January 11, 2016

Protesters push to ‘Reinstate Doc Hawk’ on first day of Wheaton’s spring semester

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Wheaton College professor Michael Mangis speaks to the media off campus as students protest the school's actions against fellow professor Larycia Hawkins, who has said Christians and Muslims worship the same God. Religion News Service photo by Emily Miller

Wheaton College professor Michael Mangis speaks to the media off campus as students protest the school's actions against fellow professor Larycia Hawkins, who has said Christians and Muslims worship the same God. Religion News Service photo by Emily Miller

Students chant "Reinstate Doc Hawk," as the bell rings for the first chapel of spring semester at Wheaton College. Religion News Service photo by Emily Miller

Students chant “Reinstate Doc Hawk,” as the bell rings for the first chapel of spring semester at Wheaton College. Religion News Service photo by Emily Miller

WHEATON, Ill. (RNS) Protests and prayer marked the first day of the spring semester at Wheaton College after an acrimonious holiday break during which the evangelical school pushed ahead with termination proceedings against a tenured professor who said Muslims and Christians worship the same God.

Despite wind chills dipping below zero, several dozen students gathered on the steps of the evangelical school’s Edman Memorial Chapel Monday (Jan. 11) with signs reading,  “Academic Rigor = Academic Freedom.” Others chanted “Reinstate Doc Hawk” over the ringing of the chapel bells.

Wheaton administrators did not permit media onto the suburban Chicago campus to allow students to reconnect with the campus without distraction, but a handful of reporters and photographers gathered on the sidewalk just outside the gates.


RELATED STORY: Larycia Hawkins ‘flabbergasted’ by Wheaton’s move to fire her


Last week, the college confirmed it had started termination proceedings against Larycia Hawkins who wore a Muslim headscarf during the Advent period preceding Christmas as a sign of solidarity with Muslim believers. Her case now goes to a faculty review board.

The political science professor, who has taught at Wheaton since 2007, also posted a photo of herself wearing a hijab on her personal Facebook page.

Wheaton has said it took issue not with the professor’s photo, but with her justification for it. She wrote on Facebook, “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.”

Hawkins stood by her belief that Muslims and Christians worship the same God, something the college has said seems “inconsistent with Wheaton College’s doctrinal convictions.”

Larycia Hawkins speaks on Jan. 6, 2016, at First United Methodist Church in Chicago. Religion News Service photo by Emily McFarlan Miller

Larycia Hawkins speaks on Jan. 6, 2016, at First United Methodist Church in Chicago. Religion News Service photo by Emily McFarlan Miller

On Sunday, Hawkins again took to Facebook, this time encouraging supporters not to “demonize” Wheaton or its administration, but to shower all concerned, particularly Provost Stan Jones, “with thoughts and prayers and actions that emanate love, grace, peace, and if necessary, forgiveness.”

Students still believe that reconciliation is possible by reinstating Dr. Hawkins with tenure immediately, ending the termination process, and issuing a public apology to Dr. Hawkins,” reads a statement from students identified as “supporters of #reinstatedochawk.”

Both students and faculty dressed in “a sign of embodied solidarity” with Hawkins, posting pictures of themselves wearing all black on social media using the hashtag ‪#‎ReinstateDocHawk.

The college responded with a statement, saying: “College leadership continues to listen to the concerns of its students expressed through social media, a peaceful demonstration and meetings with the administration. While we appreciate this feedback, since this is a personnel issue, the administration will continue to approach it through the established process put in place to handle such matters.”

But it was not only students protesting. Wheaton psychology professor Michael Mangis said “quite a few” faculty planned to wear their full academic regalia to class ­– some, until Hawkins is reinstated.”

That doesn’t mean those faculty members all are taking a side, he said, but simply expressing solidarity with a professor under siege.

Wheaton College professor Michael Mangis speaks to the media off campus as students protest the school's actions against fellow professor Larycia Hawkins, who has said Christians and Muslims worship the same God. Religion News Service photo by Emily Miller

Wheaton College professor Michael Mangis speaks to the media off campus as students protest the school’s actions against fellow professor Larycia Hawkins, who has said Christians and Muslims worship the same God. Religion News Service photo by Emily Miller

Mangis had expressed his support for Hawkins in a comment on her original Facebook post. An article published Saturday on the Time magazine website suggested Mangis and Hawkins received a different response from Jones, who admitted to Mangis privately that Hawkins’ statement was “innocuous.”

Mangis said race and gender may have played a role in Hawkins’ case, however unintentionally. Hawkins is Wheaton’s first-ever tenured black female professor.

“Wheaton has been so long entrenched in the white male American evangelical group mindset, it’s hard to shake out of it,” Mangis said. “Wheaton has to bring in fresh voices. It’s not right to say to the fresh voice, ‘You don’t sound like a white male American evangelical.’”

Additional protests are expected to continue throughout the week. Students are planning a sit-in in the offices of President Philip Ryken and Jones, according to the release. Several faculty members also are planning “teach-ins,” in which they will present information to students about the college’s actions.

(Emily McFarlan Miller is a contributor to RNS)

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  • Science not in

    Christians worship Jesus as God, so why is everyone saying it’s not an issue if a professor in a Christian institution pretentiously proclaims otherwise?
    And check out this chicanery: “That doesn’t mean those faculty members all are taking a side, he said, but simply expressing solidarity with a professor under seige.” Talk about double-speak!
    People, please, please read and believe the Word of the Lord your God and put aside moralistic therapeutic deism.

