Wednesday was the second day of the Lauren Astley memorial events. Astley was to be an incoming Elon freshman in the fall of 2011, but was murdered the summer before. This week’s events are meant to remember Lauren Astley, bring forth discussion about what can be learned from her death and how to prevent future relationship violence. Wednesday night a panel came together to discuss relationship health in the context of religion.
By Sophie Nielsen-Kolding
In a generation where hooking up is the norm, some would argue that the respect and depth of relationships sometimes go out the window, replaced by a shallow experience of the physical that masquerades as a relationship.
Wednesday night at 7 p.m. in the Koury Business Center, three panelists came together to discuss relationships and the part that religion can, or can’t play in relationships.
Panelists included Shereen Elgamal, a professor of Arabic language at Elon University, Janet Fuller, the university’s chaplain and Leon Williams, the head of the Multicultural Center at Elon.
Elgamal was born and raised in Cairo, Egypt and is a practicing Muslim and has been married to a Muslim for 26 years. Fuller has been through two marriages, the second to a self-described Christian who physically and emotionally abused her and her son. Williams, who is about to take on a calling to be a minister, has been married to his wife for almost 16 years.
Elgamal said that she had an arranged marriage, but it wasn’t the kind of family trade that most people think of when they hear the word “arranged.”
“An arranged marriage is somebody that I didn’t meet at school or at work or by chance,” she said. “An arranged marriage is: this person has “X” personality and my wife’s cousin has a very similar personality. Let’s introduce them to each other.”
Elgamal said that her and her husband use the Quran to guide their decision making, that there is no one “head of the household.” With her husband, it is a 50-50, two-way-street relationship, she said.
Jan Fuller’s first marriage was very different than Elgamal’s. She married someone who was considered outside her religion: a Greek Orthodox Christian. Her parents weren’t totally supportive because they weren’t sure if he was a real Christian, she said. But when her first husband died, she remarried a Christian. However, Fuller and her son became the victims of domestic abuse.
“I would then say that the man I was married to for 20 years said he was a Christian,” she said. “But did he behave like one? In his life, there was no grace, no forgiveness, no mercy, no sense of respect. So he was in a religion like mine, but I’m not sure it was like mine.”
After 20 years Fuller took herself and her son out of the abusive relationship with her second husband.
Although marriage may be immediate for some, other college students don’t see it on the horizon for years. For now, the focus is dating.
“In this generation, even mine, we’ve lost what it means to date, to get to know [each other],” Williams said.
Elgamal agreed and likened building the foundation for a relationship to a pyramid. She said that if you just start with the top, you’re eventually going to fall down. But it’s difficult to build strong foundations when sex and hookups have become synonymous with some college cultures.
A study done by sociologist Paula England of Stanford University has surveyed more than 17,000 students from 20 colleges and universities. Her data suggests that by senior year, 72 percent of both sexes reported having at least one hookup in college.
“Sex is a part of who we are but it’s not all of who we are,” Elgamal said. “There are so many things that are so fun way beyond any level of sexual pleasure. Make a lot of friends, but love selectively.”
While Elgamal believes in sex within the marriage, Fuller said that it just has to have meaning.
“I’m old enough to believe that it’s not just recreation, even though I see it happening,” Fuller said. “I also think there’s a lot of pressure, ‘what’s wrong with you if you don’t want to?’”
Fuller said that a person’s body is like a diamond; precious. You wouldn’t give a diamond to just anybody, she said. In the end, all three panelists agreed that there needed to be more discussion amongst the college generation about relationships.