The recent controversy surrounding Professor Larycia Hawkins of Wheaton College evoked some of my personal experiences as the first Roman Catholic worldwide secretary general of the World Alliance of YMCAs. The YMCA movement was founded on the ideals of Evangelical Protestantism. I experienced my share of ambushes and long knives, and I also traveled the world and saw the cruelty, too often fatal, that believers inflict on other believers who worship the same God.
I have never met Larycia Hawkins, but wherever there is injustice, I know there will be a Larycia Hawkins to protest it. She didn’t organize the students. She did not confront her employer, nor create a media scrum. Rather she quietly wore the Muslim hijab to class, to show solidarity with all Muslims of good faith who were being vilified in our political rhetoric.
Professor Hawkins was suspended not because she wore the hijab, but because she implied that Christians and Muslims worship the same God. I have spent time in Israel and Palestine, sacred to three major faiths. Everyone I knew — Jew, Christian or Muslim — accepted that these three Abrahamic faiths worship the same God, whether called God, Allah or Yaweh. We were not theologians. Nor is Larycia Hawkins a political scientist. But many theologians lurk in the weeds, ready to expose the heresy of those who might state a generally accepted assumption. Professor Hawkins violated the truth according to Wheaton College. For this she was punished.