Larycia Hawkins, a Wheaton College professor, announced she would wear a Muslim headscarf throughout Advent as a way of showing solidarity with Muslims. In a Facebook post, the professor explained she’d wear a hijab to work, class, and church.
In particular, Hawkins, a Christian, said she wishes to express support for Muslim women. “I don’t love my Muslim neighbor because s/he is American. I love my Muslim neighbor because s/he deserves love by virtue of her/his human dignity,” Hawkins wrote. “I stand in human solidarity with my Muslim neighbor because we are formed of the same primordial clay.”
For some observers, her demonstration missed the mark. In 2015 we saw many Christians trying to identify with people in need: Some identified with Muslims in general as the American political rhetoric turned against them. Some identified with Syrian refugees, including Muslims and Christians, fleeing persecution. And for some American evangelicals, the fashion statement of the year was not a headscarf, but a jumpsuit.
As the Illinois Baptist editors discussed the images that characterized 2015, there was a strong case to be made for that grainy video freeze-frame we saw in February: 21 Coptic Christians in orange jumpsuits, kneeling on a Libyan beach with knives held to their throats by ISIS-rebel captors. Gratefully, the image from just seconds later was not widely distributed by news services: 21 Christians beheaded.
This may have been the most horrific image any of us have ever seen.
It proved what we have heard all our lives. Christians will face persecution for our faith and some may be martyred. But not in our lifetimes has martyrdom seemed so possible, or even probable. No longer is it that Christians may be martyred. Christians will be martyred. The mass shooting in San Bernardino by a radicalized Islamic couple proves it can happen even here in the United States.
If we’re looking for someone to identify with, let’s consider again those men in orange jumpsuits. Their lives—and deaths—force us to confront the strength of our own faith. Jesus told us to lay down our lives and take up the cross.
In contemporary terms, are we ready to wear orange?
Editor’s note: Hawkins is on paid leave after her comments on social media about Muslims and Christians worshipping the same God. Wheaton administrators have recommended her termination from the college.