Such headlines as: “Gay Conservatives Demand Dan Savage Apologize for Anti-Christian Tirade,” “Christian students walk out as Dan Savage attacks the Bible,” “Anti-Bully Advocate Dan Savage Bullies High School Kids With Profane Bible Rant,” and “Rabbi compares Dan Savage’s anti-Christian bigotry to Westboro Baptist Church,” tell the tale.
The controversy is due to Mr. Savage calling bull**** those parts of the Bible that throughout history been used by “Christians” unworthy of the name to justify the Holocaust, condone slavery, oppress women, and victimize gay people.
He was speaking on April 12 to attendees of the National High School Journalism Conference, sponsored by the Journalism Education Association and the National Scholastic Press Association. The four-day conference, featuring over 200 sessions, two keynote speakers (Dan and Jennifer Sizemore), more than a dozen featured speakers, and more events and activities than you can shake a pen at, was titled Journalism on the Edge.
The conference’s promo material begins with:
You are already on the Edge. Journalists have always lived on the edge. Deadlines, and the edge of time. Facts, and the edge of truth. Authority, and the edge of free expression. We balance on the edge of legitimate public interest and the interests of those who would rather we not publish.
And there, amongst all this journalistic edginess, was Dan Savage, being edgy.
Just who does this podium-pounding pontificator peddling in people’s perplexingly perverse predilections think he is, anyway?
I, for one, have no idea what the world has come to, when a person who has made his career out of speaking, in the most unadorned language possible, directly to great numbers of young people about some of the most important issues in their lives, dares to speak in unadorned language directly to a great number of young people about one of the most important issues in American life today.
Besides the fact that he was raised in a devoutly Catholic home and is the country’s leading gay activist, who is Dan Savage to say anything at all about the ages-old Christian condemnation of gay people? So what if his claim is manifestly valid that nothing contributes more to the destruction of the lives of gay people than do Christians falsely and hypocritically using the Bible as an instrument of brutality?
So what if he believes that among the most egregious of all Christian sins is daring to proclaim that God’s love ends where their own fear and hatred begin? So what if every day, for decades on end, Dan Savage has dealt with young lives obliterated through violence informed and buttressed by the bedrock “Christian” view that gay people are less than human?
So what if any reasonably compassionate person should be expected to vigorously assert that it’s time for all Christians to reject using the Bible as a means of justifying the persecution of an entire population whose only “crime” is to prefer to spend their lives with same-sex partners?
Why should any of that matter? What matters is that Dan Savage cursed. He said bull**** not once, but three times.
Three! That’s one more than two! Which is two too many!
You know, it’s almost like the people who put on this conference, as well as a small but now (thanks, media machine!) significant number of individuals who attended it, don’t even know what the word “journalism” means.
Well, thank you, young people who walked out of Dan’s speech the moment he began talking about the parts of the Bible to which he takes exception, for reminding us of what beats so passionately in the heart and soul of every true journalist. Speaking as a person who for twelve years made his living as a journalist, I admire your dedication to the journalist’s creed: When you personally disagree with something someone is saying, get up and leave.
If that’s not what Jesus meant by, “The truth shall set you free,” I can’t imagine what he did mean.
P.S. What immediately become a meme amongst Dan’s critics is that those who walked out of his talk felt bullied by him. But that’s impossible. People get bullied because of who they are: how they look and act, what they say and do. Perceived as being in some critical way weak or lacking, victims of bullies are selected for persecution; they are pulled from the pack before being pointedly and repeatedly victimized.
The people who walked out during Dan’s talk were not separated from their peers by anyone. They were content to do that themselves. They were not frightened or cowed. They were offended. They felt that by disparaging what amounts to their God, Dan had transgressed beyond their capacity for toleration. And they were pleased to show their intolerance of Dan’s words by protesting against them in the manner they did. Theirs was not an act born of suffering. It was a proud show of disdain.