Saturday, August 18, 2012

The Thing That Really Bothers Me About Religion

Actually, there are several things. This beautiful morning in Bangkok, however, one thing in particular is working me, and like so much that has been bugging me lately, it involves Chick-fil-A's No. 1 fan.

In her August 16 exit tweet explaining her reason for closing her Twitter account, the actress formerly best known as Days of Our Lives costar Melissa Reeves, said a lot (by Twitter standards), yet she didn't really say anything at all. But as usual when it comes to the written (or tweeted) word, the juiciest stuff was between the lines: What isn't said is often as telling as what is said?

Reeves tried to rationalize her reason for leaving the Twitter party -- death threats and nasty comments against her and her family, the inability to express opinions in any meaningful way on the Internet -- but the one thing she didn't do, the one thing she never did in the weeks since this controversy began, is actually explain the meaning and motivation behind her original tweet.

What exactly was she trying to say? Why tweet a message in support of an organization on a day specially created to acknowledge said organization's right to push an anti-gay agenda? How does she feel about gay civil rights, gay marriage, gay people? Doesn't she owe some kind of explanation, some acknowledgement of her many (now-former) gay fans, the ones who have supported her and followed her (not just on Twitter) since she was a teen actress on Days in the mid-'80s?

Since she's the one who broached the subject with her Chick-fil-A-supporting tweet, opened the proverbial can of worms, this is what we want to know, and she does not have to explain herself on Twitter in 140 characters or less. Look at me now: I'm expressing yet another of my many opinions in far more than 140 characters. Twitter is not the only forum of online communication.

I suppose that in the bubble Melissa Reeves calls home, freedom of speech applies only to the one-way exchange of cryptic ideas. Apparently, the way Reeves and many of her supporters interpret the First Amendment, it does not extend to those who choose to disagree with those ideas or question them. I'm not talking about the idiots who issued death threats, but the people who respectfully challenged Reeves' initial post (like The Young and the Restless star Greg Rikaart, who personally responded to Reeves on Twitter and also wrote an excellent counter-argument for The Huffington Post) and were blocked by her for their efforts. And if she's so gung ho about First Amendment rights, why not exercise them to stand her ground rather than crawling under a rock?

As a journalist, I've spent my career dodging insults hurled at me by people who disagree with what I'm saying. Back when I reviewed albums for People magazine, I used to receive threatening letters from readers who couldn't believe I would dare criticize their favorite artists. This was back in the day before readers could communicate with writers in online comment sections. I couldn't fight back, but I didn't crawl under the covers and hide from criticism either. I continued writing. I continue writing.

Melissa Reeves, though, will not. And I suspect it is because she has no excuse, no defense for what she wrote. Rather than simply saying, "I'm sorry. I didn't understand the full implications of my actions," she's chosen to bury her head in the sand, and she's going to keep it there. But not until she got in one final word, with which she closed her exit tweet.

"And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength. Mark 12:30"

What does that even mean, and how is it relevant to the Twitter shitstorm? Look, I'm not big on religion, but I support people's right to believe in whatever god they want to believe in (freedom of religion) as much as I support freedom of speech. That said, I'm always suspicious of people who end monologues, tirades or outgoing answering-machine messages with religious sloganeering or by quoting a scripture from the Holy Bible. To me, it comes across as patronizing and self-righteous, especially in the case of a woman whose "God-honoring" words ramble on about love while failing to actually exhibit any.

What about loving others with all your heart, soul, mind and strength? Do the powers that be at the organization that Reeves holds in such high esteem (that would be Chick-fil-A)? Perhaps if the folks who use God as an excuse to damn gay people harbored even a fraction of the love they're always preaching about, their arguments would be more effective. But all I hear is fear and judgement and hate. According to one Twitterer, Reeves conveniently left out the crucial following Biblical verse, Mark 12:31 -- "Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself. There is none other commandment greater than these." As I said at the beginning of this post, what isn't said is often as telling as what is said.

Coming from such sources, this particular brand of religion becomes harder for me to buy, and the God they speak of as real as any of the 12 who reside on Mount Olympus in Greek mythology. I never believed Zues, Hera or any of their immortal kin existed, but I've always gotten a lot more enjoyment out of reading about their antics than I ever did out of listening to any church sermon. That's probably because no one has ever tried to use them as a tool to arouse my fear and denigrate my life, as a weapon of mass destruction to prove me -- me, not just my beliefs, me -- wrong.

Where exactly is the love in that?

No comments: