This video has been all over the blogosphere in the past couple of days. It shows the reaction of some Christian students to an anti-bullying speech Dan Savage gave, part of his “It Gets Better” campaign.
This was supposedly a spontaneous walkout by these 100 students, reacting to Savage’s calling the homophobia in the Bible “bullshit” and suggesting that modern Christians should feel as free to ignore it as they do the Bible’s other generally ignored precepts, such as the forbidding of shellfish and clothing of mixed threads, or its acceptance of slavery.
I seriously doubt that this was spontaneous. The camera doesn’t show the start of the walkout, but Jen McCreight was apparently there and reports that the single file of Christian students started with a row standing up in unison. I have not yet found another recording with an angle that would confirm or deny this, but the smirks on some of those faces causes me to lend it credence.
Now Dan has walked back some of the rhetorical flourishes; he joked shortly afterward that the students could come back in because he was done “bashing their Bible” and noted that it was funny how “pansy-assed” people became when their prejudices are challenged, and he’s shuffled a bit on the use of the word “bullshit” and finally, he clarified that he was attacking the Bible inspired homophobic attitude of some Christians but not Christians in general. Naturally these attempts to make nice have had absolutely no effect on the indignant posturings of Christian social conservatives.
The comments on articles about the walkout on this Fox News affiliated site are by turns hilarious (‘So Savage should apologize for using strong language to discuss a book that advocates he be killed for who he is? I guess the hundreds of young people who cheered his comments should also apologize for agreeing with him?’) and disturbing (‘Dan Savage is why we NEED bullying. What an ass… We need to establish a national “Kick Dan Savage Day”‘). Just a reminder, this is the inflammatory rhetoric that would justify Kick Dan Savage Day:
“People often point out that they can’t help it. They can’t help with the anti-gay bullyings because it says right there in Leviticus, it says right there in Timothy, it says right there in Romans that being gay is wrong. We can learn to ignore the bullshit in the Bible about gay people the same way we have learned to ignore the bullshit in the Bible about shellfish, about slavery, about dinner, about farming, about menstruation, about virginity, about masturbation. We ignore bullshit in the Bible about all sorts of things.
The Bible is a radically pro-slavery document. Slave owners waved Bibles over their heads during the Civil War and justified it. The shortest book in the New Testament is a letter from Paul to a Christian slave owner about owning his Christian slave. And Paul doesn’t say Christians don’t own people. Paul talks about how Christians own people. We ignore what the Bible said about slavery because the Bible got slavery wrong. Sam Harris in Letter to a Christian Nation points out that the Bible got the easiest moral question that humanity has ever faced wrong: slavery.
What are the odds that the Bible got something as complicated as human sexuality wrong? 100%. The Bible says that if your daughter’s not a virgin on her wedding night – that a woman isn’t a virgin on her wedding night, that 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 women to death on their wedding night if they’re not virgins. At least not yet. We don’t know where the GOP is going these days. People are dying because people can’t clear this one last hurdle. They can’t get past this one last thing in the Bible about homosexuality.
One thing I want to talk about is – ha, so you can tell the Bible guys in the hall that they can come back in because I’m done beating up the Bible. It’s funny that someone who’s on the receiving end of beatings that are justified by the Bible, how pansy-assed some people react to being pushed back. I apologize if I hurt anyone’s feelings but I have the right to defend myself, and to point out the hypocrisy of people who justify anti-gay bigotry by pointing to the Bible and insisting that we must live by the code of Leviticus on this one issue and no other.”
The consensus among the outraged seems to be that by saying the Bible contains “bullshit” that should be ignored instead of being used as an excuse for bullying gay teens, Dan Savage was actually being a terribly harsh bully himself. Never mind that he wasn’t attacking a single person; he was being a bully because he said mean things about a collection of Bronze and Iron Age writings, and a vocal portion of loving Christians feel he should have his ass kicked for that – and of course for being gay in the first place.
This excessive protectiveness of scripture reminds me of nothing so much as Muslims rioting over insults to the Koran, and of course another recurring theme is “WHY didn’t he attack Islam instead? They treat the gays even worse!” Um, maybe because he suspected that most of the people in the audience who might be tempted to bully gay teens would be Bible-inspired rather than Koran-inspired here in America?
The simple fact of the matter is that Savage’s point, however undiplomatically expressed, is a valid one: the Bible condemns and condones many things, not a few of them deserving of the “bullshit” label he applied, and Christians pick and choose what to take from it all the time. If they choose to take their bigotries from it, that does *not* justify their bigotries.