Groups at Penn are working to bridge the gap between religion and sexuality.
Last Thursday, Penn’s LGBT Center presented at the monthly Religious Community Council meeting. While no details of the meeting are yet available, its occurrence reflects a trend — the gravitation of religious groups towards discussing LGBT topics.
“I think it’s always a positive thing when two communities on campus work together,” Lambda Alliance Chair and College sophomore Dawn Androphy said in an email.
Despite issues in other parts of the country, sexuality isn’t a problem for many Penn Catholics.
“It’s not something that’s been a topic of discussion since I’ve been involved,” a Penn Newman member who wished to remain anonymous due to Penn Newman’s associate with the Archdiocese said. “But I wouldn’t say it’s taboo.”
Penn Newman Center declined to comment due to the association.
Although there aren’t any known gay members of Penn Newman, the student said it wouldn’t be an issue if a LGBT member came out.
“If there was a gay person in the community it wouldn’t be any different than if someone joined who was double-jointed or left-handed,” the student said.
The Penn Catholic Student Association takes a similar stance towards religion and sexuality. PCSA President and College junior Margaret Buff said that she knows several LGBT Catholics, and that PCSA will cover sexuality during one of their dinners and discussions this semester.
For Penn Cru, a fulfilling relationship with God is the top priority regardless of sexual orientation. According to Campus Connection Leader and Nursing sophomore Elise Taylor, some people within Cru do experience same-sex interaction.
“Regardless of sexual orientation, they still need a relationship with God,” Taylor said. “That’s the first thing that needs to be addressed.”
Penn Cru began to look at the issue this past fall. Inspired by a similar demonstration that two members witnessed in Botswana, Penn Cru held up apologetic signs in front of Van Pelt Library on Nov. 15 of last year.
The first sign in the sequence said, “Christians have a lot to be sorry for,” followed by signs apologizing for not being compassionate or helping the LGBT community. The last sign, however, maintained that “Jesus has nothing to be sorry for.”
With regards to conversations about relationships between religion and sexuality, Taylor explained that they are often unfruitful, and communication is an important thing to work on.
“There’s a lot of pain and a lot of hot button words because there’s so much history there,” Taylor said. “Sometimes we fail to represent God’s love.”
Penn’s Jewish community is actively working to move past this “history.” Approximately six years ago, Penn Jews founded J-Bagel, an organization through Hillel that’s part of the Lambda Alliance.
“We try to promote exploration of both identities because a lot of people feel like they have to pick one,” J-Bagel President and College junior Hannah Feldman said.
This spring, J-Bagel will have the first openly gay Orthodox rabbi, Rabbi Steven Greenberg, speak at an event. They also hold smaller activities such as movie nights to encourage discussion about Judaism and sexuality.
For Hillel President and College junior Josh Cooper, the interesting and meaningful conversations that can come out of passionate discussions are more important than the strain between the religious and LGBT parties.
“It’s not about focusing on the tension between the two communities,” Cooper said. “[I would] much rather focus on the amazing things you can do and are doing.”
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