Tag Archives: religion

No Conflict for Me in Embracing Both Christianity and Gay Marriage

When asked about my religion, I openly identify as a Christian.  With this admission come the stigmas and accusatory questions often associated with being one:  Why don’t you believe in same sex marriages? Who are you to decide whom we can and can’t love?  I always give the same answer.  I believe in same sex marriages, love whoever you want; I have no say in what goes on in your life.

I thought you said you were a Christian? I am.

Growing up in a fairly liberal, Christian household in San Francisco, it’s never been an issue to have seemingly conflicting values. I attended Christian private schools from preschool through 8th grade, learning and memorizing Bible verses and parables until I was able to recite on demand.  Though thoroughly educated in the principles of Christianity, I was raised under the belief that I had the right to make my own decisions, uninhibited by the confines of the religion I was educated in.  As a result, I only grasped onto what I felt were the most important components of Christianity.  I believe in God. I believe Jesus died for our sins. I believe God is not a hateful God, and I believe that we are all equal under Him.

It was not until after my first few years of college that I came into contact with someone who could not fathom nor accept a Christian who believed in same sex marriages.  In response, I divulged that I could not fathom a person condemning another for simply loving the person of their choice.  It is true that the Bible states that God meant for a man to wed a woman, and I respect that and I will not personally go against this, but I do not criticize others for choosing otherwise.  I see nothing immoral with someone loving another, and do not understand why more radical, conservative Christians feel the need to target this “sin” in particular. The belief that violating God’s wish that man love a woman is more immoral than that of stealing, lying, or adultery, especially when homosexuality is completely without malicious intent, is incomprehensible to me. I will not deny a person their right to love freely.  I’ve seen, and still see, some of my closest friends struggle with homosexuality and the repercussions of coming out, and hold the deepest respect for them and those alike who have endured regardless.  So, if some question my Christianity simply because I choose not to hate another for loving unreservedly, then so be it.  I am a Christian regardless of what others will think me to be, and I do not fault them for being as narrow minded as they believe I should be.


Students Sacrifice Chocolate, Cigarettes for Lent

Easter Sunday marked the end of Lent, when many Catholics choose to abstain from a guilty pleasure for 40 days to pay homage to the sacrifice they believe Jesus made for them.  At USF, many choose to follow this tradition for spiritual reasons or simply as a personal test of character.

Senior Patrick Phillips said he tried to give up chocolate and cigarettes, but cheated on the cigarettes a few times. Freshman Barbara Evangelista also gave up chocolate, cutting down from a bar-a-day habit. After 40 chocolate-free days, she had a few mini chocolate Easter candies on Easter and said, “It wasn’t that wonderful,” and that she now has no more cravings.

Some students, such as freshman Deirdre Long, tried more inventive resolutions. Long gave up the dessert crepes from the Market Café, as well as many of the unhealthy fried foods from the grill section. She said in the 40 days of a Lent, she rarely felt cravings for these foods and her skin cleared up from eating more healthfully. Now that Lent is over, she does not feel the need to indulge so much. “I feel like once I’ve given it up for 40 days, I know I don’t need it anymore,” Long said.

Freshman Annie Tull decided to give up the sweetener high fructose corn syrup. “I was obsessed with this cranberry apple raspberry juice sold at the cafe but I realized it had high fructose corn syrup in it. I was going to give up just the juice, but then I decided to give up HFCS altogether.” Tull said it wasn’t very difficult to abstain because she generally eats many organic and natural foods, but she checked on items such as cereal if she didn’t know, and did accidentally slip up a couple of times. After the 40 day cleanse, she tried her favorite juice again, and said that after drinking a third of the bottle, she had to stop because it gave her a headache.
Catherine Mifsud, director of University Ministry retreats, tried a different approach to Lent this year. “A lot of people use Lent as a 40 day diet or a second shot at a new year’s resolution and I think a lot of significance gets lost.” Instead of giving up one vice for 40 days, she practiced the Fast Pray Give philosophy posted on a website for young adults called BustedHalo.com. On each date of the 40-day period, there is a suggestion for what to fast from, what to pray for, and who to give to; for example, one day it advised people to fast from television and pick up a book instead, pray for those who do not have access to education, and give used books to local libraries, hospitals and after-school programs.

While in years past Mifsud made traditional Lenten Resolutions such as abstaining from candy or soda, she felt a more significant experience this year by giving back as well. After all, she said, “How is it going to help the world if I give up chocolate?”

Kairos: Gods Time? Real Time? Or Just Real Lame?

