Home / News / Students walk out of Dan Savage speech at journalism conference: Savage says we should "ignore the bullshit in the Bible about gay people"
Students walk out of Dan Savage speech at journalism conference: Savage says we should "ignore the bullshit in the Bible about gay people"

Students walk out of Dan Savage speech at journalism conference: Savage says we should "ignore the bullshit in the Bible about gay people"

In what is being denounced by the Christian community as decidedly anti-Christian on many Christian websites, columnist and gay rights advocate Dan Savage's anti-bullying speech at the Journalism Education Association and National Scholastic Press Association advised students "to ignore the bullshit in the BIble about gay people"–at which point a number of Christian students got up and left. When the students were walking out, Savage responded "“It’s funny to someone who is on the receiving end of beatings that are justified by the Bible how pansya**ed people react when you push back.”

Many Christian blogs and forums are incensed about Savage's comment regarding ignoring the Bible.  Women of Grace had this to say:

Fox News is reporting that Dan Savage, founder of the “It Gets Better” anti-bullying campaign became the bully during an address to students attending the National High School Journalism Conference in Seattle on April 13.

Savage, who writes a sex advice column called “Savage Love,” gave a speech to a crowd of several thousand students that was laced with vulgarities and sexual innuendo many said was unsuitable for the age group.

Rick Tuttle, journalism advisor for Sutter Union High School in California, told Fox that Savage’s speech was a “pointed attack on Christian beliefs” that made many students uncomfortable enough to leave.

“It became hostile,” he said. “It felt hostile as we were sitting in the audience – especially towards Christians who espouse beliefs that he was literally taking on.”

A 17 year-old girl who was in the audience that day told CitizenLink the first thing Savage did was tell the audience: “I hope you’re all using birth control.”

“He said there are people using the Bible as an excuse for gay bullying, because it says in Leviticus and Romans that being gay is wrong. Right after that, he said we can ignore all the (expletive deleted) in the Bible,” she said.

Nearly 100 teens decided to walk out, and as they did so, Tuttle said Savage began heckling them and calling them pansy-assed.

On Sunday, Savage apologized for the "pansya**ed" remark, but qualified what he said at the conference not as an attack on Christianity, but a calling out of untruths and bad ideas in the Bible:

I didn't call anyone's religion bullshit. I did say that there is bullshit—"untrue words or ideas"—in the Bible. That is being spun as an attack on Christianity. Which is bullshhh… which is untrue. I was not attacking the faith in which I was raised. I was attacking the argument that gay people must be discriminated against—and anti-bullying programs that address anti-gay bullying should be blocked (or exceptions should be made for bullying "motivated by faith")—because it says right there in the Bible that being gay is wrong. Yet the same people who make that claim choose to ignore what the Bible has to say about a great deal else. I did not attack Christianity. I attacked hypocrisy. My remarks can only be read as an attack on all Christians if you believe that all Christians are hypocrites. Which I don't believe.

The Christian community may no longer be reading.  Blogs like The Gospel Coalition are focusing on what they perceive to be reprehensible about Savagenot on forgiveness and open dialogue:

What is most depressing is not Savage's message—that is standard hedonist propaganda—but rather the respect he is given despite being an amoral cretin. Savage is no longer just a guy who writes for the weekly tabloids. Now he's taken seriously by political leaders, business executives, actors, and pastors. His influence extends from Hollywood to the White House.

What message is it sending young people when the chief executive of the most powerful nation on earth endorses a man who believes that men and woman should not be expected to be monogamous—even when they are married?

Many of these same politicians and pastors wouldn't want their sons or daughters to date someone influenced by Savage. Yet they seem to be unconcerned about other people's children, who will be affected by their tacit endorsement of Savage's ethics.

Perhaps the best counter to Savage's message is Savage's own life. He is a symbol of what happens when vice is embraced and virtue is abandoned. Rather than maturing into a happy, healthy, well-adjusted adult, he's devolved into a man so filled with hate that he'll bully teenagers and lick doorknobs to spite his enemies.

