Wheaton College: From Higher Ed to Lower Ethics

Wheaton has jumped the shark.  It has abandoned higher ed and opted instead for lower ethics.

A tenured Wheaton College political science professor who pledged to wear a hijab during Advent in support of her Muslim neighbors has been placed on administrative leave. Not for donning the Islamic head covering, but over “significant questions regarding the theological implications” of her explanation of why she was doing so.

“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 stated in announcing the decision. “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.”

Larycia Alaine Hawkins, an associate professor who has taught at Wheaton since 2007, announced last week that she’d don the traditional headscarf as a sign of human, theological, and embodied solidarity.

“I stand in religious solidarity with Muslims because they, like me, a Christian, are people of the book,” she wrote in a Facebook post on December 10. “And as Pope Francis stated last week, we worship the same God.”

Whatever you think of her act, she has the RIGHT to do it.  She’s free to behave as she wishes and is answerable only to God for it.  Not to over-Republicanized college authorities and donors.

Higher ed is dead at Wheaton.  Because academic freedom is.

27 thoughts on “Wheaton College: From Higher Ed to Lower Ethics

  1. Clifford Kvidahl 16 Dec 2015 at 9:28 pm

    While I usually agree with you on matters like this, I do find her statement puzzling, especially in light of the confession of faith she signed:

    “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.”

    I am not sure if this aligns with the doctrinal statement of faith that Wheaton has. If not, wouldn’t you agree that Wheaton has a right to uphold its confession of faith; and if she signed it, does not she too have an obligation to it as well?

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    • Jim 16 Dec 2015 at 10:23 pm

      If she signed a statement saying she couldn’t hold opinions on this or that then she has to live by that agreement. If not, they have no right to fault her.

      Did she do that? Did she sign a paper that said she needed to keep her view to herself?

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      • Targuman 16 Dec 2015 at 11:27 pm

        Faculty certainly were required in the past. Based upon the college’s statement I assume that is still true.

        Liked by 1 person

        • Jim 17 Dec 2015 at 5:00 am

          Working within the constraints of fear must be a delight.

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      • Don 17 Dec 2015 at 1:06 am

        I’m quite certain that she signed a statement of belief, or else they would not have hired her in the first place.

        I doubt that Wheaton would say she should keep her views to herself. But they would say that if her views didn’t align to the statement of belief, she won’t be employed there. That’s what happened a decade ago, when a professor converted to Catholicism.

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        • Jim 17 Dec 2015 at 4:58 am

          Good to know they draw limits to freedom

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          • Don 17 Dec 2015 at 10:33 am

            You have argued previously that pastors who stop believing in Christianity shouldn’t be employed as pastors. Same thing here. Should it be that way, for professors at these institutions, as it is for pastors? I don’t know if it _should_ be, but it’s well-established that it _is_.

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            • Jim 17 Dec 2015 at 10:44 am

              did she stop being a christian?

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              • Don 17 Dec 2015 at 10:55 am

                She gave, at best, an extremely muddled comparison of Christianity and Islam, making i t sound like they worship the same god. Not an unchristian person, but a teaching inconsistent with orthodox Christian belief.

                Anyway at this point she’s just suspended, so we’ll see what happens to the employment status.

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                • Jim 17 Dec 2015 at 11:07 am

                  muslims worship Allah. that’s the arabic word for ‘God’. christians worship God. that’s the english word for ‘God’. what’s the problem with saying they worship the same God? how many Gods are there?

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                  • Don 17 Dec 2015 at 12:12 pm

                    The language is a big deal, especially in Muslim-majority countries, but that’s not at all the issue here. I would frame the issue as: Is Jesus God? Do Christians worship Jesus? Do Muslims worship Jesus? So do they worship the same God?

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                    • Jim 17 Dec 2015 at 12:14 pm

                      they don’t worship jesus and that’s a fact. neither do unitarians. gonna say they don’t worship God?

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                    • Don 17 Dec 2015 at 2:08 pm

                      A god, yes. The God of Christianity? I’d say no.

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      • Clifford Kvidahl 17 Dec 2015 at 4:57 pm

        Jim, she can certainly express her opinions, no one is telling her to remain silent. It’s just that if she wants to remain employed where she is she will have to honor the statement of faith she agreed to when she was employed. Unfortunately, you cannot changes the rules of the game once you start playing.

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        • Jim 17 Dec 2015 at 5:15 pm

          i’m not familiar with her agreement but unless it says something about calling allah God or standing in solidarity with muslims, how did she violate?

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          • Clifford Kvidahl 17 Dec 2015 at 5:42 pm

            Unless we believe that the God of Islam and the God of Christianity are the same, then that certainly causes problems. Yes, there are different words that express “God”, but do you believe this means that all of these uses of “god” are equal and refer to the same God?

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            • Jim 17 Dec 2015 at 5:48 pm

              God is God. There’s only one. Let me ask you, when Jews talk about God, why is it that Christians don’t call their use of the word into question the same way they do with Muslims? Jews don’t believe Jesus is Messiah. Yet they talk about God and I’ve never heard a Christian call that term into question when they use it.

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              • Clifford Kvidahl 17 Dec 2015 at 5:58 pm

                Jim, I still do not understand why you are pushing this so much. Do you believe the God of Islam is the God of Christianity? Do you believe them to be the same? I think this is the issue that is at the forefront of this whole thing.

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                • Jim 17 Dec 2015 at 6:01 pm

                  nope- just trying to understand why a woman who was showing solidarity with muslims is being treated differently than anyone showing solidarity with jewish folk would be. does it not seem like inequality and unfairness to you? someone dismissed for supporting others? really? because at heart that’s what she was doing. she wasn’t saying she is a muslim or that islam is better than christianity. she was, during a period of time when muslims are the objects of the hatred of bigots and saying ‘no’ to that bigotry. i fail to grasp how that’s a horrible thing. i’m not convinced it is. i think it’s the christian thing to do.

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                  • Clifford Kvidahl 17 Dec 2015 at 6:57 pm

                    Jim, I do not think it was the solidarity that got her into hot water but the comments she made on her FB about the nature of God.

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                • Jim 17 Dec 2015 at 6:02 pm

                  but you did ignore my question about the God of the jews.

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              • Clifford Kvidahl 17 Dec 2015 at 6:59 pm

                Are we debating semantics here? Potato, patato? Let’s put the word god aside and get at the heart of the matter.

                Liked by 1 person

                • Jim 17 Dec 2015 at 7:00 pm

                  already did. she’s being treated this way because in america muslims are looked down on

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                  • Clifford Kvidahl 17 Dec 2015 at 7:08 pm

                    Jim, no this is not the case. Yes, Americans have been unfairly harsh. This is about comments she made, theological comments. Why is this hard for you to see?

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                    • Jim 17 Dec 2015 at 7:13 pm

                      it’s not hard. i see. i just see something else too,

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                    • Targuman 18 Dec 2015 at 8:35 am

                      A couple of points to Jim regarding Wheaton’s motivation. I think they made it very clear in the first statement and in their follow up that it was precisely because of the muddy theological statement she made. From the first statement:

                      “In response to significant questions regarding the theological implications of statements that Associate Professor of Political Science Dr. Larycia Hawkins has made about the relationship of Christianity to Islam, Wheaton College has placed her on administrative leave, pending the full review to which she is entitled as a tenured faculty member.”

                      They then clarified this on 12/16

                      “Contrary to some media reports, social media activity and subsequent public perception, Dr. Hawkins’ administrative leave resulted from theological statements that seemed inconsistent with Wheaton College’s doctrinal convictions, and is in no way related to her race, gender or commitment to wear a hijab during Advent.”

                      They go on to affirm the importance of intellectual freedom, but confirm their institutions doctrinal views.

                      “The freedom to wear a head scarf as a gesture of care and compassion for individuals in Muslim or other religious communities that may face discrimination or persecution is afforded to Dr. Hawkins as a faculty member of Wheaton College. Yet her recently expressed views, including that Muslims and Christians worship the same God, appear to be in conflict with the College’s Statement of Faith.”

                      Finally, the statement goes on to say that they continue in dialogue with her, but her statements also continue to be at odds with Wheaton’s statement of faith.

                      Now, why am I interested? Partly as an alumnus of their graduate program although I do not consider myself a dyed-in-the-wool Wheatie by any stretch (and it was made clear to me repeatedly as a grad student that I was not). Mostly I am interested from a higher ed leadership perspective. These sectarian schools present interesting challenges. I think too many people, including members of our biblioblogging world, are trying to place the standards we would expect for a secular, even public school onto Wheaton. That seems inappropriate. Wheaton has a clear statement of faith and everyone knows the requirements of that and what occurs when one steps away from (or pushes strongly against) it. They are transparent about that. So why do we condemn them for doing what they have stated is their policy all along?

                      Jim, you made the comment earlier, “Good to know they draw limits to freedom.” It is important to know that they do that. They always have and they make no bones about it. When I was there one didn’t have the freedom to drink alcohol, dance, or have sex outside of wedlock. And of course one did not have the freedom to espouse theological views outside of their statement of faith. None of that is new.

                      Finally, there is a reason why I am not, and did not attempt to take a job, at a place like Wheaton. This is just one of them. My theological views continue to evolve and develop. But should I castigate a school for maintaining their views and doing exactly what they have always said they would do? No and I don’t think others should either. At the most I think people who are critical should say “That is why I wouldn’t go there” rather than trying to make them something they are not.

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              • Clifford Kvidahl 17 Dec 2015 at 7:06 pm

                The God of Christianity is the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, and Paul’s reconfiguration of the Shema in 1 Cor 8 includes Christ. Can we say the same of the “God” of Islam? Do they worship Christ as God? If not, then can we say that their God is same? The word God has meaning in the context it is being used, which I know you would agree with. I just am not seeing where you are going with this is all.

                If this was simply a question of solidarity, then yes, this professor should be allowed to express herself without compromising her convictions. But when she posted on her FB the statement, ambiguous as it was, that Christians and Muslims worship the same God, that is what got her into trouble. I think she should have at least been given a chance to clarify before being put on leave. Nonetheless, this is more than just a simply use of the word “God.”

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