29 April 2012

Did Dan Savage cross the line?

Dan Savage recently spoke at the High School Journalism convention, presumably to discuss bullying. He helped start the "It Gets Better" campaign which aims to address the bullying of LGBT youth, and he's long been an outspoken advocate of gay rights. But things got a little tense when he started criticizing Christianity and the Bible, and a small group of offended students left the auditorium in protest. Here's the vid:



The link in the video description (if you view it on Youtube) is for a conservative website affiliated with Focus on the Family. Not surprisingly, they were none too thrilled, and some conservatives are demanding an apology.

Now, even Hemant Mehta of The Friendly Atheist, whom I respect and admire greatly, criticized Savage's remarks in part:
No matter the topic, I don’t know why he was compelled to use the words “bullshit” and “pansy-assed.” Right off the bat, he’s alienating the people who believe in the Bible (and, therefore, the people who need to hear this message the most). Plus, when you’re giving a talk about how gay people get treated like shit, don’t use a word like “pansy-assed” to describe the reactions of the kids walking out on you — it just makes you look like a bully yourself, even if you’re not. It would’ve also helped his case to point out that plenty of Christians support gay rights — they might rationalize or ignore what the Bible says, but they are on Savage’s side on this issue.

Personally, I've absolutely no problem with anything Savage said. It should first be noted that one does not simply walk into Mordor... I mean, one does not simply invite Dan Savage to speak at an event without expecting some profanity and some comments that may offend certain people. Part of Savage's charm, and a big part of his efficacy, is that he doesn't mince words – in the vein of Christopher Hitchens, he calls a spade a spade. 

It's certainly sobering that as I am writing this, I popped over the Facebook and found a link to a Huffington Post article about a gay teen who committed suicide last week after being incessantly bullied for his sexuality. And here's the dirty little secret: virtually the only reason anyone in this country tries to rationalize discrimination against gays is because of the Bible, and it's the homophobic subculture of right-wing Christianity that promotes bigotry toward gays in the name of their antiquated religious beliefs. The science is in, but conservative Christians aren't going to let pesky things like reality get in the way of their religion.

Savage rightly pointed out that Christians ignore a great deal of what is commanded in the Bible. They may cite Leviticus to support their anti-gay agenda, but they won't be citing the prohibitions against tattoos, stoning women to death for not being virgins, or the many verses supporting slavery (when Southern Christians in the Confederacy wanted to preserve slavery, they justified it with the Bible). Modern Christians ignore Jesus' prohibition of divorce being justified only in the case of adultery, and Paul's instructions for women to be silent and covered. If Christians are experts at anything, it's at conjuring up new interpretations of scripture to accommodate the forward march of secular modernity. They've done this with regard to slavery and women's rights, so there's no reason they can't do it with regard to gay rights as well – as many liberal-minded Christians have already done.

If you're going to address the problem of gay bullying, you've got to attack it at the source. The irrationality and stupidity of fundamentalist religion is the virus that is perpetuating abuse and discrimination of gays. And, in a classic case of being able to dish it out but not take it, Christians are in an offended uproar over Savage saying mean things about the Bible – and with naughty words no less. Oh, the horror! Another teen committed suicide last week because of the anti-gay culture that this kind of Christianity promotes. So excuse me while I play the world's saddest song on the world's smallest violin for the Christians who were offended at the suggestion that they look in the mirror when trying to understand why this kind of discrimination continues. And no, I don't think we should be 'nice' about it. This is bigotry, plain and simple, hidden being a transparent veil of religious piety. We should call it out, condemn it, ridicule it, and squash it out of existence.





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