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.”
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 Savage, not 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: