In Support of Dr. Larycia Hawkins

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Wheaton College, an evangelical Christian liberal arts college in Illinois was founded by abolitionists in 1860. Over 150 years have passed since that time, and Wheaton is again faced with taking sides in a controversy. This time it is not the question of the enslavement of blacks, it is the question of academic freedom for a black professor, Dr. Larycia Hawkins, who in 2013 became the first black female tenured professor at Wheaton. She has taken a stance on a question of theology — do Jews, Christians, and Muslim worship the same God?”

The institution is no stranger to controversy. As the world changes outside of its hallowed halls, Wheaton has had to grapple with the subject of evolution, and with LBGT students and alumni. They have gone to court to block student access to birth control and emergency contraception under the Affordable Care Act.

I have no interest today in debating the merits of religious institutions, nor will I trash evangelical Christians, who, like Rev. Dr. William Barber, practice what Jesus preached. Though not a theologian, by any means, I do teach comparative religion as a part of course work in cultural anthropology. I stand in solidarity today, with the stance taken by Dr. Larysia Hawkins, against the outpouring of right-wing hate leveled at Muslim Americans. Hate promoted by people like Franklin Graham — son of Wheaton’s most famous graduate Dr. Billy Graham.

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By now, most people paying attention to the news, have seen photos of Dr. Hawkins wearing hijab, which she donned in solidarity with her Muslim brothers and sisters. Some of you may have visited her facebook page where she posted:

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.
I invite all women into the narrative that is embodied, hijab-wearing solidarity with our Muslim sisters–for whatever reason. A large scale movement of Women in Solidarity with Hijabs is my Christmas ‪#‎wish‬ this year.

Since that time, Wheaton is seeking to terminate Dr. Hawkins tenure.
A major press conference and rally was held in support of Dr. Hawkins, organized by Arise Chicago, a faith/labor organization.

Jewish, Christian and Muslim leaders, students, alumni and colleagues of Hawkins spoke movingly and forcefully.

Students on the Wheaton campus are standing in solidarity with Dr. Hawkins.

Dr. Hawkins stated clearly and fiercely:

Wheaton College cannot hold me to a different standard, a higher standard, than they hold every other employees to.
Wheaton College cannot scare me into walking away from the truth that all humans, Muslims, the vulnerable, the oppressed, are all my sisters and brothers.
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.

To that I say “Amen.”



  1. It is going to be interesting watching the responses from a segment of young evangelicals – some of whom are clearly no longer accepting fundamentalist dogma.

  2. Denise, I’m so glad the students are supporting her. The fundy administrators must really be paranoid if they can’t stand to be told that Muslims are people of the book. So are Jews people of the book. I expect a case could even be made that Zoroastrians are people of the book.

    Well, it’s no use expecting broad-mindedness in the Foxified USA. Once I read a statement, “With monotheism comes intolerance,” and I think there’s a lot of truth in that.

    • The whole situation is weird – since Wheaton has in the past issued statements that put the lie to their current stance – my guess is that right wing donors are turning the screws

  3. Thank you for posting this! Dr. Hawkins deserves our support.

    It is interesting that a college founded by abolitionists chooses to embrace racism and othering. They seem to have followed the same path as the Republican Party, once the Party of Lincoln and the place where proud civil rights Republicans had a home. I recall the sad story of Tom Petri (R), the one-time U.S. Representative from Wisconsin, who actually did march with Dr. King and was a fierce protector of Civil Rights and Voting Rights. Rep. Petri was swept away in teaparty mania, the Republicanism born of the backlash against Civil Rights and grown into a full throated party of hate and exclusion and a willingness to turn their backs on those in need. His seat was filled by Glenn Grothman, the kind of Republican that Wheaton College would like.

    Maybe Wheaton should have followed the biblical teachings that led them to the Party of Lincoln and continued on that path when the Party of Lincoln became the Party of Nixon, Reagan and, now, Trump.

  4. Yes – they have followed the trend of throw Party of Lincoln under the bus – the party my grandparents belonged to.

    A huge chunk of self-professed Christians have thrown Christ under the bus too.

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