Wheaton bows to pressure

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Wheaton College Seal, with motto "For Christ and His Kingdom"

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Wheaton College Seal, with motto "For Christ and His Kingdom"

Wheaton College Seal, with motto "For Christ and His Kingdom"

Wheaton College Seal, with motto “For Christ and His Kingdom”

Thanks to emails disclosed by Time magazine, we now know that the effort by Wheaton College to get rid of tenured political science professor Larycia Hawkins has nothing to do with its concern about her orthodoxy or its need to maintain doctrinal boundaries. It has to do with caving in to outside pressure.

“Articles are already being written in a variety of news sources, and the media are pounding on our door asking for comments about our faculty who are endorsing Islam,” wrote Wheaton provost Stanton Jones in a December 11 email to psychology professor Michael Mangis. “We are being asked to defend why we have faculty openly rejecting with (sic) the institution stands for.”

Jones wrote to Mangis because Mangis had written a comment in support of Hawkins’ declaration of solidarity with Muslims on her Facebook page. “If you get any grief at work give me a heads-up because I’ll be leading my spring psychology of religion class in Muslim prayers,” he wrote.

“I cannot tell you what a disaster this brief comment from you on Facebook is shaping up to be,” Jones emailed Mangis. “Larycia Hawkins also meant something similarly innocuous, but her theological comments are being taken up as an endorsement of Islam and a clear and emphatic statement that Islam and Christianity are approximately the same.”

Rather than answer the criticism and forthrightly defend his tenured faculty members for comments he believed innocuous, Wheaton’s chief academic officer went into full damage control mode, irregularly suspending Hawkins from teaching, initiating a process to fire her, and suppressing faculty support. With the spring semester under way, there are students and faculty protesting and worrying about the school’s future.

Wheaton likes to consider itself the Harvard of evangelicalism, so it’s worth recalling what Harvard did when faced with an analogous situation. That was during the Red Scare of the early 1950s, when many institutions of higher learning yielded to public pressure to fire Communists and ex-Communists who pleaded the Fifth Amendment rather than name names before congressional investigating committees. Harvard refused to either suspend or fire one of them, an associate professor of physics professor named Wendell Furry, even after the U.S. Senate voted a contempt citation against him.

After he became president of the university in 1953, Nathan Pusey — a pious Episcopalian who rescued the Harvard Divinity School from oblivion — stood up to Sen. Joe McCarthy’s pressure to get rid of Furry and dismissed out of hand the demand of Massachusetts Gov. (and Harvard Overseer) Christian Herter that any faculty member who took the Fifth be dismissed. Pusey also stood up to pressure from conservative alumni.

Harvard did not behave perfectly during the McCarthy era. Its administrators cooperated with the FBI and subjected some left-wing junior faculty to what in hindsight were unnecessary and unwarranted sanctions. But in difficult times, it put up impressive and important resistance to outside assaults on its institutional integrity.

Wheaton still has a chance to redeem itself and do the same. Next month, a nine-member faculty personnel committee will interview Hawkins and make a recommendation to Wheaton President Philip Ryken, who will then make his own recommendation to the college trustees, who will in turn pronounce judgment. The eyes of the country will be upon them all.

  • cken

    I think what Hawkins did was rightfully intended to promote love unity and peace. It is unfortunate it was so mis-perceived or seen through such myopic bias. There is only one God regardless the names he is given, how He/She is chosen to be worshiped, or the characteristics we attribute to “God”. The differences of the various religions lie not in the existence of a supreme creative entity, by whatever name, but rather in the perception of Jesus. The denigration or rejection of the latter is not a rejection of the former.

  • Glenn Harrell

    Wheaton is a Co-Ed Liberal Arts College.
    Their statement refers to the school as a “Christian” Liberal Arts college, but I have no clue what that is. Is this like “Christian Aerobics” and “Christian Music”?

