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.

How Should Christians View the “Day of Silence?”

(Updated 4/15/15)

The “Day of Silence” is a student-advocacy movement in support of the LGBT community.  Over the last few years this movement has grown and picked up more momentum.

This post is written with a few people in mind: The Christian teen who is wondering, “Should I participate? What do I say when people ask me why I’m not participating?” I’m also thinking about parents and other youth workers who want to talk about this movement with their teens.

What is the Day of Silence?
This is a day where students take a vow of silence in order to advocate for LGBT rights. The official website for the Day of Silence says,

GLSENs Day of Silence is a national day of action in which students across the country vow to take a form of silence to call attention to the silencing effect of anti-LGBT bullying and harassment in schools.

…Organizing a Day of Silence (DOS) activity or event can be a positive tool for change-both personally and community-wide. By taking a vow of silence, you’re making a powerful statement about the important issue of anti-LGBT bullying, and when you organize others to join you that message becomes stronger.

How Should We Think About the Day of Silence?
I firmly believe that the Bible teaches God’s design for sexuality to be expressed between one man and one woman through the context of marriage.  This is the historic teaching of both Judaism and Christianity.  My intention here is not to convince people about Scripture’s teaching on homosexuality, but to address the “Day of Silence,” so please forgive me for simply throwing these statements out there without defending them.  If you want to look up what the Bible says you can check out: Leviticus 18:22, Romans 1:26-27, 1 Corinthians 6:18, Colossians 3:5 to name a few verses.

While I believe that LGBT inclinations would fall into the category of “sexual immorality,” I also believe that lust, heterosexual sex outside of marriage, and adultery fall under the same judgment.  We should be careful to not ignore our own sexual sins while pointing the condemning finger at others, as our own sin isn’t really that bad but theirs is.  We must remember that all of us, even if you have never struggled with your sexual orientation, still battle sexual temptations.

The “Day of Silence” website gives the following statistics that should break our hearts for LGBT students who daily live in fear:

  • Nearly 9 out of 10 LGBT students experience harassment in American schools each year.
  • 60% of LGBT youth feel unsafe at school because of their sexual orientation.
  • Nearly 1 out of 3 LGBT youth missed school in the past month because of safety concerns

Christians Can Identify With Prejudice and Hatred
Jesus Christ himself was targeted, betrayed and crucified. He suffered the most agonizing of deaths on the cross, which was such a painful and hideous way to die that even the Romans eventually outlawed its use. God identifies with those who are suffering!

As a Christian who loves studying Church History, my mind turns back to all the persecution that Christians have endured throughout history… and still do in MANY places today.  More Christian have been killed because of their faith in the last 100 years than have been killed because of their faith in all of Church History combined.  19 Christians are killed each minute for their faith every day! Visit Voice of the Martyrs for more information about the realities of Christian persecution.

Christians should never be the persecutors. It’s an educated-guess, but I think many who participate in the “Day of Silence” would point to Christians as one of the primary persecutors of the LGBT community.  May we, as Christians, remember the Gospel: that Jesus Christ came to save sinners (that’s all of us!).  May God forgive us for communicating His truth and grace in such a way neglects to show the beauty of God’s love.  Of course, whenever you share that homosexuality is a sin you will be offending people to some degree or another, but we should be careful to remember that the Gospel is “Good News” because there is hope and grace for sinners, even sinners like us.

My intention in sharing this perspective is to call Christians to remember that they are a persecuted group of people in this world.  I don’t believe that we should have a “Day of Silence” for Christians who are being persecuted… but I do believe that remembering the “bigger picture” of Christian persecution should fill us with grace and compassion for members of the LGBT community who live in fear.

Should Christians Participate?
No, I don’t believe that Christians should participate in the “Day of Silence,” but I DO believe that Christians should live and love in such a way that the “Day of Silence” isn’t necessary. Although we cannot agree with their lifestyle, we should support the LGBT community in a way that honors the dignity each of them has as someone who is created in the image of God (Genesis 1:26-27). Many Christian blogs and websites are calling for this to be a “Day of Dialogue.”  Speak honestly and humbly about what the Bible teaches, but live in such a way that people will realize that you’re not speaking as a “holier than thou” Bible-thumper.

Most importantly… pray and point people to the love of Christ.

  • Pray for God to give you wisdom to know how to respond (James 1:5).
  • Pray for your peers who are struggling with their sexual orientation, that they would know how wide and long and high and deep the love of Christ is (Ephesians 3:18).
  • Pray that God would keep you sexually pure and from giving in to temptation (1 Corinthians 10:12-13).

Christian Persecution

I don’t even remember how I came across this link, but the title immediately got my attention and I knew I needed to share it: “Christianity Arguably the Most Persecuted Religion in the World.”

According to the article, even low estimates claim that 150,000 Christians around the world are killed because they are Christians each year.  That’s 410 Christians being killed each day… and this is the conservative number.  The real count could be far greater.

Christians are singled out and persecuted in nearly 2/3 of countries in the world.  Yet, we American Christians are so insulated from all of this that we are simply ignorant of the reality so many endure each day.  I want to encourage us to pray for the persecuted Church.

Voice of the Martyrs is a wonderful Christian organization which seeks to inform Christians about the global situation while providing opportunities to do something about it, go to their website at www.persecution.com.  This page of the VOM website gives the latest news stories available regarding Christian persecution: VOM Newsroom.


Sermon Summary: Marks of a Godly People

“Marks of a Godly People”
Matthew 5:1-12
Rev. Mike McGarry
Emmanuel Baptist Church, July 4 2010

As we celebrate our country’s independence, we hear many references to “God Bless America” and prayers for us to become a “Christian nation.”  But what would a “Christian nation” look like?  The Beatitudes were given by Jesus to his disciples as a description of what He wants his followers to look like, and I believe they continue to serve as excellent “Marks of a Godly People.”

Jesus said “Blessed are:”

  1. The Poor in Spirit: Do you consider yourself in need of the grace of Christ to pay the debt of sin you owe to God, or are you relying on your own “goodness” and righteousness to pay that debt yourself?
  2. Those who Mourn: Have you received the Holy Spirit, the Comforter, through faith in Jesus Christ?  Are you relying on Him for your comfort?
  3. The Meek: Are you the center of your world?  Are you teachable and humble, or are you always right?  Remember that no one enters the Kingdom of Heaven as a King, only as a servant.
  4. Those who Hunger and Thirst After Righteousness:  Are you living on spiritual junk food, or on the Word of God?  Do you regularly and honestly pray “Thy will be done?”
  5. The Merciful:  We hear a lot about love and grace and mercy, but are you willing to truly and at great sacrifice to your own personal comfort and possessions identify with the miserable in their misery?
  6. The Pure in Heart:  Are you relying on “clean hands” (seeming Christlike) to give you a “pure heart” (actually being Christlike)?  Who are you when no one’s looking?
  7. The Peacemakers:  Does peace or conflict follow you around?  Do you live as if other people’s actions against you are more serious than your actions against God (if you won’t forgive them, then you are!)?
  8. Those who are Persecuted Because of Righteousness:  Have you fallen into the trap of compromise or an unhealthy desire to be relevant?  Do you look more like the world or like Christ?

As you hold these “Marks of a Godly People” up to yourself, how do you measure up?  How do we, as a country, measure up?  If we want to talk about America as a Christian nation but the Church in America isn’t even accurately described by the Beatitudes, then maybe we need to spend more time hungering and thirsting after righteousness ourselves rather than blasting politicians and the media.