Case of the Wheaton professor who wore a headscarf to show solidarity with Muslims

"We know the real God," a Christian minister told me when I interviewed him after the San Bernardino massacre. "God is not Allah."

“My job is to take a Muslim and turn him away from Muhammad, who is still dead, and turn him to Jesus Christ, who rose and sits at the right hand of God," another minister told me on that same reporting trip for The Christian Chronicle.

I thought about those comments as I read a developing story from the Chicago area:

Manya Brachear Pashman, the talented Godbeat pro for the Chicago Tribune (and the new president of the Religion Newswriters Association), reported the news this morning.

The top of her story:

A tenured Wheaton College professor who, as part of her Christian Advent devotion, donned a traditional headscarf to show solidarity with Muslims has been placed on administrative leave.
Larycia Hawkins, a political science professor at the private evangelical Christian college in Chicago's west suburbs, announced last week that she would wear the veil to show support for Muslims who have been under greater scrutiny since mass shootings in Paris and San Bernardino, Calif.
"I stand in religious solidarity with Muslims because they, like me, a Christian, are people of the book," she posted on Facebook.
But it was that explanation of her gesture that concerned some evangelical Christians, who read her statement as a conflation of Christian and Muslim theology.
"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," Wheaton College said in a statement.

That's a nice, evenhanded summary that, it seems to me, fairly quotes both sides.

The next paragraph seems to take a dig at my home state of Oklahoma. Then again, maybe I'm overly sensitive (just ask my wife):

Hawkins, 43, planned to wear the hijab everywhere she went until Christmas, including on her flight home to Oklahoma, where voters in 2010 overwhelmingly approved a constitutional amendment banning Shariah, or Islamic law.

All in all, the Tribune religion writer does an excellent job of presenting the facts and quoting a variety of sources.

As journalists delve deeper into the theological issues at play here, I do think it would be helpful to quote an evangelical expert or two who sympathize with the position taken by Wheaton. At this point, the Tribune story seems stacked just a smidgen in favor of the professor.

But again, this scenario is still developing, so give the Chicago newspaper kudos for the excellent — and quick — work so far.

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