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Dan Savage Was (Mostly) Right

A commentary.

Jim Burroway

May 2nd, 2012

Let’s skip the preliminaries and jump straight to the heart of the controversy, shall we? Dr. John Corvino, author and philosophy professor at Wayne State University, made a similar argument five years ago — no, strike that — ten years ago, about Leviticus 25:44-46:

Your male and female slaves are to come from the nations around you; from them you may buy slaves. You may also buy some of the temporary residents living among you and members of their clans born in your country, and they will become your property. You can will them to your children as inherited property and can make them slaves for life, but you must not rule over your fellow Israelites ruthlessly.

and Ephesians 6:5-9:

Slaves, obey your earthly masters with respect and fear, and with sincerity of heart, just as you would obey Christ. Obey them not only to win their favor when their eye is on you, but as slaves of Christ, doing the will of God from your heart. Serve wholeheartedly, as if you were serving the Lord, not people, because you know that the Lord will reward each one for whatever good they do, whether they are slave or free. And masters, treat your slaves in the same way. Do not threaten them, since you know that he who is both their Master and yours is in heaven, and there is no favoritism with him.

Ten years ago, Corvino addressed those passages:

Faced with such morally troubling passages, the reader has one of three options:

(A) Deny that the passages really endorse slavery. But this seems rather difficult to do, especially given the references to “property” in the first quotation, which was allegedly spoken by God himself.

(B) Maintain that the Bible contains no error and concede that slavery may be morally acceptable. Not surprisingly, few believers take this approach (though the case was quite different 150 years ago, when slave-owning Christians often cited these passages). This option ought forcefully to be rejected. Surely one should have more confidence in the wrongness of slavery than in the inerrancy of the quoted text. Which leaves us with

(C) Acknowledge that the Bible contains some error. To admit this is not to claim that God makes mistakes. Perhaps humans have erred in interpreting God’s will: after all, one should not confuse complete faith in God with complete faith in human ability to discern God’s voice.

Corvino warned that if historical context isn’t used to aid in terpreting the Bible, using “Biblical passages to condemn contemporary homosexuality looks much like using them to support nineteenth-century American slavery.” Five years ago, he returned to context again, but said:

I’m not convinced that any amount of context is going to help the slavery passages. I think when we look to those passages, we have to admit that the prejudices and limitations of the Biblical authors crept into the text. And if they did that with respect to slavery, it could happen with respect with homosexuality.

Which brings us to the latest outrage over columnist Dan Savage, who said this at convention of high school journalists two weeks ago:

YouTube Preview Image

The Bible. We’ll just talk about the Bible for a second. People often point out that they can’t help it, they can’t help with the anti-gay bullying 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 (applause and cheers)… 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 (applause). We ignore bullshit in the Bible about all sorts of things. The Bible is a radically pro-slavery document. Slave owners waved the Bible 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 slaves. And Paul doesn’t say Christians don’t own people. Paul talks about how Christians own people.

We ignore what the Bible says about slavery because the Bible got slavery wrong. Sam Harris in Letter to a Christian Nation points out that if the Bible got the easiest moral question that humanity has ever faced wrong — slavery — what are the odds that the Bible has gotten something as complicated as human sexuality wrong? One hundred percent.

The Bible says that if your daughter is not a virgin on her wedding night, or if a woman is not a virgin on her wedding night, she shall be dragged to her father’s doorstep and stoned to death. Calista 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 are 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 other thing I want to talk about is…. So you can tell the Bible guys in the hall they can come back now because I’m done beating up the Bible (Cheers and applause). It’s funny, as someone who’s on the receiving end of beatings that are justified by the Bible, how pansy-assed some people react to that (Cheers). I apologize if I hurt anyone’s feelings, but I have a right to defend myself and to point out the hypocrisy of people who justify anti-gay bigotry by pointing to the Bible and insisting we must live by the code of Leviticus on this one issue and no other.

Aside from the last paragraph (which I’ll get to in a minute), there is very little different from what Savage said and what Corvino has said through the past decade. The only substantial difference was not a substantive one, that difference being one of tone. Savage used the word “bullshit” – twice! – which is a well-used exclamation that the kids (and more than a few adults) use these days when confronted with utter nonsense, that nonsense, in this particular case, being the Bible’s instructions on purchasing, owning and being slaves, instructions which, if a teacher or leader were to try to impart today, the audience would scream, “bullshit!” At least, so I would imagine.

Where Savage truly did err, of course, was in calling those students who walked out on him “pansy-assed.” And for that, Savage was wrong, and for that he apologized. “My use of ‘pansy-assed’ was insulting, it was name-calling, and it was wrong,” he wrote. “And I apologize for saying it.” As well he should. As the face of the most widely-recognized anti-bullying campaign, Savage’s turning to name-calling was incredibly inappropriate. And to use a name — pansy-assed — with all of the undertones of disgust for effeminacy, well the irony, if you can call it that, is striking.

(Savage also erred factually: the shortest book of the New Testament is the Third Letter of John, which doesn’t have anything to do with slavery. He may have been thinking of Paul’s letter to Ephesians 6:5-9) or his letter to Colossians 3:22-4:1, or, perhaps, of Paul’s shortest book in the New Testament, his letter to Philemon, a slave-owning bishop of Colossae, to whose congregation Paul’s letter to Colossians is addressed. But anyway.)

Savage’s apology was very specific for calling the walkouts “pansy-assed.” But he didn’t apologize for using the word “bullshit” to describe those ideas written in the Bible which, if they would have come from anywhere else, would have elicited cries of “bullshit!” should anyone ever attempt to seriously propose them today in 2012. He only described his choice of that word “regrettable.”

