The student news site of Guilford College

The Guilfordian

The student news site of Guilford College

The Guilfordian

The student news site of Guilford College

The Guilfordian

Religious Emphasis Week sparks questions about spirituality

On Jan. 28 at New Garden Friends Meeting, the hot air heavy with anticipation, Episcopalian Bishop Gene Robinson gave a presentation entitled “Is Tolerance Enough?”Robinson’s discussion was part of Religious Emphasis Week at Guilford, which spanned the week of Jan. 23, and included speakers Diane Elliot and Vanessa Julye, as well as explorations of various faiths and religious movements.

Guilford students and members of the Greensboro community packed the pews, giving Robinson a goose-bump-raising round of applause as he stepped up to the microphone and began to explain his religious philosophy.

According to Robinson, fear, not hate, opposes love. Welcoming those whose lifestyles differ from ours should be a priority.

“We should have infinite respect for one another, and radical hospitality for the world,” said Robinson, describing the unofficial motto of his parish.

“He was beyond what I could have expected,” said sophomore Sarah Bentley, head of GCRO and coordinator of Religious Emphasis Week.

Bentley explained that the theme of the week was challenging preexisting ideas of religion. She invited her lifelong friend Diane Elliot, who practices Sufism, a sect of Islam that focuses on the religion’s mystical aspects, to share her religion with students on Jan. 26.

“We will have universal peace if we eat, dance, and pray together,” said Elliot, whose irresistible energy kept the participating students on the community center dance floor for over an hour.

They danced as a circular group, sang whatever Elliot told them to, and shook maracas when appropriate. At the end of each song, Elliot closed her eyes, and the group let out a sigh. A feeling of spiritual connection filled the subsequent silence.

“It’s traditional to look into the person’s eye,” said Bentley, reflecting on how to interact with her dance partners. “It’s a way of saying, ‘I see the light in you.'”

Where Sufism aims to eliminate the possibility of struggle through dance, the week’s first guest, Vanessa Julye, dedicates her life to telling others of her struggles within her religion of Quakerism. Julye shared her difficulties in her Quaker tradition on Jan. 25 in the dining hall auditorium.

Julye co-authored the book “Fit for Freedom, Not for Friendship,” in which she highlights how Quakers, by enslaving African Americans and alienating them from Quaker libraries, have not always lived up to their reputation of upholding equality.

“Pain and struggle between African Americans and European-Americans is ingrained in our soil,” said Julye to a group of 30 listeners over dinner.

Julye feels that her spirituality enables her to accept people for who they are, and Quakerism brought her to that conclusion. When meeting with Friends of Color, Julye said she feels this same sense of acceptance. Yet that sense of acceptance does not ring true for her with all Friends.

“How can we translate that into the European-American community?” asked Julye.

At Guilford, we often arrive at a similar question, no matter the issue. How do we apply what we discuss?

“We are very good at writing it down, but we are horrible at practicing it,” said senior John Muhanji, who used the group’s openness to discuss his frustration towards Quakerism’s inability to satisfy its promises.

Regardless of whether the struggle comes from outside religion or originates from it, Religious Emphasis Week made one thing clear: spirituality can create peace as well as controversy.

“Religion can offer a framework for wrestling with inner questions,” said Assistant Professor of Religious Studies Eric Mortensen. “But I do think that religion does often make it extremely difficult to achieve satisfaction.”

Bishop Robinson welcomes struggle with a certain comfort in his faith.

“Sometimes,” said Bishop Robinson at the conclusion of the discussion, “God lets the storm rage, and calms his child.

Leave a Comment
More to Discover

Comments (0)

The Guilfordian intends for this area to be used to foster healthy, thought-provoking discussion. Comments are expected to adhere to our standards and to be respectful and constructive. As such, we do not permit the use of profanity, foul language, personal attacks, or the use of language that might be interpreted as libelous. Comments are reviewed and must be approved by a moderator to ensure that they meet these standards. The Guilfordian does not allow anonymous comments, and requires a valid email address. The email address will not be displayed but will be used to confirm your comments.
All The Guilfordian Picks Reader Picks Sort: Newest

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *