Wheaton places hijab-wearing professor on leave for questionable theology
by Leigh Jones
Posted 12/16/15, 01:15 pm
A Wheaton College political-science professor who announced she would wear a hijab during Advent to show solidarity with Muslims will instead spend Christmas pondering her future at the Christian college.
Wheaton administrators announced yesterday they had placed Larycia Hawkins on administrative leave pending a review of the “significant questions regarding the theological implications” raised by her recent comments.
“Wheaton College faculty and staff make a commitment to accept and model our institution’s faith foundations with integrity, compassion, and theological clarity,” the statement said. “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.”
Hawkins, who holds tenure at the university, announced her solidarity campaign earlier this month on Facebook, saying she loved her Muslim neighbors because of their human dignity.
“I stand in human solidarity with my Muslim neighbor because we are formed of the same primordial clay, descendants of the same cradle of humankind—a cave in Sterkfontein, South Africa, that I had the privilege to descend into to plumb the depths of our common humanity in 2014. I stand in religious solidarity with Muslims because they, like me, a Christian, are people of the book. … But as I tell my students, theoretical solidarity is not solidarity at all. Thus, beginning tonight, my solidarity has become embodied solidarity.”
Hawkins sought approval for her activism from the Council on American-Islamic Relations, the U.S. Muslim advocacy group with a virulently anti-Christian bent. They assured her that her hijab-wearing would be well-received, she told her Facebook friends.
The day after Hawkins announced her solidarity campaign, Wheaton affirmed its commitment to the religious liberty guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution and the “robust exchange of ideas” on a college campus. But administrators cautioned against watering down Christian theology in a bid to show compassion and live at peace with people of other faiths.
“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. … We will be in dialogue with our faculty, staff, and students in the days ahead to ensure that we articulate our love for our Muslim neighbors in ways that are consistent with our distinctive theological convictions,” the school’s statement noted.
This morning, Wheaton president Philip Ryken stressed that it was Hawkins’ theology, not her decision to don a hijab, that warranted her review. Administrators have not yet set a date for the hearing.
The responses from Hawkins’ Facebook friends to her original post were overwhelmingly positive, with several women posting pictures of themselves in a hijab. This morning, she posted a note of thanks for her supporters.
“Love abounds,” she wrote. “I am honored and humbled to be loved. To be loved by you. It is my sincere privilege to walk in solidarity with each of you.”
Leigh lives in Houston with her husband and daughter. She is the news editor for The World and Everything in It and reports on education for WORLD Digital.