On a Saturday morning I like to luxuriate in Bed. I like to wake up when I feel like it, get dressed and just leave. No alarm clocks, no cell phone, no extra company. Just me, on a spontaneous adventure where I can be totally anonymous.

I’ve heard a lot of crazy things about Kairos. Maybe it really is just three days of partying in the woods with father Privett, Jack Daniels and reefer.

I didn’t know then if this was true and now that I do, I still can neither confirm nor deny any allegations made about the retreat. University Ministry will only allow me to tell that Kairos is held once a semester and costs $60.

Kairos literally means the right and opportune moment. It is the time in between two periods of real time, in which something truly special happens.

Kairos refers to God’s time. Kairos is an intense three day weekend of reflection and decision-making. It is a Jesuit retreat used in both colleges and high schools to develop community and self-awareness.

Kairos, not unlike Catholicism itself, bears a shroud of secrecy. It’s like Cabo, in that what happens on Kairos stays on Kairos. And that’s the way it should be.

If you want to know what happens there you need to go for yourself. If you want to know what happens at a Delta Zeta meeting you have to join the sorority.

This retreat is not about praying devotionals, about finding God on bended knee while muttering off incantations. It’s just about answering questions you may never have thought about.

Forty people pile onto a charter bus that is headed for Applegate, a quite reclusive Jesuit retreat center high up in the foothills of Sacramento above Auburn.

As we travel along a windy road and down a steep hill, the drive turns and at the end of the bend in the road we stop in front of a two story wooden cabin and exit the bus so that we can enter our voyage into the unknown.

In a small valley between rolling hills, amongst the trees in an enchanting forest, lies the place were will find ourselves.

Little did I know that my life would change forever. Because of the individualistic nature of the retreat, all who go have their own stories to tell.

At Kairos I was able to save the suffocating person buried inside myself. It helped me realize that maybe my mother had died, but I was the one who wasn’t really alive. I discovered that when the casket closed, I was the one trapped, entombed inside my mother’s grave, not her.

I wanted not to be sad, not angry or lonely. What I really accomplished was feeling nothing. My soul had shot itself with Novocaine. My life was like when you can’t feel your lips, but you can feel them talking. I lived my life just going through the routines of being alive, but never seizing the day.

My mother used to say, “ignorance is no qualification for serving as a guide in the unknown.” I think that what she was really trying to tell me was that I had to know myself before I could make decisions that would help me be happy in my life.

I think she brought me to Kairos because this retreat is about finding knowledge that helps you in your life.

Most of the things we learn in college we are going to forget. But self-knowledge is something that will help you live your life to the fullest. It, unlike Aristotle, will always be useful.

Anna Swanson is a junior communication studies major.

USF Should Maintain Religious Roots

The shocking recent events brought to light regarding sexual violence and misconduct at USF—particularly the crimes alleged to have been committed by senior Ryan Caskey—have thrown the campus into an uproar and produced a bevy of responses, most notably (for my purposes here) the articles published in The Foghorn. The paper has done an excellent job covering the story fairly, responsibly; of particular note is the extensive article by writer Samantha Blackburn.

But an opinion article following almost directly on the heels of the crisis, to my mind, missed the mark; its range being far too broad. Indeed, I am not sure if the author, Ms. Kate Elston, knew her target, and I was left confused as to her purpose for writing it.

I may have misunderstood, but what I think is her purpose is wrong, and I feel obliged to speak.

In her article, Ms. Elston seemingly cannot make up her mind which issue to address: the alleged rape of the paucity of the pill and other birth control resources, not provided directly by the university: so that, in the end, I am left to either conclude she meant to say that condoms and such prevent rape and sexual harassment, or meant simply to take a tragedy as the springboard for another agenda. The first is foolishness, the second duplicity.

Obviously, rape and contraception have nothing to do with one another, aside from the tangential fact that both pertain to sex.

But, seemingly, Ms. Elston feels that, should this Catholic university provide, contrary to its conscience, birth control, etc., to its students, its students will be safe from sexual assault.

And, despite the fact that most of the services and information demanded by Ms. Elston are easily obtained off campus, not far away, she feels that a quick Google search for “the nearest Planned Parenthood” or a trip to the Walgreens on Divisadero are too much.

Or perhaps the argument is this: “We students are not capable of being responsible for ourselves or our actions. You be responsible for us.” Which, if true, is absurdly childish, unfair, and—to be frank—stupid.

