Jackie Grinvalds, Communication junior, is a member of the Northwestern University Council of Religions.
Religious Awareness Week (RAW) is Monday, April 13 through Sunday, April 19. Sex Week is Monday, April 13 through Sunday, April 19.
Seems contradictory, no? Confused readers wondered why this happened. Did the religious people plan them at the same time with the intent of discouraging people from talking about sex?
The answer is: not really. As a member of NU Council of Religions (NUCOR), which planned most of RAW, I can assure you we knew about Sex Week as we planned our events. We even coordinated with their planning committee to co-sponsor a fireside about sex and religion on Wednesday evening.
In making RAW the same week as Sex Week, we were not deliberately trying to become adversaries and compete for what’s hot on this campus. Most people would agree that sex is definitely hotter in a figurative sense, at least, but I beg you to think about what kind of stories are hot in the news on a global sense. Personally, I am not very political or news savvy, but even I have heard about conflicts in South Asia and the Middle East. Many of these conflicts, unfortunately, have religious roots.
Therefore, RAW asks everyone to think about this question: Should we move beyond tolerance? With a question like this, we do not plan on ending religious conflicts in the world, but we want people to think about how they want to live in this ever-connected global society.
Sure, we can tolerate one another, meaning we acknowledge people’s differences and leave it at that. Tolerance seems to explain a lot of the interactions we have at this school. I often hear people on campus complaining about how there may be diversity at this school, but we are all separated by racial or ethnic groups. People often hang out with people like themselves, so we do not feel connected with a sense of community.
We need to go beyond this tolerance and build a community together. Even as I write this, I acknowledge the idealist tone in that last sentence. Nonetheless, I think that at a grassroots level, at the very least, individuals can and should rid themselves of their ignorance and learn about others and connect with them. That, in my mind, is a goal of Religious Awareness Week, just as it is one of the goals of Sex Week.
The name “Religious Awareness Week” implies a goal of raising an awareness of religion itself. And yes, that is part of it –- students involved or wanting to get involved with various religious groups on campus can feel especially encouraged this week.
However, it would be crazy for RAW to think that Northwestern students do not know that religious people exist. At the same time, knowing about Hillel because it brought Andy Samberg to campus is not enough. Maybe the girl sitting next to you in your philosophy class is Baha’i or the guy you pass by on Sheridan is on his way to a Christian Science Organization meeting. Getting to know people of another or of no faith begins to go beyond tolerance by raising your own awareness.
I hope you will consider attending a screening of a film about faith communities working on sustainable efforts on Wednesday night, cleaning up local beaches and parks Saturday morning or attending some other RAW event this week. I am not against people talking about, learning about, thinking about, or, for that matter, having sex. In fact, I encourage each of these acts –- done safely, of course. However, I think there are other relevant issues that also require our attention this week. Sex is important, but so is religious understanding.