Hawkins' act of solidarity with scapegoated people of Islamic faith — wearing a hijab on campus — and her Facebook statement that Christians and Muslims worship the same God struck a nerve within Wheaton College’s white, politically conservative administration. Ultimately, the public act of solidarity challenged the assumption of white, male, Christian supremacy — the assumption that whites, men, and Christians are more human than anyone else.
After Provost Stanton Jones issued an apology to Dr. Larycia Hawkins, Wheaton College and Dr. Hawkins released a joint statement on February 6 announcing that they will part ways.
The statement indicated they found a mutual place of resolution and reconciliation.
Dr. Larycia Hawkins — the Wheaton College professor who recently was placed on administrative leave because of her Facebook comments showing solidarity with the Muslim community and saying Christians and Muslims worship the ‘same God’ — has been at the epicenter of much speculation over the future of both Christian liberal arts and the evangelical faith writ large. The administration maintains that her comments seemed to be inconsistent with the college’s Statement of Faith, and earlier this month provost Stan Jones delivered a recommendation to the president to initiate termination. A hearing before the Faculty Personnel Committee on Feb. 11 will result in a recommendation to the president and board of trustees on how to move forward.
Wheaton College suspended Larycia Hawkins, professor of political science, on Dec. 15 after she said Christians and Muslims "worship the same God." Hawkins' primary purpose was to announce that she would wear hijab during Advent to show her solidarity with Muslims in the United States facing persecution.
Now, according to a statement released Jan. 5, Wheaton Provost Stanton Jones delivered to President Philip Ryken a "Notice of Recommendation to Initiate Termination-for-Cause Proceedings regarding Dr. Hawkins."
Wheaton College in Illinois announced on Tuesday that they had put Hawkins on administrative leave for her “same God” comments. In an official statement, college administrators expressed concern over the “theological implications” of her statements and promising a full review.
Founded in 1860, Wheaton has long been considered a fairly open-minded institution within evangelicalism. Science professors can teach evolution, government professors need not support conservative political theories, and students don’t have to worry about strict dress codes or stringent curfews like students at more fundamentalist colleges. In 2003, it eased bans on alcohol consumption and dancing.
But a string of politically charged events, culminating in Hawkins’ suspension, place Wheaton at an important crossroads. The school must now decide what kind of evangelical college they wish to be.
Many people are mystified by “evangelicals.” It’s a word the average nonreligious person doesn’t often hear in the U.S. — except for when it is time to nominate another GOP presidential candidate. Then we hear about who those millions of “evangelicals” are supporting, always under the assumption that all evangelicals are into politics and all will support a Republican.
As an evangelical myself, this is just one of the many misunderstandings of evangelicals that drive me up the wall. It’s a problem I’ve tried to address in several of my books, most recently Evangelical Ethics (Westminster John Knox Press).
Let me take another brief crack at it here. I want to propose that there are four different kinds of evangelicals, or evangelicalism, yielding four very different results.
Change is coming to American megachurches — those behemoths for believers that now dot the religious landscape.
There are more participants in megachurch worship than ever.
“Last weekend 1 in 10 adults and children who went to a Protestant church went to a megachurch — about 5 million people,” said Warren Bird, director of research for Leadership Network and co-author of a megachurch study released Dec. 2.
But individual attendance is down to once or twice a month — or less.
Evangelicals may be united that the Bible is the ultimate source of authority, but they are divided on how the Bible would lead us to respond to the growing crisis of refugees fleeing from Syria.
What is the best way to show Christian love and compassion? How is the church’s role different from the state’s? How do we show wisdom and prudence in securing the safety of our neighbors and nation?
These are just a few of the questions that evangelicals are grappling with. One evangelical pastor today told me, “My church members are all over the place on this!”
When it comes to institutions aligned with evangelical progressivism it is not as easy to say “there it is” but when it comes to people, one can point directly at Jim Wallis. While I’m not convinced many Christians who seek to influence the state have an explicit teleology, an activist commitment to influence forms the heart of both the evangelical right and evangelical left. (By teleology I mean to ask this question: What will happen if they “win” the influence? Will it turn into a kind of Constantinianism? Or is there an unexpressed assumption that they won’t win?
When I was 15, I stepped into a warm bath on my church's sanctuary stage. I was a bit of an outsider - the occasionally bullied Chinese-American kid in the white suburb - and I had found a place of belonging at this Chinese immigrant church. I made a joke about how I felt the same way about my new faith as my 16-year-old friend felt about her new driver's license: I had no idea how I ever lived without this. Even my pastor chuckled as he clasped my hands, preparing to dunk me.