For Advent this year, Larycia Hawkins, a tenured professor of political science at Wheaton College, adopted an unusual devotional practice.

LaryciaHaving consulted with the Council on American-Islamic Relations to make sure her action would not be offensive to Muslims, Hawkins donned the hijab to demonstrate solidarity with Muslims around the world.

Wheaton College has now suspended the popular professor.

Her employer does not seem to have been offended by the action itself. Rather, it was Hawkins’ explanation that got her into trouble. In a 10 December Facebook post Hawkins explained,

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.

I agree with my Facebook friend Jaqueline who responded to this explanation saying Christians, “are not people of the book, we are people of the person.” We are Jesus people. We seek to allow our lives to be governed by the Spirit of Christ who is the Spirit of Love.

The power of the book is the power of that love that is the common heritage of every human being without exception. Hawkins makes a profoundly important statement when she affirms “we are formed of the same primordial clay.”

For Christians, that “primordial clay” is called love and we find it embodied in the person of Jesus. But this love knows no boundaries. It makes no distinctions. It is not creedal, ethnic, cultural, or defined by any geography or time in history.

All human beings are created “in the image of God” (Genesis 1:27). At this time in history it is more important than ever that we unite to find ways to emphasize those things in which we see this common “image of God” reflected.

We have had too much of the division and separation Wheaton apparently seeks to enshrine. We cannot afford to cloak anti-Islam bias in the shabby garment of our pristine theology.

On Friday 17 December Yale University professor of theology Miroslav Volf, issued a stunning rebuke to the Wheaton College asking,

Why is the Christian response to Muslim denial of the Trinity and the incarnation not the same as the response to similar Jewish denial? Why are many Christians today unable to say that Christians and Muslims worship the same God but understand God in partly different ways?

https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/acts-of-faith/wp/2015/12/17/wheaton-professors-suspension-is-about-anti-muslim-bigotry-not-theology/

Volf urges Christians that

instead of wanting to “end” Muslims they deem to be their enemies in the name of God, they would seek to embrace them in the name of Christ.

Our choice seems to be to line up with the forces of hatred and exclusion, or choose to stand with the love of Christ which invites us all into

a house of prayer for all the nations. (Mark 11:17)

The world community cannot afford for us to get this wrong.

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