Thursday, January 14, 2016

Off-Topic: The Scapegoating of Larycia Hawkins and Another Evangelical Becomes Disillusioned

I have not been following the Larycia Hawkins Wheaton College controversy as well as I should.  I know that Wheaton is terminating her contract because of her public statements that Muslims and Christians worship the same God (a statement absurd on its face) but there is, as usual, considerably more to the story that Benjamin Corey, over at Patheos, delves into.  About the actual controversy, he writes:
At first it seemed like Dr. Larycia Hawkins would clearly be reinstated. Her statement that Muslims and Christians were both “people of the book” and people who, along with Jews, worship the God of Abraham, has been supported by well-respected evangelical theologians. When asked for clarification of her views in comparison to Wheaton’s statement of faith, Dr. Hawkings has consistently complied in great detail– fully affirming Wheaton’s entire statement of faith. I’ve read her personal statement of faith myself, and it’s not some liberal manifesto– it’s solidly evangelical. I could see how her statement of faith would put her at odds with liberal colleges, but evangelical ones? Absolutely not.
Yet, it seems that they are going about terminating her anyway.  Why?  Corey has some ideas:
Evangelicalism now is far closer to the fundamentalism they reacted against than perhaps anyone would have anticipated. Evangelicalism is the fundamentalism of our time. It’s fascinating from an anthropology standpoint, but tragic for the Kingdom Jesus came to establish. And this brings me to the real reason Dr. Hawkins is being terminated from Wheaton College:

The glue that holds fundamentalism together is the agreement upon a common enemy to fight, and Dr. Hawkins has rejected the notion that Muslims are the common enemy.

And this is a deal-breaker for Wheaton, whether they’ll have the courage (and self-awareness) to admit it or not. Even an informal student of culture can easily see that evangelicals in America, for the last several years, have consolidated around the agreement that Muslims are the great enemy of our time (Exhibit A: Franklin Graham’s Facebook page). For Dr. Hawkins to say she “stands in solidarity” with Muslims is a betrayal of one of their deepest held beliefs, and this (to them) makes her untrustworthy.
Read the whole piece.  I have read Dr. Hawkins' statement of faith and, while I accept that she wants to bring solidarity with Muslims into the mix by arguing that Muslims worship the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob,  that makes a hash of many other aspects of Christianity.  For starters, Muslims are staunchly unitarian, while one of the basic tenets of Christianity is the trinity.  Secondly, and relatedly, they reject the divinity of Jesus—and that is a deal-breaker— and elevate the profit Mohammed to a level that makes the Catholic veneration of Mary look positively mild by comparison.

So, we have established that Islam is not Christianity.  But what of Judaism?  If Dr. Hawkins had worn a Sheitel instead and pledged solidarity with Jews everywhere by saying we worship the same God, would she have gotten the same reaction?  Franklin Graham has recently argued that we need to support Israel because, in the final analysis it wasn't the Jews who nailed him to the cross, it was all of us.  Although this is a historically myopic position, Graham received no rebukes for these statements.  Consequently, I wonder if the primary reason for Dr. Hawkins' removal is not that she broke with received evangelicalism/fundamentalism, but that she supported, in at least some small way, Islam.  After all, it is the self-same Graham that has recently also argued that Islam needs to be repelled at all cost and Mr. Graham is held in very high esteem (as he should be) by most evangelicals.  

I would, therefore, suggest that, in the context of the current geopolitical climate with constant news stories of radical Islamic fundamentalist terrorism and the rise of ISIS, any support of Islam, however faint, is seen as conspiring with the Devil.  The College Board of Directors, to preserve its role in the fight (and to make sure that donor dollars keep pouring in) may have felt they had no choice but to go through with the termination, even in the face of limited evidence that Dr. Hawkins really had gone off the rails. 

I am not debating the merits of either Judaism or Islam in relation to Christianity.  I am staunchly Christian and find much in Islam very troubling.  Even moderate Islam seems deeply misogynistic and cruel by western and Christian standards.  I am, however, suggesting that Dr. Hawkins is being served up as a scapegoat in the broader war that evangelicalism is waging against one of its “enemies.”


  1. I am so curious if Wheaton in any way supported the non Trinitarian Kim Davis.

  2. Anonymous4:35 PM

    As a Sunni Muslim who lives in Turkey and experiences the current refugee crisis from first hand, I am thoroughly amused by this nonsense by the west. You guys are like a bunch of babies.

    And all things considered, if you are really afraid, why don't you go and evangelize to recent refugee Muslims and bring them to the one true faith? I mean, the Christian Unitarians and leftie Episcopalians might take care of them before you conservatives do.

  3. My recommendation is that you stick to Evolutionary Creationism in your blog. I have a daughter that attends Wheaton College and Benjamin Corey has no idea what is happening at Wheaton College. Sounds like a high school World Cultures analysis to me...

  4. Ok. What is going on at Wheaton College that he got wrong?

  5. Where do I begin? This is just another example of outsiders jumping in to the fray without having any real understanding. First off, does Corey know anything about the present and historic efforts of Wheaton College faculty, students, and alumni reaching out to the Muslim world in love? Does he care to find out before slandering his Christian brothers and sisters? Obviously not. I am a Wheaton parent and I don't profess to know all the details about the Hawkins situation. But I do know that the unseen love of neighbor,(muslim or otherwise) in the trenches (that is a Wheaton hallmark)is more real and effective (though unglorious)than merely donning a hijab, making a few glib statements and posing with Jesse Jackson on camera ever will. Appears to me another activist publicity stunt and instead of due diligence Corey exploits this current of confusion. Then, in his central "argument", Corey comes to the stunningly ill-informed conclusion that the real reason for the whole flap is that Wheaton College, and all those knuckling-dragging fundamentalists, "see Islam as the enemy and they must be crushed." This is perceptive and in depth analysis done in Christian love? Seems like a classic example of cavalier, ham-handed exploitation of another sensational news story to drive some more blog traffic to me. How about some careful in-depth analysis performed with Christian charity, anybody doing that anymore?
    I am thankful that there is some Christian institution left that will stand for making theological distinctions, which isn't hate speech. We cannot stand with our Muslim neighbors in solidarity regarding our fundamental and real theological differences, but, we can stand in solidarity with our Muslim neighbors regarding our common humanity before God! That's the distinction. Have we totally lost the ability to make distinctions of meaning in this brave new world? Or are we all just chasing headlines with thoughtless,knee-jerk reactions.
    One more thing before I go. Corey closes quoting Hawkins: “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.” First, "intimidation"? "cowering in fear"? Don't think Wheaton had that in mind, makes good copy though. Second, "enemy of the month" Hawkins needs to get out her history books, the conflict between Christianity and Islam predates CNN. And finally, and most importantly, she conflates all of her Christian brothers and sisters with shallow, loud-mouthed politicians, "bigots and fundamentalists of all stripes". Wow! This sounds like sensational partisan politics not Christian discourse. Is she really the only "Christian" that knows what it means to "love thy neighbor"? Methinks she dost protest too loudly. Unfortunately, I think Dr. Hawkins is being used by the media as a poster child for the "New Fundamentalism". What is the New Fundamentalism, you ask? It is the systematic, relentless elimination of distinctions. The dilution of all things into one common lukewarm, tepid, amorphous, meaningless whole. In this wonderfully dull world no one will ever be offended, after all, there will be no more distinction, no identity, no real possibility of relationship, no meaning. Don't worry, be Happy! You will be Happy! This is the dictum of the New Fundamentalism, which is not taught at Wheaton College, thank God,but is taught at almost every other remaining "institution of higher learning" in the land. Or maybe I should say "institution of higher indoctrination" in the land. Wheaton College is one of the few institutions that remain standing against the "New Fundamentalism". That's how I see it. I guess I have said enough.

  6. One more thing....Continued from previous Wheaton/Hawkins post. Ran out of room. Please forgive me if I have offended you or anyone else, I get wound up sometimes with this stuff. In any case I still appreciate your evolutionary creation blogging from a Christian perspective. Keep at it, and don't give up on those evangelicals, they've done a few good things and are as teachable as anybody else.
    BTW, here are a few articles that give a different perspective on the Hawkins sensation: