Hijab-Wearing Professor Suspended by Evangelical College
December 16, 2015 11:44 AM   Subscribe

Associate Professor Larycia Hawkins has been suspended by Wheaton College, an evangelical Christian school near Chicago. Some say that it's because she has chosen to wear a hijab as a gesture of solidarity with Muslims, but the school says it's because she posted 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.

Dozens of Wheaton students have drafted a letter to the President of the school and plan a sit-in at the President's office. Wheaton was recently in the news when student organizations published an open letter in the campus newspaper decrying Jerry Falwell Jr.'s remarks on "ending those Muslims".
posted by Etrigan (140 comments total) 19 users marked this as a favorite
 
I am really curious about a theological suspension. Genuine question: will her review committee be mostly focused on the biblical and historical texts of the Islamic and Christian worlds? Is this actually a debate on theology?*

*I know it's just political, but I can dream
posted by Think_Long at 11:55 AM on December 16, 2015


But.. but... their reason lacks reason and it even more ludicrous than suspending someone for wearing a hijab. They can't possibly be this insecure about their faith, can they?
posted by Foci for Analysis at 11:56 AM on December 16, 2015


I don't even understand why the professor needed to say that she stands with Muslims because they believe in the book. How about just standing by Muslims because they are human beings?
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 11:58 AM on December 16, 2015 [35 favorites]


They can't possibly be this insecure about their faith, can they?

They may or may not be, but their donors and alumni and others who wield the checkbook sure are.
posted by blucevalo at 11:59 AM on December 16, 2015 [8 favorites]


People think that Christians are Christians and that it's no big deal if evangelicals like the Pope or stuff like that - in fact no, Christians are not all the same and Vatican II (The Vatican Strikes Back) was a pretty big f-ing deal when it comes to interfaith dialogue between Catholics and people of other faiths.
posted by GuyZero at 11:59 AM on December 16, 2015 [8 favorites]


I'm an alumnus of Wheaton College. After Falwell's remarks I emailed Wheaton's president asking him to make a statement and he replied that Wheaton's policy is not to comment on other schools, the implication being that they don't want to enmesh themselves in controversy.

You would not believe how hard I rolled my eyes.

It's a good school, academically, and the faculty is fantastic. The administration is a bunch of evil fucks who only care about donor dollars. There is nothing in the Wheaton College Statement of Faith (which I signed eight times) which goes against anything Hawkins said. When I was a student there, a professor named Joshua Hochschild was fired when he converted to Catholicism, despite stating that he would have no issues with signing the SoF.

I am so unbelievably angry and embarrassed at my alma mater. People who would disagree with this bullshit: C.S. Lewis (deified on campus); Billy Graham (famous alumnus, big ol' building named after him on campus); Johnathan Blanchard (founder of the school).
posted by shakespeherian at 12:00 PM on December 16, 2015 [41 favorites]


This is one of those situations where I need to warm up a bit before I can do the mental gymnastics necessary to understand what's going on.

My first thought was: "Are they mad she quoted the pope or that she was claiming that there was only one god?"
posted by ethansr at 12:01 PM on December 16, 2015 [3 favorites]


They can't possibly be this insecure about their faith, can they?

We're talking about the same general group of people that regularly freaks out over being oppressed by having to tolerate the gays, by having to hear the words "happy holidays", by having to acknowledge that there is any other religion than the specific strain of Christianity they practice, so... yes?
posted by palomar at 12:01 PM on December 16, 2015 [11 favorites]


It's a good school, academically, and the faculty is fantastic. The administration is a bunch of evil fucks who only care about donor dollars.

I think this can be said of most institutes of higher learning in the US these days.
posted by infinitewindow at 12:03 PM on December 16, 2015 [13 favorites]


Wait, what?

At what point did the God of Abraham separate into two deities? And what is the force which cause gods to multiply? Cuz that seems like a better thing to worship than all these suddenly dime-a-dozen gods.....

Wheaton, I need grant money and a comfortable travel budget to study this phenomenon. I eagerly await your reply.
posted by BitterOldPunk at 12:03 PM on December 16, 2015 [4 favorites]


Doesn't Wheaton have an honor code requiring that students dress "modestly"?
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 12:04 PM on December 16, 2015 [1 favorite]


Here's more context on the protestant Wheaton College's theological requirements for faculty, dating from the controversy around a faculty member who convered to Catholicism.
posted by honest knave at 12:04 PM on December 16, 2015 [1 favorite]


At what point did the God of Abraham separate into two deities?

Well, see, according to this tiny comic book I found at a bus stop once...
posted by prize bull octorok at 12:05 PM on December 16, 2015 [32 favorites]


Wheaton faculty are required to sign, and conduct themselves in accordance, with a statement of faith.

The potential violations are three-fold.

First, and most important has not to with Islalm at all, but the statement's explicit attribution of theological authority to the Pope. That's a big, big issue for an Evangelical school.

Second, it is fairly difficulty to reconcile this with a statement that Christians and Muslims are in a Christian sense "people of the book." (In a Muslim sense, of course, that is tautologically true as Jews and Christians are defined by Islam as "people of the book.")

Third, a loud if recent strain of Evangelical thought maintains that Islam is idolatry and thus it cannot be maintained that Christians and Muslims worship the "same God." I would doubt an institution as tradition-minded as Wheaton would regard that as definitive.
posted by MattD at 12:07 PM on December 16, 2015 [7 favorites]


Good for Wheaton students!

Many Evangelicals think that "Allah does not exist" is true. They think that admitting that "Allah" when used by Muslims refers to the same being that "God" does when they use that term is too close to universalism about salvation, which denies the unique salvific importance of Jesus.
posted by persona au gratin at 12:07 PM on December 16, 2015 [3 favorites]


At what point did the God of Abraham separate into two deities?

This happened a while ago, where folks started confusing characteristics of God with the character of God. Evangelicals believe in a trinitarian God, and that has stopped being a description of God and begun to be the identification of God, somehow. If you believe in the God of the Old Testament but then disagree that Jesus is the Christ, or that the Holy Spirit is a thing, then you believe in a different God, even though you are finding out about him through the same writings and actions as Evangelicals.
posted by shakespeherian at 12:08 PM on December 16, 2015 [18 favorites]


I know that convert to Catholicism. Um, I'll just say that.

It's a theologically conservative place that nonetheless has some some good philosophy over the years.
posted by persona au gratin at 12:08 PM on December 16, 2015


Doesn't Wheaton have an honor code requiring that students dress "modestly"?

Oh aha ha ha of course not! It's not crazy! You just get slutshamed publicly by your fellow students and probably have a really uncomfortable conversation with your RA or the Dean or someone.
posted by shakespeherian at 12:09 PM on December 16, 2015 [9 favorites]


Oh also you can't dance unless it is an event organized by the school!
posted by shakespeherian at 12:11 PM on December 16, 2015 [8 favorites]


HAHAHAHAHAHAHA
posted by shakespeherian at 12:11 PM on December 16, 2015 [18 favorites]


The thing is that her statement -- while not universally held -- is fairly reasonable within the context of Christian theology. In fact, Church theologians who commented on Islam in the 8th century specifically regarded it not so much as a new, alien religion but rather as simply another Christian heresy, in the same way Christians today would regard Jehovah's Witnesses or Mormons... out of the realm of being "Christian," maybe, but only as a matter of degree compared to others.

And as far as wearing a head covering, that's quite common among many Christians outside the USA, and not unknown within the US.
posted by deanc at 12:14 PM on December 16, 2015 [6 favorites]


shakespeherian: I'm not sure evangelicals believe that. At least they don't consistently believe that, as some/many think that Jews and non-Trinitarians worship the God they do (and they're just wrong about its characteristics).
posted by persona au gratin at 12:14 PM on December 16, 2015


I don't even understand why the professor needed to say that she stands with Muslims because they believe in the book. How about just standing by Muslims because they are human beings?

I don't see what's so strange about a religious person putting her statement of solidarity in religious terms, especially as it was no doubt intended to enlighten and persuade her fellow co-religionists.
posted by Atom Eyes at 12:19 PM on December 16, 2015 [8 favorites]


Wait, there's a Jerry Falwell JUNIOR?! Oh. That's not good.
posted by area.man at 12:19 PM on December 16, 2015 [10 favorites]


It's pretty recent, but yeah, evangelicalism is an increasingly narrow spectrum, the narrowing of which is entirely driven by conservative US politics rather than anything theological.
posted by shakespeherian at 12:20 PM on December 16, 2015 [2 favorites]


Third, a loud if recent strain of Evangelical thought maintains that Islam is idolatry and thus it cannot be maintained that Christians and Muslims worship the "same God."

