I thought I was being wittily ironic with my headline “Dan Savage Makes the Baby Christians Cry” – then I saw the Fox Noise headline:
Christian Teens Say Gay Activist Made Girls Cry
Irony is dead, and its dessicated corpse is being dragged through the Fox studios and being desecrated by the network’s purveyors of propaganda.
These Christian students are tearfully proclaiming they have been the victims of bullying. Seriously. Re-watch the video. He said bullshit. Three whole times. And then he said their response was pansy ass. And, btw, he apologized for that. But they’ve been taught by their pastors and parents that Christians are the real victims. Notice, as well, he didn’t actually attack Christianity or say it should be tossed aside. He argued the bible isn’t a reliable guide on matters of human sexuality based on its absolute failure on the question of slavery. Simply criticizing the bible was more than these supposedly faithful Christians could bear to hear. They fled the room – about 100 of them did. The remaining 2700 students stayed and cheered.
My favorite part is that these supposedly deeply faithful Christian who are so offended by his comments about the bible don’t know a darn thing about the bible.
“I was thinking, ‘This is not going a good direction at all,’ Then he started going off about the Bible. He said somehow the Bible was pro-slavery. I’m really shy. I’m not really someone to, like, stir up anything. But all of a sudden I just blurted out, ‘That’s bull!’ ”
Of course all that statement reveals is that person making it hasn’t actually read the book in question – no where does the Biblical text condemn slavery. Paul tells slaves to obey their masters. There’s lots of rules in the bible about how to own slaves. Nothing in it says slavery is wrong. Yet our modern sensibilities agree slavery is wrong so this poor deluded students believes that the bible must not approve of slavery.
The whole contretemps has a number of revealing parts. The minute Savage begins talking about the Bible, these students flee the room as if they’r afraid they’ll be contaminated by impure thoughts spread by Dan Savage. His critique of the Bible is incredibly modest. He doesn’t say throw it out, or its useless. Instead, he makes the boringly commonsense point that we can ignore parts of it – since we already do. These faithful students don’t notice that because they’re so busy running for the exits. What we’ve got here is a perfect expression of what happens when Christians worship the Bible. Fundamentalist Bible-olotry teaches that the Bible itself is holy. When Savage criticized it – and even used a bad word to do so – the 100 Christian students were horrified and shocked and fled.
Another reveal was the way in which the right wing noise machine has spun the story. The right has worked hard over the last decade to create a narrative for itself in which Christians are being oppressed at every turn in our society. They’ve used this incident to argue that Christian students are really the ones being bullied in schools, that policies which protect sexual minority students are examples of ways in which Christians are bullied in schools. The right wing machine leapt into action, claiming the Savage’s remarks constituted intolerance of Christians, an attack on Christianity and bullying of Christian students. Re-watch the video. Even the supposedly offensive part – calling the response pansy ass – isn’t directed at a person or persons as it is their response to even mild criticism of using the Bible to justify discriminating against glbt persons. Savage apologized for that but has stuck to his guns otherwise.
The right in general and the religious right in particular (and the two are most inseparable) opposes any efforts to extend legal recognition of and protections for sexual minorities. They’re so desperate for anything to use to make their case that gay folks don’t deserve legal protections and efforts to protect gay youth from bullying that they’ve seized on Savage’s words in an attempt to cast themselves as the true victims. In doing so, they’ve demonstrated that they have no idea what constitutes bullying, no idea what it means to be bullied or even victimized. They’ve also shown us something else – the right loves to dish it out but the minute anyone starts to push back, to publicly confront them and their belief system in even modest ways, they can’t take it.
Again, Savage’s critique of the Bible is incredibly modest. I’ve heard far more thorough and devastating critiques from pastors and priests. Victor Stenger’s analysis of the Bible in God, the Failed Hypothesis is far more thorough and sufficient to suggest we could toss out the whole thing without regrets. Savage’s observation that we ignore huge chunks of the Bible is accurate, yet even hearing it is too much for these students and their adult keepers. The claim that his comments constitute some sort of intolerance against Christians says almost nothing about Savage or his views and a great deal about the right’s inability to confront even mild criticism.
At the end of the day, the discussion is pretty basic. Dan Savage called parts of the Bible bullshit and some high school students scrambled for the exits and the nearest right wing website so they could complain that someone said something they disagreed with and to pretend hearing information that contradicts your beliefs is the same thing as being bullied. This incident has really nothing to do with Dan Savage and everything to do with the religious right’s terror of living in a pluralistic society.
But then, to keep perspective.
Name the teenager who commited suicide because of a profound shame at being, deep down, a Christian.
I saw this piece at Alvin McEwan’s place after I posted.
Now about this Dan Savage controversy. I have said on more than one occasion that he and I don’t see eye-to-eye on many things. Also, the language he used here isn’t exactly something I would have said.
But you know what? He is exactly right.
I consider myself a person of faith. I credit my faith in God with accepting my sexual orientation. But here is something that I have never understood about some of my fellow Christians. How is it that they can cite passages regarding the supposed sin of homosexuality, but will ignore the ones advocating slavery, children obeying their parents, keeping women silent in church, divorce, and other things that they will not talk about which is clearly in the Bible. Why didn’t Jesus say one word about homosexuality? And for that matter,why didn’t God Himself?
Two more reactions – one from John Aravosis of AmericaBlog:
Dan Savage has apologized for using some harsh language when referring to the Bible’s provisions calling for the murder of gay people and the endorsement of slavery. Understandable since Dan has been pro-gay and anti-slavery all his life.
The question remains, is it ever okay to say that the Bible’s provisions endorsing the murder of gays and the enslaving of blacks (and others) to be “bullsh*t””? And if not, why not?
Surely no one thinks the Bible got it right on slavery? Nor on its admonition to stone gays to death. What other word to use for anything, even a holy book, that endorses slavery and the murder of an entire people? [snip]
Many religions treat the Bible as an inviolate document, but the simple fact remains that the document is wrong when it comes to a few things, including the mass murder of gay people and the notion that it’s okay to enslave others. Dan Savage said just that. And anyone stil upset with Dan, even after he’s now apologized for using harsh, if not incorrect, language, needs to explain why they’re defending the Bible’s provisions about murdering gays and enslaving blacks.
And another from Andrew Sullivan:
The case must be made about the inconsistent way that Christianists read the Bible to tilt it focus entirely on gays. But the case against the hypocritical, selective reading of the Bible is so strong that it undermines it to use the term “bullshit”. Using logic – as Dan also did – always wins in civil rights struggles. In the end. Dan’s actually quite nuanced feelings about the Catholicism he grew up in can be found here.
We have a moment here – I’m wondering if we’re ready to use.