An evangelical college near Chicago found itself at the centre of a row after it took steps in the new year to sack staff member Dr Larycia Hawkins, above, for saying in a Facebook post that the God Muslims worship is the same one that Christians do.
Wheaton College, which claims to be “a liberal Christian arts college noted for its rigorous academics, integration of faith and learning”, announced on Tuesday it was taking steps to fire the tenured political science professor.
Hawkins said on Facebook on December 10 that she was donning a hijab during the period of advent before Christmas as a sign of solidarity with Muslims. In her post she said:
We worship the same God. I stand in religious solidarity with Muslims because they, like me, a Christian, are people of the book.
Hawkins was placed on administrative leave after the comment drew criticism, and on Tuesday the school said in a statement Wheaton’s provost had delivered a notice to President Philip Ryken recommending her employment be terminated.
This Notice follows the impasse reached by the parties. Dr Hawkins declined to participate in further dialogue about the theological implications of her public statements.
The school has said that Hawkins was not placed on leave because she wore a hijab, but because:
Her theological statements seem inconsistent with Wheaton College’s doctrinal convictions.
After a hearing with a faculty committee and other reviews, the Board of Trustees will make a final decision regarding Hawkins’ employment.
On her website, Hawkins said she received an emailed notification on January 4 that her employment was up for review and she planned to address the issue at a Chicago-area church on Wednesday. The site said:
Dr Hawkins maintains Christian support for the Muslim community amidst the ongoing anti-Muslim climate.
Hawkins, who has written on race, religion and American politics, said she had consulted with the local chapter of the Council on American Islamic Relations, an advocacy group, to make sure that it would not be seen as offensive for a non-Muslim woman to wear the headscarf.
Christian blogger Rev Jeff Hood feels that Hawkins should not be sacked, but points out that she’s no “beacon of progressive thought”:
I agree with Dr Hawkins on Muslims. I find many of my Muslim friends to be more like Jesus than most Christians I know.
I don’t want Dr. Hawkins to be fired. I believe she is a brave woman that can do much good at a place like Wheaton. However, it is important to point out the deeply problematic nature of working at Wheaton in the first place.
The statement of faith that Dr. Hawkins signed and reaffirmed just last month is textbook conservative evangelicalism and filled with beliefs that have proven incredibly harmful to a wide variety of people.
From the historical personhood of Adam and Eve to ideas of substitutionary atonement to a literal hell to the impending return of Jesus, Dr. Hawkins believes some really problematic doctrines. Let’s also not forget that Wheaton has treated LGBT staff and students horribly during Dr. Hawkins tenure and she obviously held on to her job in the midst of those injustices.
While I think it’s important to push for her to keep her job, I think we all need to be careful before we act like Dr. Hawkins is a beacon of progressive thought. She’s not.
Hat tip: BarrieJohn