If I say I'm worshipping God X, I don't see how you can gainsay that. At best you can say I'm not doing it right. But it's not like, no, no, you just think you worship the God you say you intend to worship. Actually you're misdirecting your worship to a totally different God - one that, in fact, doesn't exist at all - whereas mine totally does and I worship him. I mean that just doesn't make any sense.

(Though this does appear to be precisely the evangelical position.)
posted by Naberius at 12:20 PM on December 16, 2015 [4 favorites]


Yeah, $5 says they could care less about the Muslim stuff, saying nice things about the Pope is why she was suspended.
posted by b1tr0t at 12:21 PM on December 16, 2015 [1 favorite]


The thing is that her statement -- while not universally held -- is fairly reasonable within the context of Christian theology.

She acknowledged the Pope as a religious authority, which is not at all reasonable in the context of Protestant theology.
posted by save alive nothing that breatheth at 12:26 PM on December 16, 2015 [3 favorites]


A friend of mine is at the protest on campus currently and reports that President Ryken said the decision to reinstate Prof Hawkins rests with the Provost, Stan Jones. Leaders are meeting with Jones right now.
posted by shakespeherian at 12:28 PM on December 16, 2015 [2 favorites]


She acknowledged the Pope as a religious authority, which is not at all reasonable in the context of Protestant theology.

No, she acknowledged that the Pope said something about Muslims and Christians that she agreed with. Not the same thing.

Regardless, her statement should have zero ramifications on her employment status. Especially since professionally, she focuses on the intersection of race, politics and religion.
posted by zarq at 12:31 PM on December 16, 2015 [20 favorites]


You can't be too careful when it comes to cryptopapism, zarq.
posted by prize bull octorok at 12:33 PM on December 16, 2015 [31 favorites]


Naberius: rather, I think they want to say that when Muslims pray to Allah, they're praying to nothing. Just like Greeks who pray to Zeus did. The professor was saying that they pray to God (using, say, "Allah") just like Christians do. And like many Evangelicals think Jews and nearly all think Catholics do.
posted by persona au gratin at 12:33 PM on December 16, 2015 [1 favorite]


> If I say I'm worshipping God X, I don't see how you can gainsay that.

I agree with this. I also think that the other side of the spectrum is equally ludicrous — surely not all monotheistic religions ever devised can be said to be worshiping the same God in different ways. If I buy into that, then the phrase “Christians and Muslims worship the same God” ceases to have meaning beyond “Christianity and Islam are both monotheistic religions.”

But more than that: surely there exist religions which pray to their conception of God precisely because they believe God to have certain qualities, and if they somehow found out that Actual God didn’t have those qualities, they’d either convert to another religion or stop praying entirely. For instance, if I were a Christian and I somehow found out that God didn’t love humanity, or didn’t care about being worshiped, then I doubt I’d see the point in being Christian anymore.

In any case, what I’d want to see from Wheaton is some sort of doctrine statement that specifies what their exact concerns are about what Hawkins said. Somehow I doubt that she’d have been in trouble had she said that Christians and Jews worship the same God (even though that may be a point of disagreement within evangelicalism). But if I’m wrong, and Wheaton can tell me how that’d be a different situation theologically, then I’m all ears.
posted by savetheclocktower at 12:34 PM on December 16, 2015


It 100% had nothing to do with her mentioning the Pope.
posted by shakespeherian at 12:34 PM on December 16, 2015 [5 favorites]


Wheaton is a serious place intellectually. Lots of smart faculty and students there. I'm glad to see their pushing back on this.
posted by persona au gratin at 12:35 PM on December 16, 2015 [1 favorite]


You can't be too careful when it comes to cryptopapism, zarq.

Well, it IS good exercise.
posted by zarq at 12:37 PM on December 16, 2015 [2 favorites]


Sometimes I wish there really was a god, and that he/she/it would show up one day and set everybody straight.
posted by freakazoid at 12:39 PM on December 16, 2015 [1 favorite]


I read that at "cryptopriapism" at first. Which I kind of prefer.
posted by persona au gratin at 12:40 PM on December 16, 2015 [14 favorites]


"If your erection of uncertain denominational affiliation lasts for more than four hours..."
posted by Xavier Xavier at 12:43 PM on December 16, 2015 [22 favorites]


At what point did the God of Abraham separate into two deities?

You could from a neutral/external/humanistic point of view say that all religions in fact "worship the same god" but that's a pointless observation, what differentiates a religion from another is not just how they conceive of god but how they conceive of worship, and all the specifics about the idea of worship in one religion vs in another. The theology and the religious practices.
So, actually the statement from the college:

"While Islam and Christianity are both monotheistic, we believe there are fundamental differences between the two faiths, including what they teach about God's revelation to humanity, the nature of God, the path to salvation and the life of prayer"


...is a more accurate reflection of the status quo - of those distinctions between religions - than saying "we worship the same god".

It's all completely irrelevant for anyone viewing this from a rational sensible viewpoint, of course, but from within their own mindset, it makes sense to say so.

Not that this alone justifies what they did, and there's also the extreme irony of this being a rather fundamentalist reaction to a statement of solidarity with Muslims, but "we believe there are fundamental differences between faiths" in itself is a fairly factual claim to make for a religious denomination, no?
posted by bitteschoen at 12:43 PM on December 16, 2015 [3 favorites]


Wheaton is a serious place intellectually.

Yes, I've been extremely impressed with everyone I know who graduated from there! It has been a very good reminder for me not to be kneejerk-dismissive about the quality of education at all religious schools.
posted by dialetheia at 12:43 PM on December 16, 2015 [2 favorites]


My second cousin is a Serious Christian and applied to teach at one of Wheaton's sister colleges. All faculty are required to agree to a set of beliefs, and there was some theological hair-splitting that he could not agree with so he chose not to apply because of this. They also had a lifestyle statement and faculty were not allowed to be immodest, drink, dance or play cards at campus or at home.
A few years before he applied another professor was fired because he told a former student it was ok he was gay. This was the late 90s.

The Evangelical colleges are dead serious in policing the thoughts and actions of their faculty and staff and I am 0% surprised this happened. And it is allllll about the Pope - you should not listen to anything the Pope says! He's dead to them.
posted by littlewater at 12:45 PM on December 16, 2015 [3 favorites]


Wheaton is a fascinating place, because it is really, really intellectually rigorous, but it also has a lot of official and unofficial rules about what people are supposed to believe. And sometimes when you take smart kids and encourage them to think rigorously, they end up thinking their way out of what you want them to believe.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 12:45 PM on December 16, 2015 [19 favorites]


I had only seen the headline on Facebook before this & not read any of the coverage. I honestly thought, "Gosh, could they maybe have decided this was in offensively bad taste like blackface or something on those lines?"

But no. No, it was naive of me to think that someone was acting with that sort of good faith.

Faith. Ha. :(
posted by scaryblackdeath at 12:46 PM on December 16, 2015 [1 favorite]


This is total and complete bullshit. Money is the root of all evil. Academia should be above this kinda Trumpism.
posted by valkane at 12:48 PM on December 16, 2015


a loud if recent strain of Evangelical thought maintains that Islam is idolatry

Okay, I know there's no percentage in trying to figure out Evangelical "logic" but... really? The religion that says you can't make any images of Allah or Muhammed, and in fact had a rich artistic tradition almost entirely comprised of completely abstract geometric designs and the occasional bit of calligraphy?
posted by Foosnark at 12:49 PM on December 16, 2015 [9 favorites]


Okay, how about this. Do Mormons worship the same God as Evangelical Christians?
posted by Naberius at 12:50 PM on December 16, 2015


If I say I'm worshipping God X, I don't see how you can gainsay that.

I don't see why not. If I suddenly said "I worship the God of Abraham, who happens to also be Krishna", I think it would be reasonable for both Hindus and members of Abrahamic traditions to raise an eyebrow and ask if it really is plausible that the God of the Old Testament and the Krishna of the Bhagavad Gita are the same. It would be rational for them both to reply that I'm mistaken, that either I'm worshipping Krishna or Abraham's God and, whichever one it is, I'm mistaken in naming Him as the other. Of course they might be both rational and wrong, because it turns out that I can demonstrate a deep coherence between the Gita and the Bible that allows me to prove the identity of these two ideas of God. But that depends on a substantive argument about the texts and the religious traditions - I can't say the two conceptions of God are the same just because I say so, without doing any of this work. There are obviously sound substantive arguments for saying there is that kind of deep coherence between the Christian and Muslim traditions - not least because they so obviously share a specific narrative tradition about God - but it isn't nonsensical to reject those arguments (although I think it's wrong).
posted by Aravis76 at 12:50 PM on December 16, 2015 [2 favorites]


Here's Wheaton's in-depth discussion about What Wheaton Believes - you'll see they compare themselves to a religious community. It's a closed society, actually. Wheaton Community Covenant
posted by littlewater at 12:50 PM on December 16, 2015 [1 favorite]


savetheclocktower nailed precisely why I and my husband each left the Christianity of our childhoods.
posted by Occula at 12:51 PM on December 16, 2015 [1 favorite]


Okay, how about this. Do Mormons worship the same God as Protestant Christians?

Mormons would say yes. Protestant Christians would say no.
posted by shakespeherian at 12:51 PM on December 16, 2015 [5 favorites]


I have a ton of family who went to Wheaton (even have some there now). I applied and didn't get in- praise the Lord! Everything I hated about the other religious school I went to would have been 10x worse at Wheaton.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 12:52 PM on December 16, 2015 [2 favorites]



Okay, how about this. Do Mormons worship the same God as Protestant Christians?

Ohhhh NOOOOOO
Mormons don't follow the one true way! They have Smith between them and Jesus! They aren't BORN AGAIN!

But Mormons are always welcome to start walking the true path and leave LDS behind.
posted by littlewater at 12:52 PM on December 16, 2015


Do not taunt happy fun college.
posted by w0mbat at 12:53 PM on December 16, 2015 [4 favorites]


Okay, how about this. Do Mormons worship the same God as Protestant Christians?

Mormons would say yes. Protestant Christians would say no.


Eh, sort of? Neither side would consider the other part of their larger community of faith.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 12:54 PM on December 16, 2015 [1 favorite]


I don't even understand why the professor needed to say that she stands with Muslims because they believe in the book. How about just standing by Muslims because they are human beings?

Because other people need a reminder that Jesus and Isa Ibn Maryam are actually the same person.
posted by Talez at 12:54 PM on December 16, 2015 [1 favorite]


I think I read a parable about this once. It was titled "The frog that taught at scorpion university."
posted by Mitrovarr at 12:54 PM on December 16, 2015 [17 favorites]


From their statement of faith:

WE BELIEVE in the blessed hope that Jesus Christ will soon return to this earth, personally, visibly, and unexpectedly, in power and great glory, to gather His elect, to raise the dead, to judge the nations, and to bring His Kingdom to fulfillment.

Perhaps it would be well to remember some of what that gentleman reportedly said when he was last on earth:

Judge not, that you be not judged.

So whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them


As for the one who is weak in faith, welcome him, but not to quarrel over opinions. One person believes he may eat anything, while the weak person eats only vegetables. Let not the one who eats despise the one who abstains, and let not the one who abstains pass judgment on the one who eats, for God has welcomed him. Who are you to pass judgment on the servant of another? It is before his own master that he stands or falls. And he will be upheld, for the Lord is able to make him stand.

Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her.”

More and more, I think all these intolerant folks who say they believe in Jesus need to read and think about what would happen if he did return.
posted by bearwife at 12:55 PM on December 16, 2015 [4 favorites]


I don't even understand why the professor needed to say that she stands with Muslims because they believe in the book. How about just standing by Muslims because they are human beings?

The Washington Post has her full original post on facebook. Which does indeed start with:

I don't love my Muslim neighbor because s/he is American.
I love my Muslim neighbor because s/he deserves love by virtue of her/his human dignity.
posted by Roger Dodger at 1:00 PM on December 16, 2015 [30 favorites]


From the Post article:
Hawkins, according to students at the meeting, is the only tenured black female professor at Wheaton.
Ouch.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 1:03 PM on December 16, 2015 [19 favorites]


In fact, here it is in full, for those who can't be bothered to go read what she said.
Larycia Alaine Hawkins added 2 new photos.

Associate Professor at Wheaton College · December 10 at 11:00pm · Oak Park, IL ·

I don't love my Muslim neighbor because s/he is American.

I love my Muslim neighbor because s/he deserves love by virtue of her/his human dignity.

I stand in human solidarity with my Muslim neighbor because we are formed of the same primordial clay, descendants of the same cradle of humankind--a cave in Sterkfontein, South Africa that I had the privilege to descend into to plumb the depths of our common humanity in 2014.

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.

But as I tell my students, theoretical solidarity is not solidarity at all. Thus, beginning tonight, my solidarity has become embodied solidarity.

As part of my Advent Worship, I will wear the hijab to work at Wheaton College, to play in Chi-town, in the airport and on the airplane to my home state that initiated one of the first anti-Sharia laws (read: unconstitutional and Islamophobic), and at church.

I invite all women into the narrative that is embodied, hijab-wearing solidarity with our Muslim sisters--for whatever reason. A large scale movement of Women in Solidarity with Hijabs is my Christmas ‪#‎wish‬ this year.

Perhaps you are a Muslim who does not wear the veil normally. Perhaps you are an atheist or agnostic who finds religion silly or inexplicable. Perhaps you are a Catholic or Protestant Christian like me. Perhaps you already cover your head as part of your religious worship, but not a hijab.

***I would like to add that I have sought the advice and blessing of one of the preeminent Muslim organizations in the United States, the Council on American Islamic Relations, ‪#‎CAIR‬, where I have a friend and Board colleague on staff. I asked whether a non-Muslim wearing the hijab was haram (forbidden), patronizing, or otherwise offensive to Muslims. I was assured by my friends at CAIR-Chicago that they welcomed the gesture. So please do not fear joining this embodied narrative of actual as opposed to theoretical unity; human solidarity as opposed to mere nationalistic, sentimentality.
Document your own experiences of Women in Solidarity with Hijabs #wish.

Shalom friends.
posted by Roger Dodger at 1:04 PM on December 16, 2015 [63 favorites]


Thanks for linking and quoting her full statement, Rodger Dodger. I found it powerful and impressive and I can see why her students, quoted in the Post article, are inspired by her.
posted by Aravis76 at 1:06 PM on December 16, 2015 [1 favorite]


They also had a lifestyle statement and faculty were not allowed to be immodest, drink, dance or play cards at campus or at home.
A few years before he applied another professor was fired because he told a former student it was ok he was gay. This was the late 90s.


Ha, and this from the school that has a problem with Islam? Wonderful! you couldn't make this up.
posted by bitteschoen at 1:07 PM on December 16, 2015 [1 favorite]


Many evangelical colleges share the same problem that "conservative" colleges have: they frequently end up with a faculty and student body much more intellectually rigorous and intellectual than the founders and administrators are comfortable with, and this tension sometimes explodes onto the front pages. Patrick Henry College has been going through this for the past decade, and Hillsdale College managed both to attract high quality scholars and then went on to fire them when they realized that intellectuals -- even temperamentally conservative ones -- are troublesome to have around when you want everyone to toe the line in service to "the mission."
posted by deanc at 1:10 PM on December 16, 2015 [12 favorites]


Having read manyh comments I now think the classic Greeks had it right when they believed in a whole big batch of gods and goddesses. Look at all the confusion here on who this god is or is not and how he was followed by Abe.
posted by Postroad at 1:17 PM on December 16, 2015


I stand in human solidarity with my Muslim neighbor because we are formed of the same primordial clay, descendants of the same cradle of humankind--a cave in Sterkfontein, South Africa that I had the privilege to descend into to plumb the depths of our common humanity in 2014.

This seems to clash problematically with the statement of faith:

"WE BELIEVE that God directly created Adam and Eve, the historical parents of the entire human race; and that they were created in His own image, distinct from all other living creatures, and in a state of original righteousness."

Since Sterkfontein is the sight of the discovery of a species thought to be a predecessor of modern humans, this is arguably contradictory.

As others have said above, "I stand in religious solidarity with Muslims because they, like me, a Christian, are people of the book." is also weirdly problematic. I know what this sentence would mean if the religions were reversed and a Muslim said it, but it's unclear what it means when a Christian says it. At least some interpretations would be problematic.
posted by Jahaza at 1:19 PM on December 16, 2015 [2 favorites]


Many evangelical colleges share the same problem that "conservative" colleges have: they frequently end up with a faculty and student body much more intellectually rigorous and intellectual than the founders and administrators are comfortable with, and this tension sometimes explodes onto the front pages.
I think the problem at Wheaton is more that the founders and administrators don't see any tension between religious orthodoxy and intellectual rigor, but in reality sometimes there is.

