Who's burning now? Readers respond to articles on "The Jesus Factor," Morrissey and Stephin Merritt.

By Salon Staff

Published May 4, 2004 8:00PM (EDT)

[Read "The Pop Star Who Hated Sex," by Mark Simpson.]

I remember listening to some of Morrissey's songs back in the late '80s and I bought a "best of" a few years ago, but -- having been born only in 1975 -- I had never heard about the controversy around his sexuality until I read the excerpt from "Saint Morrissey."

And, to be honest, I didn't care. Maybe it's because I wasn't there when this was a big issue, but to me this was largely a fluff piece in a philosopher's robe. A person's sexuality is his own business, and I don't see why I should care about a celebrity's sex life as long as it's all happening between consenting adults. The article tried to exploit Morrissey's sex life (or lack thereof) in pretty much the same way your average tabloid does -- only phrasing the facts in language appropriate for readers at a higher intellectual level, thus masking itself as a "serious" article.

As for me, I'm interested in artists' works, not in the goings-on inside their bedrooms.

-- Jens Baumeister

This article on the possibility of a pop-star celibate was very uplifting and inspiring, in a sick way, of course, but I'll take inspiration where I can get it.

As a person who first went through phases of self-pity over not dating, I was later forced to admit that it was me avoiding relationships. No one I know who really refuses to be alone ends up alone. Even if only bad relationships are available, they are, nonetheless, relationships, and are ours for the plucking. In truth, all that we do and say are nothing but invitations offered and declined.

It was inspiring to see a pop star publicly celebrating his lack of conviction that sex is a good thing. I find that, when I am doubtful of the whole affair of human romance, my associates become almost evangelistic, suspiciously eager to sell me on a product they've already taken out a 30-year loan on. If love is truly overrated, then people have to ask themselves, on a cost-per-benefit ratio, if the investment has been worth it. That question is nearly disallowed, based on the obvious fact that few people can answer it happily, and we, as good citizens, have as our primary duty to make one another comfortable in our illusions.

Hats off to Morrissey. Had I known much earlier what he's known all along, imagine the money and tears and time I could have saved. If only I had known in advance how spectacularly bland romance usually is, imagine the hundreds of thousands of dollars that would be mine for world travel, higher education and, heck, even my own monastery. I'm here to report, dozens of lovers after the fact, and countless hundreds of dates in between, it's mostly fool's gold in them California hills.

-- Mel C. Thompson

[Read "The Passion of the Bush," by Charles Taylor.]

In his article "The Passion of the Bush," Charles Taylor demonstrated an astonishing lack of understanding of what the separation of church and state is.

He wrote: "As long as the topic is the Christian right, it's easy for those of us on the left to insist on the separation between church and state. But there's at least one example that makes mush of our certainty that religion should never play a role in politics: the civil rights movement."

The separation doesn't say that "religion should never play a role in politics," but that government should not dictate the belief, practice or style of religion for the people. Religion has a great tradition in politics, including religious adherents taking significant roles in the women's suffrage cause, the abolition of slavery, the labor movement, the Prohibition effort, and the antiwar struggles throughout our history. Former President Jimmy Carter was and is a deeply religious man, as were many other presidents. Religious people should continue to be active in politics.

But these religious adherents should not try to use the government to force people to pray in a particular style at public events, as many right-wing evangelical Christians do. These religious adherents should not try to use public schools to teach religious doctrine, as many who believe in creationism over evolution do. Instead, these religious adherents should work to create a society and culture that reflects the values their religion teaches.

-- Nathan A. Rudy

Charles Taylor's claim that "you cannot take a pledge to preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States and then make a statement that our rights are derived from God" ignores American history and the founding fathers' jurisprudence.

To quote from the Declaration of Independence: "When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to ... assume ... the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God entitle them...

"We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.--That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed."

I hate to make Mr. Taylor "uneasy," but the enemy in this war on terror does not even bother to "serve two masters." There will be no separation of church and state should we lose. The jihadis will only spare the lives of the people of the book if they surrender and accept the oppressed status of dhimmi. Agnostics, atheists and the rest will just get killed on the spot. Perhaps Mr. Taylor ought to attend a few civics classes and ask President Bush to include him in his prayers.

-- Don Rory

The civil rights movement -- in contrast to the religious right -- did not seek to impose a religious straitjacket on the government and impose its religious views on society. The fact that both the civil rights movement and the Christian right are church-based does not extend to any common goals. Moreover, the two groups were in opposition in the 1960s and 1970s, and the Christian right is largely a reactionary movement. A more apt analogy for today's Christian right would be the temperance movement of the 1920s. A large white Christian movement that used the power of government to impose moral changes on society. It is very facile to compare civil rights to the reactionary Christian right. While making comparisons, why not look at the resurgence of the KKK in the 1920s as a reaction to immigration. They also used a mix of Christian fundamentalism. In the 19th century there were all sorts of Christian revivalist movements that more closely mirror the Christian right today.

-- C. Fletcher

[Read "Irresistible Force," by Thomas Bartlett.]

Who the f--- cares about Stephin Merritt and his opinions on anything? That dude is responsible for some of the most tuneless shite to have ever been inflicted upon human ears. The fact that y'all ofay music critics went so absolutely ape-shit for the Magnetic Fields and "69 Love Songs" proves to this Negroid that we should strongly consider banning white intellectuals from listening to popular music altogether, or at the very least from espousing opinions about it.

It was rather unfortunate that Thomas Bartlett chose to write a profile on this monotone-singing, pretentious pedant. His article on Björk was most booyah, indeed, and he should have retorted to Merritt's pooh-poohing of Björk thusly: "F--- you, you sorry piece of indie bullshit. Make an album half as good as 'Vespertine' or 'Post' and then get back to me."

Come on, dude! Even if I were to concede the point that Merritt's a great songwriter (when one of my indie-dude ofay pals lent me "69 Love Songs" attempting to elicit the opinion of an eclectic brotha such as myself, I was so nauseated by that godawful somnambulant singing and the utter lack of anything resembling a bass line beneath all of that tinny pinging and planging that I couldn't stand for it long enough to appreciate the actual lyrics that he was droning) and the next Cole Porter and yada yada, there is probably a reason why Cole Porter didn't actually record his own tunes. Merritt. Can't. Sing.

And I'm not one of those people who don't appreciate singers who can't "sing" in the Marvin-Sinatra-Aretha-Barbra sense of the word, but who still convey incredible emotion and feeling in their vocals: I'm the biggest black Tom Waits fan that there is, I like Bob Dylan, Elvis Costello when he's not trying to go all classical on us, Morrissey, Vic Chesnutt. But Merritt isn't a non-singer who's expanding our perceptions of what good "singing" is; he's just a smart white dude that can't sing a lick -- and who makes tinny, boring music that ofays with a master's in English literature go apeshit for. He, Belle and Sebastian, Cat Power, and several score more indie ass-suckas should all be flogged for persisting to sonically torture those of us who actually listen to music and don't just fall all over ourselves to write about the brilliant lyrics if there is no ... um ... musicality there.

-- Jeff Hughes

I can't believe you think this smug, pompous bastard has enough merit even to be considered for your front-page story. Sure, the fact that he's a pedantic, condescending curmudgeon isn't reason enough to ignore him, but the fact that the critical acclaim he's received has been nothing more than the knee-jerk, kiss-ass response of an insular music-writing industry is.

Maybe the real story is that he's bullied and strong-armed everyone into believing he's somehow relevant. What an awful, miserable individual. If I appreciated anything on "69 Love Songs" at all, it's been ruined by the fact that this condescending "critic" has reduced beauty, love and even hatred to nothing more than a vehicle for his "prose." Everything about him is calculated and contrived. That record is going in the garbage can right ... now.

-- Stehanie Coyle

Salon Staff

MORE FROM Salon Staff

Related Topics ------------------------------------------