all the things

oy vey

I keep managing to get myself lodged into the middle of Facebook disputes. Call it my need for stimulating and intellectual conversation, but man oh man, sometimes, I just need to quit because Facebook is not the appropriate place for that dialogue sometimes. (And, it makes me regret getting back on Facebook – if it weren’t for our fundraiser for Mama Steiny, I wouldn’t have… but I digress).

So, I am taking my thoughts to (my figurative) paper. The first issue surrounds my alma mater, Wheaton College, and their recent decision to place a political science professor, Dr. Larycia Hawkins, on paid administrative leave after she posted on Facebook the following:

“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.

I stand in human solidarity with my Muslim neighbor because we are formed of the same primordial clay, descendants of the same cradle of humankind–a cave in Sterkfontein, South Africa that I had the privilege to descend into to plumb the depths of our common humanity in 2014.

I stand in religious solidarity with Muslims because they, like me, a Christian, are people of the book. And as Pope Francis stated last week, we worship the same God.

But as I tell my students, theoretical solidarity is not solidarity at all. Thus, beginning tonight, my solidarity has become embodied solidarity.

As part of my Advent Worship, I will wear the hijab to work at Wheaton College, to play in Chi-town, in the airport and on the airplane to my home state that initiated one of the first anti-Sharia laws (read: unconstitutional and Islamophobic), and at church.

I invite all women into the narrative that is embodied, hijab-wearing solidarity with our Muslim sisters–for whatever reason. A large scale movement of Women in Solidarity with Hijabs is my Christmas ‪#‎wish‬ this year.

Perhaps you are a Muslim who does not wear the veil normally. Perhaps you are an atheist or agnostic who finds religion silly or inexplicable. Perhaps you are a Catholic or Protestant Christian like me. Perhaps you already cover your head as part of your religious worship, but not a hijab.

***I would like to add that I have sought the advice and blessing of one of the preeminent Muslim organizations in the United States, the Council on American Islamic Relations, ‪#‎CAIR‬, where I have a friend and Board colleague on staff. I asked whether a non-Muslim wearing the hijab was haram (forbidden), patronizing, or otherwise offensive to Muslims. I was assured by my friends at CAIR-Chicago that they welcomed the gesture. So please do not fear joining this embodied narrative of actual as opposed to theoretical unity; human solidarity as opposed to mere nationalistic, sentimentality.

Document your own experiences of Women in Solidarity with Hijabs #wish.

Shalom friends.”

The primary concern is not her hijab wearing, which is admirable and compassionate, but her statement that the Islamic and Christian faith “worship the same God.” This can be broken down into a number of ways.

First, if one looks back upon the lineage of the three faith traditions, Islam, Judaism and Christianity, it can all be traced back to Abraham’s sons – Ishmael and Issac. It can be said, therefore, that there was a period of time where the sons of Abraham both worshiped the same Creator God. In fact, there are some similarities in the two texts, the Bible and the Koran. However, there is a primary divergence in all three of these traditions: Jesus.

Now, if Dr. Hawkins is primarily referring to their shared lineage, then theologically, we are within the safe disputed grounds of unessential faith doctrine, i.e. what you believe about this issue does not dictate your salvation through Christ.

The issue becomes if Christ is removed from the equation. For Christianity to have its Truth, one must believe Jesus when He states that no one can go to the Father (i.e. the Creator God) except through Him (Jesus). Without Jesus, one cannot have right, true worship of God. One cannot receive the grace that was bestowed unto us by Jesus’s death on a cross. One’s sins cannot be forgiven without Jesus’s perfect life and resurrection.

Judaism believes that Jesus was simply a radical teacher – nothing more, nothing less. Several Jews are still awaiting their Messiah. Islam believes Jesus was a great prophet – nothing more, nothing less. Their prophet Muhammad guides their path. Christians believe that Jesus is both fully human, and fully diving, come to this earth to provide salvation to all who believe.

If, Dr. Hawkins assumed Christ’s Lordship in her statement, thinking it didn’t need to stated, again the conversation is a great one to engage in, especially on a college campus. However, if she negates Jesus’s salvific work but rather truly believes that Islam and Christianity do worship the same God in a fully right manner, then we have crossed the bridge in to universalism which is distinct and a part from evangelicalism.

Regardless, I know Wheaton took the hard road by immediately placing her on (paid) administrative leave publicly (especially since the media is portraying it as an act against her wearing a hijab – not true), but I trust that they are using this time to discuss and discover the nuances that her statement has, and to press into her theological beliefs.

The second issue I have found myself in the midst of is breastfeeding in public. Apparently, another woman was “scolded” for nursing her child in public at a restaurant. While, I wasn’t there and can’t speak to her exposure, her consideration, etc., nursing in public truly needs to die as a debate in general.

41 Action News, begging for controversy, posted on their Facebook page (I’m telling you Facebook, it’s evil) the question whether or not women ought to cover while breastfeeding in public.

My responses are as follows:

To the question:
“It’s a personal choice between mom and babe. There are many babies who don’t like being covered – it’s hot and the air is stifling which isn’t exactly conducive to eating. Some babies don’t mind it, some moms prefer it, but we shouldn’t assume a mom is simply letting it all hang out because she wants that kind of attention.

Women often show way more cleavage in their tight Summer outfits than what is shown through the act of breastfeeding. I think we can learn to advert our eyes if we find it distracting.”

To a lady suggesting that nursing in public invites others to form lustful thoughts about you:
I can tell you that a child may not like even a light scarf. They are practically impossible to keep over a wiggly child in the first place. And, if businesses were more breastfeeding friendly, it might be easier to find a private spot, but again, easier said than done.

My child refused a bottle. The only way I could feed her was through breastfeeding. At a certain point, to keep my sanity, I chose to continue to go out in public even if that meant having to nurse in public.

Why do women risk lustful thoughts when they are out wearing a bikini on the beach or wearing something tight and low cut? Many would argue that they have that freedom to do so, that it’s their right to express themselves in that manner. That also invokes conversations of modesty.

I for one am of a mindset that while yes, we should be modest, we cannot prevent all lustful thoughts in another. Unfortunately, even covered, someone will think lustfully about the action and thankfully, it’s not my responsibility to fix that for them. That is between them and their Maker.

I can’t raise my child in fear and that includes whether or not I do or don’t cover them while nursing in public.”

To another woman asking breastfeeding moms to be modest:
“Again, easier said than done – little hands are quick to grab. And honestly, what’s a little side boob? It’s way less than what you see on TV or out at the plaza and no one seems up in arms about that lack of modesty.

If a baby is latched properly, then the mother is being modest. The entire nipple and good portion of the breast is hidden behind the baby’s head. I have never know a woman to “bare all” to nurse. Also, the majority of women I know lift their shirts to nurse, and so the shirt is often covering the upper portion of the breast. I feel as if most people (and sadly women) who are making these judgmental comments have not seen a nursing mother in recent history. This judgement invokes anxiety in young mothers making most of us feel guilty for breastfeeding. It only contributes to the mommy wars that are already ridiculous.

Again, covering is a personal choice between mom and babe, but from my personal experience, it was cumbersome, my child pulled it off more often than not because she hated it, and after a certain age, impractical. I was modest and aware of my surroundings while nursing. I even sought nursing rooms out – not necessarily for the sake of others but to reduce distraction for my child. Either way, a nursing mom cannot live in solitude or paranoia that she will offend someone for simply feeding her child.

To call nursing moms immodest is simply ignorant. (And, I feel as if I can make that statement, because before I became a nursing mom, I was right there with the “that’s not modest/ we don’t want to see that” camp. It was purely from my own ignorance that I thought that.)”

My epic conclusion:
“Furthermore, we must stop the shaming. We must stop assuming that nursing moms are automatically immodest, inconsiderate, disrespectful and unkind. Every mom who has nursed in public does enough self-shaming for a time simply from the guilt of not covering up that the judgement from others is really unwarranted.

No matter how a mother chooses to feed their child, whether by nursing (covered or uncovered in public), breast milk via bottle or formula, ALL mothers are trying their best to love and care for their child.”

I think that sums up my thoughts nicely. Either way, we all need to learn to be a little more nice, a little less assuming, and a little more compassionate to each other. This living life in fear thing is getting old, and I for one am not out to go buy a gun because of it (that’s a whole other can of worms).

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