If #Wheaton College professor Larycia Hawkins had simply donned a headscarf to support her Muslim neighbors without explaining herself, she still might be administering final exams this week.
Instead, Hawkins, a tenured political science #professor at the private evangelical Christian college, proclaimed on social media that Christians and #Muslims share the same #God and was suspended by the college.
“I stand in religious solidarity with Muslims because they, like me, a Christian, are people of the book,” she posted Dec. 10 on Facebook. “And as Pope Francis stated last week, we worship the same God.”
That explanation rankled some evangelical Christians, who read her statement as a conflation of Christian and Muslim theology, even if they supported her symbolic gesture.
“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 College said in a statement.
The suspension, effective immediately and lasting through the spring semester, sparked protests on the west suburban campus Wednesday from students calling for Hawkins’ reinstatement and an apology from the college. About two dozen Christian clergy also appeared with Hawkins at a news conference Wednesday in downtown Chicago to show their support.
“I think Wheaton takes very seriously its role as a Christian liberal arts institution,” said Hawkins, who wore a purple headscarf, or #hijab, as she spoke at the podium. “And I respect the institution.”
Hawkins announced last week that she would wear a traditional headscarf as part of her devotion during Advent, the contemplative period preceding Christmas on the Christian calendar. She wished to show support for Muslims who have felt under attack because of harsh rhetoric on social media and the presidential campaign trail since mass shootings in Paris and San Bernardino, Calif. She said nothing about her gesture or statement contradicted the college’s statement of faith, which all instructors must sign and she reaffirmed Wednesday.
The statement outlines 12 evangelical beliefs, including the literal truth of the Bible, the necessity to be born again in the Holy Spirit, the imminence of the Second Coming and the bodily resurrection of the dead.
“Wheaton College faculty and staff make a commitment to accept and model our institution’s faith foundations with integrity, compassion and theological clarity,” the college said in a statement. “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.”
Protesters on Wednesday insisted that Hawkins had remained faithful to the college’s 12 core beliefs. Dozens gathered on the front steps of the college’s administration building to deliver a letter to President Philip Ryken and Provost Stan Jones, demanding Hawkins’ reinstatement.
“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,” the students’ letter said.
“Dr. Hawkins is an essential part of the community here,” said Wyatt Harms, a senior political science major, who has taken several of Hawkins’ classes. “She’s a refuge for so many students on campus.”
Myra Hooks, 21, a senior biology major from Warsaw, Ind., said the suspension reflects misplaced priorities.
“We really should be focused on our love and support for Muslims, and shouldn’t let our theological clarities shut that out,” she said.
Chanting “Reinstate Doc Hawk!” dozens of students pumped handmade signs in the air and squeezed through the front doors of the college administration building.
Ryken told protesters he appreciated the “peaceful spirit” of their demonstrations.
“I really want to affirm your right to disagree with a decision by the administration,” he told the group. “I also want to affirm the things you see in Dr. Hawkins, the values. Those are things I’ve seen firsthand as well.
“At some level, I understand the frustration, and also the pain,” he added.
Some students supported the college’s decision. David Burnham, 21, a junior business and economics major from Naples, Fla., said the administration suspended Hawkins because the statement she made has “profound theological implications.”
“By placing her on leave, the school says it doesn’t believe Muslims and Christians worship the same God,” he said. “The college had no choice.”
Abbie Brigham, a 20-year-old junior majoring in history and music, from Jacksonville, Fla., said that for Hawkins to say that Christians and Muslims “unite under the same beliefs” insults both religious groups.
“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,” she said.
Hawkins, 43, of Oak Park, planned to wear the hijab everywhere she went until Christmas, including on her flight home to Oklahoma, where voters in 2010 overwhelmingly approved a constitutional amendment banning Shariah, or Islamic law.
Hawkins said she was inspired by a student who……….
Read more: www.chicagotribune.com