By / Jan 7

What is the Wheaton “same God” controversy about?

On December 10, 2015, Dr. Larycia Hawkins, an associate professor of political science at Wheaton College, posted a photo of herself on Facebook wearing a hijab along with a lengthy post in which she said, in part,

I don't love my Muslim neighbor because s/he is American.

I love my Muslim neighbor because s/he deserves love by virtue of her/his 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. And as Pope Francis stated last week, we worship the same God.

But as I tell my students, theoretical solidarity is not solidarity at all. Thus, beginning tonight, my solidarity has become embodied solidarity

As part of my Advent Worship, I will wear the hijab to work at Wheaton College, to play in Chi-town, in the airport and on the airplane to my home state that initiated one of the first anti-Sharia laws (read: unconstitutional and Islamophobic), and at church.

On December 15 Hawkins was put on paid administrative leave by Wheaton “in order to give more time to explore significant questions regarding the theological implications of her recent public statements, including but not limited to those indicating the relationship of Christianity to Islam.”

Was Hawkins put on leave because she wore a hijab?

No. According to Wheaton, “Contrary to some media reports, social media activity and subsequent public perception, Dr. Hawkins’ paid administrative leave resulted from theological statements that seem inconsistent with Wheaton College’s doctrinal convictions, which she voluntarily agreed to support and uphold when she entered into an employment agreement with the College, and is in no way related to her race or gender.”

How did Hawkins respond to the questions?

Hawkins sent a letter dated December 17 to the provost Dr. Stanton L. Jones outlining her views. You can read the entire letter here.) As part of her response she wrote:

I am guided by evangelical theologians like Timothy George, John Stackhouse, Scot McKinght, and Miroslav Volf, as well as the post-Vatican II Roman Catholic tradition, as expressed in both encyclical form (e.g. Nostra Aetate 3.1) and Pontifical writings (e.g. John Paul II, “Crossing the Threshold of Hope”). Like them I acknowledge that the statement “we worship the same God” is a simultaneous “yes” and “no” to the question of whether Christians and Muslims (as well as Jews) turn to the same object of worship, namely, the “God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all” (Eph. 4:6).

The College requested further theological discussion and clarification, but Dr. Hawkins reportedly declined to participate in further dialogue about the theological implications of her public statements and her December 17 response.

What was Wheaton’s response to Hawkins’s letter?

On January 4, Provost Jones delivered to President Philip Ryken and to Dr. Larycia Hawkins a Notice of Recommendation to Initiate Termination-for-Cause Proceedings regarding Dr. Hawkins.

Does this mean that Hawkins has been fired?

Not yet. Wheaton says the Notice is not a termination, but merely begins Wheaton College’s established process for employment actions pertaining to tenured faculty members.

How has Hawkins responded to the Notice of Termination?

On January 6 Hawkins held a press conference to give her response to the Wheaton announcement:

I am flummoxed and flabbergasted by the events of the last two weeks . . . Wheaton College cannot intimidate me into cowering in fear of the enemy of the month as defined by real estate moguls, senators from Texas, Christians from this country, bigots, and fundamentalists of all stripes.

See Also: What’s Wrong with Wheaton? by Daniel Darling and Do Muslims and Christians Worship the Same God? A Response to Francis Beckwith by Andrew Walker