Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Can a Christian Woman Wear a Muslim Hijab?

Update 12/16/15:

According to this report, Wheaton College has suspended Hawkins.

Original Post:

Last week, Prof. Larycia Hawkins of Wheaton College in Chicago posted this call to action on her Facebook page. Read it yourself, it is fairly brief. A few things leap out at me, which you may have noticed, as well.

The Highlights of the Case for the Hijab

First is that comments are disabled, and the few which do appear are all positive. I guarantee they would not be if the comments were open, but Hawkins must not be open to criticism. That is partly why I am posting one here.

Secondly, a professed Christian makes a point of claiming humanity originated in South Africa, which neither Muslims nor Bible-believing Christians accept. Talk about your cultural insensitivity. She is purposefully antagonizing people with whom she disagrees. Hardly the expression of all-encompassing relativistic love she claims to want to make.

Third, she calls anti-shariah laws “unconstitutional and Islamophobic.” As a political science professor, you would hope she would know. As someone who studied political science in school, I am not convinced. Admittedly, it is possible. I do not know the statute to which she is referring. If it creates burdens specific to Islam, she might be correct on constitutionality. If, however, it is a broad statement aimed prohibiting aspects of shariah law like cutting off the hands of thieves; killing those who dishonor the Koran or Mohammed; or forbidding women to drive, vote, be with men in public, inherit as much as men, or testify against rapists, I do not see the problem. In fact, it is entirely constitutional in that case, because it properly applies the 1st, 5th, 6th, 8th, and 14th amendments.

You would think a woman might be concerned to see such protections put in place, but apparently not. Instead, she employs the brilliant rhetorical device of reducing all who might disagree with her to the status of phobics, because they dare to be concerned about the worst expressions of extremism so rampant in Islam. Who then would dare to stand against her dazzling intellect, her wisdom like that of the ancients, her cultural sensitivity enough to impress even the students at Yale? For shame, you bigots!

Pope Francis, for one, would apparently not do so. Which is the fourth and most important element of Hawkins’ post. It is the reason she has decided to wear the hijab through Advent. As she sees it, there is no difference between Muslims and Christians, so she is making it a sign of solidarity. This is something you hear often from unserious Christians and dishonest Muslims, that we worship the same God.

 Do We All Worship the Same God?

Now before I get into that, I want to point out something of an aside. At one point, Hawkins claims that Christians and Muslims are both “people of the book.” This term appears in the Koran, and while I do not mind it, it does not apply to Muslims. It only applies to monotheists with a scripture that existed prior to Mohammed’s receiving of the Koran. To call Muslims that is actually, to some extent, an insult. But surely the sensitive Hawkins can be forgiven for that.

Far more important, of course, is the claim that we worship the same God. Is that true? Well, no, but it is easy to understand the confusion. Islam considers itself to be an Abrahamic faith. The Arabs, with whom Islam began, are descended from Abraham (whose very existence I would expect Hawkins to doubt). The Israelites, through whom the promises of God were passed down, are Abraham’s legitimate children. And Christians are the heirs of those promises as they found fulfillment in Jesus Christ.


The links are obvious, then, but so are the differences. Yahwehism, the religion of the Old Testament, no longer exists in its original form. It is not Judaism, though Judaism is also descended from it. Both of those systems are predicated on ritual, and on special relationship with God. They are the “Chosen People,” selected by God for that special relationship. As the descendants of Abraham through his promised son, Isaac, they are the ones through whom God’s purposes became known, and through whom His promises passed.

Islam also has a heavy reliance on ritual. To make it to paradise, a person must be more good than bad. It is hard work. Blood relation to Abraham is less important than it is for the Old Testament religion, however, because Islam is a missionary religion. Anyone can join, and quite easily. It merely takes a pledge to acknowledge only Allah as God, and Mohammed as his prophet.