Catholic colleges in the US have, for the most part, decided that intellectual rigor trumps religious orthodoxy and that their faith is strong enough to survive the challenges that it may face from allowing students and faculty to have intellectual freedom. I think that in general that makes for better universities, but whether it makes for a stronger faith community isn't really something I can say.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 1:25 PM on December 16, 2015 [7 favorites]


I now think the classic Greeks had it right when they believed in a whole big batch of gods and goddesses. Look at all the confusion here on who this god is or is not and how he was followed by Abe.

There are endless disagreements among pagans about "hard polytheism" vs "soft polytheism", monolatry vs. henotheism, "lumpers" vs "splitters", syncretism, etc.
posted by Foosnark at 1:28 PM on December 16, 2015 [4 favorites]


Wheaton faculty are required to sign, and conduct themselves in accordance, with a statement of faith.

Employees, too. My wife applied to work part-time at the bookstore and was given the same contract to review and sign. There was a long set of application questions regarding the applicant's religious beliefs and history. They even wanted to know if/when she had any divorces. The document was expedited to the circular file.

But if you really want to see some behind-the-scenes dirt from Wheaton, check out the anonymously curated Wheaton Confessions group on facebook.
posted by JoeZydeco at 1:29 PM on December 16, 2015 [3 favorites]


Here's another good article with a snip from Wheaton itself:

"Some recent faculty statements have generated confusion about complex theological matters, and could be interpreted as failing to reflect the distinctively Christian theological identity of Wheaton College. We will be in dialogue with our faculty, staff and students in the days ahead to explore how best to articulate our love for our Muslim neighbors in ways that are consistent with our distinctive theological convictions."

Charisma News
posted by littlewater at 1:32 PM on December 16, 2015


The justification offered as to why Muslims do not worship the same God as Protestants is that Allah is a moon deity--just check out the crescent symbols of Islam--and therefore Muslims worship a false god that does not exist.
posted by rdone at 1:33 PM on December 16, 2015


She's not "on message" so she's fired.
This is far from the first time the Evangelical colleges have done this.
posted by littlewater at 1:33 PM on December 16, 2015


Wheaton faculty are required to sign, and conduct themselves in accordance, with a statement of faith.

They have Jewish professors. Are they required to sign a document declaring that they agree with Christian Protestant Evangelical theology? I doubt it.
posted by zarq at 1:36 PM on December 16, 2015


They have Jewish professors. Are they required to sign a document declaring that they agree with Christian Protestant Evangelical theology? I doubt it.

Yes, they are.
posted by shakespeherian at 1:38 PM on December 16, 2015 [8 favorites]


Another Wheaton alum here. I usually mumble when people ask where I went to college and hope they don't hear.

Since Sterkfontein is the sight of the discovery of a species thought to be a predecessor of modern humans, this is arguably contradictory.

At least when I was there, that particular bit of the statement of faith was interpreted pretty loosely. Like, you could say that human evolution happened, and here's all the evidence for it, but sure, at some point there could have been these two hominids, Adam and Eve, who Fell. There was a whole class on human origins, and it was pretty clear in the anthropology and biology classes that most of the faculty were well within the scientific mainstream as far as evolution was concerned. So if that's what got her into trouble, it would definitely be a shift in the college's policy.
posted by Hypocrite_Lecteur at 1:39 PM on December 16, 2015 [4 favorites]


*speechless*
posted by zarq at 1:39 PM on December 16, 2015 [2 favorites]


I was Hypocrite_Lecteur's roommate our junior year and he talks in his sleep. AMA
posted by shakespeherian at 1:40 PM on December 16, 2015 [14 favorites]


Are you sure you're thinking of the right Wheaton, zarq? There's another one somewhere on the East Coast. But if you're talking about the Wheaton College in Illinois, I think any Jewish faculty members would have to be the kind of Jews who believe that Jesus is the son of God and the Messiah.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 1:41 PM on December 16, 2015 [2 favorites]


Yeah, I think you're right and I'm thinking of the other one.

The alternative is too annoying to contemplate.
posted by zarq at 1:42 PM on December 16, 2015 [1 favorite]


At least when I was there, that particular bit of the statement of faith was interpreted pretty loosely.

I took the cub scouts to the Planetarium there (which was actually pretty nice) and our group was escorted by a professor studying...wait for it...supernovae. I bit my tongue.

Later when I got my bearings I asked my neighbor (also an alum) about this. He explained that "sure, God made the universe in 7 days, but nobody ever really specified how long a day was".
posted by JoeZydeco at 1:44 PM on December 16, 2015 [2 favorites]


The justification offered as to why Muslims do not worship the same God as Protestants is that Allah is a moon deity--just check out the crescent symbols of Islam--and therefore Muslims worship a false god that does not exist.

Well, if it's a choice between listening to the opinion of an evangelical apologist or Arabic speaking Jews and Christians from pre-Islamic times, I am going to take the side of the latter group regarding who Allah is.
posted by deanc at 1:44 PM on December 16, 2015 [1 favorite]


Yeah for what it's worth I have had evangelicals gripe that I went to 'liberal Wheaton' because it's well-known that the science department there teaches mainstream science -- actual geology, biology, etc. Evolution is real and the earth is older than 6000yrs; my geology prof started off the semester by saying that he was tired of getting questions from students so if we had any issues with the content of the class we should operate with the understanding that he's teaching us what the mainstream of science holds as true, so if we wanted to maintain our own benefit of the doubt about being young-earth creationists there was our loophole.
posted by shakespeherian at 1:49 PM on December 16, 2015 [9 favorites]


A what deity now?
posted by delfin at 1:50 PM on December 16, 2015 [1 favorite]


This is the same school that for many, many years had "The Pledge", which required no drinking, no smoking, and no social dancing for everyone employed or enrolled in the school. Seriously. No social dancing. It's no surprise that they are a little backwards at Wheaton.
posted by all about eevee at 1:52 PM on December 16, 2015


I thought that Kevin Bacon cleared all that shit up a while back.
posted by delfin at 1:58 PM on December 16, 2015 [11 favorites]


They have Jewish professors. Are they required to sign a document declaring that they agree with Christian Protestant theology? I doubt it.

This has already been answered upthread, but I do know some Jewish faculty who have been hired (very rarely hired) at these kinds of colleges, and they are expected to sign the same pledge. Needless to say, these were not longterm employees. When first on the job market, I made the mistake of applying while Jewish to Hope College, which for some reason let me through to the second round (I have a flashing neon Jewish name, so you'd have thought they'd have binned me immediately...), and then asked for an essay about my relationship to Christ. Needless to say, my application didn't proceed much further. (Much later, I met a professor there, and when I told her my experience, her eyes got really wide: "Oh, that would have been a big problem.")

The dynamic described in the article--faculty and students much more "liberal," for some definition of "liberal," than the administration--is very common at these institutions.
posted by thomas j wise at 2:01 PM on December 16, 2015 [6 favorites]


The weirdest thing about the no-dancing policy was that a traditional part of freshman orientation was a -- wait for it -- open-to-all-participants square-dance right in front of Edman Chapel, officially sanctioned by the school.
posted by shakespeherian at 2:01 PM on December 16, 2015


Catholic colleges in the US have, for the most part, decided that intellectual rigor trumps religious orthodoxy and that their faith is strong enough to survive the challenges that it may face from allowing students and faculty to have intellectual freedom.
That right there is exactly how Catholics flaunt their partnership with Satan.

Poe's Law Disclaimer
posted by b1tr0t at 2:12 PM on December 16, 2015 [6 favorites]


Later when I got my bearings I asked my neighbor (also an alum) about this. He explained that "sure, God made the universe in 7 days, but nobody ever really specified how long a day was".

Ah yes, the traditional dodge. Nowadays even that bit of wiggle room is too much for your hardcore types. It's 7 24-hour days of creation or GTFO. Everything must be interpreted in the most face-value of terms, except for Revelations, which is clearly about Obama the Antichrist, if you read the symbols right.
posted by emjaybee at 2:16 PM on December 16, 2015 [7 favorites]


no drinking, no smoking, and no social dancing ...It's no surprise that they are a little backwards at Wheaton.

There's a quiet little roadhouse just outside the city limits that almost every Wheaton grad student and professor knows about.

