On John Brown University’s campus, the word community is thrown around daily. Living life with your friends, brothers and sisters in Christ and your significant others is something that the university promotes, as long as it is done in a healthy and morally respectful manner.
In the JBU 2013-2014 Student Handbook, there are many rules and regulations listed that students are expected to follow. From rules on class attendance to the use of alcohol, the handbook provides students with fairly clear expectations of living.
On page 26 of the handbook, students can find a section titled “Public Displays of Affection.” The section reads as follows:
“Following the Biblical standard that calls for fidelity in marriage and chastity in singleness, public displays of affection (PDA) must be discreet and in consideration of others in the community.”
(Could we get “in consideration of others in the community” in a bold, italic, all caps, underline?)
This rule leaves a certain amount of freedom for couples to decide what they believe would be considered appropriate PDA. Some types of PDA, such as kissing goodbye with other people around, could be extremely offensive to some, while others are not bothered by it at all.
In my three years at John Brown, I have seen and heard about all kinds of PDA around campus. One of my favorites was the couple I caught playing tonsil-hockey in the elevator in Bell Science Hall.
To no JBU student’s surprise, the one place where I see PDA the most and hear the most complaints about it is in chapel. Yeah, that’s right, people. I’m talking about it.
Junior Andrea Perry, who works in the sound booth for chapel, believes she has seen just about every type of PDA possible. “I’ve seen it all,” she said. I don’t doubt her for one second.
Senior Lexi Rouhselang has also witnessed many types of PDA during chapel services in her four years at John Brown.
“My personal annoyance is the infamous stroking of the other person’s back for several minutes with the tips of your fingers,” Rouhselang said. “I also see a lot of hand on the knee or thigh, and of course interlocking of the fingers is everywhere!”
Some people might not be bothered by these forms of PDA and might not even notice it happening. However, Perry and Rouhselang both find it distracting.
“All of the moving and shifting around in order to be as close as possible to their boyfriend or girlfriend is the most distracting to me,” Rouhselang said.
Perry said, “I can tell you that you will miss out on so much of what God could teach you if you weren’t distracted so much about how sweaty your palms are in your boyfriend’s hand.”
The goal is for students to leave JBU with lifelong friends—not just significant others, Perry said.
So, where do couples need to draw the line?
“I think that if a couple really feels the need to be in physical contact with each other in church or chapel, I think putting an arm on the back of the chair is appropriate for that setting,” Rouhselang said. “The primary focus is worship and learning about God.”
Rouhselang told me that she once had a boyfriend who put his arm around her during church services. She said she found it a distraction that kept her attention from God.
Still, she also explained that she isn’t opposed to all PDA.
“I am in no way saying that significant others should not be able to show each other physical affection,” she said. “I think physical affection is an important part of a relationship, but there is a time and place for that, and in chapel isn’t that time or place.”
Here’s the moral of the story; it’s important to show your significant other that you care. That is going to be shown differently in each individual relationship. But please, for the sake of your fellow students, professors and peers, save it for open dorm. Don’t make us all feel awkward and uncomfortable anymore. Please.