It is regrettable, but only because it gives anti-gay Christians an opening (as if they really needed one) to cry foul over the larger point that Savage was making. And let’s not fall into the error of ignoring that it really is that larger point that they’re upset about, and not the dingle-dropping. He’s used worse words than “bullshit” in other contexts and Brietbart.com didn’t lead with an entire page devoted to it. And that wasn’t the issue for the minority of students at the conference either: if you look at that video above, you’ll see that the walkout started before Savage dropped his first poo.

The walkout started when he said he wanted to talk about the Bible.

And that’s what anti-gay Christians are really upset about. They are happy to talk about the Bible until they’re blue in the face. But when someone like Savage reads the Bible — something that I thought countless self-described Christians were all praying he would do — and describes some of the passages he found in it, then all aitch-ee-double-toothpicks breaks loose.

Which is very surprising. Is pointing out that the Bible got it wrong on slavery really that controversial? It certainly isn’t controversial among the growing numbers of Christians who also believe that the Bible got it wrong on homosexuality. Nor is it controversial among the very many more Christians who are still trying to sort out what they think about the Bible’s take on homosexuality. Nor is it controversial, when it gets right down to it, among those Christians who condemn gay people with the vigor of Paul. Their denominations all denounce slavery as an unmitigated evil and in other strong terms that the Bible’s authors didn’t have the moral foresight to mention. Even the Southern Baptist Convention — whose sole reason for existence is that they broke away from their northern abolitionist counterparts over the validity of these very passages — formally apologized in 1995 for getting it wrong by using the Bible’s defense of slavery as a defense of slavery.

So now we’ve learned some valuable, if conflicting, lessons. It turns out that Savage isn’t allowed to read the Bible after all. Or, if he is, he isn’t allowed describe what the Bible says. Or if he is allowed to do that but only in a way that affirms its complete inerrancy, then that would mean that if he runs across someone describing the proper and righteous way to own slaves, his only logical response would be to call it the Inspired Word of the Unchanging Almighty.

You know what I call that?

Bullshit. And regrettable.

Comments

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Charles
May 2nd, 2012 | LINK

Well put. Mr. Savage most certainly went over the top when he called those who were walking out pansied….assed. In my opinion he should not even used the term BS. Even if it is now in common use. We all know that it is nearly impossible to reason with people with deeply held religious beliefs. And, many people have deeply held religious beliefs on homosexuality that both you and I consider wrong.

Charles
May 2nd, 2012 | LINK

My guess is that many in the audience who were walking really don’t even know their own Bible. That they don’t know about the history of the split in the Baptist Church over slavery and the 1995 apology. Or that it was only in my lifetime that Mormons admitted African-Americans to their faith. They only really care about the current political discourse over homosexuality and don’t like to be challenged on the issue.

Carrie
May 2nd, 2012 | LINK

“Is pointing out that the Bible got it wrong on slavery really that controversial?”

I think you’d be surprised. Not in the sense that I think many Christians resort to Corvino’s option B, but in the sense that I think Corvino is underestimating the popularity of option A. Yeah, you have to do some pretty intense mental gymnastics to reconcile the belief that scripture is the inerrant word of God with the belief that slavery is wrong and God does not endorse it, but intense mental gymnastics are required to reconcile all sorts of common Christian beliefs. It’s not as if they’ve never thought about these problems before — there are many explanations of varying levels of credulity floating around in the churchoverse to quell cognitive dissonance:

“See, the Bible’s not saying slavery is OK, it’s saying IF you’re a slave or you own a slave, this is what you should do…”
“See, when the Bible says women should submit to their husbands, it really means it in a way that’s very respectful of women because men are commanded to love their wives so it’s all even, really…”
“See, God only told people to live by that strange or violent Levitical law to teach them they can’t earn salvation without grace, but then Jesus fulfilled the law so we don’t need to follow it anymore…”
“No, THAT part of the law is actually moral and not ritual, so God wants us to keep that part…and this and that, but not that and that…”
“I know it LOOKS like the Bible is saying X but when you look at in context it is actually trying to illustrate the deeper and more complicated idea of Y…”

Do these ad-hoc attempts to reconcile conflicting ideas often stretch credulity to a point that’s excruciating? Yes. Are Christians effectively ‘ignoring’ the passages they don’t like by re-interpreting them in a way that’s more palatable? Yes. But what is controversial is admitting that this is what they are doing. If someone is really invested in the idea that scripture is inerrant, they can only keep their heads from exploding through the belief that their explanations for ‘difficult’ scripture reflect a completely sincere and consistent reading of the Bible as God intended — unlike those “liberal” Christians who must be doing something totally different with scripture if they are coming to a different conclusion than we do.

Does this attempt at nuance and context and reframing completely evaporate in the context of LGBT issues or wherever else it isn’t convenient? Yes. Savage is dead-on about this. However, since those Christians don’t *think* of their interpretations of unpalatable scripture are just a complicated way of ‘ignoring’ it, I don’t think it’s productive to tell them that they are ignoring it and need to ignore the stuff they use against gays, too. I think a better approach is to let them have their fig leaf and use the language that they would use. Not “it’s hypocritical that you ignore some parts of the Bible and not others” (even though that’s basically true), but “it’s hypocritical that you admit nuance and context require us to read certain passages as having a different meaning than they appear to on the surface, while you insist other passages must be taken at face value.”

So, I think you could persuade these Christian kids that, say, ‘examining the Bible with inconsistent scrutiny’ is hypocritical and that approach is bullshit — but you aren’t going to persuade them (overnight) that there’s bullshit *in* the Bible and they’re just ignoring it (even though I think that is true). That is what I think makes Dan’s “bullshit” comments valid but “regrettable.”

That said, I think Dan can really mitigate the damage from this whole incident if he does more to get his apology for “pansy-assed” and a less-regrettably-phrased defense of “bullshit” out there. Yeah, he apologized and clarified on his blog, but how many people are going to read that while the anti-gays completely ignore it and keep running with this story? They LOVE being able to say “the ‘anti-bullying’ guy is a bully’! So show them what anti-bullying advocates do when they make a mistake. Make it a teachable moment. The It Gets Better Project is a collection of videos that started with a video by Dan, and the conference clip is on video, too. Dan should make a video explaining that the world isn’t divided into the bullies and the bullied, and sometimes well-meaning people mess up and say things that are unkind, and the right thing to do in that situation is to take responsibility and apologize. Then say what he said on the blog: calling the walkout pansy-assed was wrong, but attacking hypocrisy isn’t the same as attacking Christianity, etc. I think a video, particularly if approached from his role as an anti-bullying advocate, would probably reach a wider audience than his blog.

Jay Jonson
May 2nd, 2012 | LINK

I don’t think there was anything regrettable about Savage’s speech. He was right substantively, and he is also right in calling out the bigots in very strong words. I just wish he had not apologized. It is the apology that is the problem: it encourages the bullies.

Tor
May 2nd, 2012 | LINK

Dan Savage may have indulged in some name-calling, but he did not bully those kids. Bullying is a systematic, on-going and continuous kind of torment of someone who is usually perceived to be “weak.”

iDavid
May 2nd, 2012 | LINK

I agree, apology not necessary. When people start publically calling BS on the God of the Bible being no more than a writer’s guilt ridden rant mirroring a Pat Robertson knockoff, we will then be seeing the end of the dying dinosaur. That can come none too soon.

TampaZeke
May 2nd, 2012 | LINK

Hear, hear!

I would point one thing out. We need to go easy on these kids who walked out understanding that most of them are still the products of their parents’ beliefs and prejudices. I used to be one of these kids having grown up the son of a Southern Baptist pastor in Mississippi. I would have done exactly what these kids did then. I wouldn’t, I COULDN’T, have known or considered any other option. We have to have compassion for these kids and understand that many, if not most, of them will find their own way in due time. If we want to truly be helpful in presenting them with alternative ways of thinking, believing, speaking and acting, we have to reach out to them with kindness. I understand that SOME of them would have walked out and refused to consider his greater point no matter how he presented it, but if he had found a way to present his point where half or three quarters of those who walked out would have stayed, and just ONE or TWO more of those kids eyes were opened, wouldn’t that have been invaluable? I think so. I know it works and I’M living proof. My mind and my heart were opened by people who spoke to me with kindness and respect, not only on gay issues but also on issues of race, introducing me to facts and reason that I had NEVER been introduced to before. I’m forever thankful to those people. I see them as teachers and mentors as I work to open the hearts and minds of those who are exactly as I used to be.

It comes down to a simple question:

Is it more important to be RIGHT or EFFECTIVE?

TampaZeke
May 2nd, 2012 | LINK

Carrie, spot on!

Blake
May 2nd, 2012 | LINK

Oi! Am I the only one who is tired of Dan Savage already? He’s a hack. He’s a fool. He’s a loose cannon. He’s not good at getting his message across to anyone other than those who already support him. I loved his bit about it gets better & I thought that’d finally give him a cause but I didn’t think he’d use it to become a gay-rights celebrity leader.

I, for one, don’t want our #1 spokesman to be a sex-advice columnist. An untrained sex-advice columnist who sometimes gives out terrible advice. An arrogant blowhard who has cranked it up to “11″ for so long he has no clue how to communicate in any other way. He’s our Rush Limbaugh. Our Ann Coulter. He’s controversial for the sake of being controversial. He’s an arrogant piss-ant who tries to talk about things he clearly doesn’t understanding nor has he taken the time to educate himself.

Evidence? He didn’t study the bible before he made that speech or he would’ve gotten the references right. He didn’t think about how to get his message across to the people he’s trying to speak to because if he did he wouldn’t have used the language he used. Is it really hard to understand that the moment a controversial figure drops a curse word the walk-out begins?

I mean come on! He was getting raucous cheers from high-schoolers. That should tell you something about the level of discourse he was shooting for.

Jim you often talk about missed opportunities, what if, instead of Savage we’d had an advocate there who opened some minds instead of inspiring a walkout. I’m pretty sure as soon as someone releases a agenda with Dan Savage’s name on it the walkout is already planned. I know if I attended a conference with the other side’s equivalent I would plan on getting up as soon as the word “gay” or “homosexual” came out of their mouth & I’m sure the other side would be crowing like we are now.

Savage is preaching to the choir. And his arrogance flummoxes me. Perhaps its my fault for laughing at Santorum (genius) & supporting it gets better; but come on! We can do better than this. We have better leaders than this. Enough falling over yourself for Savage’s sake. Let him get his own foot out of his own mouth on his own.

Blake
May 2nd, 2012 | LINK

I agree with Carrie’s analysis 100%. All of the crazy-Christians I know (anti-gay, prosperity gospel, southern baptist, young earth-big-bang-denialists, anti-science, anti-women) all ascribe to option A. On a variety of complex issues.

Ben in Oakland
May 2nd, 2012 | LINK

Ahhhh, there you have it.

HermanEutics– the exquisitely fine art of getting your holy book to say exactly what you want it to.

As Humoty Dumpty to carefully put it (more or less, as this is a hermanEutics sermon):

Words mean exactly what I say they mean. Nothing more and nothing less.

Lucrece
May 2nd, 2012 | LINK

Religion always carries this bullshit of an immunity cape to criticism. Criticize Islam? You’re a racist and an islamophobe. Dismiss the idea of a god as told by the Bible? You’re not open-minded!

I am sick and tired of the religious being able to get away with murder so long as they coat it under some concocted religious excuse.

Priya Lynn
May 2nd, 2012 | LINK

Jim said “Is pointing out that the Bible got it wrong on slavery really that controversial?”.

In a lot of these people’s mind they know the bible got it wrong but they think they’ve acknowledged that in their minds and therefore its rude to bring it up and rub their faces in the bible’s imperfection – a polite person is supposed to ignore what’s wrong in the bible and pretend its simply wonderful.

Charles
May 2nd, 2012 | LINK

“It comes down to a simple question:

Is it more important to be RIGHT or EFFECTIVE?” – TampaZeke

A good speaker for our cause needs to right and effective. As someone has already said on this thread, I am also sure that there was probably a planned walked-out when the subject of homosexuality was introduced. Many of these children have been taught (indoctrinated) by their parents/elders over the issue of homosexuality.

Timothy Kincaid
May 2nd, 2012 | LINK

Jim,

Excellent article

Carrie,

Yes, yes, and yes.

Zeke,

Very wise.

To all who don’t want him to appologize,

Please never ever complain about bullying again. Either it’s always wrong or you have no principles. This whole “it’s okay to hate the H8ters” and “it’s okay to bully the Bullies” makes me ill.

Finally,

Leviticus endorses (or at least allows and lays out the limitations to) slavery. Those limitations could have as easily been “don’t do it, ever.”. Is this an error? If one finds slavery to be morally abhorrent and reads the bible literally, then there’s no way around it: yes this is the bible giving terrible and inherrently immoral guidance. It’s not just an error, it’s evil.

As Carrie said, no modern Christians read that scripture literally.

However, we should be careful with Paul’s admonishons. Read literally, they don’t seem to endorse slavery so much as acknowledge it. And the instruction to remember that God sees each as equal can be seen as a challenge to the underlyingnotion on which slavery stands: that some people have less inherent worth or claim on freedom. Just as we insist that they read Leviticus with nuance, so should we read Ephesians with nuance.

We have a choice – to be antagonistic or to encourage thought. Ironically, I believe that Dan genuinely wants to encourage thought. Sadly, he’s using the language of an antagonist.

Dan is in way over his head. He’s making mistakes. But I think that he is learning fast, has his heart in the right place, and is doing far more good than harm. And right now he has access that no one else has.

Rob in San Diego
May 2nd, 2012 | LINK

I see nothing wrong with what Dan Savage said. He was right, 100%.

Priya Lynn
May 2nd, 2012 | LINK

Timothy said “To all who don’t want him to appologize, Please never ever complain about bullying again. Either it’s always wrong or you have no principles.”.

When you’re pointing out that someone is being an a**hole it isn’t bullying to describe them as they are. Dan shouldn’t apologize.

Timothy said “However, we should be careful with Paul’s admonishons. Read literally, they don’t seem to endorse slavery so much as acknowledge it.”.

You have to read that very, very, very, very carefully to think Paul is just acknowledging rather than endorsing. When you tell slaves and their owners how to be good slaves and slave owners you’re endorsing slavery – no unbiased person can deny that.

Norm!
May 2nd, 2012 | LINK

Thank you for sharing the context of Savage’s comment. I agree that Savage got it right — excluding the name calling and profanity. However he got it wrong in tone, effectiveness, and basic respect. I would have hoped the anti bullying activist would be an example of respectful dialogue and civil debate.

Sure, activism requires provocative behavior sometimes to get attention, but in this case his message was lost.

Michael Bussee
May 2nd, 2012 | LINK

These were journalism students at a conference with the theme “Journalism on the Edge”. If they can’t handle some “edginess”, perhaps they should reconsider their career path. If they had not been so “pansie-assed”, they would have stayed and challenged Savage on his comments. That’s what real “journalists” do.

CPT_Doom
May 2nd, 2012 | LINK

I just want to point out, and it is an important distinction, that Savage did not call the kids who left “pansy-assed” he called their actions “pansy-assed,” and he was right. And I would hardly equate such criticims with bullying. Savage did not declare that all the Christians were horrible people, or going to hell, or even homophobes; he criticized their actions.

And I’d like to know, how can you bully someone who’s not in the room? How can it be “name-calling” when the people weren’t even there to hear it? The fact is that these kids, who are allegedly interested in journalism, refused to even hear criticism of their lifestyle choice, and most of them (at least thos who went on the record) walked out when Savage began his talk about slavery. I hardly think they are ready to deal with the rough-and-tumble world of actual journalism.

As for Savage’s biblical knowledge, we must remember that he was a Catholic seminarian back in the day, so his references likely come from a Catholic version of the bible, not the more widely-known King James (which is rejected by the Church as a heretical work).

Blake
May 2nd, 2012 | LINK

If he had access he’s squandered it by doing nothing more than pouring kerosene on the fire that is the culture war.

Now the RR crazies can sleep well at night because it turns out that anti-bullying campaign? It was all just a part of the culture war too just like they said it was. UGH!

Need evidence that the gays suck: here it is on a big screen in what looks like a warehouse via the old apple commercial. How soon until the parody comes out? Double UGH!

Savage had a moment & he blew it. If Savage still has access then he ought to use it to promote someone more levelheaded or at the very least give a levelheaded response wherein he indicates that he understands that he’s no longer just promoting/keeping his edgy image as a sex columnist but is now speaking for the whole gay rights movement.

Regarding the bible, good point about the Catholic bible; I didn’t remember his upbringing. Regardless, all the more reason to LET IT BE. We’re never going to make a convincing argument to an anti-gay by quoting the bible because the argument starts with the premise that we’re an unrepentant sinner/agent of Satan regardless of the sincerity of Christian belief or education. You’d think Dan Savage would understand at least that much.