Christianity is the most different, even though it follows immediately from Yahwehism. In Christianity as the Bible represents it, works have a limited importance because it is impossible to be pleasing to God. Sin has created too great a barrier for us to overcome. However, God the Son overcomes it Himself. He came to live as one of us, fulfilled the law as we could not, and died in our place as a sacrifice to pay the price for our sins. Christianity is following Him by faith in Him.


Is there a way to make these beliefs compatible? With Yahwehism and Christianity, yes. Jesus is the Messiah, the Anointed One of God promised in the Old Testament. He is the fulfillment of the promises to Abraham. To see that is to see that they work perfectly together.

But Islam does not fit. It does not fit with the Old Testament, because it attempts to shift the promises from Isaac to Ishmael, Abraham’s first but illegitimate son. It also shifts the focus from Jerusalem to Mecca. Finally, it says that the Old Testament only exists in a corrupted form and is less authoritative than the Koran.

Islam works even less well with Christianity. Christians worship Jesus as God, which to Muslims is a terrible heresy. We also do not acknowledge Mohammed as a prophet at all, yet alone as the greatest prophet of God, since we know the last necessary revelation was that having to do with Christ. There was nothing left Mohammed needed to add.

To say Muslims worship the same God as Christians and Jews is only possible through the greatest stretch. The personality, purpose, and expression of Allah is completely different from that of Yahweh. The only way they are the same is if the Muslims are right, and the Bible is distorted. But if Christ is God, then Allah is not. Simple as that.

Useful Comparisons

Not to say there are not useful points of comparison. Muslims respect Jesus as at least a prophet. They also recognize the value of righteous living. And they worship one god separate from the universe, rather than many gods, a god that is the universe, or no god at all. Those similarities can certainly be stressed.

However, they should not be turned into the solidarity of a relativism that tries to say the differences do not matter at all. Rather, they are useful in the way they appear in Acts 17:22–31. There, the apostle Paul is speaking to a group in Athens. He draws their attention to an altar dedicated “to the Unknown God.” He then claims that this is the very same God he worships. But he does not let it sit there, as though it did not matter who was worshipped or how. No, he makes God known to them in truth. He offers them correction rather than coddling. That is what we have to do. If we point out the similarities, it should only be to show why the differences are all-important.


So what about the hijab? Believe it or not, I do not have a problem with it in and of itself. For one thing, from my perspective, it is just a piece of clothing. For another, some acts of solidarity can be valuable. I am not in favor of Donald Trump’s plan to deny entry into this country merely because of religious belief. It would set a dangerous precedent. Wearing the hijab could be an act of political and human solidarity without being a religious one.

But Hawkins refuses to see it this way from the outset. That is why I am writing. By trying to say our religions are no different, she is making Christ a moral teacher rather than God and Savior. I doubt she knows Him that way, if she can be so dismissive. She is trampling on His blood in her effort to be cosmopolitan, and as someone who loves Jesus Christ more than anyone or anything else, it truly disgusts me.

I have been hard on Hawkins because this is a person who postures herself as knowing better, and who should know better. She is an academic at a prestigious Christian school. She is undoubtedly intelligent. But she is also a fool.

That word is underused because it is improperly understood. “Foolishness” is not a synonym for “stupidity.” It is not a question of what you know. It is a question of what you do with what you know. For all her learning, Hawkins is not showing any wisdom. Instead, her initiative is sophistry. It sounds lofty, but it has no depth. She is like a naughty child sitting at the top of the steps listening to her parents talk, and thinking the things she hears make her an adult. Never mind the fact that she does not understand them.

This post nominally meant to look at whether a Christian woman can wear an hijab, but it is about so much more than that. In fact, that hardly matters. What matters is whether you think Jesus is who He said He is. If so, you cannot say Muslims and Christians worship the same God. If not, you should stop calling yourself a Christian. You cannot keep from taking a side, no matter how hard you try. One way or another, there is only one truth. And I believe John 14:6. “Jesus said… ‘I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.’” The hijab is just a piece of cloth, but the truth about Christ is everything. Don’t deceive yourself into thinking otherwise. Don’t be a fool.

(image from Facebook)

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