Dan Savage, Bullying Christians, & How We Should Respond

I know I’m about a week late on this blog post, and time is running short (hence, why it’s taken a week to write it)… but I think this is something that deserve a response. In case you haven’t heard, here’s a brief excerpt from Fox News’ story of Dan Savage’s presentation at an anti-bullying conference in Seattle last week:

Jake Naman knew something was about to happen.

The 18-year-old from Redlands, Calif., was sitting inside a cavernous building in Seattle waiting to hear from Dan Savage, the founder of the “It Gets Better” anti-bullying campaign.

Savage had been invited to speak to several thousand high school journalists attending a national conference hosted by the National Scholastic Press Association and the Journalism Education Association.

… “The Bible,” Savage said with a elongated pause.

“”The very second he said the Bible and paused, I knew it was going to get ugly,” Naman told Fox News. “It was about to be a bashing.”

And Naman was absolutely correct.

“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,” Savage told the young students. “We ignore bullshit in the Bible about all sorts of things.”

You can watch the YouTube video, which was captured by someone in attendance, where Savage continues his rant against Christians while many Christian students walk out in silent protest. If you’re offended by the language, please keep in mind that this was a speech at a STUDENT assembly by a nationally respected speaker at an anti-bullying conference!

How Should Christian Respond?
Most of the responses I’ve seen online would describe themselves as RIGHTEOUS INDIGNATION – let me explain.

Many of the blog posts and Facebook posts I’ve read seem to say something like this: “What a hypocrite, bullying Christians while telling us to be accepting of everyone else! If he said this about Muslims he would’ve been removed from the stage, but since he targeted Christians it’s ok?!” Sure, I agree… but I’d suggest a different response. Here’s my thinking:

  1. Jesus said that we would be persecuted and rejected, so we shouldn’t be surprised. Jesus said, “If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first.” (John 15:18)
  2. We should respond to persecution with love and prayer. Jesus said, “But I tell you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.” (Matthew 5:44 & Romans 12:20)
  3. Responding with grace opens conversation; responding with “righteous indignation” reinforces our critics’ message. Proverbs 15:1 says, A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.”

This is an opportunity for us to demonstrate that power of the Gospel at work within us. I agree that this is a pretty clear-cut story of bullying that it highly ironic, but if we, as Christians, respond with anger (even if it’s a “godly” anger because we feel like we’re defending Jesus) then we’re losing sight of the Gospel.

In fact, he didn’t even try to defend himself before Pontius Pilate when he was on trial – he simply took the injustice. Jesus was crucified for offenses he didn’t commit, and he told his disciples they should be ready to carry their own crosses. The obvious difference, is we need to recognize that we are often more guilty than we realize.

In this particular case, we need to be willing to ask some hard questions.

  • Have I bullied (knowingly or unknowingly) other people over issues of race, physical/mental/intellectual ability, religion, or sexuality?
  • Who do I need to apologize to for hurt I have caused or careless words I have spoken?
  • What is behind my persecutor’s words? How have other Christians (not me, but other Christians) hurt this person? (note: this goes a long way to understanding one another)
  • How can I learn to Speak the Truth in Love?

Much truth has been ignored because it was not spoken in love. Much love has been useless because it has not been tied to truth. Much truth has not been spoken.

We must SPEAK the TRUTH in LOVE while we love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us.

The Gospel Calls us to Stand Against Bullying

How many of us love someone who’s been bullied?  Many of us can recall a time when we were bullied when we were in school!  But bullying seems to have taken on a life of its own lately – how many stories have we seen in the news of students committing suicide because they were being relentlessly bullied?  It’s a tragedy that ought to break our hearts.

This post will very closely resemble the post I wrote entitled “How Should Christians View the Day of Silence” because the subject matter is so similar.  If you’re looking for something focused specifically on Christians and LGBT students, that post might be helpful to read.

There are a few reasons I believe that Christians need to be leading the opposition against bullying.

  1. Because of the Gospel, every Christian is called to live in a way that is remarkably different.  When others hate us, we love.  When others offend us, we forgive.  When others hurt us, we serve.  We don’t do this because God wants us to be “nice, good people.”  We need to do this because we are always remembering that this is exactly what Christ did for us.  He loved us when we hated him, he forgave us when we offended him, he served us when we hurt him.  Romans 5:6-8
  2. We are called to love our enemies and to pray for those who persecute us.  So people mock your faith and try to make you feel like an idiot because you’re a Christian… so what?  Jesus explicitly tells us to love those who hate us.  If we only love people who love us back then how are we any different?  Matthew 5:44
  3. Christians are a persecuted people.  Christians throughout history have been targets for hate-crimes and persecution.  More Christians are persecuted and murdered now than at any other time in history (one statistic says 19 Christians are killed for their faith every minute!).  In fact, Scripture makes it sound like there’s something wrong with our faith if we aren’t being targeted because of our faith (that doesn’t mean we should hope to be persecuted, just that it’s common and we should expect it).  Matthew 5:11-12, John 15:18
  4. Christians are called to be Agents of Reconciliation.  Jesus says “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.”  Does that describe you… a peacemaker?  Too often, Christians get a reputation for being people who instigate arguments… we should get a reputation for being peacemakers and agents of reconciliation instead – Reconciled to God (salvation), and Reconciled to Each Other.  Matthew 5:9, 2 Corinthians 5:16-21

Our commitment as “Agents of Reconciliation” flows out of our commitment to the Gospel.  Because we have placed our lives in the hands of the One who gave up his rights as God in order to be The Redeemer between God and men we are changed and given a new desire to bring together what has been torn apart.  We have been forgiven by God, knowing that HE is the one who paid our punishment so we could be freed from judgment and shame.  The Gospel has changed everything for us.

www.StopBullying.gov is a good and useful resource, providing help in determining “What is Bullying,” “Recognizing the Warning Signs,” and “How do I Get Help?”  Check it out and pray about how you can become an Agent of Reconciliation.

If you’re aware of any good Christian resources that stand against Bullying and equip believers, please let me know in the comment section below.

Thoughts on Formspring.me

If you aren’t familiar with “Formspring,” here’s a brief description from their website:

“Send and receive anonymous questions, and learn more about people you find interesting by following their answers.”

In my opinion, the most brilliant thing Formspring has done is teaming up with Facebook so that one’s Formspring page sends my questions/replies to his or her Facebook page.  People can even sign in to their Formspring page by using their Facebook login information!

The more I check out different Formspring pages, the more I really hate Formspring.  Here’s why:

  1. It’s anonymous: most questions are harmless, but some very cowardly people ask mean questions (“Why are you so fat?” “Are you gay?” “Why are you so stupid?” etc.) because they’re “faceless” and unknown.  Very cowardly.
  2. It feeds into narcissism: the mentality that you are the center of the world.
  3. If perpetuates insecurity: teenagers are already walking around silently asking “Do you like me?” and “Am I special?”  Sites like Formspring only feed into this insecurity and can do some serious harm (see reason 1 above).
  4. It feeds the notion that you can learn all about me by reading about me over the internet (as opposed to actually spending time with me).
  5. It makes cyber-bullying infinitely easier, all while being anonymous.

Disclaimer: When you submit a question, you are given the option to include your Formspring account name, but most people don’t.

In the past two weeks I’ve grown increasingly fascinated by this site and have spent time checking out pages of teens I know and teens I don’t know – and I haven’t seen one mean comment with someone’s actual name attached to it so you know who it’s from.

Like almost anything on the internet, some people’s Formspring pages are completely clean and they have not been harassed.  But it seems like those people are the minority and are very lucky (so far).  My “professional” opinion is to STAY AWAY from Formspring.me.

The Bottom Line:
I see very few benefits from having your own Formspring page, but many downsides to having one.  If I was a parent of a teenager today, I would allow my son/daughter to have a Facebook page (if I had complete access to it and could look through it with my son/daughter to ask questions about different comments, pictures, etc.), but I would absolutely NOT let my son/daughter have a page on Formspring.me.