Religion, relationships and sex: What is a healthy dynamic?

The Christian Association and Penn InterVarsity want to promote dialogue about religion's role in college romance

· April 7, 2014, 9:45 pm   ·  Updated April 8, 2014, 1:40 am

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College relationships don’t always end happily ever after — but there’s more to them than just sex.

On Monday evening, students gathered for the last discussion of the lecture series “That Thing We Never Talk About” to discuss whether “God want[s] us to live happily-ever-after” and the role that religion plays in relationships on campus. The conversation was hosted by the Christian Association and Penn InterVarsity fellowship.

“It is important for us to discuss issues not only in terms of growing in faith. We have to talk about the hard things like sex and relationships,” said discussion moderator Chaz Howard, the University chaplain and a 2000 College graduate.

The media’s depiction of dating relays the message that “one is not complete until there is another person to fulfill him or her. However, these expectations are harmful and unrealistic,” College sophomore Catalina Mullis said. A clip from “Frozen” drove commentary on whether representations of fairytale romance are actually healthy.

Since Howard was an undergraduate on campus, he has noted a shift in the way faith communities address sex and relationships in conversation. Instead of focusing on “what one should not do, dialogue has transformed into what is appropriate,” Howard said.

An attendee noted that Penn students may seem distracted by their commitments, but Howard said he has heard Penn students marry each other at a higher rate than at peer institutions.

“Students do a lot of thinking about sexuality during their time in college,” said Ellen Williams, a staff member of the InterVarsity fellowship group and a 2011 College graduate. “The more you talk about these things, it becomes less taboo.”

Participants noted the main takeaways from the conversation. “Although religious texts may instruct people on what to do or how to live, they do not advise you on how to coexist with others,” College senior Zach Burchill said. “It helps address the tough-to-answer questions.”

Organizers said the demand for the weekly series stemmed from student interest. “Relationships, or lack thereof, is something students want to talk about,” Megan LeCluyse, the campus minister of the Christian Association, said. The series “creates a space for people to ask questions through real and honest discussions,” LeCluyse added.

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