I've talked to students that have gone there to drink with their professors.
posted by JoeZydeco at 2:16 PM on December 16, 2015 [1 favorite]


For zarq, and possibly others: Obligatory Wheaton College Clarification, (which needed a Bible College Clarification).

Wheaton Massachusetts' math faculty is about half Jewish. No statement of religious faith is required to be a visiting instructor there.

/Though you do have to at least pretend to believe in the Frequentist Interpretation; I don't what would happen if an Orthodox Bayesian applied.
posted by benito.strauss at 2:18 PM on December 16, 2015 [13 favorites]


..........praying to nothing. Just like Greeks who pray to Zeus did.

I can't remember where but I saw someone saying that their church had taught that the Olympian Gods were actual beings, powerful demons who were nonetheless not COMPLETELY spiritual beings, the were mostly but not totally insubstantial, and who needed to nourish themselves on the smoke of charred animals that their followers sacrificed to them.

Sorry to put anecdata in our demonology. But I thought that was amazing.
posted by thelonius at 2:23 PM on December 16, 2015 [9 favorites]


I can't remember where but I saw someone saying that their church had taught that the Olympian Gods were actual beings, powerful demons who were nonetheless not COMPLETELY spiritual beings, the were mostly but not totally insubstantial, and who needed to nourish themselves on the smoke of charred animals that their followers sacrificed to them.

That' was an early belief among Christians. The 2nd century Christian St. Justin Martyr wrote about his own pagan society he lived in, saying that as Christians:
[Chapter 9] And neither do we honour with many sacrifices and garlands of flowers such deities as men have formed and set in shrines and called gods; since we see that these are soulless and dead, and have not the form of God (for we do not consider that God has such a form as some say that they imitate to His honour), but have the names and forms of those wicked demons which have appeared.
Now he seemed to be saying that the pagan gods weren't there right on the altar accepting sacrifices but came from the memory that men had with demonic appearances/experiences and set up temples to them, but still-- the idea that your friend told you about is a fairly old belief.
posted by deanc at 2:38 PM on December 16, 2015 [8 favorites]


Wheaton is always thisclose >< to becoming a top-notch university and then always pulls some shit like this. Evangelical Christians pursuing advanced degrees in theology mostly end up at Methodist or "Union" (formed of Episcopalians and some other Protestants, usually) seminaries, because every Evangelical college that picks up academic steam gets promptly and repeatedly smacked down by the nut job wing of American Evangelicals. It's hardcore tall poppy syndrome: As soon as you start drawing attention for being really good at what you do, the Evangelical Inquisition and all of its many media arms show up to turn your administrations' life into a shitshow of bad publicity and angry religious tests. It's very, very frustrating for academically-minded Evangelicals.

" I would doubt an institution as tradition-minded as Wheaton would regard that as definitive."

Wheaton College is NOT tradition-minded and frankly saying that to evangelical Protestants is fightin' words. Tradition is for CATHOLICS. But Wheaton's strain of evangelical Christianity is SUPER modern. Post-Civil-War modern. America-only modern. It's not traditional theology in any sense.

"It has been a very good reminder for me not to be kneejerk-dismissive about the quality of education at all religious schools."

Like Georgetown! And Notre Dame! And Duke! And Valparaiso! And Villanova! And the many and various Wesleyans! And BYU! And Yeshiva! (And if you want to get picky Harvard and Yale were religiously founded and still have seminaries though are no longer formally affiliated!)

posted by Eyebrows McGee at 2:40 PM on December 16, 2015 [15 favorites]


On a slightly less flippant note than is my usual, I would think that a school with even a rudimentary theology department would be comfortable acknowledging that Christianity itself has a long, convoluted and feverishly argued past full of contradictions, warfare and theological differences. As simple a question as "is Jesus identical to and synonymous with God, or is He distinct" or "were Jesus's human and divine aspects one and the same, or separate" seem simple enough today but were cause for many, many deaths in the Chalcedonian, Miaphysite and Monophysite camps of thinking.

So I would think that such a school would respond to a statement of comity with religious believers of a creed of a similar age, distinction and following, one that differs from Christianity but nonetheless shares significant common ground with it, with a small amount of dignity. Particularly when the statement of comity was clearly themed in a spirit of loving thy neighbor, regardless of his or her origins or beliefs, which is something that's PRETTY MUCH THE SUM TOTAL of Jesus's message.

But I would think. And, apparently, that might disqualify me from tenure at Wheaton.
posted by delfin at 2:40 PM on December 16, 2015 [4 favorites]


Ah, that sounds familiar. I may have read about this early Christian idea and transposed it into thinking I read a personal account about being in a Church where that was the doctrine
posted by thelonius at 2:41 PM on December 16, 2015


On a slightly less flippant note than is my usual, I would think that a school with even a rudimentary theology department would be comfortable acknowledging that Christianity itself has a long, convoluted and feverishly argued past full of contradictions, warfare and theological differences. As simple a question as "is Jesus identical to and synonymous with God, or is He distinct" or "were Jesus's human and divine aspects one and the same, or separate" seem simple enough today but were cause for many, many deaths in the Chalcedonian, Miaphysite and Monophysite camps of thinking.

So I would think that such a school would respond to a statement of comity with religious believers of a creed of a similar age, distinction and following, one that differs from Christianity but nonetheless shares significant common ground with it, with a small amount of dignity. Particularly when the statement of comity was clearly themed in a spirit of loving thy neighbor, regardless of his or her origins or beliefs, which is something that's PRETTY MUCH THE SUM TOTAL of Jesus's message.

But I would think. And, apparently, that might disqualify me from tenure at Wheaton.


I know a few Wheaton people and I believe the faculty would love to talk your ear off about the "bad old days" of Christianity but would mostly come down saying that the major theological issues were decided correctly, massacres of heretics notwithstanding. On the other hand, the "love your neighbor is the sum of what jesus taught and therefore the sum of Christian belief" wouldn't pass muster. I'm sure you would be welcomed as a student in order to find out more about why but you would of course have to sign the Pledge.
posted by fraxil at 2:53 PM on December 16, 2015


> As simple a question as "is Jesus identical to and synonymous with God, or is He distinct" or "were Jesus's human and divine aspects one and the same, or separate" seem simple enough today

They do?!
posted by languagehat at 2:56 PM on December 16, 2015 [3 favorites]


"Simple enough" in the sense of "nobody that I know of has been stabbed for their answer lately."
posted by delfin at 2:58 PM on December 16, 2015 [2 favorites]


UPDATE: Provost Jones has stated that he will *not* reinstate Prof Hawkins and has asked the protestors to leave.

Chris Prescher (@Prescherdinho) on Twitter:
Student leaders "Did you consult with Dr. Hawkin's before making this decision." Dr. Jones: "No." Word for word. ‪#‎reinstatedochawk‬
posted by shakespeherian at 3:19 PM on December 16, 2015 [2 favorites]


Just in passing: the Koran does not view Jesus as the son of god...he is a prophet only.
posted by Postroad at 4:05 PM on December 16, 2015 [1 favorite]


And the American League does not view pitchers as part of the batting lineup... they are fielders only. But they are still recognized as essentially playing the same game.
posted by delfin at 4:11 PM on December 16, 2015 [13 favorites]


I don't know that my grandmother was particularly into solidarity with Muslims, but she wore what looked suspiciously like a hijab (maybe without covering the neck so much) every time she went to town to do her weekly shopping for as long as I can remember.
posted by Joakim Ziegler at 4:18 PM on December 16, 2015 [3 favorites]


I like this thread has a bunch of people criticising her for bs. Then the text of her letter came up. And now those criticisms fall flat.

Rtfa
posted by hal_c_on at 4:34 PM on December 16, 2015 [2 favorites]


I dunno, though, I'm pretty torn up by her refusal to embrace singular "they."
posted by No-sword at 4:44 PM on December 16, 2015 [4 favorites]


FYI Jerry Falwell's Liberty University is literally just down the road from me and dominates the local culture and politics, for those of you who have ever doubted me over how awful it is to live where I live. :(
posted by Jacqueline at 5:34 PM on December 16, 2015 [2 favorites]


By my understanding a significant difference between Mormonism and the other religions we're discussing is that God the Father, although identified with the God of the Jewish scriptures shared with the others, is not the ultimate creator of the universe in the Platonic "first mover" sense; there are an unspecified number of other gods.

