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.