Savage's counsel of hedonistic sex speaks of hope but leads only to despair. We must counter it with the Gospel truth about love and fidelity. We need to send a message of true hope to the young people of America: When you seek Christ-like virtue, it really does get better.

Savage insists that conservatives know already that not everything in the Bible is true, and they themselves ignore many Biblical admonitions, particularly about not divorcing and the Bible's direct condoning of owning slaves:

On other occasions I've made the same point without using the word bullshit…

We can learn to ignore what the bible says about gay people the same way we have learned to ignore what the Bible says about clams and figs and farming and personal grooming and menstruation and masturbation and divorce and virginity and adultery and slavery. Let's take slavery. We ignore what the Bible says about slavery in both the Old and New Testaments. And the authors of the Bible didn't just fail to condemn slavery. They endorsed slavery: "Slaves obey your masters." In his book Letter to a Christian Nation, Sam Harris writes that the Bible got the easiest moral question humanity has ever faced wrong. The Bible got slavery wrong. What are the odds that the Bible got something as complicated as human sexuality wrong? I'd put those odds at about 100%.

It shouldn't be hard for modern Christians to ignore what the bible says about gay people because modern Christians—be they conservative fundamentalists or liberal progressives—already ignore most of what the Bible says about sex and relationships. Divorce is condemned in the Old and New Testaments. Jesus Christ condemned divorce. Yet divorce is legal and there is no movement to amend state constitutions to ban divorce. Deuteronomy says that if a woman is not a virgin on her wedding night she shall be dragged to her father's doorstep and stoned to death. Callista Gingrich lives. And there is no effort to amend state constitutions to make it legal to stone the third Mrs. Gingrich to death.

Here is a video uploaded by "mom2be04" on YouTube of the Savage speech:

About Dakota O'Leary

Dakota O'Leary is a freethinker, and often sassy, scholar of theology and literature. She got her Bachelor of Arts degree in English and Theology from the State University of New York College at Buffalo, and her Master of Arts degree in Theology and Literature from Antioch University-Midwest. She is a contributing writer focusing on eschatology, biblical prophecy, and general religious news. Dakota is a co-host of the God Discussion radio show, offering insight to the news stories of the week. We like to call her "our in-house Biblical prophecy expert" as her articles on eschatology have received over 200,000 views on God Discussion.
  • Deborah_B

    This is exactly why those who profess to be Christian should sit down and read their bibles from cover to cover, without making excuses for the content.  Perhaps Savage did not need to use words like "bullshit," but he is making a perfectly legitimate point about biblical texts.

    If one were to take the bible literally, Women of Grace would have no business or right to be writing blog posts about this, because women are to be silent and submissive.

    Those who condemn gay people based on their bibles are picking and choosing — You either believe the entire book or you don't.  If it's literally God's word, you either obey all of it or stop using it to discriminate against others.

    • Then what does a Xian do when they run into the various contradictions in the Bible?

      • Deborah_B

         That's the checkmate.  It's either God's word or it isn't.  One has to think critically about this and can only conclude that it is man's work product, not a divine text.

        • I agree, but try arguing that with a Literalist.  They will try to tell you that there are no contradictions and go into Babble language, that makes utterly no sense to anyone but themselves.  *rolling eyes*  They refuse to concede that they've lost.

          • Deborah_B

             I don't bother arguing with literalists — though I suspect a lot of 'em wouldn't be literalists if they sat down and read the bible cover to cover.

            • Here's the thing… some do read it cover to cover, more than once, but I doubt they actually read it, because when they are done, they still believe it is the literal inspired word of God and believe every word of it is historical and true.  I know this, because I've watched my relatives for a lifetime and while growing up, I lost count how many times they "read" it cover to cover.  My mother commented once when I was a teen that the Bible  has more sex than Playboy and the Song of Solomon is nothing but sex.  She's right about that, esp Song of Solomon, but the problem is, much of the sex in the Bible isn't at all loving and caring sex, which doesn't get any better in the NT- ie Mary, supposedly 13, when God, much like other myths, esp the Egyptian myth, impregnated her.  I've always wondered if she lost her mind after that, because the Magnificat (Song of Mary Luke 1:46-55) always sounded weird to me.

  • http://www.calltoawareness.blogspot.com/2012/04/dan-savage-and-bible.html

     Dan Savage has no clue what the Bible teaches about slavery. He cannot make the distinction between prescriptive and descriptive laws, and God's temporal and specific commands, versus general fixed ones. Why is this? Because he has no desire to learn what the Bible actually says, he just knows that the Bible condemns sex between people of the same gender, and he does not like that particular doctrine. Rather that listen to a raunchy sex columnist, why not learn from Paul Copan, Daniel B Wallace, Tom Gilson, and Crag Blomberg who are all actually knowledgeable in this area?

  • joe paterno

    No offense to Dan, but why was someone whose journalism expertise consisted of a sex advice column (blog) addressing a national high school journalism conference?

    • Journalism doesn't mean just news. He is internationally syndicated. Love him or hate him, he is a journalist, and he is successful at what he does.

  • Theophile

     Hi Dakota,
    Slavery disappeared from the NT entirely? You can say the surf is no slave to the king, or paying tribute is not a form of slavery, but it's debatable. Americans still have slaves, it's just covered up with phrases like "free trade", as we consume goods imported from countries without EPA, labor boards, living wage, or human rights, or is it our government and wall street have enticed us to buy ourselves into it, as we see imports take our jobs.

    • I wanted to challenge her on that, but the only Greek word for slave, according to Strong and Vines, is soma, which only appears in the Rev.- according to Strong and Vines.  Somehow, I don't think that's quite right either, but before I challenge her on that, I want to find not only the Greek word, but the passage(s) too.  I question that too, because there is that little thing about being a "slave for Jesus" theology too. I know the word slave appears in the N.T. somewhere, but I'm not sure where.  However, some people mistake the word "servant" for slave, when not all servants were slaves. Thus, you have to be careful and refer to the Greek word to be sure "slave" is indeed the correct translation. Some translations, like the King James are very poor translations.

      • Dakotaoleary

        Neither Jesus nor Paul say anything about slavery in the New Testament, either against it or for it. Challenge away.

        • Deborah_B

          Savage might have used the conflicting bliblical standards on women as a better example, I think.

      • Dakotaoleary

        I believe the word you are looking for is "doulos," meaning roughly what you mean when you say "slave for Christ."  This usage appears 33 times in 31 verses of the NT. (NKJV).  δοῦλος

        • Well, I didn't mean just that one, but now that you said, I recognize it.  However, I think the more accurate question that I should ask is, does the Hebrew word for slave translate into the Greek found in the NT? Or rather is the same meaning/usage of slave used in both?  Sort of like, the Spanish el gato and English cat, whereas Spanish "salude" does not mean the same thing as "bless you" in English, even though they are used when a person sneezes.  Thus, I need to look for the first translation, instead of confusing the matter with the second form.  Hopefully, that makes sense.

    • Dakotaoleary

      I didn't realize that we in the present generation are part of the New Testament Theophile. I get your righteous indignation, and I totally agree with it, but I don't find the EPA in the Bible.  I don't understand why you are taking out your indignation on me.

  • It was the OT that was used for Slavery in the U.S. and today, it seems much of the OT is used concerning homosexuality.  However, if you listen or talk to Bishop Spong, he believes Paul, who supposedly wrote only 7 of the 13 books attributed to him, was gay.  I don't know what makes him conclude that Paul was gay.  Maybe Paul's extreme hatred for gays.  Who knows.

    • Sheldon

      Here is something from Scott Bidstrup, who also subscribes to the Paul was gay theory. It is one explanation. Perhaps, the Bishop arrived at his conclusion the same way Bidstrup did.

