In a Religion News Service article, Tobin Grant highlights the potential firing of a professor at Wheaton College in Illinois for saying we all pray to the same God. Wheaton is considered by many to be the best known Christian college in the world. Tenured Professor Larycia Hawkins, at the center of this controversy, also chose to dress in solidarity with the Muslim community during Advent.
As Grant suggests, the response of the college is disturbing, but many of the online comments regarding this story are difficult to read. Grant has alludes to a number of them from sites such as The Blaze, The Christian Post, and Free Thinker in his article. One example, from an anti-Islamic site, should suffice: "Suspended? why not from a lamp post?" The vitriol of bigotry, racism and intolerance is mind boggling.
I'm confused. How many Gods are there? If there is only one God, then anyone praying or worshipping God has to be praying to the one and only God. Isn't that what early Christian theologians spent centuries debating, finally concluding unequivocally that even though we are Trinitarian, there is still only one God? Much ink was spilled and many sermons preached in those early years to explain that we did not believe in three Gods but only one God.
Even though we may have different conceptions of God, if we believe in a supreme being it is the same guy, or gal. It doesn't matter if it is Thomas Aquinas' uncaused cause, or the Native American concept of the Great Spirit, or Paul Tillich's ground of being. If they are not praying to the one and only God, then who are they praying to? There seems to be only one possible answer if we wish to remain monotheists.
Finally, I want to clearly acknowledge the reality of terrorism and the legitimate fears of many in our country. Certainly the latest example of a police officer being shot in Philadelphia is genuine reason for concern.
Yet it seems to me that it is also time for realism among those who want to exacerbate this fear to an unreasonable level, frequently for their own political gain. The terrorism threat in the United States, though real, remains quite small. The threat of violence from other sources is significantly higher yet does not command nearly the same level of attention.
The growing number of mass shootings in our country demonstrates our capacity for violence that has nothing to do with terrorism. Domestic, school and urban violence, as well as the despair of suicide are often the precipitating events. Why are we not at least as engaged in reducing and preventing such violence as we are on the far less likely threat of terrorism?
In any case the hatred expressed in some of the responses cited above is far from what could be called Christian. Fear is one thing. It should never result in the kind of thinking that is so alien to the Christian message of love of neighbor.