Massey: Wheaton College Needs to Reverse on Hawkins Suspension

“You have become a rallying cry for justice in a world that continually disenfranchises and neglects the most vulnerable.”

I privately messaged these words to Dr. Larycia Hawkins, my mentor and former professor at the well-known Evangelical Wheaton College, upon hearing that my alma mater decided to put her on administrative leave.

Her story has gained traction in the mainstream media recently after she posted a photo of herself (above) wearing a Muslim hijab on Facebook along with a message of solidarity to those of the Islamic faith. In particular, she came under fire by some alumni and the Wheaton College administration for the following statement: “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.”

Wheaton College and many who criticize Dr. Hawkins have stated their concern is not with the solidarity she is showing, but rather with her “same God” comment which they consider to be contradictory to the college’s Statement of Faith, even though it is a rather non-controversial belief held by many respected Christian theologians, including Pope Francis, as Dr. Hawkins mentioned.

I, and many students and alumni with me, believe the college’s decision to suspend Dr. Hawkins is about much more than simply their “theological convictions.” Rather, it has everything to do with the fear mongering and tendency to act in a harsh, knee jerk manner that is far too common in conservative circles.

I say this out of more than just speculation. I say this out of experience. I graduated just six short months ago from Wheaton College with an incredible education and great friendships, but also with the lingering pain of the many times I experienced the college’s fear first-hand.

As one of the most vocal gay students on campus, my very presence was a source of conflict for the administration who knew my presence and that of my peers meant the reality of angry alumni and a conservative sphere of media were just waiting for them to misstep. I had my integrity, faith and dedication to the community questioned more times than I can count, simply because of the palpable fear-mongering that exist on issues of “political controversy.”

I discuss my personal experience with the conservative culture of fear present within the Wheaton College community to demonstrate that the incident at hand does not exist in isolation. Such fear-based reactions are a trend that are evident both at this individual institution and in broader conservative society, and it’s a tendency that hurts us all.

Dr. Hawkins’ role on campus is far bigger than teaching courses in political science. She has consistently demonstrated herself to be one of the most radically supportive and loving members of the Wheaton community, breathing life and strength into disenfranchised students of all types. For many of us connected to Wheaton College, the administration’s decision to suspend Dr. Hawkins is not just an attack on one member of our community, but rather an attack on all of us who have felt marginalized for intentionally or unintentionally having stepped into a topic or identity deemed “controversial.”

I truly believe the idea I shared with Dr. Larycia Hawkins this morning, that she will quickly become a rallying cry against the culture of fear that stifles the justice we desperately need to see in this country. Wheaton College must act quickly to right this wrong and start to reject the fear that I’ve seen be so destructive to the lives of so many. I am taking a firm stand for justice along with many current students and alumni.

Join us in calling on Wheaton College to apologize and reinstate Dr. Hawkins.

Follow #ReinstateDocHawk on social media, including Twitter and Facebook, and sign the petition.

Justin Massey recently graduated from Wheaton College with a B.A. in Political Science. He is a community activist and voice for justice based out of Orange County, California. You can find him on Twitter: @JustinSMassey

  • Jackie

    This article is total nonsense. Anyone who thinks that the Christian God is the same as the Muslim god doesn’t understand either one of them. This is not about disenfranchisement or political correctness or any of the rest of that bilge. This situation is about truth. Truth that is worth dying for. Hang in there, Wheaton College. If you cave on this, your ministry is finished.

    • LFOldTimer

      I believe Wheaton is on the right side of the law and on the right side of the higher moral order. Their first obligation is to the promote the philosophy and the basic beliefs which form the bedrock of their institution of higher learning. For a professor in a Christian evangelical college to claim that Muslims and Christians worship the same God is just unfathomable. Do what you must to protect the teachings that your college was founded upon, Wheaton. There are times in life when you just can’t back down. This is one of them.

    • Jacki Livingston

      They are both the same imaginary guy in the sky. Gods are Gods. If you believe in them, then logic has nothing to do with it. If you try to use the Bible to justify your position, it doesn’t hold water. The King James version of the Bible looks nothing like the Aramaic version. It was commissioned by a closet gay King trying to justify the monarchy in it’s decline. Please. Wheaton College is dead wrong on this, and not for what you think it is. They are wrong because they are trying to further the crazycakes fake Christianity notion that we are somehow the only ones being granted access to Heaven and that Muslims are somehow evil by their very nature. They are also infringing on the very American notion of free speech. Now, if, as employers, they had made it written policy that their professors could not express a differing view, then, fine. But they don’t. You see, they wouldn’t get high quality professors with that kind of rules. So they try to punish her for being and thinking different, and that is wrong. By the law of the land, they are wrong. God, Allah, Budda, Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny, the Tooth Fairy and Ronnie Reagan all have nothing to do with it. Believe in whatever imaginary entity that helps you get through. But let’s not pretend that you can back it up with logic. Because you can’t. Faith is belief, in the absence of logic. That is why it is called faith.

  • LFOldTimer

    I have my opinions about religion. But really, what’s the use? There’s enough discord in this world. Why promote more? But let’s be honest. If I practiced Christianity in Saudi Arabia or Iran I’d be about as popular as a flag burner at a VFW convention. I’d have to sleep with one eye open at night. Yet I see lots of Muslims wearing their garbs in America and rarely hear of one being attacked or even denigrated in public. But this Dr. Hawkins makes me wonder where she got her Ph.D. with her “….we worship the same God” comment. And she teaches at an evangelical college? ha. What does she do for encores? Look, I’m no theologian or licensed minister. But even I know the difference between the Christian and Muslim Gods. And Pope Francis must be smoking weed.

    • Jacki Livingston

      Clearly you have never been to Texas,