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Valentine's Day Panel discusses religion and love

The fourth annual Valentine's Day Panel on Thursday consisted entirely of religion and philosophy department faculty and discussed themes such as religion and love in Anspach Hall Room 162.

Associate Professor Talat Halman opened the panel by reading Sufi poetry.  The erotic metaphors describing a relationship with God in the poems serve to make god more tangible, he said.

Assistant Professor Pamela Jones described a wedding tradition originating in West Africa of "jumping the broom."  When slaves from Africa were brought to America, the tradition came with them.  

The tradition of a couple jumping over a broom symbolizes "sweeping away past wrongs," Jones said. Slaves continued to use this tradition because slaves weren't allowed to legally marry. 

"One thing we should think about is that human beings are prevented from expressing themselves in marriage in a legalized form, and the need to have rituals to seal their marriage ceremonies because there's no legal document available to them," she said.

Professor Guy Newland said one of the most common ways of training your mind to develop, intensify and extend love and care is to regard each and every human being around you as your mother.

"When you regard people who wish you harm as your crazed mother, then you try to figure out how to act so as to take care of yourself and your mother," Newland said. 

When asked about the Bible's stance on same-sex relationships, Assistant Professor Kelly Murphy described having seen a man with a tattoo of a verse from Leviticus against same-sex relationships.  A section not far from that verse says not to put tattoo marks on your skin. 

"We often pick and choose from Leviticus," she said.

Most of the categories of sexuality were not thought of when the Bible was written, Murphy said. 

"There's nothing in the Bible that says if two men love each other very much, buy a house, a cat, and adopt a baby, that they are not allowed to do that," she said.

Newland said Valentine's Day is about finding someone special, which means others are less special. He added that this causes a sense of competition for love, that the Buddhist mindset would not agree with.

"I thought it was interesting that there were a variety of types of love, not just romantic love," said Ryley Olson, an audience member and Grand Rapids freshman.