      " Saul, the pre-conversion Roman
      Jew, was a man with an intense self loathing. He doesn't tell us why,
      but time and again, he describes himself as a sinner who was far beyond
      any possible redemption. A man who stood condemned in the eyes of God.
      A man clearly destined for hell, and there's nothing he himself could
      do about it, especially since his body's 'member' would not cooperate.
      It's not his persecution of the Christians that creates the self
      loathing; rather it is the other way around. Something was eating at
      Saul. It clearly related to behaviour, because he describes himself as
      being a sinner.

      Over the centuries, many suggestions have been made as
      to what might have been the source of that self loathing. Few of them
      are really convincing, they all seem to have serious problems – except
      for one: the suggestion that Paul was a repressed homosexual.
      Homosexuality was not widely condemned in this region at the time, yet
      it could possibly have been a personal interpretation of Levitical
      proscriptions that drove him to consider himself a sinner for being a
      homosexual. Yet when he experiences his conversion, he realizes that by
      the grace of God, his homosexuality no longer matters, for God loves
      him, the same as all men.

      I say this after having read the references
      in the New Testament in which Paul speaks of his shame and his self
      loathing: his words have a startlingly deep resonance with every gay man
      who was ever brought up in a Christian environment. This theory alone
      to the exclusion of all others I've seen explains all the strange
      aspects of Paul's attitudes towards sexuality – the proclivity to a
      monastic degree of chastity, the extreme misogyny, the fact that he
      remained single and urged others in his situation, whatever that was, to
      do likewise, and the frequent discussions of how the 'members' of his
      body do not cooperate with his spiritual goals, and his despair over his
      inability to effect the changes he would like. All of these evidences
      are consonant with the repressed-gay theory; no other theory I know of
      account for them all…"
      "I hasten to add here, that there
      is no factual evidence to indicate that Paul was gay. The evidence is
      purely circumstantial, as is much of the evidence widely accepted in
      Biblical scholasticism… "

      "If this theory is true, it may
      well be that the whole of the Christian edifice of sexual doctrine, and
      even of Christianity itself, is built on the foundation of the
      self-loathing of a repressed gay man, unable to change himself or find
      salvation within himself, but finding salvation only in the grace of
      God. Again, if this theory is true, try to imagine how world history
      might have been different had Saul not been born gay and suffered the
      self-loathing that resulted from that circumstance of his birth."

      • Deborah_B

        That's a pretty interesting theory, and there might be something to it.  Thanks for sharing it, Sheldon.

      • That's quite a guilt trip, but he's not the first to do self-loathe.  Martin Luther used himself as a whipping boy, literally.  However, Saul/Paul was preoccupied with sex, it seems.  However, whether it was Paul or another who wrote 1 Corinthians 14 (it's attributed to Paul, but it's said he didn't write all 13 books accredited to him) they seem to have a little bit of a handle of what love is, but then again, I don't know what the Greek word for love was used in the original context in that passage.  It could have been any of the various forms of Greek love or applied to all the forms of love.  I think, whoever wrote that passage was making an attempt to answer the age old question, "What is love?" of any form, including self-love.  So Paul might have wrote that passage, in an attempt to figure out what love is, like many of us do, but I think he digressed before he finished.

        If I remember correctly, I think he borrowed from the OT too, in another place, calling himself a worm, which is pretty serious self-criticism.  Then again, I've considered all of the human race nothing more than parasites on the earth.

        My question is, if he wrote only 7 of the 13 books attributed to him, then were all the self-loathing passages his?  Granted, many passages he was whipping himself pretty hard, but were all those passages his?

        It's a good theory though and if that is the case, I think it's even more reason to throw out the Bible as a guide to how to treat ourselves and others, because I truly believe we can't love others until we learn to love ourselves.  Think how many psychological issues, that aren't necessarily mental illnesses, could have some relief if everyone did that.  Just throw it out and start from oneself, exploring all the different philosophies and acquiring one's own experiences to develop your own personal philosophy, not to be imposed on others.