Sorry, but Dan Savage has been getting under my skin for some time precisely because he, to paraphrase Timothy, attempts to provoke thought be being antagonistic. Being antagonistic is a great strategy for a pep rally/fundraiser; not really a great strategy for promoting gay rights to a mixed audience.

Anger is the path to the Darkside so I need to take a break because dammit that man cooks my grits.

Priya Lynn
May 2nd, 2012 | LINK

Blake, I don’t have a bunch of past grievances with Dan Savage to colour my opinion of his actions in this instance. I really know very little about him so I can judge this action apart from an overbearing dislike of him.

dn
May 2nd, 2012 | LINK

I don’t see where Savage bullied anyone here. If like to see what led to this topic, though.

I’m guessing that this came up in the context of several jurisdictions considering exemptions to anti bullying laws in the case of sincerely held religious beliefs. I don’t think savage has anything to apologize for, bit if I’m right about the context being religious exemptions to anti bullying laws, then I support him even more strongly.

Rev. Loush
May 2nd, 2012 | LINK

as a gay-christian who is anti-dan, my main problem is that he has no clue what is talking about when it comes to the bible! he has no biblical training or education! he hates religion in any case! most slaves in the bible were not what we know of as slaves in our modern understanding! they were more akin to bond servants and indentured servants. though some were certainly full slaves. the bible does not condone slavery, but it does give conduct guide lines for slaves and slave owners! and even rome had such laws as did many cultures in the ancient world! the Leviticus laws are not moral laws at all for the most part, they are hygiene codes. there was no such things as condoms or safe sex of any kind back then. it is silly to try and judge those people from that time and that other culture by our modern understanding and perspective. we have the perspective of history to teach us! they had a lot less than we have! dan is juvenile about religion in general like most atheists! the kids were right to walk out, i as an adult would have, just like i would have on anyone else who made the same comments! i don’t see the point in listening to stupidity! i have walked out of churches and class rooms before when i heard stupidity being taught! same thing here!

Gene in L.A.
May 2nd, 2012 | LINK

Dan did not get it wrong, or say it wrong, and his apology was backstepping to placate those he was trying to teach. If someone is being a fool and you tell him he’s being a fool and that you want to try to help him stop being a fool you are not being disrespectful at all but very respectful indeed. Sometimes a teacher knows that a sharp word is the best way to get someone’s attention. If you keep on using the sharp word then it becomes disrespectful and bullying; but words are tools for communication. You use them in the most effective way you can or you don’t get your message across.

Priya Lynn
May 2nd, 2012 | LINK

Mr. Loush the bible has some 1500 odd pages or so to make a clear condemnation of slavery, something that any moral system of conduct wouldn’t fail to do and yet the bible fails to do so. When a book fails to condemn slaver and tells slaves and slave owners how to behave it is condoning slavery – an honest reading can come to no other conclusion.

I find it ironic that the same people who say its silly to try and judge those people from that time and that other culture by our modern understanding are the same people who believe their god commanded this back then and god’s morality is eternal and unchanging. That is juvenile.

Jaime
May 2nd, 2012 | LINK

“Amen” Priya!

Priya Lynn
May 2nd, 2012 | LINK

; ) Jaime

Blake
May 2nd, 2012 | LINK

Gene — if I could roll my eyes any harder…

If someone is being a [sinner] and you tell him he’s being a [sinner] and that you want to try to help him stop being a [sinner] you are not being [hateful] at all but very [loving] indeed.

Blake
May 2nd, 2012 | LINK

@ Rev. Loush: do you realize you are taking position A?

Priya Lynn
May 2nd, 2012 | LINK

Blake said “Gene — if I could roll my eyes any harder… “.

Blake, the difference between what Gene said and your version of it is that Gene said is true and your version is not. They were fools but gayness is not a wrongdoing.

Blake
May 2nd, 2012 | LINK

Priya, I don’t know why I have to explain how what Gene said is analogous to what I said, but I will. On my blog.

Also, it’s not that I have a great deal of built up resentment against Dan Savage its that he totally fucking dropped the ball. He’s so much more than what he once was but he doesn’t seem to understand as much or at least the need to change his approach to speaking out on gay rights.

He can still be a counterculture maverick but he’s got to put more distance between himself from the It Gets Better Project. He can still be the face of the Project, but he’s got to start having polite discourse lest his words and images undermine the project itself. He can’t be both.

Priya Lynn
May 2nd, 2012 | LINK

Blake, but what you said wasn’t analogous to what Gene said. Gene is correct in saying they were wrongdoers and should be called wrondoers. Those who say gays are wrongdoers(sinners) are incorrect, gayness is not a wrongdoing, so no analogy.

Rev. Loush
May 2nd, 2012 | LINK

priya the bible does condem it in the principle teaching of Jesus Christ! “do unto others as you would have them do unto you”! God also knew that people wouldn’t listen to that simple fact so he gave them guide lines on how to treat each other under every circumstance! and why is it the bible that is always getting picked on when many many many cultures back then had the same kinds of laws? like rome, and greece the super powers of the age! it is juvenile and stupid, and shows a hatred of religion to always pick on the bible when no one picks on anything else from back then! in your logic if i disagree with euthanasia and do not condone it, but i tell someone how to do it properly than that is the same as me condoning it! that is nuts! that is no logic at all! your philosophy holds no water to me! me telling someone how to do something better is not that same as me condoning it! God told people time and again in scripture not get involved with idolatry, which is setting something up in the place of God. to make one’s self a master of slaves is to say that you are god, and therefore you are placing yourself up as an idol! this is forbidden! did people listen? no! Christ taught time and again how we are supposed to treat each other and how to ethically live life! did people listen? no! we have history to learn from that those people did not! european slavery, african slavery, the holocaust, what happened to native americans here! you are judging a group of people long dead who did not have these things to learn from! we also have the civil rights movement to learn from! they didn’t! trying to place our value system on other cultures has led to cultures being killed! that is what people did to the native americans, that is what people did to the irish, that is what people are doing to the tribes in the rainforests! it never works out! if history has taught us anything it should be that one culture trying to judge another culture and tell it how to be, doesn’t work! now the culture from the bible has learned! i doubt you will find a jew alive today who would agree with any form of slavery! but what you are doing is the same thing as judging iron age people for not having better tools, and knowing how to use them they way you do! i think that is nuts! but that is just me! to each their own!

Marc
May 2nd, 2012 | LINK

Actually, do we need to go as deep as the slavery passage to call bullshit? Just try to rationalize the logistical nightmare of two white people , Adam and Eve, creating the worlds population? Rabid religiously people apply their own logic to the bible. To question it too much would eventually cause their fairy tale to end.

Priya Lynn
May 2nd, 2012 | LINK

Mr. Loush, its pretty pathetic for you to baselessly claim “do unto others as you would have them do unto you” condemns slavery when it makes no mention of it and many passages in the bible directly condone slavery. With the same logic I can say the bible condemns your god sending people to hell for innocently believing in other religions because that’s how your god would want to be treated.

Nowhere in the bible does it say “to make one’s self a master of slaves is to say that you are god, and therefore you are placing yourself up as an idol! this is forbidden!”, in fact it says EXACTLY the opposite. Your god tells the israelites they CAN own people, that is no different than you telling someone they can commit euthenasia – you both are condoning the act.

Once again, your god has 1500 pages to make a clear, direct unequivocal condemnation of slavery and fails to do so. There couldn’t be a more appalling failure in offering correct moral direction.

You keep saying “you are judging a group of people long dead who did not have these things to learn from!”.

I most certainly am not. I am judging YOUR GOD based on HIS BIBLE and what He told the Israelites. I am not judging the israelites in anyway. It is YOUR GOD who not only glaringly fails to condemn slavery but who CONDONES IT. Only your god’s non-existence could excuse him of this injustice.

You can’t blame this on the ignorant Israelites, your god is supposed to be all knowing and the source of absolute morality and yet here you are advocating moral relativity which you no doubt condemn in other contexts. If your god says it was moral then (and he did) then it is moral now which we both know from the bottom of our hearts is not the case. Your god is an immoral god.

Richard Rush
May 2nd, 2012 | LINK

Rev. Loush said,

. . . why is it the bible that is always getting picked on when many many many cultures back then had the same kinds of laws? like rome, and greece the super powers of the age! it is juvenile and stupid, and shows a hatred of religion to always pick on the bible when no one picks on anything else from back then!

When you claim the Bible is The Word of God, I think it’s legitimate to expect it be held to a much higher standard than “many many many cultures back then . . . like rome, and greece the super powers of the age.”

Carrie
May 2nd, 2012 | LINK

Rev. Loush, no one is “picking on” the Romans because no one walks around today claiming the supposed dictates of Jupiter as moral authority. (For that matter, I don’t think the Romans ever claimed their gods offered a comprehensive moral code to begin with, but I’m no expert on mythology.)

As to “cultural differences,” don’t God’s expectations about morality supposedly exist independently of any human culture? Isn’t the Old Testament law in many ways meant as instruction from God as to how the Hebrews should establish their culture to be pleasing to Him and distinguished from the pagan cultures around them? If we’re meant to see God’s approach to slavery as being like a parent who says, “don’t drink — but I know you’re going to want to drink anyway so if you drink do it at home where it’s safer,” a) why does he skip the “don’t, but if” part which would establish his position on slavery like he’s established his position on moral issues of far less consequence, and surely dissuade at least some humans from owning slaves if not now than in 19th century America when people capitalize on the Bible’s lack of an express ban as a justification for slavery, and b) why doesn’t he take the same approach with any other sins? God must have known that killing would happen regardless of His admonitions, for example, but he doesn’t decide to not bother saying “thou shalt not kill” and skip straight to “try to kill people as painlessly as possible.”

Blake
May 2nd, 2012 | LINK

It’s up Priya.

Priya Lynn
May 2nd, 2012 | LINK

I have no interest in patronizing your blog, Blake,

Rev. Loush
May 2nd, 2012 | LINK

again scriptures do not condone slavery! they simply set up guide lines for something that was going to exist anyway! free will and all! it is funny that you blame God instead of blaming people! it is irrational! do unto others is clear in every sense! would you want to be a slave? no of course not! so you should not enslave others! it is not God’s fault that people refuse to use the mind he gave them! your arguments are juvenile! pathetic, but they are sadly typical of many people! oh well! we will not agree so there is no point in arguing about it! religion will never end and will never go away! it has been here since the dawn of humanity and will be here when humanity ends! and there are a great many things in the old testament and the new that many christians like myself do not consider the laws of God, but the laws of wayward humans who thought they had the right to speak for God! i can tell some one how to correctly slit their wrists and it doesn’t mean that i condone suicide, because i don’t! so you are wrong in that whole assumption!if i had children i would tell them that i don’t condone certain behavior but here is how to do things responsibly if they are going to do it! it doesn’t mean i am condoning said behaviors! again God, nor Christ failed to make the point clear! Love your neighbor as yourself, do unto others as you would have them do unto you, what you reap is what you sew! how many different ways to people need it spelled out! don’t treat others badly! God is not immoral, people are, you are! i am an admitted sinner! at least i don’t try to hide what i am behind silly atheism! guns do not kill people, people kill people! how many times have we heard it, and it is true! we have gun laws, why? not because all law makers condone guns, but because we as a people of free will are going to have them anyway, so we have laws on how to use them correctly! i don’t claim the bible to be the word of God, the bible in its original form contains the story of the word of God! Christ is the word of God however, not the bible! the bible is a book which contains the story of the logos! hold everything and anything you want to a higher standard, it doesn’t make it rational! it doesn’t rationalize peoples bad behavior and choices! and actually the romans and greeks both claimed moral superiority! we will never agree so i am done with this silly waste of a conversation! it doesn’t matter what points are made by who, i am not going to change my mind or yours, and you are not going to change any of your minds or mine, and i don’t feel the need to try and get you to! i really don’t care what other people think or believe or don’t believe! my point was that dan was being juvenile as usual, and the kids were right to walk out! dan also has a right because of free will to be as silly as he wants! i support his right to be silly! but i don’t have to listen to it, sit under it, or agree with it! and vice versa! as i said, to each their own!

Jim Burroway
May 2nd, 2012 | LINK

It looks like Rev. Loush chooses door number one:

(A) Deny that the passages really endorse slavery. But this seems rather difficult to do, especially given the references to “property” in the first quotation, which was allegedly spoken by God himself.

Priya Lynn
May 2nd, 2012 | LINK

Mr. Loush, you keep trying to hide behind that “Do unto others” line but it doesn’t work. It didn’t make the top 10 commandments of which the first commandment violates the “Do unto others” commandment.

Your god also repeatedly ordered the Israelites to invade other people’s, to utterly destroy them, make no treaty with them, to kill all the citizens except the women who were virgins who your god said they could take as sex slaves. Your god repeatedly told the Israelites to do things that violated the “Do unto others” idea so it doesn’t hold water that this somehow also was a prohibition of slavery which your god had explicitly told the Israelites they could do.

Jaime
May 2nd, 2012 | LINK

Rev. Loush – “and there are a great many things in the old testament and the new that many christians like myself do not consider the laws of God, but the laws of wayward humans who thought they had the right to speak for God! ”

Excellent. Now if only someone can cogently explain when and who gets to pick and choose what?

Richard Rush
May 2nd, 2012 | LINK

Rev. Loush,

i don’t claim the bible to be the word of God, the bible in its original form contains the story of the word of God! Christ is the word of God however, not the bible!

Wow, that’s a real eye-opener, but good to know. You’re the first serious Christian I’ve run across who claims the Bible is NOT the Word of God. That position must be quite convenient, though, in making it so much easier to distance yourself from the multitude of embarrassing Bible passages.

The Bible really is a chameleon.

Tor
May 2nd, 2012 | LINK

One more comment to Mr. Loush, from his first entry.

You’d be surprised how many atheists are quite expert on the bible and its teachings. Many atheists have studied the bible for the same reasons as others, they may have been christian at the time, they may have been curious about just what is in that book, or they may have been looking for guidance.

It is this gained knowledge of the bible and its teachings that has convinced many to abandon religion all together.

I know many christians who don’t really have a clue what is actually in their book. They take their preachers’ entreaties at face value and do not seek the source.

Rev. Loush
May 2nd, 2012 | LINK

Lol ok one final thing! i do not live by old testament laws as a christian but by new testament standards and teachings of Christ! so do unto others is the third most important law to me! the first would be Love God with all that you are! the second would be Love your neighbor as yourself! and then do unto others! all the other laws we are supposed to live by as Christians are summed up in these laws according to the teachings of Christ! i hold no words in the bible on the same level as the red letter words of Christ! IF Christ did not say it or address it, or speak to it, than for me it is up for discussion! i do not pick and choose as far as what Christ said! Christ spoke, and what i care about is what he had to say about things! everyone else’s commentary may or may not be true! i also feel that Christ is still speaking and has never stopped! and i don’t choose this so called door letter a nonsense mentioned earlier! that is all yall’s crap! and you are welcomed to it! as i have said; to each their own! the kids were right to walk out! dan is entitled to his opinion and the kids were entitled to walk out! good for them! again; to each their own!

TampaZeke
May 2nd, 2012 | LINK

Mr. Loush, it seems that if you’re issue is with people who don’t understand what the Bible says, according to the red letters, then your time would be better spent dealing with the millions of Christians who believe that homosexuality is a horrible sin when there are no red letters addressing homosexuality. If you do that then you certainly won’t have time to spend hours on websites complaining about or arguing about Dan Savage’s knowledge of, or supposed misinterpretations of, the bible.

DN
May 3rd, 2012 | LINK

Hey Mr. Loush, you might want to tone down the exclamation points. Just a suggestion.

One fun thing I like to do when I see too many exclamation points is mentally replace them with question marks.

Stephen
May 3rd, 2012 | LINK

Rev Loush is quite correct if one reads Matthew. Jesus gave as the reason for His ministry His desire to temper the harshness of the Mosaic law with love. That’s it. So, if one follows His teaching, the OT is a dead issue and nothing there has moral authority. The religious establishment went after Him for blasphemy, a capital offense for which He was executed in the end. Before the sermon on the mount, Jesus tells His followers to listen to His words: what he talks about is important, what He doesn’t talk about isn’t. In this way He can make clear His position without directly challenging the law. For anyone who wants to follow His teachings, Matthew (and John) become the crucial documents. (The story of the woman taken in adultery is also about blasphemy, not the forgiveness of sin. In the story, Jesus saves the woman by challenging the rabbis to commit blasphemy by claiming to be without sin. They can’t do that and drop the rocks). I have no problem with Christianity but rather with the ignorance most American evangelicals have of the precepts and belief of their espoused faith.

As to slavery, I think the tell lies in the so-called Curse of Canaan (or Ham for some). Noah got drunk from the first grape harvest. His son Ham saw him naked and laughed at him instead of covering him. As punishment, God turned Ham’s son black and, in the words of Genesis, ‘kinked his hair’ and declared that he must serve his brothers and his children his brothers’ children to the end of time. Thereby setting up a slave class. I think that tells exactly what the writers thought of black slaves.

Rev Loush is also correct in that slavery in the ancient world was not really equivalent to what it was in the US. It was more like serfdom in Russia than the chattel slavery here.

And let’s not forget the custom of Jubilee: every 50 years the horn of jubilee was blown and the slaves became free.

Plus, Dan Savage is a gadfly. He’s supposed to be provocative. That’s what he does. His language seems entirely appropriate to me. As M Bussee notes, if you’re in journalism class you better be prepared to listen to real people talking. He was criticizing the way the Bible is used as a weapon, not the faith itself. This looks like a put-up job.

I’m reminded of some idiot teaching theatre who wouldn’t look at plays with gay topics: in which case find something else to do.

Blake
May 3rd, 2012 | LINK

Suit yourself; your loss. & here I was thinking you’re open-minded. How foolish of me. Have a great life, Priya.

Andrew
May 3rd, 2012 | LINK

Umm… so, are we re-defining bullying now? Calling someone out on their behavior is “bullying”, if we put a not-nice name to it?

That’s crap.

You know what is bullying? Walking out on a speaker, fundamentally, because of their identity. I’m really not at all sure that these students would have walked out on a straight married professor, for example.

I’m 100% with Dan. These students, and anti-gays generally, need to be called out on exactly what their behavior is – cowardly and hypersensitive… which is think is often summarized as “pansy-assed”.

And for those who aren’t paying attention in the post-modern era, “pansy-assed” ain’t just for gays anymore. It’s for anyone who fails in the courage of their convictions, who chooses to run away when they can make a point in public, but never hesitate to attack when they can get away with it. For those who apply the a different standard to others than they hold for themselves. Dan may have started the “it gets better” campaign, but he’s been very specific about the fact that you can only be insulted by someone calling you a name if YOU choose to be. Which brings me back to the mechanics of bullying.

Bullying isn’t just saying bad things, it’s a dynamic, an intent, and I think we used to know bullying when we saw it. If this is going to become “don’t say anything uncomfortable to anyone, ever”, or “don’t use profanity”, or even “all name calling in all circumstances is bullying”, which is a false equivalanency, then I’m walking on the whole thing.

Andrew
May 3rd, 2012 | LINK

Loush – wasn’t murder going to happen anyway? or theft? The Bible seemed to approach that with great specificity. Slavery is a sin. We used to know that.

I have no problem with religion. But those who pick one set of rules for themselves and a different one for others aren’t religious, they are saying “you can’t argue with me because God said so and I’m here to speak on his behalf” – very neat, very tidy, very authoritative. And blasphemous.

“on my blog”? OMG. I thought I strayed into pretentiousness and self-importance (which I do). In the name of the golden rule – I would hope folks would stop me before I started looking silly, Blake, you’ve been officially notified. That posting made you temporarily look silly. It’s not permanent, and it’s not who you are. I like you. It’s just what you were doing in that moment.

Sorry, folks, I just don’t line up with apologists here. I’m not in favor of picking fights where none exist, but if we continue to cede ground, to meet aggression with acceptance, to refuse to point out that people who are anti-gay should be called out and told that their anti-gay views are not acceptable (with humor if possible), then we might as well hand the world over to jack-booted thugs.

Blake
May 3rd, 2012 | LINK

Whether he bullied or not is a red herring. The problem is that Savage has created a powerful image which works against all of our interests. An image of him in what looks like an indoctrination center saying the bible is bullshit bullshit bullshit. I know that’s not what he said, but that’s the image we’re going to be up against in the future & to the uninitiated swing voter or those who are ready to be spoon fed crap from NOM (ie most churches), that’s the image they’re going to see.

In whatever context that this image comes up in in the future, its going to need an explanation. The sort of explanation which, at best, is going to stretch our credibility and, at worst, make us appear to be screaming harpies out to put Christians in jail.

He had an opportunity to speak truth & to try to change minds. His juvenile level of discourse allowed him to do the former while working against the second goal. So much so that, in my opinion, he has placed the relevance of the whole It Gets Better Project in jeopardy.

And Andrew, we all have to start somewhere. It was in thinking about this issue, in particular, and in my response to Priya, that I found my direction & voice. I guess I let the excitement of new creation get the better of me.

As a further excuse I’m awfully bad at understanding “internet manners”. Is there a crash-course out there for dunces like me?

Regardless, I was out of line. I do apologize to you both.

Priya Lynn
May 3rd, 2012 | LINK

Apology accepted Blake, that was very big of you – not many people are willing to admit mistakes.

Hue-Man
May 3rd, 2012 | LINK

This quote from Towleroad a few days ago, from one of the christanists’ TV personalities sums up the level of ignorance of even their top money-makers: “But my faith is based on what I believe the Scripture says and that’s the way I read the Scripture.”

Translation: I don’t care what it SAYS, this is what I believe it says. How corrupt. Ruin people’s careers and lives for the sake of such nonsense. And people listen to this nonsense?

AlexH
May 3rd, 2012 | LINK

@Rev. Loush

Savage wasn’t trying to make a statement on how ancient civilizations lived in regards to slavery; his point was how ludicrous it is to take the bible literally, in the present time, and cherry pick certain passages to use this as a weapon or catalyst to spurn hateful actions, which is what people like Fred Phelps and his kind do.

Richard Rush
May 3rd, 2012 | LINK

Given the fact that Rev. Loush has stated in this comment thread that he does NOT consider the Bible to be the Word of God, it would seem that his and Savage’s views are much more closely aligned than they first appeared. But Loush has not yet realized it.

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