Daily Kos: Wheaton College grad unsurprised by Wheaton College intolerance

Ian Pajer-Rogers |

Stacey Wescott/Chicago Tribune via AP

From Daily Kos:

by Sung Yeon Choimorrow

I have always struggled with the label evangelical. Since I set foot in this country and attended an Evangelical Christian college, I have always gone back and forth about this identity. Many have labeled me an evangelical Christians, and many more a liberal progressive mainliner.  

Don’t you love labels?

Once again, I’ve been pushed to think about my faith identity in recent days because of the suspension of Dr. Larycia Hawkins by my alma mater, Wheaton College.

Dr. Hawkins offense? A statement she made on Facebook.

What’s ironic to me is the Dr. Hawkins’ statement seemed more like a political statement than a theological one. Nevertheless, Wheaton College is punishing her for conveying a false representation of Wheaton College’s theological identity.

However, I am not at all surprised by actions taken by Wheaton College Administration.

After all, this is an administration that fired a professor when he converted to Catholicism. So we should be alarmed by Wheaton’s actions, but we should not be surprised.

Every time Wheaton is in the news for some discriminating act, whether it’s against Catholics, LGBTQ persons or a person who may seem like a universalist, it reminds me that Wheaton is more interested in defending its faith identity rather than living it out.  

And of course, this is very consistent with my experience while I was at Wheaton. The college’s discriminant and judgmental attitudes towards anyone who thinks, acts, or even looks differently made me question if I was really an evangelical Christian. The Christ I grew up to know is not one who discriminates and judges, but who loves you regardless of who you are. This discord led me to a lot of soul searching during my time at Wheaton.

I believe that the transformative power of Jesus Christ calls me to love people, to do justice and show mercy as a way of living out my transformation and honoring my faith. That faith in action is core to being an evangelical.

An ideal evangelical higher educational institution would welcome people of different backgrounds and create a safe haven for intellectual dialogue and growth. An evangelical institution secure in its faith and identity in Jesus Christ would not live out of fear that someone is ruining their reputation on social media.  They would embrace difference. I’m not saying they have to agree with Dr. Hawkins or even endorse what she said, but they should embrace it.

That’s why Dr. Hawkins’ reinstatement of her position at Wheaton is the evangelical thing to do. I believe that my alma mater can do better. We, the evangelical community in America have to be better.

Further, I believe that Dr. Hawkins embodies Wheaton College’s statement of faith by standing in solidarity with Muslims in America. Wheaton’s faith statement implores us to act so that we are “seeking the good for EVERYONE, especially the needy.” Muslims needed Dr. Hawkins’ solidarity and she boldly answered the call.  

I’ll end with this story about Australian outback ranchers:

A visitor to an Australian outback cattle ranch was intrigued by the seemingly endless miles of farming country with no sign of any fences.  So he asked the rancher how he keeps track of his cattle.  The rancher replied, “Oh that’s no problem. Out here we dig wells to bring the cattle back instead of building fences to keep them in.”

I believe that Jesus is calling for us to dig wells instead of build fences.

We are called to make disciples in all the nations. If we want to attract people the Gospel of Jesus Christ, we have to be more like Dr. Hawkins and less like the Wheaton College administration. 

Dr. Hawkins is digging a well while Wheaton College is building a fence.

During this season of Advent, a time where Christians all around the globe gather together to celebrate, remember and share with the world, hope, love, joy and peace, it is my prayer that Wheaton College will return to being a beacon of evangelical faith through love and embrace. Not through hate and discrimination. 

Rev. Sung Yeon Choimorrow is the Director of Strategic Partnerships at Interfaith Worker Justice where she lives out her calling by seeking justice for workers in America. Sung Yeon is ordained in the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.).