‘Glee’ starts an important religious debate

Meghan Marquardt

So, it’s Saturday night, and I am about to indulge in one of my guiltiest online pleasures: the latest episode of “Glee.” Now, before you throw down the paper in disgust, let me say this: I am not a “gleek.” I like music. I like silly TV shows. That is all.

Anyway, I went to watch “Glee,” and the episode I was on (titled “Grilled Cheesus”) really threw me for a loop. The theme of the episode was religion. I wasn’t really sure what to think. I certainly wasn’t offended, but it was definitely different. When I scrolled down, I realized I wasn’t alone in my disbelief: there were hundreds of comments by people who were horrified and people who loved it alike.

As I read through these comments, I completely forgot about the group of singing teenagers trying to make their way through high school drama. Instead, I was fascinated by the discussions at the bottom of the page: people were really speaking their minds — sometimes in an offensive way.

But other people started thoughtful, insightful discussions about what it means to be a Christian, about what it means to be an atheist, about what it means to live in a world with multiple religions — the amount of insight I found was incredible. This silly network TV show had sparked very real conversation. Whether or not the show was out of line is irrelevant. The exchange of ideas and the conversation is what is important.

I think that sometimes we avoid this kind of conversation in our day-to-day lives because it seems dangerous; politics and religion are, after all, the ultimate conversation killers. But does it really have to be this way?

Randy Cohen, a blogger for the New York Times, suggests that we should not only discuss religion and its policies, but discuss it “courteously and vigorously. This is a mark of respect, an indication that we take such ideas seriously.” I think that sometimes it’s easy to forget the value of such conversation because of the passions it evokes, but it is important to discuss the touchy stuff — things like politics, religion, sexuality and freedom — because these things truly matter.

Now, I’m not saying it’s a good idea to go shouting our opinions at anyone who stands still long enough to hear us. I don’t ever think it’s acceptable to try to force opinions on anyone. I do, however, think it’s beneficial to open up when the time is right: to join in that in-class debate, talk with friends about the things you believe, write an opinion article, a letter to the editor, or blog. We should express ourselves assertively, but respectfully. Most importantly, though, listen. Leave room for disagreement. There are so many great ideas out there, and by closing ourselves off to them just because they’re not what we’re used to, we miss out on the opportunity to learn. I don’t think that politics and religion should be out of bounds by any means. I just think that they should be approached in a way where all parties feel respected and represented.

This silly little episode of “Glee” made me realize how important communication really is. By exchanging ideas we learn, we grow, we progress, and we are more able to build a community that is open and enjoyable for everyone. That’s why I think it is so important for everyone to have their say. We need to know what matters to the people around us in order to live peacefully with them.

So, I went into Saturday night expecting 43 minutes and 39 seconds jam-packed with high school drama set to upbeat show-choir renditions of popular songs, and I left reminded of the importance of expression, even when that expression is somewhat taboo. The comments I read prove this; I gained some real insight because of “Glee,” and I willingly admit that.

That being said — I am still not a gleek. Really, I’m not.