The religious climate at Carleton is difficult to assess. On one hand, people could generalize forever about how most students here aren't particularly religious, but then again, what does that really mean, “not all that religious”? When I think about my own friends here, most if not all of them are in some way attached to religion, and if not they’ve at least mulled over its personal significance. That’s not to say that Carleton students frequently dive into religious conversations, but the notion that Carleton exists outside of all religious beliefs seems like an inaccurate and sweeping statement.
With this on my mind, I sat down last week with Joe Gammello '08 and Angie Kim ‘08, two editors behind the only campus publication solely devoted to religious issues, Unashamed.
Kim and Gammello helped found the magazine in October 2007 and agree that the magazine has been rather smooth sailing since its inception. Support from CSA and from student body, in Gammello's view, has been largely positive, since “it is a new thing, and not only is it a forum for people to talk about faith and there isn’t really anything like it, but it’s a very personal forum. Most written publications here are theoretical, it’s personal, and I think a lot of people like that.”
Now, one of the criticisms I’ve heard leveled in passing at Unashamed is its heavily Christian perspective, reflected not through the editorial tone of each issue, but through the submissions that grace its page. This of course prompts the question of whether the magazine is truly serving its goal to create an interfaith dialogue if the plurality or articles are from Christians. But the editors, I found, were acutely aware of this fact, and noted that they were “trying to get various voices involved” from outside of the Christian community by sending off emails to on-campus religious groups and even seeking submissions from professors not of the Christian faith. Gammello also pointed out that if you look at the religious affiliation of most students on campus, the “Christian community is often bigger than other religious group communities, and arguably more active.”
And, of course, we touched on that hot-button title, Unashamed, with its arguably defensive overtone. But Joe seemed to be very cool with having such a message-laden title rather than something perhaps more descriptive of the magazine's content. He explained to me that “when we were thinking about what we wanted to do, have an interfaith publication… it was a scary thought. Carleton, I don’t know if hostile is the right word, [but] it’s not the most religious place, there’s a lot of discomfort I guess, so we wanted to be unashamed about our beliefs, and we wanted to encourage others to be tolerant and be unashamed.”
Kim added that the direct inspiration for the title came from a worship song called "Unashamed Love", from which one of the editors heard and then pitched a shortened version as the title of the publication.
When I asked the two whether Unashamed was the truest representation of religious dialogue on campus, Angie brought up something that I had never heard of before: the Council of Religious Understanding, an invitation-only email list run by the Chaplain which attempts to facilitate religious dialogue on campus between those most active in the various religious groups. But the two stressed that Unashamed was not just about dropping copies of their magazine in Sayles every few months and leaving their readers to start the conversation from there. In the future, the magazine hopes to work with the Chaplain’s associates to hold a corresponding round table discussion relating to each issue.
Overall, I came away from the interview with Joe and Angie feeling that Unashamed really does have the potential to spark religious dialogue on campus, especially if it begins to host those round table discussions.