhists, atheists, agnostics, the whole world. The wise ones from the east were representative of the whole world to whom God came in love and mercy. None of us understand this God fully, but when we respond to the stirring in our hearts and souls that God initiates, we worship One God.

What is revealed to the world at the Epiphany in the Incarnation is that God’s language to the world is embodied Love. Jesus, whom Muslims revere as a prophet, is the message of God’s love for those who were previously deemed beyond love’s boundaries. What Jesus reveals through his life, death and resurrection is that it is we humans who cast out, and God who draws in. God’s love excludes no one. Jesus is God’s revelation that Love has no boundaries.

Dr. Larycia Hawkins embodied this all-inclusive Love, embodied Christ, when she donned hijab to stand in solidarity with Muslims, who are experiencing unprecedented persecution and violence both in our nation and throughout the world. She put herself at risk socially and physically to do something to which we all are called: to be the image of God and magnify God’s love to the world. She did not expect that her actions and her explanation for her actions would also put her employment at risk, as she had faith in Wheaton College to understand her, to recognize her act for the embodiment of discipleship that it was. She expected more love from you because she believed that you share in the same calling to magnify God’s love. But your response to her has been decidedly unloving, and thus, unChrist-like.

I know you don’t see it that way. You believe you are defending your integrity as a distinctly Christian institution and balancing compassion and theological clarity. But in your quest for theological clarity you have left compassion behind. You took immediate action against Dr. Hawkins, putting her on leave, before requesting clarification. You interpreted her claim, that Christians and Muslims worship the same God, in an uncharitable light. You refused to believe that there could be interpretations of her statement compatible with your statement of faith, even if you do not share those interpretations. You made it clear that an affirmation that Christians and Muslims worship the same God is incompatible with your understanding of faith, thereby making denial of Muslim salvation crucial to your sense of identity. Your sense of who you are therefore requires the exclusion of others.

As I said before, however, exclusion has nothing to do with God. And when you exclude others who are embodying the love of Christ to the marginalized, you exclude Jesus himself. That is the lesson of the parable of the sheep and the goats and the conversion of Saul. You most likely do not see your actions against Dr. Hawkins in this light; our own violence is the hardest to see. But Jesus shows us that when we exclude others, we exclude him. Jesus is a gate-opener, not a gatekeeper.

Furthermore, the act of excluding the first tenured black female professor on your campus for her explanation of an action of solidarity with Muslims is an act that compounds rather than heals suffering, an act antithetical to Christ. The context of the Black Lives Matter movement, along with and the marginalization of Muslims, cannot be ignored, especially when considering an incarnational faith. Jesus is acting in our messy world through Dr. Hawkins. And going unrecognized in your sight.

Your concern for theological clarity is valid, but your own vision is clouded. Theological clarity, without love, is clearly theologically wrong. Jesus shook the theological understandings of his contemporaries, and continues to shake ours today. In the light of his love, we are continually being “transformed by the renewal of our minds.” Theological clarity is a goal on a horizon, ever present, ever distant, because our understandings are meant to grow in the sunlight of God’s Love, not stagnate.

It is possible to interpret your statement of faith in a light that includes Muslims. Even acknowledging salvation exclusively in Jesus, one can ask, what does Jesus save us from and what does Jesus save us for? If we understand that Jesus saves us from human violence, for the love of God that we have not yet recognized, then we can acknowledge that Muslims also received a revelation that showed the love of the same God for all, especially the poor and marginalized. We can believe that they do not fully understand this revelation, and that it is mixed with human error, but we must understand that our own understanding of God is likewise incomplete and imperfect. We can believe that ultimately, it is the love of Jesus that saves us all by gently guiding us away from violence to mercy, without believing that our salvation is contingent upon our full understanding. We can acknowledge Jesus as a “representative and substitutionary sacrifice” to our own violence rather than God’s justice. After all, Jesus told us: “Go and learn what this means: I desire mercy, not sacrifice.”

