No one ever wants to talk about religion, and, if we do, it’s censored out of fear of offense. But we can’t filter offense. That’s not to be inferred as condoning disrespect of other religions, but, instead, we should feel comfortable enough to express appreciation of other religions that are not our own without fear of persecution.
Last month, Dr. Larycia Hawkins was relieved of her nine-year position as a professor at the evangelical Christian school Wheaton College for posting a photo of herself wearing a hijab and captioning it with the statement that Christians and Muslims serve the same God. Hawkins was fired for, in the words of Wheaton College, going against the school’s core beliefs.
While Hawkins’ caption was indeed a big statement, we can’t count it out as incorrect so abruptly. When speaking of differing religions, one usually would shy away from clustering them together just because they are monotheistic. However, Hawkins’ claim was not intended to mean that Christians and Muslims practice the exact same beliefs. Although believers of both religions may serve “God,” they each have differing beliefs about his power and resurrection. Her statement was an effort to shed light on the common ground between the two religions.
Muslim women have commonly experienced negative reactions to wearing hijabs; it is too often seen as a symbol of oppression rather than a symbol of religious expression. For that reason, after Muslims were tormented in Paris and San Bernardino, Hawkins began to wear a hijab in solidarity with Muslim women.
Her ability to respect another religion and show appreciation for commonality despite the differences does in no way constitute abandonment of her own religious beliefs. If anything, she shows undoubted devotion to her beliefs by firmly practicing the act of loving thy neighbor. Somehow, the act of solidarity has been associated with abandoning ones identity, and that is not the case at all. Every day, we mingle with people of different races, ethnicities, cultures and religions, and who are we to say that someone cannot show support just because of differences?
When it’s all said and done, Hawkins was fired on technicality. Her message was a positive one: despite our differences, we still can have understanding. But she was a professor at a Christian school, and so she should only speak about the Christian faith, right? Wrong. Sure her statement could have been expressed differently, or she could have elaborated a little more. Regardless, the act was one of unity and understanding.