Riley Manning

RILEY MANNING

Mississippi grabbed national headlines this week when a video emerged showing the owner of a Booneville event hall denying service to an interracial couple seeking to hold their wedding at the venue.

The video was filmed by the groom’s sister. In the video, the owner says the event hall does not host gay or interracial weddings because of their Christian beliefs. The half-minute of footage garnered more than 2 million views in just a few days.

Soon after, the owner issued an apology over Facebook. It doesn’t sound like a fake apology to me – she acknowledges that the Bible never says anything against mixed-race marriages, and it was a tenet she was simply raised with. She admitted she had never searched Scripture to back up her belief, and she implores readers to pick up the Bible and read it for themselves.

I wish her apology would go as viral as her racist statements. In the fake news era, such reflection and correction feels rare. The couple seeking to marry there has forgiven her.

It makes you think – makes me think, anyway – about my assumptions. It reminds me to listen, or in this case read, twice as much as I speak. My favorite part of the owner’s apology reads, “If I have learned anything from this, it would be to know what you’re talking about before you open your mouth!”

The effect of social media on news and scholarship might be unrivaled since the printing press. You might remember from history class that the printing press was invented by Johannes Gutenburg around 1439.

Before the printing press, Bibles and religious texts were copied by hand, so there weren’t enough to go around to commoners. Plus, most people couldn’t read anyway. So, not only did the Catholic Church have all the information, worshippers relied on clergy to interpret that information for them. The church was a gatekeeper, not an enabler, of a relationship with Scripture.

At first, the church thought, “This is great.” The press made it way easier to distribute liturgies and whatnot. But then people started becoming literate. They started interpreting the Bible for themselves, a very dangerous proposition for the church.

In 1517, Martin Luther penned his 95 Theses, which purported two radical (at the time) ideas. Firstly, that the Bible, not the church, was the greatest religious authority. Secondly, Luther rebuked the church’s practice of selling pardons to absolve people of their sins.

The 95 Theses went viral thanks to the printing press, and, of course, led to the Protestant movement.

Today, there’s nothing keeping us from going straight to the source – yet so often we refuse. We’ll share a story bearing a scandalous headline without bothering to read the story itself. Someone will merely mention a headline to an article they didn’t bother to read, and we incorporate that synopsis into the way we view the world.

“My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge: because thou hast rejected knowledge.”

– Hosea 4:6.

To refuse to seek knowledge, question your own assumptions, and investigate things for yourself, is to reject knowledge and risk destruction.

RILEY MANNING is a fiction writer, former religion reporter for the Daily Journal, and a copywriter at Mabus Agency. Readers can contact him at rileymanning19@gmail.com.

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