    “Nothing to do with her orthodoxy”? Oh yes it does my friends!. Maybe not as much as some want to think but most of the faculty (at least of theology) certainly have the facts of her role and theological beliefs clearly understood.

    What I hope will be clearly disclosed is the contract she signed when joining Wheaton as it relates to this Soap Opera. (sorry, I meant “Christian” soap Opera) If she has aborted any portion of her contract, she needs to resign and stop playing the media-politics game. There are plenty of schools who welcome her credentials and beliefs as a package.

    If the school is saving face while the good Dr. Hawkins abused no portion of her contract, might she be rightly reinstated before her lawyers multiply?
    Maybe they will be “Christian…

  • Chaplain Martin

    Wheaton is an independent College, does not have to answer to Government rules concerning academia matters for the most part. That, however, doesn’t mean that they do not have r pressure from many areas. I only remember Larycia Hawkins having said Jews, Christian and Muslims worship the same God. She did wear Muslim dress for some reason. It didn’t see like a good idea.

    Frankly, I am so sick and tired of all the crap going on with the so called, media as well as the stupid statements made by those running for office. It seems that nearly 90% of the people in my area (Auburn, Al.) believe every thing the Republicans tell them. They talk about the “Terrible abuses of the food stamp program and well fair programs”. The Republication Party has for the most part co-opted the Christian Religion. Trump keeps saying “I’ll make America Great again”. Hitler said many times, “I’ll make Germany great again”. White supremacy is behind most of the rhetoric. Lord have mercy on us.

  • Chaplain Martin

    I really liked Your comment.

  • Doc Anthony

    If Wheaton caves in to the heavy political-correctness pressure being slapped on it, then Wheaton’s Statement Of Faith will no longer mean anything.

    In fact, if Wheaton caves in, Cken’s paragraph would essentially become Wheaton’s new, day-to-day, de-facto “Statement Of Faith.”

    Cken’s paragraph is essentially what Hawkins is preaching right now, (in essence). That paragraph IS the underlying, implied message of Hawkins’ theological position.

    That is why Hawkins must go, Hawkins, her supporters, and some of the national media, are now the clear ENEMIES of Wheaton’s specific Statement Of Faith,

    “Due process” is not the central issue. Understandably, some have criticized Wheaton on that issue, and that’s something to consider..

    But what Hawkins is teaching right now, is DIRECTLY opposed to at least two of the Wheaton SOF statements. She’s not accepting correction on that issue, nor apologizing.

    She messed up. She needs some good hot FIRIN’S !!!

  • Regarding Judaism, St Paul has made it clear; “they have a zeal for God, but not according to knowledge.” Regarding Islam, I am quite willing to let God decide whether the God of the Muslims is Himself or not.

  • Glenn Harrell

    I lost my last job because of illness and fatigue.
    My boss got sick and tired of me.

    Can’t imagine living in a 90% world of Hitleresque, Trump lovin, Republican dominatin, welfare abusin, food stamp tradin, white supremacy.

    Stay strong Chaps.

  • VEM

    Big peeve: “Wheaton likes to consider itself the Harvard of evangelicalism”–straw man; no “it” does not. I’ve lived in Wheaton for 30+ years, worked at Wheaton College for nearly 14, and have two degrees from the school. Nobody, but NOBODY at Wheaton College refers to it(self) as the “Harvard of evangelicalism.” That happens to be a favorite term OTHER people say Wheaton uses of itself, but in all the years I’ve only seen people here cringe when that term is applied and never heard anybody but outsiders use it.

  • Fran

    Cken,

    The apostle John shed some light on your last sentence about rejection of Jesus is not a rejection of God. He asked the question “Who is the liar if it is not the one that denies that Jesus is the Christ?” He followed that with “This is the antichrist, the one that denies the Father AND the Son. Everyone that denies the Son does not have the Father. He that confesses the Son has the Father also” (1 John 2:22-23).