This is a quote attributed to Joseph Fielding Smith, the tenth president of the LDS church:
Our Father in heaven, according to the Prophet, had a Father, and since there has been a condition of this kind through all eternity, each Father had a Father, until we come to a stop where we cannot go further, because of our limited capacity to understand.
Which I think is pretty cool because it's a bit reminiscent of the complex layered cosmologies of some Eastern traditions, but I can understand why it would be a salient departure from other Abrahamic religions for people who consider themselves to be monotheists.
posted by XMLicious at 6:23 PM on December 16, 2015


but, we can all agree: Jesus was a black man, right?
posted by ennui.bz at 6:27 PM on December 16, 2015 [7 favorites]


My mom went to Wheaton, one of those smart kids who learned to rigorously think her way right out of Evangelicalism. She still donated to the college -- until they invited Ken Starr to speak at commencement. The Wheaton development office sent two well-dressed guys to her house to talk her back into funding them, and she sent them packing. I pointed her to this article, and her response was "I think we all should start wearing hijabs now, just to confuse and frustrate them!!"
posted by Harvey Kilobit at 8:38 PM on December 16, 2015 [7 favorites]


I'm in a weird place with this thread, as an atheist who thinks Doc Hawk did the right thing, a brave, thing, and should be reinstated by a school administration which clearly made a political choice about standing behind a, again, political movement of hating and oppressing Muslims, and who is hiding behind gossamer sheets of doctrine to defend themselves while everybody knows exactly what this is about. That said:

1. What she is doing is a clear act of protest, which hopefully gains power through the school's reaction, and

2. Can we please stop acting like Protestants are in any way monolithic? Because they are ridiculously not so. The Methodist church I grew up in would be cheering her right now. The one I moved to in Oklahoma as a teen would at least be thinking on it deeply, considering what it mens to love everyone as Christ commanded. Some people there would object, but on crazy-ass ant-papist grounds. Others would object fiercely to that. Some would bring up the quote about having others who are not of this flock. Some wouldn't care.

What we are seeing here is that the the Wheaton Administration is made up of craven bigots. We are also seeing that the faculty and student body are of a different animal. Shit is complex.
posted by Navelgazer at 9:13 PM on December 16, 2015 [2 favorites]


I'm in an even weirder place here because I see a few issues that are being glossed over in the name of political solidarity, and the thing is she didn't really make a statement of political solidarity alone, she used religious terms and references, and it seems obvious a college administrated with that kind of strictly religious framework would have a big problem with those terms she used.

I mean, this is an evangelical Christian college and she even quoted the bloody Pope, and on something that in itself is a bit of a bone of contention even within Catholicism.

Now, I couldn't care less about any of that personally, but because this is a religious school and religious schools are allowed to do what they do and set the arbitrary rules they like, I can see why it could be a bit of a big deal for the evangelical Christian administrators of a college with a bit of a "craven bigot" tendency there.

And then, there's another wider issue that's more political than religious, in using the hijab as a statement of solidarity with Muslims, with a specific invite to "all women into the narrative that is embodied, hijab-wearing solidarity with our Muslim sisters--for whatever reason".

Okay. Are we all going to pretend there isn't some huge debate about the function and role of the hijab for women? That it isn't a controversial issue even within Muslim communities and among Muslim women specifically in different countries? That the justification for it within Islam doesn't present a few specific challenges in itself, even before you get to the debate about laws banning its use in public institutions in France or similar debates in other countries?

I don't have a clear answer myself to all the questions raised by that debate, it's very complex, but I'm just saying, with all the issues entailed there, it's far from a given that a non-Muslim woman deliberately wearing a hijab would be such an automatically beneficial and empowering and unequivocal act of "solidarity with our Muslim sisters".

It'd be naive at best to ignore all the questions that raises.

And, she's calling anti-Sharia laws "unconstitutional and Islamophobic", again, glossing over an even wider controversy about the role of sharia (read: religious! theocratic!) laws in a secular democratic open society.

I don't know the specifics of the laws she's alluding to and in which US state, but to imply that opposing the legal recognition of theocratic laws is in itself a form of prejudice against Muslims... that's not really such a neutral benign statement of "solidarity", is it? There are different levels of debate being too easily conflated there.

None of these wider political issues raised by her statement have anything to do with the college's decision - it's clear they reacted to the specific religious implications of it* – but I do feel they would merit less of a reflexive "well said sister!" reaction. There are practical and effective ways of showing real solidarity against discrimination and prejudice and racism, without being so dismissive of serious questions about the place for religious rules in a truly multicultural society.

*and on this specifically, I too find that decision extremely bigoted but then again I find it bigoted and abhorrent in the first place that any school would require from its staff that kind of adherence to doctrinal religious rules, it obviously creates the ground for that sort of twisted internal logic by which religious orthodoxy takes precedence over the qualifications and quality of a teacher or professor, and in turn, over the interest of the students in good education. And in fact, these colleges may even have excellent levels of education, as many also attest to here - but that doesn't mean the principle itself isn't flawed. Who cares what she thinks about religion or the Pope, was she a good professor or not? That's all that should matter for an educational institution. (Even her ideas on the hijab and sharia laws or any other issue, no matter how controversial, are irrelevant to that question.) The fact is though this is a religious school and that's the problem at the source, that they'd be legally allowed to have those requirements of doctrinal adherence for staff...
posted by bitteschoen at 1:53 AM on December 17, 2015 [2 favorites]


Part of what bothers me about this is that the reasoning is shitty. I'm a former evangelical. I know what is kosher at Wheaton College. And the bit about Christians and Muslims worshipping the same God doesn't contradict the pledge they have to sign.
posted by persona au gratin at 2:51 AM on December 17, 2015


And, she's calling anti-Sharia laws "unconstitutional and Islamophobic", again, glossing over an even wider controversy about the role of sharia (read: religious! theocratic!) laws in a secular democratic open society.

A society in which many Christian churches have ecclesiastical courts and ecclesiastical legal codes.
posted by XMLicious at 2:58 AM on December 17, 2015


Here's the American Civil Liberties Union's statement on bans on Sharia law for those who are missing the specific American context. In a country where religious liberty is celebrated, making laws specifically singling out one religion is unconstitutional. These laws are clearly not about protecting anybody from theocracy (the people who write them seem wholly in favor of Christian theocracy) but rather about hate and fearmongering towards Muslims.
posted by hydropsyche at 3:33 AM on December 17, 2015 [4 favorites]


And from the link to the Oklahoma case won by the ACLU:

Last year, state legislators in Oklahoma placed an unprecedented, discriminatory proposal to amend the Oklahoma Constitution to target the religious practices of Muslims on the November ballot. That measure strictly prohibits state courts from using or even considering “Sharia” or “international” law in their decision making. Although sponsors freely admit that there have been absolutely no instances of so-called “Sharia” threats in Oklahoma, they officially labeled the proposal the “Save Our State Amendment,” and it ultimately passed with over 70 percent of the vote.
posted by hydropsyche at 3:36 AM on December 17, 2015


"I don't know the specifics of the laws she's alluding to and in which US state, but to imply that opposing the legal recognition of theocratic laws is in itself a form of prejudice against Muslims"

Laws singling out sharia law have been LITERALLY ruled unconstitutional in every state that has passed them -- it's an Islamophobic stunt and a waste of legislative time and taxpayer money.

If such laws WERE allowed, their functional effect would be to strip judges of the ability to recognize otherwise-legal adoptions that occurred in Sharia countries, and to recognize otherwise-legal marriages and/or divorces.

It could also seriously fuck around with the ability of US businesses to do business in Muslim countries, since contracts they made that might be construed as being subject to Sharia law (I don't know, closing on Fridays or offering Islamic mortgages) would theoretically become invalid on their face.

But the biggest effect of these things is to invalidate adoptions that occurred inuslim countries if those families try to move or travel to the US, and to make it difficult for women to leave abusive marriages if their marriage was contracted under Sharia law, as the judge is forbidden from granting terms that help a woman get out safely by obeying Sharia rules on divorce settlements, or sometimes even forbidden from recognizing there is a valid marriage to legally dissolve.

But, you know, GOOGLE IT. Anti-Sharia law laws in the US are primarily driven by birther hysteria (Obama is black and therefore is a Muslim and his plan is to give all the terrorists hugs and then impose Sharia law on the US) and states rights nonsense deeply tied up in institutionalize racism, with a heaping helping of pandering to local Islamophobic. The people making these laws KNOW they'll be struck down as unconstitutional and don't care because it's not about laws; it's about posturing. They also know (or rapidly hear from lobbyists) that the primary effects of such a law are to make women and children attempting to LEAVE Sharia systems or abusive Fathers MORE VULNERABLE and less able to escape, but again, they don't give a shit about the mysogyny of Sharia law and aren't trying to make whatever point you think we should all be making about it; they hate Muslims and they want to make Muslim women leaving abusive husband suffer to score points.

Maybe Google just a little before constructing elaborate opinions on how she is feministing wrong because Sharia is bad. You're putting yourself on the side of the misogynists through ignorance.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 4:32 AM on December 17, 2015 [13 favorites]


Can we please stop acting like Protestants are in any way monolithic? Because they are ridiculously not so. The Methodist church I grew up in would be cheering her right now.
Is anyone doing that, though? People have been talking about Evangelical Protestantism, not Protestantism in general. And I actually think that this story shows that Evangelical Protestantism in the US isn't a monolith.
I'm in an even weirder place here because I see a few issues that are being glossed over in the name of political solidarity,
I guess I see them less as being glossed over and more that there are different ways to discuss this than just to condemn or defend intolerance. I know what Wheaton College is. They fired a professor a while back because he converted to Catholicism: I don't think it's very surprising that they would suspend this professor. I think it's interesting, though. I think it's interesting that she made the statement at all. I think it's interesting that some students, all of whom are totally steeped in their particular Christian subculture, are up in arms about her suspension. I think it's interesting because she's one of the few black faculty members at a predominantly white Evangelical institution, and it may reveal some of the racial fault lines in American Evangelical culture which are often unacknowledged in the mainstream media. (And that's largely because non-white Evangelical Protestants are pretty invisible or not acknowledged to be Evangelical.) Wheaton being intolerant seems to me to be the least interesting part of this story.

But this:
Are we all going to pretend there isn't some huge debate about the function and role of the hijab for women?
I'm not pretending anything. I just don't fucking care. I really, truly don't give a flying fuck about those debates right now. I care about the safety of Muslims in the US, whatever clothing they choose to wear. I care that my friend's husband sat their daughters down last week and told them not to tell anyone they were Muslim, and that if they were asked they should deny that they were. I care because Donald Trump is truly frightening, and because he's made totally frightening positions seem normal and not-extreme. I grew up in a family that was nearly obliterated in the Holocaust, and I realize that because of that I have a tendency to catastrophize about this stuff. But I do not want to be the kind of person who sits around and dithers about whether the bigotry is justified while my country lurches towards the abyss. I wouldn't personally wear a hijab to express solidarity, but I'm not going to condemn her for failing to acknowledge debates that just seem totally beside the point right now.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 4:35 AM on December 17, 2015 [17 favorites]


Also, bitteschoen, while the hijab is a difficult issue in many European countries, it's really not in the US. It falls clearly under our First Amendment and it is not higly politicized here. Our attitude towards publicly multicultural, secular society is distinct from many European countries countries, in that we encourage broad public display of all religious (and non religious, and irreligious) attitudes and find secularism in having the institutions of government be neutral towards religions, but allowing and encouraging individual expressions of faith. I live in the ass end of America, and women in hijab here is totally unremarkable. Many of the women I know who choose hijab are progressive. Many of them TAKE THE HIJAB OFF when they visit family in the Middle East or even Europe where it IS a political statement, and not a progressive one. Here, they feel free to choose to wear or not wear it, because it's not a political statement within wider American culture.

The US has a much smaller Muslim community that most European countries and, due to patterns of immigration (I.e., crossing the Atlantic is expensive), most are middle class and affirmatively chose the US (for more than just economic opportunity). So Muslim self-expression and Muslim feminisim look very different in the US to Europe.

And she did talk to CAIR, hashing out how these issues work and how her expression of solidarity would be perceived in the US context in which she was doing it.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 4:45 AM on December 17, 2015 [13 favorites]


And, she's calling anti-Sharia laws "unconstitutional and Islamophobic", again, glossing over an even wider controversy about the role of sharia (read: religious! theocratic!) laws in a secular democratic open society.

I don't know the specifics of the laws she's alluding to and in which US state, but to imply that opposing the legal recognition of theocratic laws is in itself a form of prejudice against Muslims... that's not really such a neutral benign statement of "solidarity", is it? There are different levels of debate being too easily conflated there.


Eyebrows McGee covered the essentials above.

There are literally hundreds of religious courts, tribunals and contractual systems operating in the United States. The Roman Catholic Church operates about 200 diocesan tribunals (ecclesiastical courts). And some other Christian sects have them as well. Muslims can work with local clerics to help them navigate their religious lives and interactions. Jews have rabbinical Beit (or Beth) Din courts, including a network operated by Beth Din of America. The Beit Dins are officially recognized in the US legal system as arbitration entered into willingly by involved parties, rather than religious tribunals. ('Willingly' meaning that the involved parties signed a contract to abide by the Beit Din's decision.)

That such courts or tribunals exist is not controversial. They operate within the US legal system, and as long as they do so are protected by US laws against religious discrimination. The push against Sharia law in the US is fueled by bigotry and ignorance. See the Pew Report: Applying God’s Law: Religious Courts and Mediation in the U.S.
posted by zarq at 7:08 AM on December 17, 2015 [12 favorites]


Wheaton is a very specific thing. They 100% do not care that she mentioned the pope in her statement.
posted by shakespeherian at 7:09 AM on December 17, 2015 [3 favorites]


Oh, I have no doubt that the Pope quote isn't the problem. Not right after a shooting committed by Muslims, not right after a prominent Presidential candidate basically said "deport all Muslims regardless of citizenship" and his competitors huddled in a ball to decide what percentage of that sentiment they could successfully co-opt, not with an undercurrent of Islam Isn't A Real Religion Anyway So It And Its Followers Are Perfectly Fine To Demonize And Perhaps Criminalize floating around the angry right, not when talk radio and blogs sound like their only objection to a new Kristallnacht is its scheduling.

No, that's a bad time for a professor at a Fine Christian University Whose Religion Is Under Siege By The Godless Left And Its Islamic Terrorist Allies to make noises about fellowship or Muslims being people too or, worse, wearing part of a Terrorist Uniform on its grounds. That kind of thing gives Very Devout And Very Rich Alumni And Donors the heebie-jeebies. And since heebie-jeebies are specifically prohibited somewhere in Leviticus, an example must be made.
posted by delfin at 7:32 AM on December 17, 2015 [3 favorites]


I wouldn't mind too much if there was a law saying that US courts shouldn't consider the the decisions of religiously-oriented arbitration (whether it be Christian, Jewish, Muslim, or Pastafarian) binding even if the arbitration was "willingly" accepted by the parties involved.

Trying to single out Sharia is bullshit, though.
posted by Reverend John at 8:07 AM on December 17, 2015 [1 favorite]


I wouldn't mind too much if there was a law saying that US courts shouldn't consider the the decisions of religiously-oriented arbitration (whether it be Christian, Jewish, Muslim, or Pastafarian) binding even if the arbitration was "willingly" accepted by the parties involved.

Well, arbitration contracts can matter in civil disputes, religious or not. But most things dealt with by religious courts/tribunals have little to no bearing on secular laws. Secular courts don't care if say, you were married in a church under specific religious rites. They only care that you were married by a licensed officiant and met secular requirements of the location's jurisdiction.

Other examples: the wikipedia entry on Beth Dins that I linked above says,
A beth din is required or preferred for the following matters:
* Validation of religious bills of divorce (get, pl. gittin).
* Kosher certification of restaurants and food manufacturers (Hechsher).
* Examination of shochetim and the control of the shechita inspectors [related to kosher slaughter of animals]
* Conversions to Judaism with at least one member of the court being a rabbi who is an expert on the laws of conversion.
* Supervising the building and maintenance of a mikvah. [ritual bath / bath house]
* Determination of "personal status" (i.e. whether someone is a Jew according to halakha).
* The authorization and supervision of mohelim.
* Questions relating to burial practices and mourning.

posted by zarq at 8:34 AM on December 17, 2015


Singling out 'religiously-oriented' is just as much bullshit. I'm very happy with my government neither advancing or restraining people's religions any more than any other organization they might with to associate themselves with.
posted by benito.strauss at 8:39 AM on December 17, 2015 [3 favorites]


Reverend John: "I wouldn't mind too much if there was a law saying that US courts shouldn't consider the the decisions of religiously-oriented arbitration (whether it be Christian, Jewish, Muslim, or Pastafarian) binding even if the arbitration was "willingly" accepted by the parties involved."