        Of course this triggers the religious extremists worst fears- disbelief.  However, that disbelief, along with self-knowledge, though maybe incomplete most of one's life, could be the greatest service humans gave to themselves, especially if they are not allowed to beat up on themselves or others in the process.  Of course, this idea may rely more on Eastern philosophies and other philosophies that are not Abrahamic ones, but the point is, all too many people who practice an Abrahamic religion seem to beat up on themselves, as well as others, a lot, because their literature and preachers brainwashes them in that direction.

  • joe paterno

    No offense again, but why was someone who writes a sex-advisory column (blog) addressing a high-school journalism conference discussing the bible at all?

    • Deborah_B

      Hi Joe — I did not write the article and work approximately 16 hours a day, if not more, so I don't have time to research right now what the conference was about or why he was invited, nor have I had time to listen to the YouTube video and transcribe it, if that has the answers to your questions. 

      However, in response to your repeated questions that are bordering spam, take a look at Wikipedia.  Savage is much more than simply a blogger who writes a sex advice column.  He's an editorial director and has a lot of media experience, whether with newspapers or radio:


      • joe paterno

        Yes, I read loud and clear that you are frustrated with my questions. Let me see if I can condense.

  • joe paterno

    Why would anyone who was addressing a high-school journalism conference be discussing the bible?

    • pamsfriend

       Because they were talking about reporting on bullying and he was giving them examples of the line that many use "…but, we have to bully, it's in the bible."

  • joe paterno

    Why was this man was invited to a high-school journalism conference?

  • joe paterno

    Not a journalist but a provacateur.

  • Guest

    It was all orchestrated.  The Christian students started walking out the moment he said the word "bible" — long before he said anything else.  And, if you look at the "pansy-ass" comment, he was saying they can dish it out but can't take it.  Bullying by Christians is a serious problem in schools and society.  Pretending it ain't so is b.s. too.

  • student

    Just like the reliability of the gospels debate, one will find many different academics defending many varied positions on this issue. I'm not sure a blog thread is the appropriate place to attempt to end that debate. Though a short, clever argument to that effect would be welcome:) Really, any argument sufficiently stimulating is always welcome.
    As a skeptical christian believer (studying philosophy), I would have left as well. Not going to take the time trying to figure out what his argument really is (and then evaluating it) in an environment not conducive to completing that task. Seems much like the 'fire and brimstone' crazies that come onto my secular campus at times. You just smile, and walk right on by:)

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  •  Actually slavery does not disappear in the New Testament. For example, 1 Peter 2:18 instructs slaves to fearfully obey their masters. It reads, "Servants, be subject to
    your masters with all fear; not only to the good and gentle, but also to the
    froward." There are several other New Testament teachings to slaves instructing them to be good obedient slaves. It's interesting to know that the NT does not prohibit Christians from owning slaves and even instructs Christians who are slaves and who are owned by fellow Christians to be good obedient slaves. 1 Timothy 6:1-2 reads, "Let as many servants as
    are under the yoke count their own masters worthy of all honour, that the
    name of God and his doctrine be not blasphemed. And they that have believing masters, let them not despise them, because
    they are brethren; but rather do them service, because they are faithful and
    beloved, partakers of the benefit. These things teach and exhort." This is deeply repulsive! It truly is time for a serious revolution in religion based on our God-given reason and Deism as Thomas Paine called for in The Age of Reason, The Complete Edition! Progress! Bob Johnsonwww.deism.com

    • I agree and even Ephesians 6:5 says "slaves" in some translations, telling them to obey their masters, but some translations, such as the NKJV has servant(s) in all those places, telling them to obey their masters.  The RSV has slave(s) in those verses.  I haven't checked the other translations.  One needs to find the original Greek word where slave/servant is used in those passages, but I am inclined to agree with you that slaves are still discussed in the NT and did not disappear, thus why I'm trying to hunt down the original Greek in those places before I try to take Dakota on concerning this one.

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