There have been a couple of articles about Wheaton College in the news lately. The most startling is about a Wheaton professor, Larycia Hawkins, wearing a hijab as a gesture of solidarity during advent. This story, in particular, I’d like to unpack.
After reading the article I did some research on this professor to try to better understand her perspective. Her passion and area of study centers around the injustice of discrimination against black Americans. I infer this based on the articles she has written. However, her choice to wear a hijab during advent shows more an emotional response than a wise response to anti-Muslim sentiment.
Advent is about awaiting the arrival and preparation for Christ’s birth. The advent of Christ in the Bible is colored by Jesus’s Jewish contemporaries as a time of waiting for redemption from social injustice and oppression. Israel was under the control of the Romans. The Jewish people were so focused on a Messiah to save them from the social evils of living as a part of the Roman Empire that the startling and simple contrast of that tiny baby born in a stable is lost on them. Even in his later life Jesus was betrayed by Judas, who was so focused on social reform and frustrated with Jesus’s different agenda that he betrayed Jesus to Caiaphas. In reading more about the history behind advent, I cannot help but see some similarities between the attitude of the Jewish people and Dr. Hawkin’s gesture of solidarity. Both have misinterpreted advent.
There are three areas in this article that I find especially hard to digest.
First: Her justification is that Muslims deserve our solidarity because they are “people of the book” and that “they believe in the same God.” Muslims do not believe in the same God unless the God of the Bible got a personality change. On a more serious note, the doctrines of the Muslim faith are not the doctrines of grace and unconditional love that is the theme in the Bible. Also, Muslims are not the only people of the book. On that argument, Muslims are often the antagonists of the heroes in the Bible stories and have followed that same trend throughout history. Showing solidarity under that logic would be like showing solidarity towards Hilter and the Nazi party. They too professed a belief in God and people looked only at the shallow agenda of trying to get Germany back on its feet and becoming a great country again missed the danger signs by not looking more closely at what they actually believed. This is why we have holocausts.
Second: Christ calls us to love one another as he loves the church. Love is not solidarity. You can love your enemy and not support their world view. We are not called to show solidarity but love. For example: Suppose you have an aunt whom you love very much. She lives a LGBT lifestyle with which you do not agree. We show her love by keeping in touch and not condemning her, but we don’t show solidarity by changing our profile pictures with the LGBT flag.
What does it look like to love our Muslims brothers, sisters, enemies, friends? It should look like this: Helping when they need help, not condemning them for their faith, sharing our hope of salvation that is different from theirs. Showing that we also respect ourselves enough as Christians to do what is right: do justly, love mercy, walk humbly before our God. Pray for them without ceasing.
Third: Wearing a hijab is a symbol of oppression of women in a society notorious for mistreatment of its female counterparts. Hijabs are worn for modesty, but, really, it was and is protection against women getting raped. In this ideology, women are condemned and men are not held accountable. Solidarity with Muslims in this way would be support for that ideology. God made women beautiful and in His image. He wants women to be modest but he also wants men to show self-control and to be accountable for their actions.
As much as I disagree with the professor’s logic and motivations, I have to admire her embracing the “love your enemy” part of the Bible.
My community of Chattanooga went through a terrible tragedy this summer with a terrorist attack from someone who lived his whole life as an American and still chose to do what he did. In the article Hawkins says “theoretical solidarity is not solidarity at all,” but it is easy to wear a hijab and to show solidarity when your community has not been ripped apart by Islamic jihad.
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