When I saw the New York Times magazine was running a lengthy take-out on Larycia Hawkins by a Wheaton graduate, I hoped it would shed some light on her beliefs and motives. The article was far more textured and nuanced than other efforts I'd seen.
And yet. One of the photos of Hawkins -- posed with decorative purple scarf wound about her head and left shoulder while her right shoulder remained uncovered except for a black spaghetti strap dress underneath -- gave me some pause.
This wasn’t a hijab we were seeing here. It was a decoration. If Hawkins showed up on the streets of certain majority Muslim countries (think Iran, Pakistan and Saudi Arabia) dressed like that, she might not make it out in one piece.
Members of the GetReligion team have already written a lot about about Professor Hawkins, so bear with us once more. The article starts thus:
Three days after Larycia Hawkins agreed to step down from her job at Wheaton College, an evangelical school in Wheaton, Ill., she joined her former colleagues and students for what was billed as a private service of reconciliation. It was a frigid Tuesday evening last February, and attendance was optional, but Wheaton’s largest chapel was nearly full by the time the event began. A large cross had been placed on the stage, surrounded by tea lights that snaked across the blond floorboards in glowing trails.
The college chaplain read from a psalm and then:
Philip Ryken, the college’s president of six years, spoke next. His father had been an English professor at Wheaton for 44 years, and he grew up in town, receiving his undergraduate degree from the college. “I believe in our fundamental unity in Jesus Christ, even in a time of profound difficulty that is dividing us and threatening to destroy us,” he told the crowd. “These recent weeks have been, I think, the saddest days of my life.” It was the night before the first day of Lent, the 40-day season of repentance in the Christian calendar.
Wheaton had spent the previous two months embroiled in what was arguably the most public and contentious trial of its 156-year history. In December, Hawkins wrote a theologically complex Facebook post announcing her intention to wear a hijab during Advent, in solidarity with Muslims; the college placed her on leave within days and soon moved to fire her. Jesse Jackson had compared Hawkins with Rosa Parks, while Franklin Graham, an evangelist and Billy Graham’s son, declared, “Shame on her!”