Dr. Larycia Hawkins, Wheaton College, and an Opportunity for Courage

Having grown up Evangelical and having been a speaker at many Evangelical colleges across the country, I think David Gushee got it right in his piece on the recent conflict at Wheaton College over Professor Larycia Hawkins, namely, that donors trump academic and theological integrity. Two additional factors come to mind:

1. As I explored in a recent book, religious identity (Evangelical, Muslim, even atheist) is often strengthened by hostility to “the other.” Relatively few religious communities have consciously sought to build strong religious identity around solidarity with the other (as Jesus did) rather than hostility.
2. The fact that Dr. Hawkins is a woman of color is not (understatement alert) insignificant. Her gender and race raises the question of how many white men at Wheaton hold similar views but aren’t punished for them.

These two factors raise two interesting opportunities:

1. Why don’t Evangelical students and faculty at Wheaton and other Evangelical schools take this opportunity to reach out and invite some Muslims to campus? (This could be a bit scary for the Muslim guests, in light of Jerry Falwell Jr.’s recent statements.) In this way, they could model a positive response to the negative actions of Falwell and the Wheaton administration.
2. Why don’t white male faculty at Evangelical institutions take a stand in solidarity with Dr. Hawkins, putting some of their privilege on the line for the benefit of a colleague and sister? Silence in the presence of injustice can easily be a form of complicity.

I’d love to hear about, report, and publicize positive actions in this regard …