Professor Larycia Hawkins was fired from Wheaton College, an evangelical institution of higher learning in Illinois for stating these things:
“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.”
In her piece entitled “The Professor Suspended for Saying Muslims and Christians Worship One God: It was her theology—not her hijab—that got her in trouble with the evangelical college,” Ruth Graham writes:
“The phrase “people of the book,” which Hawkins deployed in her statement, is used in the Koran to describe Christians, Jews, and Muslims, who are all said to worship the Abrahamic God. But this is still a matter of significant disagreement among Christians, with many conservative believers resistant to the idea that followers of other religions are pointing their prayers at the God of the Bible. In 2008, Wheaton’s then-president and two other administrators removed their signatures from a letter of solidarity with Muslim leaders, on the grounds that it came too close to suggesting Christians and Muslims worship the same God.”
In her piece, Graham discloses that she is a political science graduate from Wheaton and that the school’s endeavor to foster a certain cultural and religious climate is well-known to all connected with the institution. Be that as it may, but this is America and whatever else Wheaton College is, it also an American employer and educator and it should be bound, just like all other institutions of higher learning, not only to follow the letter of the Constitution where it pertains to the religious freedom of those who study or work there, but also the education code and education standards.
Historically, Judaism came first, Christianity came next, and Islam came after that. The Christian scriptures all reference the Old Testament. The Quran references both the Old Testament and the Christian Bible and specifically confers deferential status to both religions.
Evangelicals’ antipathy to other religions notwithstanding, it is perfectly reasonable to state that, in the Abrahamic tradition, Jews, Christians, and Muslims worship the same god. They do, even though they don’t worship or portray him in exactly the same ways. Such a statement does nothing to equate, describe or do anything to impress upon a reader or listener that the religions are anything but separate and merely explains their common bond and source. To deny this demonstrates a level of ignorance that should not be tolerated from an institution of higher learning. Such a denial also explains the twisted evangelical logic that Christian should deny Islam as an Abrahamic religion, because acceptance makes it so much harder for these Hawks to call for a war against Islam.
Professor Larycia Hawkins’ signed contract should not shield Wheaton from being compelled to honor the constitution and all of the civil and religious rights it affords all Americans. It is one thing for evangelicals of one stripe or another to want to distance themselves from either Catholicism or Islam they neither agree with or like. But to deny that the three major Abrahamic religions are descended from Judaism and all worship the same Abrahamic God, albeit very differently – both being historically-dependent facts – is factually wrong and should earn the college a revocation of the licenses and accreditation under which it is allowed to confer academic degrees until it complies with established academic standards. As for the firing of a professor who converted to Catholicism, one would hope that matter was taken up in the courts as a civil rights violation.
This is the kind of case that makes you wonder just how Justices Scalia, Thomas, and Kennedy would vote. All three are Catholic and neither’s religious rights would be respected at an institution such as Wheaton.
My Jewish Learning: A history of Judaism’s perception of Islam
Catholicism and Islam: Teachings of the Catholic Church (PDF file)
What are ‘Abrahamic religions?’ PBS: Connections: Religion