This story about Larycia Hawkins, the political science professor placed on administrative leave from Wheaton College after deciding to wear hijab during Advent, has lots of layers and nuance to it. The part that caught my attention is the tacit acknowledgement of polytheism that’s embedded in the justification for that leave.
When I write that Hawkins was placed on leave after deciding to express solidarity with Muslims by means of her style of dress, it’s a mindful choice of words. Whether or not anyone believes it to be so, the official reason given for putting the professor on the sidelines was theological, rather than being tied to what she was wearing.
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.
That assertion — the they worship the same god — “appear to be in conflict with the College’s Statement of Faith,” according to the continually-editing press release on the incident. While there are followers of all the Abrahamic faiths who agree with this concept, it’s apparently not entirely in keeping with the college’s official statement of faith, which is based upon the concept of “one sovereign God, eternally existing in three persons,” which description Allah does not appear to fit.
What the statement lacks — and several of the evangelical ministers and scholars I’ve heard comment also skirt this issue — is a reminder that, under a monotheistic worldview, any being who is worshiped but is not the designated one true god is instead a false god. That’s probably a good move, as such a proclamation is bound to stir up a lot more stuff than anyone at Wheaton cares to taste. On the other hand, it presents an interesting pickle: if Allah is not the same deity as the tripartite god of the evangelicals, and Allah is also not a false god, the only other alternative is a polytheistic one.
Avowed monotheists, desperately trying to back away from the political and cultural implications of identifying with the terrifying other that is Islam, finding themselves caught between starting a religious war and ignoring one of the fundamental tenets of their own faith. That’s pretty interesting, if you ask me.
I can’t wait to see what the next chapter in this sage brings. I feel I may be smelling what those Minute Men must have smelled when the first shot was fired near North Bridge.