    Jesus also said, in prayer to God, his Father, that humans needed to take in knowledge of both his Father and him to gain everlasting life (John 17:3).

  • Larry

    To quote Lisa Simpson, Anything that’s the “something” of the “something” isn’t really the “anything” of “anything”.
    http://m.imdb.com/title/tt1628662/quotes

  • Fran

    Concerning rejection of God and also of Jesus, 1 John 2:22,23 and John 17:3 indicates we need to accept both persons and not reject one or the other.

  • cken

    Why would you cringe at a compliment of your academic standards. Harvard started as a bible college or seminary.

  • VEM

    And Wheaton might say, “Precisely.”

  • cken

    Wheaton needs to put on their big boy pants If you are going to get so upset over another name for God, like Allah, then what about Jehovah and Yahweh. I am sure there is some specious apologetic theology for those other “Christian” names. Really though we don’t know what God is, what he looks like, or what he is made of; so man in an attempt to understand the incomprehensible has attributed characteristics to God. Nobody can say with any authority that one religions concept of “god” is any more right or wrong than the other. To say only my religion has it right is pure hubris.

  • You mean li ke Harvard is the Stanford of the East?

  • It’s interesting that in many languages the Christian God (be He the same or different) is also called Allah. That is the case in Indonesia. In Malaysia, which uses a different form of the same language, the government has tried to outlaw Christians’ calling their God Allah!

  • cken

    The history of Stanford is interesting. You should read it. It was started by a couple whose son had gone to Harvard. Really you could say, from many perspectives Stanford is the Harvard of the west, much like Vanderbilt is called the Harvard of the south.

  • G Key

    Wheaton College should already know and authoritatively state that Judaism, Christianity and Islam are the 3 largest faiths that worship the God of Abraham. They are called the “Abrahamic religions” (along with a number of smaller faiths) because they all owe their histories to the same human patriarch: Abraham.

    This is not a matter of faith, opinion, debate, or controversy; it’s historical fact — and very important. Judaism, Christianity and Islam are literally sibling religions. They are family. Their Father is the same God. And that’s not bad. It’s better than good. It’s the blessed truth.

    Wheaton should defend Professor Hawkins, and should use this situation as a teaching opportunity to share this truth with everybody who erroneously objects to the fact. The objectors are the ones who should recant and apologize — not Prof. Hawkins.

    (Written by an atheist who respects believers and their beliefs, apparently more than some of them do.)

  • Rev Dr Charles G Yopst

    The supremacy of the Scriptures themselves must not be diverted by doctrinal statements.

  • Jack

    Harvard wishes it were the Princeton of New England.

  • Jack

    True, but if Scripture is being handled seriously, doctrinal statements are unavoidable.

  • Jack

    Technically, Wheaton is right and she is wrong, for the reasons you’ve alluded to, but the question is whether they handled their differences with her in a wise way.

  • Jack

    The interesting thing about Wheaton is that it’s not a particularly conservative institution as evangelical institutions go. It has more than its share of politically correct lefties among its professors, including people who are fashionably pro-Palestinian and hyper-critical of American exceptionalism.

    American evangelical leaders can be some of the most conformist people on the planet when it comes to chasing every cultural trend on that comes down the pike — but usually a decade too late — and Wheaton is not particularly noted for bucking this anti-prophetic tide.

    So it’s ironic that due to this particular case, Wheaton is now gaining an undeserved reputation for political incorrectness.

  • cken

    Jesus lived died and rose again. Love the Lord thy God with all you heart soul mind and strength love your neighbor as yourself.
    Beyond the above statements everything else in the Bible is commentary.
    Yes men interpret the rest of the bible in many ways to come up with their own doctrine. That is why we have denominations.

  • Christian

    I would ask Dr. Silk, “Does it matter that anyone believes in the Trinity at Trinity College anymore?” Of course not. But I bet it did to the founders. Wheaton is trying to avoid the fate of so many church-founded colleges.