Dan Savage: “Bullying” Christianity?
by Max Antonucci | Syracuse University
In front of an attentive crowd, the outspoken sex columnist Dan Savage was drawing a relationship between anti-gay bullying and the Bible. With a frank tone, he outright said that people can “learn to ignore the bullsh*t in the Bible about gay people.”
As Savage, the pioneer of the successful “It Gets Better” campaign against gay bullying, continued at the National High School Journalist Conference in Seattle, several students began to quietly leave the auditorium.
He continued his speech against the Bible, saying it was “radically pro-slavery” and expressed a view of people selectively ignoring what the Bible says in today’s world. More young journalists began to leave.
After he finished his point, Savage didn’t take back his words and joked about those who had left.
“It’s funny, as someone who’s on the receiving end of beatings that are justified by the Bible,” he said, “how pansy-assed some people react when you push back.”
These words have inspired controversy around the well-known anti-gay bullying advocate, and his argument has been taken as an attack on the Christian faith.
Conservatives in the media have shown outrage, saying Savage’s remarks were unfairly attacking the Bible. Jimmy LaSalvia, executive director of GOProud, a national conservative organization, demanded an apology for his words, which sounded like they came from an actual bully.
“It is ironic that someone whose claim to fame is fighting bullying,” LaSilvia said, “would resort to bullying tactics in attacking high school students who were offended by his outrageous remarks.”
During Savage’s lecture, one of the students’ teachers, Rick Tuttle, initially felt the anti-bullying message was important for students. But instead, he felt it turned out to be a “vulgar, profanity-laced attack on Christians.” When some of the students asked if they could leave, he said they absolutely could.
“…It occurs to me as I see this video,” Tuttle said, “this is what we teach kids to do when they’re being bullied, to walk away. That’s what they did.”
Savage later released an apology on his blog, saying that he wasn’t attacking the Christian faith, but was only highlighting the hypocrisies of the Bible. Savage said that while many Christians pay attention to homosexuality being wrong, they selectively ignore other parts of the Bible, such as its condemnation of divorce or support of slavery.
“If believers can ignore what the Bible says about slavery,” Savage wrote in his post, “they can ignore what the Bible says about homosexuality.”
Despite some reasonable points about the Bible’s readings, this small incident has damaged Savage’s efforts to stop gay bullying, since his “pushing back” is now widely perceived as bullying against Christians. The same way Christians have often rejected homosexuality due to the Bible, Savage’s actions are being viewed as a rejection of faith due to the Bible, as well.
As young adults get more exposed to new ideas in their lifetimes, it’s clear that, in situations like these, that complete reconciliation between two differing viewpoints may not be possible. In regards to Christian faith’s opposition to homosexuality, regardless of a person’s position, a compromise of mutual tolerance may be the best answer. While two innately conflicting viewpoints like this aren’t entirely compatible, they’re not mutually exclusive either.
Dan Savage had the right to say what he did, but the students also had the right to leave when he said it.Max Antonucci is a NGJ Staff Writer and a Syracuse University freshman, majoring in Newspaper and Online Journalism, and minoring in Information and Technology.