Now, if I seem too harsh, let me say it is obvious that Ms. Elston has nothing but good intentions, and that she is spot on in complaining about the lack of information regarding how to protect oneself from sexual harassment and assault. Where she strays, both in pertinence and in logic, is the business about the lack of “condoms in dorm bathrooms,” etc., leading (apparently) to rape. Or I misconstrue her meaning, which is easy to do, with so loose sheaf of arguments throughout.

Or, as I said earlier, she is not concerned with addressing rape or sexual harassment on campus at all, but is rather concerned with de-Catholicizing the college – despite the fact that she says she “know[s] we’re a Jesuit campus.” (I cannot help but hear in this a hidden sigh of regret, as if she wishes we were not so.)

Whether or not Ms. Elston wants to further dilute the Catholic identity of the school in this – whether or not, even, her arguments have merit – her method of presenting them as a response to the recent scandal is misleading; or her mind has been misled into thinking that, somehow, this was a response to the scandal.
In truth, it is not. It is an opportunistic attempt to hijack a tragedy, one of many I have heard bandied about the campus in the last few weeks. Admittedly, I differ in what I will call “ideology” from Ms. Elston. But my complaint here is not about ideology; it is about method, tact, and, above all, logic. There was very little logic behind Ms. Elston’s article; behind the notion that her proposed measures will prevent further sexual violence and harassment on campus. And there is a sort of juvenile “deal with it” attitude behind her terse shot, “We are humans. We are sexual beings. We are having sex.”

Unfortunately, “deal with it” here seems to mean, “Deal with it, so we don’t have to deal with it ourselves.”

Christopher Hall is a junior English major.

MSA Seeks to Enlighten Others About Islam

USF junior and finance major Laise Popal sat at the head of the table on Thursday night, joined by 10 other members of USF’s new Muslim Student Association (MSA). Popal, the new president of the MSA, led an icebreaker discussion at the first meeting of the year during which members told the group something about themselves that only close friends would know. He listened attentively and cracked jokes between comments, and his laid-back style permeated through the room, which gave the meeting a calm and trusting tone as they covered topics ranging from ideas for club events to Palestinians being killed in Gaza. Popal’s tranquil demeanor provided no insight to his childhood path that was drastically altered at six months old, when the Afghan native and his family fled their country as the Russian army invaded it.  Popal’s grandfather was an Afghan architect and thus a target of the Russians, who came to the family’s house only to find that the entire family had already fled to New York.  They ended up in California a year later. Now Laise Popal has brought his Islamic roots to USF in hopes of creating a movement to spread awareness and clear misconceptions about the culture he was raised in and the faith he lives by.

“I want to bring all Muslims and non-Muslims together,” said Popal, who is fluent in Farsi. “It doesn’t matter if you’re Muslim or not, it’s [MSA] all about just learning about the faith.” Popal’s objective is being fulfilled in the small sample of MSA members at the meeting, with three being non-Muslims.

MSA member Shelley Saini, an American-born non-Muslim whose family is from India, is an example of the MSA’s effort to incorporate people of all faiths. “Indians and Muslims are not supposed to get along,” she said. Saini said that in recent years the MSA has had a bad image of being very religious, self-oriented, and not open-minded. Now Saini says the group is committed to changing that reputation.

USF sophomore, East African native, MSA member, and non-Muslim Seghel Yohannes said being an MSA member has been one of the best educational experiences of her life. “I originally joined to support my friends but then I realized I was part of something bigger,” said Yohannes, who does not practice religion but was raised Roman Catholic. “I want to dispel myths about the Muslim faith,” she said. Yohannes said she didn’t know anything about Islam until she became friends with USF senior Amro Shukri. Shukri’s young life is a microcosm of recent Middle Eastern politics.

Shukri was born in Saudi Arabia and later earned a scholarship and studied in Lebanon in 2006, until the Israeli Army invaded Lebanon. With Lebanese airports destroyed, Shukri had to escape through Syria to get back to Saudi Arabia. When Shukri eventually returned to Lebanon he found himself trapped in a civil war.

“There were bombings every few weeks and schools would get shut down,” he said. Shukri had to convince his family that coming to the United States was the best option for him, a tough task considering the American government’s poor image in the Middle East because of its support for Israel. “I had to convince them that San Francisco was very open-minded,” he said. “Every Saudi is born Muslim.  I was born where everything in society is based on Islam.  There are no different opinions.  Here we have different opinions.”

Now at USF and with his family still in Saudi Arabia, Shukri is a USF senior and marketing major who wants to get his Ph.D. in architecture.  He feels an obligation to spread truth about his faith. “I want to give a clear picture of what Islam is,” he said. “People still don’t have the full picture.” The opinion of the MSA is that the American media helps portray Islam as a violent faith. “They put the ‘error’ in ‘terrorism,’” said Popal when asked about the role U.S. media plays in linking Islam to extremism.

The MSA is in the process of planning its first event, Mela, on Feb. 27, in McLaren Hall where they will try to shed light on a “carnival of injustices” taking place around the world.

One of these injustices spoken of is the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. “There’s been a holocaust going on for 60 years,” said Shukri. “I know it’s going to continue until there is a breakthrough and people wake up.”
“I don’t know what’s going on at this school,” said Popal, on the lack of student activism on USF’s campus.  “We need people to get into extra curricular activities and find something they care about.”

Being at a Jesuit school has not presented a problem for Popal and Muslim members of the MSA, who continue to practice their faith and are trying to set up weekly carpools to mosques in the area for all USF Muslims, regardless of whether or not they are in the MSA.  They also expressed interest in putting on an event for interfaith dialogue.  “I don’t feel any conflict with the school.  I actually thought it would be more conservative,” said Shukri.   The Muslim Student Association will continue to meet Thursdays at 6 p.m. in UC 417. All students are invited to attend.

Religion is What You Make It

I have an unorthodox view of religion.
When I die, I’m not going to heaven and I’m not going to hell.  Who knows what’s beyond my last breath, but whatever it is it probably has no mention in the Torah, Qur’an, Old Testament, New Testament, or future testaments.  You face a dilemma each day; in each decision you make.  

Do you believe in heaven and hell strongly enough to live your life by what society and religion tells you is the right way to live with the hope that when you die the gates of heaven will be open to you, or do you live your life the way you want to live it, only by your standards of right and wrong, and run the risk of permanent purgatory?  

I am not an atheist. I woud like to believe what my family believes so strongly.  I’d be lying if I said I have no doubts. Good people go to heaven and bad people go to hell sounds more like a scare tactic than a religion to me.  

I believe in my own definition of God, heaven, and hell, not the one that my catholic family would like me to believe.  

I’ve heard, “missed you at church today, Nick” and “you’re definitely an atheist” more times than the number of questions I have about religion that drives me away.  

Who decides what’s good and what’s bad?  Who decides which religion will lead to heaven?  Does God decide?  Who is God?  Should I have an atheistic, polytheistic, pantheistic, or monotheistic view of God?  Is there a separate heaven and hell for each religion?  Do heaven and hell even exist?  

There is more ambiguity in the answers to these questions than in religion itself, and history proves I’m not the first person to question a faith.

The Muslim Conquests, the French Wars of Religion, and the Crusades of Christian Europeans against Muslims all had ties to these questions.  Each side was so deeply rooted in their faith that they could not accept another view of religion.  
To me, Religion is in the mind, body, and heart, not a building or a book.  True, having faith in a divine power makes some feel better about their self.  The idea that God is above us and will help us through tribulations gives some people tranquility and hope.  I respect that.  I even agree to some extent.   

You may have heard the saying about a man caught in the top story of a burning house and whose neighbors send him a ladder, a firefighter, water, and other forms of rescue, to which he responds to each one, “No, god will save me.”  The man dies in the fire, goes to heaven, and asks God why he didn’t save him, to which God responds, “I tried.  I sent you the ladder, the firefighter, the water…” etc.  

Too many people I know use religion as a crutch and think that just having faith will solve all their problems.  They pray every Sunday so they do as they please the rest of the time. 

I don’t believe that a person can do wrong by themselves and by their neighbor from Monday-Saturday as long as they enter a holy building on Sunday morning.  Having a strong faith is one thing; living by it is another.  I consider myself to be more religious than someone who fits the above profile because I have a deep faith in my view of religion and I live by it.  

When I came to USF I was willing to give a traditional religion a chance.  I found that I was too strong in my conviction that religion is different to each person to join a religion of the masses.  I believe God is your good conscience more than a supernatural power. I feel like I’ve already been to heaven and hell.  I’ve woken up hating myself, in a place I hate, surrounded by people who couldn’t care less about me.  I felt like my life was spiraling nowhere.  That was my hell.  
I didn’t ask a supernatural God to save me.  I saved myself.  I started listening to my good conscience and people who care about me.  When I ask myself today, I’m happy with the people in my life, my direction, and the lifestyle I live by.  This is my heaven.  

If any of this echoes your religious stance, you may have gotten the same criticism I have about my faith.  Religion is not something that can be forced upon you.  You have to believe wholeheartedly, whatever it may be.  

Nicholas Mukhar is a senior media studies major and a journalism and legal studies minor.