Yet I believe that the heart of the problem is that a narrow interpretation of scripture is holding you hostage to a statement of faith that should be a guidepost – a point signaling where you are on a journey toward God — rather than the destination itself. You are clinging so hard to your identity based on a statement of faith that you are suffocating the living Lord. You are losing your life as you seek to grasp it. I ask that you let the spirit of Jesus stir your hearts to compassion. Let the content of your identity be following Jesus. Reinstate Dr. Hawkins. Let us know you are Wheaton by your love.

Your neighbor and sister in Christ,

 

Lindsey Paris-Lopez

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What Are Your Thoughts?leave a comment
  • John Garvin

    I am the way the truth and the life no one comes to the Father but by me. Whoever believes in Him is not condemned but whoever believes not is condemned already because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God. These are Jesus words.

    • Iain Lovejoy

      Couple of things:
      The first sentence and the rest or the words appear in a completely different place in the book, and you have artificially linked them together.
      Jesus statement in the first passage is that all those who actually do come to the father come through the way, the truth and the light he brings, not that he prevents anyone coming to the father who doesn’t follow him. Abraham, Moses and Elijah all came to the father without utterong Jesus’ name.
      John 3:18 which you quote comes immediately after John 3:17 which states “God did not send his son into the world to judge the world but that by him the world might be saved. ”
      Your translation, according at least to the commentaries on the greek I have read distorts the words of Jesus. The word translated “believed”, pisteouon, means to trust or rely on something, and the word translated “condemned”, krinetai, means to make a judgement (positively or negatively) not to condemn. It also is apparently messing with the tenses. As I understand it what the evangelist actually says is: “Whoever trusts in him is not judged but whoever does not believe in him already stands judged because he has not trusted in the name of the only begotten son of God.”
      In other words by trusting in Jesus we avoid being judged for our sins, not that we are condemned to hell if we don’t believe the right doctrines.

  • Katie Miles

    This is beautifully written. Thank you.

  • Jordan Hurley

    I don’t believe Muslims the same God as us Christians do.

    • Sven2547

      I don’t believe Muslims the same God as us Christians do.

      I don’t believe that is a sentence.

      • Jordan Hurley

        Then how about I don’t believe the Muslims celebrate the same God as us Christians do.

  • Frank

    Wheaton did the right thing.

    • Sven2547

      Misanthropy and the suppression of facts? It’s no surprise you agree with Wheaton’s actions.

      • Frank

        She broke the agreement she made with them. Nothing more, nothing less.

        • islandbrewer

          And exactly what was that agreement, Frank? and how did she break it? And is that Wheaton’s stated reason for dismissing her, really?

          Spell it out, if you can. If you can’t, it’s likely because you’re wrong.

          • Frank

            Seems pretty clear to me. Unless you are looking to be outraged over something.

            “I love my Muslim neighbor because s/he deserves love by virtue of her/his human dignity,” she wrote in the Dec. 10 post, alongside photos of herself wearing the veil. “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.”

            “Wheaton College faculty and staff make a commitment to accept and model our institution’s faith foundations with integrity, compassion and theological clarity. 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,” said the college’s statement on the suspension.

            http://www.wheaton.edu/About-Wheaton/Community-Covenant

          • Jason Westerly

            Hi Frank,

            Wheaton’s statement is quite long and I must be missing something. Either I’m not quite catching it or I cannot find where what she says directly contradicts their statemetn. Could you point to the part where her comments, of love for others and that adherents of Islam worship the same God, fall in violation of that statement?

            Thanks

    • dagobarbz, fine Italian shoes

      How so? They can’t prove their imaginary friend isn’t the same one the Muslims worship.

      • Frank

        I don’t know if they have an imaginary friend or not.

        They do have God however.

        • dagobarbz, fine Italian shoes

          Yup. Imaginary friend.

          • Frank

            As I said I don’t know if they believe in something imaginary. I do know they believe in the very real God.

          • dagobarbz, fine Italian shoes

            Which is an imaginary construct designed to control you. Sucker.

          • Frank

            Amazing that you never tire of embarrassing yourself. Carry on.

          • dagobarbz, fine Italian shoes

            Says the guy unembarrassed by believing in magic invisible beings…carrion, buddy.

          • Frank

            I don’t believe in magic invisible beings.

          • dagobarbz, fine Italian shoes

            But you believe in a god, ergo…
            YES, YOU DO BELIEVE IN MAGIC INVISIBLE BEINGS!

          • Frank

            I don’t believe in god or in magic invisible beings.

  • ravitchn

    Since people who worship the same God have for millennia killed one another with glee for a variety of reasons why does it matter whether Muslims and Christers do or do not worship the same God? They can still exterminate one another and probably will.

  • Tom Harmon

    Like I taught my Teen group at church, 1John 4:7,8..teaches that we are to love like God, for he is love! The question: what does that love look like? It looks like “the sacrificing of oneself to ‘attempt’ to meet the needs of the one loved, WITH ETERNITY’S VALUES IN VIEW”. That means love must be based on truth, and helping the person in righteousness, in a right way! You don’t give someone money when you know they are going to buy drugs with it..as an example. If you’re going to have a “Christian University”, and you want that reflected in every area, then one must insist on the employees be “orthodox” in belief. Period!

  • Kevin McMahan

    You’ve beautifully expressed my conviction and concern. Thank you. As a Wheaton alum and current intercultural educator at another Christian college (which frames its identity as equally reformed, evangelical, and ecumenical), I particularly appreciate your consistent inviting call for Wheaton and other evangelicals to allow the character of Jesus Christ, the Savior of the world, to redeem and transform us.

    It is deeply disturbing to see that so many seem unwilling or unable to understand the gospel as love & truth in action toward others, as Christ modeled to the cross. Instead, we seem to think and live it as just one more exclusive and competing ideology that does “us & them” in ways that can be hard to distinguish from an ISIL praxis, apart from doctrinal content and severity of implementation. This seems to be what Dr. Hawkins is modeling and challenging, faithful to her Christian convictions.

    I don’t believe, however, that it’s just more compassion and kindly relations with people of other faiths that we need. Jesus was truth & love at once and forever, manifesting that character of God, on earth, that is truly unworldly. The Body of Christ is called to follow Him in the same manner, at great risk to our own idols of survival. I’m coming to better understand that “Muslim-Christian dialog”, for instance, is not about overemphasizing our commonalities and overlooking our differences, but humbly bringing our truest loving (and thus broken, imperfect, and needy) selves into relationship with “them” as well as “us”. That, I believe, is what the world longs for but so rarely sees. We must look squarely at who followed Jesus – those on the margins – and who refused and killed Him – the privileged.

    • Frank

      If we cared about Muslims we would tell them they are following a false faith and that they need to accept Jesus as the son of God and Messiah and reject Muhammad. Otherwise we demonstrate hatred.

      • Jason Westerly

        Hi Frank,

        When I speak with someone, I tend to grow curious about how they see their faith in relation to others. The issues of Islam that the Wheaton incident raises, gives opportunity for me to further understand you. Here are a couple of questions for you that would allow me to better comprehend how you think:

        1. Christianity has adherents of around 2.2 billion people (cultural and self-proclaimed) – just under 32% of the planet’s population (a rough number from wikipedia). What portion of those do you consider to have beliefs that are correct enough for them to be candidates for salvation? I’m looking for a very rough guess or feel of what you might ponder here, like half, just a few, most, etc. I’m not looking for something predicting who is saved or not, just a rough sense of how you think about this.

        2. Do you believe that God considered all non-Christians to be lost?

        3. If number 2 is a yes, do you believe that this judgement is just or not, and why? Just a simple reason is good as I don’t want to burden you with writing a lot of text.

        Thanks