A couple days ago, my Facebook feed (ugh, I feel like I’m doing product placement every time I type that) included the following story, thanks to a Christian friend in my list:
Of course I clicked.
Unsurprisingly, the ‘Anti-Bullying Speaker’ referred to in the article is sex columnist, prominent GLBT spokesperson and, yes, Anti-Bullying Advocate, Dan Savage. He writes right here in Seattle, doncha know. Savage is no stranger to controversy, and his often explicit rhetoric has made him a particular thorn in social conservatives’ sides. He is famously responsible for giving a name to a certain byproduct of butt sex, which just happens to be the name of a former Republican Presidential Candidate. What a coinkydink.
If you read that headline, what are you going to assume? The speaker, Dan Savage, attacked the Christian students, right? If you ‘curse’ someone, you are aiming your curses at that particular person. The article says that the attacks became so harsh that students up and walked out. And, indeed, the article has an interview with the Journalism Advisor of some of the students, Rick Tuttle:
“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.”
As the teenagers were walking out, Tuttle said that Savage heckled them and called them pansy-assed.
When I read this article a couple days ago, I was disappointed to see Savage’s positive message undermined by this sort of controversy, and knowing Savage’s penchant for heated rhetoric I was willing to believe that this event had happened as reported (the video at the end of the article wasn’t on there when I originally read it).
Of course, my disappointment with Savage was mitigated by the commentators on the article itself:
Americans have to realize who we’re dealing with in (f)maggots like this and all the other cockroaches, Commies, and America haters that helped put an illegal Kenyan Muslim Marxist racist Chicago street monkey in OUR White House.
Communists HATE Christianity because it represents everything that is a threat to them and their decadent beliefs and lifestyle. It’s absolutely UN believable that Americans could be so stupid to actually believe that someone with a name like BARACK HUSSEIN OBAMA could be a CHRISTIAN.
HELLO, AMERICANS!!!??? Do you know ANYONE on the face of the earth who is a CHRISTIAN with a completely M U S L I M name??? THINK ABOUT IT!!!
That particular comment continues on with an anti-Obama Birther rant that’s not relevant to this topic or anyone with a working brain. That is an extreme example of the kinds of people who frequent Fox News and comment on these sorts of articles (whenever a Gay person does something in public, the troglodytes come out in force), but make no mistake, even the more rationed and balanced statements are fairly hate-filled:
…the belief that “everyone deserves to be respected for who they are” may be what decent, God faring people live by but it is naive and even dangerous to believe that Communists, radical liberals, radical gays, radical athiests, etc. believe the same.
They don’t just (and are NOT) “speak up” against those THEY hate and disagree with, they seek to SILENCE them and FORCE them to accept their distorted, twisted, and hate filled beliefs
Dan Savage is a depraved individual who has insisted on making war with God. Insisting on that actually leads a person to depravity. Depravity is a scary state of mind and soul. Depravity has made him into the very thing that he hates….a bully.
…its because homo’s have issue’s in there heads. I still think gay dating should be out of the question. in the 40’s, 50’s an 60’s everyone was close to the bible and believed that being gay was a sin (it still is). What changed all that? That would be drugs an crack from the late 60’s.
So, not the most balanced commentators in the world.
But, okay, idiots make comments, it’s the internet. That still doesn’t excuse Dan Savage attacking Christian teenagers. Bullying in the name of anti-bullying is absolute hypocrisy.
Well, I wake up this morning, and what do you know, the video of the ‘attacks’ is online. So, let’s all get some popcorn and watch it together:
Note that the first girl leaves the audience before Dan Savage makes a single criticism of the Bible. He brings it up and he’s obviously going to make an argument, and the girl just leaves. That’s pretty sad considering she’s there as a journalism student and she can’t bear to hear anyone even remark critically on her beliefs. She’s in for a tough road as a journalist (that is assuming she is leaving for that reason; considering that a stampede of students start following her seconds later, it’s a pretty safe assumption).
By the time Savage has uttered the phrase “bullshit in the Bible” three times, it seems like most of the Christian teens in the room have vanished (it’s like the reverse ‘Beetlejuice’). Those are the only instances of curses that Savage speaks. I don’t think ‘pansy-ass’ constitutes a curse, but even if you do, he didn’t call the “Bible people” pansy-asses, he said leaving was pansy-ass. I know, semantics, but there is a difference. Also, keep in mind that he said that of the Christians who were no longer in the room. He never once cursed the Christians, forcing them to leave.
Should Savage have used the word ‘bullshit’? Maybe not. If he had used the word ‘bunk’, no one would have had a ‘curse’ to hang their hats on, and the points he made would have still been just as sound. What he says is utterly true and it would have been great for the Christian teenagers to hear it instead of walking out because they were offended. I think Dan Savage needs to fashion his message a little better for the audience, but I also think the audience needs to get over their knee-jerk reactionism, especially as they are there as ‘journalists.’
(As an aside: I think it’s not only okay to speak candidly about sexual matters with teenagers, it’s necessary. Teenagers are exposed to sex in everything, so if you’re going to reach them and teach them about safe sex, be honest and be blunt.)
But here’s the real question: Did anything Savage say constitute bullying?
If bullying is critiquing another person’s beliefs, then we’re in for a pretty silent lunchroom. And Savage didn’t attack Christianity, or Christians. You could say he ‘attacked’ the Bible, but if you get past the word ‘bullshit’, you’ll find that the things he attacks (prohibitions against shellfish, acceptance of slavery, stoning of non-virgins) are things that Christians readily attack everyday, because they do not follow them.
There is a culture of victimization in American Christians that is frankly getting tiresome (and probably offensive to Christians in other parts of the world who actually are victims of oppression). If the worst thing that happens to you is someone calls your holy scriptures ‘bullshit’, you’re living a pretty sweet life. As an atheist, I’ve been told I was going to hell (or worse) by loved ones and strangers. I don’t feel like a victim, I don’t feel like I’m being bullied. I feel like I’m on one side of a cultural-divide.
That’s what Christians need to understand: People are going to disagree with them, and because their beliefs have an effect on the public (at least, they hope so), sometimes that disagreement is going to be forceful and vehement. They may be cussed at.
That is not bullying.
Bullying is when an individual or group oppresses another person with threats and public humiliation. And this may be a controversial statement, but I’m going to stand by it: A majority can’t be bullied by a minority. They can be attacked, they can be insulted, but bullying requires power (either real or perceived), and as the old saying goes, There’s safety in numbers. There is power in numbers.
A group of gay teenagers could theoretically bully a straight teen. A flock of atheists (that’s the technical term) could bully a Christian. I’m sure it happens somewhere. But the gay community isn’t bullying the straight community. Atheists aren’t bullying Christians. Did David ‘bully’ Goliath?
So, did Dan Savage do anything wrong? Ethically, morally, I’d say no. He wasn’t being a hypocritical Anti-Bullying Bully. Could he have tempered his speech and avoided this whole non-starter of a controversy? Probably (though, who knows).
What should the Christian teenagers take away from this? They should remember how they felt when they were being ‘bullied’ by Dan Savage and remember that the next time they tell a gay teen he is depraved or going to hell. They should fight even harder to stop bullying and use their interest in journalism to stand up for the oppressed.
Or they can work for Fox News.