In his fourth “salient value” Marc Galli really only states the obvious.

4. Maintaining boundaries. Christians generally acknowledge that, as Christians, we voluntarily limit our freedom in order to obey God and flourish in communities. Freedom doesn’t mean that faculty and administrators can say or do whatever they want. That sort of freedom quickly saps the strength of any community.

No one in any rational community has ever argued that members of their community should be absolutely free to “say or do whatever they want.” This is the proverbial straw man. It is not an argument worth attacking because it is not an argument any sensible responsible person ever makes.

I am certain Larycia Hawkins and her defenders have never suggested for one moment that their goal is unfettered irresponsible liberty with no boundaries.

In his “salient value” #5, Mr. Galli risks opening the floodgates when he argues for:

5. Diversity on Christian campuses. White males no longer reflect the racial and ethnic makeup of contemporary Christianity. It’s a diverse movement, and evangelical institutions will be better for reflecting that. A large subtext of this controversy—to many, the main text—is that Hawkins is not only a woman but also African American. Losing her would diminish the school in many ways, as Wheaton administrators surely know.

Just how much diversity is Mr. Galli willing to accept? How is he going to decide when his Christian campuses have crossed the line and accepted too much diversity?

Wheaton seems to have drawn a pretty tight line in the sand. The administration’s apparent determination to define God solely in traditional Christian terms, allows a pretty narrow space for exploration or openness to God’s work beyond traditionally Christian formulations.

Do Jews believe in the same God as Christians? members of the Church of Jesus Christ of the Latter Day Saints? Jehovah’s Witnesses? members of Westboro Baptist Church of “God Hates Fags” fame?

The struggle to balance diversity with identity may be at the heart of the Wheaton/Hawkins debate. If this is the real issue, attach your identity to “our God is different than your God”, may not allow for a degree of diversity that makes an institution sustainable in the realities of contemporary western culture.

In his “salient value” #6 Galli makes an important point about the value of tenure to preserve academic freedom.

6. Tenure. Tenure protects professors from arbitrary actions by the administration and trustees. Tenured professors should not have to live in fear of losing their jobs—or even being called on the carpet—over one or two misstatements.

“Salient value” #6 is even more true if in fact, as many many reputable Christian theologians have cogently argued, Larycia Hawkins has not in fact made any “misstatement at all. If the facts of this case are only as they appear, the Christian academic establishment should be fighting mightily to protect Hawkins’ position as a tenured professor.

Galli’s point #7 is important.

7. Confidentiality. College administrators, and institutional leaders generally, should be able to have confidential conversations with each other and with faculty with whom they have disagreements. A policy of complete transparency would make it impossible for people to speak frankly for fear that their words would become public.

But, the questions remain: who broke confidentiality and who thrust this debate into the public eye? Hawkins’ Facebook statement was posted on December 10. Five days later Wheaton publicly announced that Professor Hawkins had been suspended saying,

In response to significant questions regarding the theological implications of statements that Associate Professor of Political Science Dr. Larycia Hawkins has made about the relationship of Christianity to Islam, Wheaton College has placed her on administrative leave, pending the full review to which she is entitled as a tenured faculty member.

Wheaton College faculty and staff make a commitment to accept and model our institution’s faith foundations with integrity, compassion and theological clarity. As they participate in various causes, it is essential that faculty and staff engage in and speak about public issues in ways that faithfully represent the College’s evangelical Statement of Faith.

Was Dr. Hawkins’ statement really so egregious and threatening that Wheaton College could not dare risk leaving her on the job for even a week while they carried out “the full review to which she is entitled as a tenured faculty member”?  How much harm could she inflict on the student body if she was permitted to remain at her post while the college carried out its due diligence?

In an ideal world #8 would be true:

8. The right to know. Members of any Christian community have the right to know what its leaders are thinking and doing, especially when those leaders’ decisions affect them or the future of the institution.

Experience shows that the kind of institutional transparency Galli hopes to see, is rare. There can be little doubt that, at least for the general public, Wheaton has been less than forthcoming about the reasons and motivations behind its actions.

In the end, the one “salient value” that perhaps has most been lost in this debate is the one Jesus left his disciples when he took a towel, kneelt on the floor and washed their feet saying,

I have set you an example, that you also should do as I have done to you. (John 13:15)

It is clear that Layrcia Hawkins at least intended her headscarf gesture to be an attempt to wash the feet of her Muslim brothers and sisters. Whose feet is Wheaton College washing?

Perhaps a little more foot washing and a little less theological quibbling might cause the light of Christ to shine a tiny bit more brightly in the world today.