FUN FACT, almost all diamond market disputes -- a hugely multicultural, multiethnic, multireligous, multinational market -- in the US are arbitrated through the Jewish Beit Din courts in NYC and only go to actual court very rarely. It's a holdover from an intra-Jewish market that settled their disputes in the Beit Din, which gained a lot of expertise in the intricacies of the diamond market and how transactions are typically carried out, such that non-Jewish diamond dealers routinely began to avail themselves of the specialized expertise of the Beit Din rather than the non-specialized civil court system. It's faster, cheaper, and considerably more expert.

Catholic tribunals mostly process annulments (which is neither necessary nor sufficient for a divorce, and is a totally separate process), and some types of theological complaints against religious leaders.

It's a weird little corner of law that is going on around you all the time and makes very little difference in the grand scheme of American law; the only reason fear-of-Sharia-law is a thing is Obama-hysteria and it gives something for right-wing media to freak out about to whip their viewers into a frenzy of how Democrats are terrorist-lovers. That is literally the only reason any states have attempted to pass these laws; there's just enough truthiness in the statement "Sharia law in America! [in religious tribunals settling strictly religious issues, and/or sometimes in judges considering transnational claims involving an originating Sharia law country]" to make it "true" and hard to refute because you have to say, "Well, yes, sometimes judges DO consider Sharia law if, for example, it's a contract with a Saudi-based construction company that was executed between Halliburton and bin Laden Construction in Saudia Arabia --" "AHA! SEE! YOU ADMIT IT! AMERICAN JUDGES ARE USING SHARIA LAW!"
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 10:06 AM on December 17, 2015 [14 favorites]




Affirming freedom, from the President of Wheaton College.

(the other one, in Massachusetts)
posted by Etrigan at 11:11 AM on December 17, 2015 [2 favorites]


I feel bad for whomever has to respond to the irate emails sent to the other Wheaton College.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 11:21 AM on December 17, 2015 [3 favorites]


Affirming freedom, from the President of Wheaton College.

Good for them!
posted by zarq at 12:26 PM on December 17, 2015 [1 favorite]


Clearly a religious court ruling on strictly religious matters is one thing, having it rule on other matters is another. I certainly don't know enough about the intricacies of the diamond market to say whether or not Beth Dins do a good job of resolving disputes without imposing their religious beliefs on those who don't share them, but perhaps you'll forgive me for not being entirely persuaded that religious courts are a good idea based on their being preferred venue for disputes in the diamond trade.
posted by Reverend John at 1:08 PM on December 17, 2015 [3 favorites]


You misread my comment in several ways. First, it's not the international diamond TRADE; it's the national (and largely regional to NYC) diamond market of wholesalers, jewelers, and retailers. It's a little unusual because the contracts are high-value but the objects are not interchangeable. There are no religious components to the rulings -- they're just business contracts and Judaism has various rules about contracts being just. The Jewish courts are in no way mandatory to anybody -- they are frequently CHOSEN by two non-Jewish disputants UNDER NO OBLIGATION TO USE THEM because they are viewed as being scrupulously fair and even-handed in deciding disputes about these high-dollar contracts and transactions. It's basically just hiring an arbitrator; it's just that, due to a set of fairly random historical circumstances, the best arbitrators for disputes about diamond market contracts turn out to be this Jewish court that accidentally developed an expertise.

As far as unfair arbitration, you should be HELLA MORE CONCERNED about the binding arbitration you agreed to as part of your cellphone contract or health insurance. Religious courts/arbitrations are largely constrained by US law and operate within a limited universe of acceptable outcomes within that US body of law. Fortune 500 companies imposing mandatory arbitration on consumers are, the Supreme Court has ruled over and over again, basically not subject to ANY restraints on their ability to force you to submit to their private body of law decided by their bought-and-paid-for arbitrators (typically 97% of disputes are decided in favor of the corporations, in many states), and that by signing a boilerplate contract you give up your right to access the civil court system. Moreover, you typically have to promise to keep the whole process a secret and not complain about how unfair it was.

Nobody can MAKE you submit to a religious court, or accept its ruling as final. But you are EVERY DAY forced to submit to private corporate arbitration and to give up your right to seek redress of wrongs done to you by corporations. Maybe worry less about "religion bad and backwards so I reject this on its face!" and more about ACTUAL PROBLEMS with lack of access to justice.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 2:01 PM on December 17, 2015 [15 favorites]


Eh, I didn't think you meant the international diamond trade. I'm still not persuaded by that example that Beth Dins are some sort of preferable venue for resolving non-religious disputes in general. And yes, I am concerned about binding arbitration as part of contracts between consumers and large corporations. This is an argument in favor of religiously-based arbitration for non-religious matters how exactly? I think I can actually worry about both, thanks.

You say nobody can make you submit to a religious court, but I wouldn't mind seeing an explicit law saying so, as long as it didn't single out Muslim religious courts.

I also wouldn't mind seeing laws which protected peoples' rights in private arbitration and giving them clear recourse to the civil courts when their rights are violated.

Heck, I think it might even be an interesting political tactic to try to use conservatives' worries about Sharia courts to try to persuade them to pass a law that regulates arbitration overall, whether religious or not.
posted by Reverend John at 8:46 AM on December 18, 2015


> Heck, I think it might even be an interesting political tactic to try to use conservatives' worries about Sharia courts to try to persuade them to pass a law that regulates arbitration overall, whether religious or not.

You are expecting consistency. You will be disappointed.
posted by benito.strauss at 10:59 AM on December 18, 2015


I shouldn't have been so flip. My apologies.

But that won't work any more than getting people who oppose abortion to work for better sex education and easier access to birth control, or getting people who say that mass shootings are a mental health care problem, not a gun access problem, to work for better mental health.

To be precise and abstract: the manifestly stated intent is not the actual intent. To be colorful: You might like what it says on the signs and want to join this parade, but it's going to finish up somewhere very far from where you expected.

Your hopes of finding the general good-justice principles in the anti-Sharia law movement and using that energy to make positive advances strikes me as incredibly unrealistic. Do you have any evidence that there is any hope of doing so? So far the evidence I see is a rise in Muslim-bashing, violent crimes against Muslims (or people some Americans can't distinguish from Muslims), and a surging xenophobia-based presidential candidate. And the anti-Sharia movement seems to be coming from the same people.
posted by benito.strauss at 11:17 AM on December 18, 2015


But there are laws regulating arbitration in general, surely. I don't know much about US law but, as a minimum, agreement to arbitration (like any other contractual agreement) must be subject to the normal rule that it doesn't count if you agreed under duress or undue influence. Similarly, there are rights you can't contract out of in most jurisdictions and you can't, therefore, be stripped of those by an arbitration tribunal either. What specific protections should exist for agreement-to-religious-arbitration that shouldn't exist for any other agreement?
posted by Aravis76 at 11:20 AM on December 18, 2015


Ok fair enough I stand corrected on the ban thing, thanks everyone who more or less patiently explained why those bans are bullshit and nothing much to do with the stuff I was thinking about. Fair enough, my apologies for coming at this from a different perspective and not considering the specific context of the US system. I was guilty there of doing what a lot of mainstream anglosphere media do when writing and opinionating about public affairs and public debate in other countries, so, touché.

For the record though, on the hijab thing, I wasn't even thinking specifically about the European context. The country where it's been most controversial for decades in terms of political struggles between secularism and religion is not France but Turkey, and that's a Muslim majority country. So it's not necessarily an issue of "The West" vs "The Muslims" really as it's typically handled. But that's a whole other chapter and beside the point here now.
And just so it's clear I fully support the professor's right to choose whatever form of statement of solidarity she prefers, despite my misgivings about the method chosen - I'm not "condeming" or much less intending to "dither about whether the bigotry is justified". It's sad if that came across this way, but I do understand the political context right now is dominated by extreme fearmongering which sadly leaves little room for other concerns.
Thanks for the responses, they are enlightening.
posted by bitteschoen at 1:02 PM on December 18, 2015




An update that doesn't make Wheaton look very good.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 8:35 AM on January 10, 2016


At what point did the God of Abraham separate into two deities?

On or around 9/11. That's when we stopped using the phrase "Abrahamic faiths" and replaced it with "Judeo-Christian"
posted by ambulocetus at 8:02 PM on January 12, 2016


On or around 9/11. That's when we stopped using the phrase "Abrahamic faiths" and replaced it with "Judeo-Christian"

Is this a joke? I honestly can't tell.

If it isn't a joke, then it is flatly wrong.
posted by a fiendish thingy at 6:59 AM on January 13, 2016 [2 favorites]


« Older You would be so pretty if...   |   that amazing light Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments