People of the Book

I am disappointed at the way Wheaton College, Wheaton, Illinois, one of the leading Evangelical Christian colleges in the country, is dealing with Political Science Professor Larycia Hawkins. Hawkins announced on Facebook that she was wearing a Hijab during Advent to show solidarity with Muslim sisters and brothers. She went on to explain that Muslims and Christians are “People of the Book” and, quoting Pope Francis, worship the same God. I thought it was a timely gesture and a strong Christian witness at a time Muslims are being maligned by leading Republican presidential candidates, and anti-Islamic rhetoric and activity has increased.

Professor Hawkins invoked a theological affirmation with which many theologians and Biblical scholars would agree. There is one God, called by many names by different religions – God, Jahweh, Allah. But nomenclature does not alter basic, fundamental monotheism shared by Muslims, Jews and Christians. There is one God. Of course there are differences between religions, essential differences. It is not helpful, nor respectful, to gloss over those differences. But we do share a fundamental monotheism and that shared monotheism is the basis for interfaith relations, interfaith conversations, even interfaith theology. And that, in my mind, is absolutely necessary at a time of violent religious extremism from all three religious communities. Distinguished theologian, Hans Kung, once said there will be no peace in the world until there is peace among religions. And there will be no peace among religions until there is dialogue between religions.

My disappointment with Wheaton is because the college has a very distinguished academic reputation, provides its students with a solid, balanced liberal arts education, along with its clear identity as a Christian college. Was it really necessary to take disciplinary action against a Christian scholar expressing solidarity with Muslims and making a theological affirmation with which many theologians, conservative as well as liberal, would agree? There is one God, regardless of what name we employ.

Martin Marty observed years ago that the word “Jahweh” in Hebrew scripture is translated “God” in English translations of the Hebrew and “Allah” in Arabic translations of the Bible. The word for the one God we worship, love and serve is “Allah” in Arabic. Of course we worship one God. I cannot imagine that God is pleased when we squabble over the proper name.

Comments

  1. jack macmullan says:

    PROFESSOR HAWKINS (WHEATON COLLEGE) NOT ONLY SHOULD NOT BE DISCIPLINED, BUT DESERVES A RAISE FOR HER ORIGINAL AND CREATIVE WAY OF DEMONSTRATING THAT WE ALL BELONG TO AND WORSHIP THE SAME GOD.

  2. I’ve been waiting for this from you, John. Harriet said of this at exercise class one day, “Boy did they blow it.” Yeah.

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