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Friday, October 8, 2010

Disappointed in Glee

I'm feeling conflicted about this past week's Glee episode.

Glee is a new television show just starting its second season. The writing is not the greatest, but it's not bad. The characters are over the top and ridiculous, but it's fun in a cartoon way and the music is wonderful. I enjoy it a lot.

The show is about a high school glee club (a group that sings and performs) and a cast of characters from around the school. In this episode, one of the boys gets religious when he sees a face that looks like Jesus on his grilled cheese sandwich.

All the characters are allowed to express their beliefs, but when one child says that he doesn't believe in God it is met with horror. He has every right to his beliefs and his friends ought to respect that. Instead they pray for him behind his back and in the end he apologizes for being upset when they were only trying to help. "You're right," he says, "I shouldn't be pushing my friends away." But what about them pushing him away? His friends are being much, much pushier. "Why are you closing yourself off to a whole world of experiences that might surprise you?" one friend asks. Well, by that same token, would she be willing to experience atheism? She is closing herself off to that possibility in exactly the same way.

I think if you are a friend then you give someone help in the way that they ask for it.

The lack of diversity on Glee upsets me. There is one Jewish kid (and one sort-of Jewish one) and she doesn't seem at all bothered that her boyfriend is the one who found Jesus in a sandwich. Everyone else is Christian. Including the Indian principle of the school. I know it takes place in middle America, but they had an opportunity in this episode to bring in different ways of understanding God and they failed. There is a Sikh acupuncturist, but she gives no mention of what Sikhism is.

The two atheist characters were the evil cheerleading coach (who is an atheist because God did not cure her sister's Downs Syndrome) and the boy who is gay and feels rejected by the church. The message they give is that it isn't okay to believe whatever you believe. It's the default to be religious and if you're an atheist you have to have a reason, some terrible trauma to make you hate God and then you'll eventually get over it. That is not at all true in real life.

I wish Glee had been more sensitive. I guess they gave it a good try. It's a very hard subject. I miss Joan of Arcadia. Now that TV show did a fantastic job exploring ideas about faith and God.

Sneak praying is the worst. There are people in my life who pray for me to find God. Even though I already have. Even though I'm very happy with my God, they pray for me to find their God. Mine is not good enough. That irritates me.

I believe very strongly that every individual person has the right to define how they understand divinity and the way the world works. I have chosen Hinduism and no one can take that away from me. If someone chooses atheism, it is his right to do so.

To me, atheism is not a disrespect to God because God isn't a separate being somewhere out in the universe, keeping tabs on who is being nice to Him. To me, atheists just have a unique way of expressing a belief that they in themselves are enough. And they are, because actually they are God. (And they may very well find that as obnoxious as I find people praying for me to become a Christian, but that's my perspective).

Regardless of whether I understand someone's take on spirituality, their right to believe it must be defended. As I've said before, as soon as any one of us is able to take someone else's religion (including atheism) away, then someone can take ours from us. It is never okay.


  1. Great post and you write so well. As far as I am concerned I sometimes believe that there is someone up there guiding us and sometimes i dont. But I know to me humans will always be mre important then GOD.

  2. Sorry I meant to say that human beings will always be more important to me then god.

  3. I grew up in a place very much like that, where people were praying for my soul even though I was an Episcopalian, and basically I've come to feel that if it makes them feel like they're doing the right thing, let them go for it, but I'm not going to back off when challenged or presented with stereotypical opinions about what I believe.

    There's a guy at the moment who looks at me woefully every time I say I'm not going to church, so I asked my mom about it (she is the fount of eternal wisdom) and she said, "well, prayers are prayers. It's nice to know somebody's thinking about you."

    I think it's just another of life's challenges and opportunities for growth. I'm not saying that backing off in the face of this sort of thing is appropriate, but it's a good opportunity for explanation and conversation.

    (Still bums me out a little, but I remain optimistic about people's ability to learn and grow.)

  4. I know this is one area where I need to learn to be more relaxed and open. I always think the best of people, but I feel so uncomfortable with them praying about me behind my back. I'm not sure why. I need to learn to look at it as a thoughtful gesture and that they are meaning to help.

    I wouldn't want to make people stop helping others because they're afraid of making someone upset.

  5. This was a wonderfully written post, and I also happen to totally agree with you.

    I think that everyone's choice of beliefs is to be respected and no one should ever have to defend their beliefs.

    By the way, my daughter, who is now 22 this month and I used to watch and enjoy Joan of Arcadia every week. It was our favourite TV program at the time, and my daughter has all of the episodes on DVD. We still miss it and talk about it too.

  6. We have a similar kind of issue here in the UK. There are two major soaps - coronation street - and Eastenders.

    In coronation street - the only asians on the show own a corner shop and are very very very assimilated into white culture.
    In Eastenders its the same - and on the rest of tv. Asians are reduced to nothing more than a family trying to force old values on their kids - who just want to have fun and ''be white'

    In the uk there is as big a diversity as youll find in the US. A town not far from where i live has white converts sikhism, islam, hinduism etc .. its not unusual so much any more to see a white women in a turban or sari or headscarf - and yet its never represented on tv ..

    And then there is that generation of middle white 40 -60 something christians - who still have the british empire attitude of '' civilise the pagan backwards heathans''.

    I went into a charity shop once and was asked to buy a raffel ticket- i politely declined and said my faith didnt allow gambling (im very strict on this ) but offered to leave a small donation in the box instead. the reply ?? youre a what ?? oh - im so sorry - ill pray for your soul and that you will find jesus and be saved from hell '' - i was fuming !!and this attitude can be found all over the uk - and in the attitudes of people who make tv...

    Its annoying but not the end of the world - and i use it as an excuse to not watch tv too much ! :)

  7. Franny, you know, everyone I know loved Joan of Arcadia. I can't understand why it got canceled!

    I guess it's going to take a long time for TV to start reflecting reality, which is a shame because TV is something that sets a lot of our understanding of the world and our connections to other people. Maybe it shouldn't be that way, but it is.


    This article explains the cancellation of "Joan of Arcadia." The network's reasons seem rather shallow to me.

  9. So strange. I know I don't know a huge sample size, but literally every person I've ever mentioned the show to has told me how much they love it. Young, old, male, female, everyone!

  10. The only Sikhs I know who wear turban tops are the men. I've only seen the women wear what most Americans would identify as traditional Indian saris with their scarf loosely covering their head.
    Hindi (Indian), Buddhists (China), Orisha/Ifa (W. Africa), Native American (good ol USA)... there were lots of directions they could go...

  11. I know a Sikh girl who wears a type of turban. It looks different from the men's version. I've never seen her without one.

  12. I agree with your post. As a spiritual person, I completely respect other peoples' right to be atheist. "whatever floats your boat". And, as a turban wearing female sikh; although I was happy to see a female turbaned sikh on tv for once (tends to be a guy 99% of the time)- I was let down by the fact she was just there to state she was not muslim. Those kids probably had no clue what a sikh even was! It was a little demeaning but I can appreciate that things are finally starting to look up in the media (in regards to religious minorities).