Magazine article The Christian Century

Professor Suspended for Saying Christians, Muslims 'Worship the Same God'

Magazine article The Christian Century

Professor Suspended for Saying Christians, Muslims 'Worship the Same God'

Article excerpt

A Wheaton College professor has been placed on leave because, in explaining why she wanted to show solidarity with Muslims by wearing an Islamic headscarf, she wrote that Muslims and Christians worship the same God. Her comments have sparked fierce theological debate.

"I stand in religious solidarity with Muslims because they, like me, a Christian, are people of the book," Larycia Alaine Hawkins wrote in a Facebook post December 10. "We worship the same God."

Her employer disagreed, placing the tenured political science professor on administrative leave on December 15 "in order to give more time to explore theological implications of her recent public statements concerning Christianity and Islam."

Wheaton administrators noted that the faculty and staff sign a statement of faith, and they said her view that Muslims and Christians worship the same God "appears to be in conflict" with that statement.

"Dr. Hawkins's 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," Wheaton's statement says.

Prominent Christians, including evangelicals, have made similar claims to the one Hawkins made. George W. Bush regularly expressed the sentiment during his presidency.

"I believe the God that the Muslim prays to is the same God that I pray to," President Bush told Al Arabiya News in 2007. "After all, we all came from Abraham."

Several dozen Wheaton students held a protest December 16 during which they delivered a letter to the college's administration demanding that Hawkins be reinstated.

The students wrote in their letter to the president and provost, "There is nothing in Dr. Hawkins's public statements that goes against the belief in the power and nature of God, Christ, or the Holy Spirit that the Statement of Faith deems as a necessary requirement for affiliation with Wheaton College."

In a Facebook post December 13, Hawkins responded to the initial criticism she had received. She wrote that "asserting our religious solidarity with Muslims and Jews will go a long way toward quelling religious violence and enervating religionist fear of the religious other. Whether or not you find this position, one held for centuries by countless Christians (church fathers, saints, and regular Christian folk like me), to be valid, I trust that we can peacefully disagree on theological points and affirm others. …

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