  • Fran

    As a Christian, I don’t worship Jesus since he is the son of God (Matthew 3:17), whose name is Jehovah (and not Allah), he is in subjection to his Father or God (1 Corinthians 11:3), and his Father is greater than he is (Psalm 83:18; John 14:28). I will worship only Jehovah, but believe in Jesus as the Messiah, our mediator, the King of God’s kingdom, and try to be a footstep follower of him.

  • Doc Anthony

    It may be necessary to fire more than one renegade Wheaton professor around there. CLEAN HOUSE, baby!!!!

  • Loren Haas

    You must be thinking about someone else, because Dr Hawkins has never disputed the divinity of Jesus.

  • Fran

    Besides that, checking into Allah, he has no son, but Jehovah (or Yahweh) does, or Jesus, who gave his perfect life as a ransom sacrifice for all imperfect mankind (Matthew 20:28). There are definite differences between these two besides this one.

  • God is to big to be contained by any one word or teaching. Yet, it is a constant tempation to make God smaller – to shrink the divine into words and teachings that we control. This temptation to shrink the divine is exactly what Saint Stephen railed against in his preaching (Acts) that “No house of stone can contain God.” He was martyred for this. Jesus cleansed the temple and overthrew the money changers’ tables because the religious establishment of his day was, in today’s words, monetizing the house of God.
    Jews worship the God of Abraham. Christians claim that the God of Abraham is the Father. Muslims worship the God of Abraham and claim Moses and Jesus as prophets. It does seem clear that they all claim to worship the God of Abraham.
    It will take big hearts and bigger minds for the administration at Wheaton to back down and admit they over-reacted, and were wrong….even more to ask forgiveness for the harm they have caused. But this is exactly what they should do.

  • Fran is not thinking of someone else Mr.Haas; she’s a Jehovah’s Witness.Their theological father,if you will, was Arius,a presbyter from the 4th century who caused a huge controvesy by denying the Diety of Jesus Christ.

  • I’ve read Wheaton’s Statement of Faith,Mr.Callahan,and going by your somewhat muddled statement inre this supposed similar worship paradigm I invite you to outline exactly how Wheaton is wrong in repudiating Ms.Hawkins’ claim,because I don’t think that you really thought it through.I await your reply. PEACE.

  • David Scott

    Why do religious observers still scratch their heads as they watch the decline of Christianity in the U.S.? American Christianity no longer adheres to the teachings of Jesus but, instead, has become a belief system focused on intolerance, competition, purity, and one-upmanship. Moderate Christians continue to pray as the extremists take the belief system hostage.

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  • JR Green

    And got punched in the face by St. Nicolas

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  • James Jennings

    So, based on what you are saying, we can assume that King David is in hell. The same goes for Isaiah and all of the Old Testament leaders of the faith. Certainly, none of them knew the name Jesus, and none of them considered that any man could be God. The truth is that none of us know who anyone is praying to. Only God knows. Jews, Christians, and Muslims all claim to worship the creator God of Abraham. I take all 3 at their word. That doesn’t mean that all are redeemed, or that there are “many paths to God”. Recognizing our common spiritual ancestry doesn’t mean that we are the same. Read your Bible. What does Paul say in 1 Corinthians 9:19-23:
    “I have made myself a slave to everyone, to win as many as possible. To the Jews I became like a Jew, to win the Jews….I have become all things to all people so that by all possible means I might save some.” I guess Paul was a liberal compromiser.

  • James Jennings

    I agree completely but you will never find a “come let us reason together” moment with the majority of evangelicals/fundamentalists. I was saved through the actions of evangelicals in the early 70’s. It no longer represents what it used to. Wheaton’s actions are just another nail in the coffin of American Evangelicalism. A remnant remains, but they are too afraid to speak up for truth, because, like Professor Hawkins, any word of kindness to a lost world is viewed as disobedience to scripture. It is possible to remain true to scripture and still show grace and love to those outside the Church. Unfortunately, many simply view the world as the enemy, instead of beautiful creations, beloved by God. I continue to pray that God will infiltrate the Church and bring revival and repentance.

  • Agree

  • Thomas Ryscavage

    Any human being who thinks that they know who God is and claims to know which religion He cares about especially supposed religions that kill Christians for their pleasure forever is an extremely egotistical fool.

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  • Mary

    Christianity is all about intolerance, competition, purity, and one-upmanship. He just mastered the craft and the PR first.

  • Fran

    Laurence,

    Our theological or Heavenly Father is Jehovah God, the only true God (Psalm
    83:18). However, Arius, way back in the third century, was correct in denying the Trinity doctrine even then, since it is not taught in the Bible.

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  • Scott Shaver

    Wheaton College has every right to perpetuate it’s version of Christian orthodoxy as seen fit through the hiring or dismissal of its faculty.

    For faculty on the pay-roll desiring to show theological solidarity with their colleague “under siege”, I say fire the lot of em. Doctoral hoods are good for pan-handling.

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  • Bill Samuel

    Professor Hawkins has never said that Jesus is not God. Is it possible that Hawkins understands the Gospel more fully than you do?

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